Seven Lesser Known Devices That Can Help You Conserve Resources in the Home

Reader Contribution by David Glenn
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Everyone knows the basic ways to conserve energy and resources in the home: turn off lights, water your lawn less often, don’t rely on the thermostat as much, etc. These are certainly all great suggestions, but to really reduce the shoe size of your carbon footprint, you need to get a bit more innovative. Here are seven lesser known gadgets that can help you help the environment (from the comfort of your own home).

1. Thermal leak detectors. One of the biggest energy wastes comes in the form of heat loss. This is because most homes are anything but airtight, and the expensive heat that we pump into them when things get chilly tends to escape back out into the word through leaks around doors, windows, and in poorly insulated walls and roofs. Patching up some of these leaks is actually fairly simple, if you can find them. That’s where thermal leak detectors come in handy. The Black & Decker Thermal Leak Detector, for example, works by taking a basic reference temperature reading from within your home, and then identifying areas with temperature variances.

2. Water powered appliances. Although this is a relatively new technology, there are a few devices on the market that are able to take advantage water’s ability to provide electricity. The beauty is in the simplicity, an internal converter draws electrons from the water reserve and acts as a fuel cell. Although the water powered car is probably still a ways off, small devices such as clocks and radios are picking up the slack. And it’s not as though you need a steady stream of clean running water to make these work, a few ounces or rainwater will generally do to keep your device running for days.

3. Occupancy sensing light switches. Regular incandescent light bulbs produce visible light by pumping an electrical current through a tungsten filament, which then becomes hot and glows. The glow provides us with the light we use to go about our daily activities, but it also produces a massive amount of heat as a byproduct. In fact, conventional bulbs waste about 80% of their energy in the form of heat. Newer types of bulbs (such as LEDs) can cut down on this waste, but in the end the best way to keep your lights from wasting energy is by turning them off. Occupancy sensing switches automatically turn off lights when no one is in the room. These often come standard with certain home automation packages from providers such as Vivint. Reviews are available online to help you choose an option that is right for you.

4. Learning thermostats. Thermostats are designed to help maintain a specific temperature in the home, no matter what the weather outside may be. However, unless you’re willing to make constant thermostat adjustments throughout the day, it can actually be a major waste of energy. If you leave the house every day at 8:00 am, but you don’t remember to deactivate the thermostat, you’ll end up paying to keep your house a comfortable temperature even though no one there. The answer to this problem is the learning thermostat. A learning thermostat will learn your habits, and automatically adjust itself to better accommodate you. Within a few weeks, your thermostat will be doing its job so well that you won’t even have to think about it.

5. Shower reducers. It’s easy to lose track of time while in the shower, especially if you take yours in the morning right after you wake up. But long showers can end up wasting thousands of gallons of water over the space of a few weeks. To combat this, several devices have been created to help homeowners cut back on their shower time. Low flow shower heads can reduce the amount of water you use, without you even being able to tell the difference, and simple shower alarms that alert you when a set amount of time has passed can keep you from falling into the shower-stupor.

6. Solar chargers. Most people don’t put too much thought into it, but our laptops and mobile smart devices are absolutely guzzling energy on a daily basis. That’s because they often need to be fully recharged at least once a day. You can reduce this energy cost by getting a solar charger. These alternative energy wonders convert abundant and free sunlight into electricity to keep your devices working without ever having to plug them into the power grid. Best of all, because they have built-in solar panels and don’t need to be plugged into any socket, these chargers are generally easily portable.

7. Battery rechargers. Unless you purchase expensive rechargeable batteries, you know that disposable batteries don’t generally last very long. However, new advances have finally created technology that can be used to recharge non-rechargeable batteries safely and simply. And although the batteries won’t last forever, they can have their lifetimes extended up to 10 times what they normally would have been. This is a must for anyone with electronic kids toys, remote controls, alarm clocks, watches… well, pretty much everyone, in fact.  

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