The average home in the United States spends over $2,200 per year on energy bills, nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling, according to Energy Star. The average monthly cost soars above $300 during the winter months. Recently, CNN reported on 3 gadgets that can help cut your energy costs by up to 30%: a thermal leak detector, a programmable thermostat, and a power monitor.
Because these gadgets have the potential to save households a lot of money, I thought I’d share them here, along with a few alternative gadgets. And make sure you read to the end, where we’ll take a glimpse into the future of energy consumption monitoring.
Black & Decker Thermal Leak Detector
The Black & Decker TLD100 Energy Series Thermal Leak Detector is extremely easy to use and can detect costly sources of leaks and drafts in your home. The TLD100 uses infrared sensors to measure surface temperatures in your home. Simply point the device at an inside wall to set a reference temperature. Then move the leak detector along windows, doors, molding, wall outlets, recessed lights, or anywhere else a draft might exist. When it hits a cold or hot spot, the LED spotlight changes from green to red or blue, identifying a hot or cold leak, respectively.
Potential Savings: Energy Star estimates that most homes can save 20% on heating and cooling costs by sealing and insulating.
Where to Buy: The Black & Decker TLD100 Energy Series Thermal Leak Detector is available at most big box home improvement stores and can also be purchased from Amazon.
Ecobee Programmable Thermostat
Programmable thermostats enable homeowners to program temperature settings for different times of the day and, with some models, different days of the week. For example, a programmable thermostat can be set to increase or decrease the temperature setting during the day when the family is at work or school. It can also be used to automatically adjust the temperature at night when everybody is sleeping, and then to reset the temperature a few minutes before reveille.
There are many programmable thermostats available ranging in price from about $50 to well over $300. Ecobee’s programmable thermostat, pictured above, is the Cadillac of in-home temperature controls. In addition to 7-day programming and vacation mode, the Ecobee can be adjusted via the Internet. So if your plans keep you away from home longer than planned, you can adjust the temperature settings from any Internet capable computer.
There are less expensive models that perform very well, but without the Internet connectivity option. One of the best programmable termostats for the money is the Honeywell RTH 7600d. It offers 7-day programming and vacation mode for under $100.
Potential Savings: According to Energy Star, a properly programmed thermostat can save a home $180 per year.
Where to Buy: The Ecobee programmable thermostat currently is available only through the Ecobee’s website at a cost of $385. Keep in mind that the Ecobee is not a self-install device, and Ecobee provides a list of certified contractors. The Honeywell RTH 7600d currently costs much less than $100 at Amazon.
Kill A Watt EZ Power Monitor
This an old saying in the consulting world that if it can’t be measured, it can’t be improved. Studies have shown this to be true with energy consumption. According to a study conducted by University of Oxford, direct, immediate energy usage feedback lowers consumption by 5% to 15%. Unfortunately, getting direct, immediate energy consumption feedback is still a bit of a challenge.
The Kill A Watt EZ power monitor is one of several solutions to this problem. Easy to use, simply plug in the power monitor into any standard wall outlet, and then plug in the electricity consuming device you want to monitor. A large LCD display will count consumption by the Kilowatt-hour, calculate your cumulative electrical expenses and forecast by the day, week, month, even an entire year.
Potential Savings: A power monitor can reduce energy consumption by 5% to 15%.
Where to Buy: The Kill-A-Watt EZ is available from Amazon for $40.08.
Note: Google is no longer developing the PowerMeter, but similar technology is now being advanced by many utilities across the country.
Now let’s take a quick glimpse at the future of household energy conservation. The key here is the Internet. The Ecobee is just one example of how new technology is bringing the physical world in our homes together with the Internet. Another example is Google’s PowerMeter.
PowerMeter is designed to work with smart meters to measure in real-time electricity consumption. Using the Internet, PowerMeter will enable consumers to monitor their power consumption from any computer with Internet access. PowerMeter requires the cooperation of power companies to install smart meters, but according to this CleanTech article, that’s already happening.
If you know of other great energy saving gadgets, please tell us about them in a comment below.