The Low Down on 5 Energy-Saving Products That Save Money in the Long Run
Green Dad was delighted to see all of the friendly debate sparked by my last column about energy-saving products. Some of you challenged my finds, and I welcome that; I can always learn a thing or two from readers. Others praised my picks and pans while spreading the word via Twitter and Facebook.
Either way, all that feedback makes Green Dad feel like the Grateful Dad (not to be confused with that seminal San Francisco jam band). And like a rocker back for an encore, I've returned with another round of devices that make energy-saving claims. Are they worth tracking down? Or would you actually be better off putting them in a landfill (figuratively) than your living room?
1. Product: Energy-Saving USB LED Laptop Notebook Light
Cost: $2.94 with 50 cents s&h
The lowdown: Plugs in to your laptop via USB port, giving you a handy source of extra light for computer use.
The verdict: How much energy you'll save with this little laptop light is hard to say, because you'll probably need some ambient room light to help it out. But the single watt this light uses certainly beats a 60-watt incandescent bulb, and if this device helps you cut down on household lighting, you'll see savings over time — and certainly enough to pay for this device, now selling for two-thirds off list. High customer satisfaction ratings (averaging 4 of 5 stars on Amazon) also make this device a good bet.
2. Product: Honeywell RTH7600D Touchscreen 7-Day Programmable Thermostat
Cost: $62.88 with free shipping
The lowdown: This thermostat claims to save money by giving you programmable, customizable control over your home's temperature without making constant manual adjustments.
The verdict: A thumbs up, but with some reservations. On the energy savings side, the Honeywell lives up to its claim of making your home more efficient, and also claims the title of Amazon's top seller in programmable thermostats. Programming your heating and cooling system to change as the day goes on has obvious advantages, and Amazon users give this unit a cumulative score of 4-plus stars. But of 207 reviews, 12 rate this product with 1 star, citing problems with a flimsy mount to the wall plate and the touchpad system. That said, many consumers love this model for its ease of use to heat/cool a home to an exact temperature at a set time, without guesswork.
3.Product: The Bedol Water Powered Clock
Cost: From $18.41 with free shipping via Amazon Prime
The lowdown: Sounds like something out of DaVinci's sketchbook: a clock that runs on tap water.
The verdict: Products that reduce the carbon footprint to a tiptoe might lack a stylish touch — but not Bedol's clocks, which includes this Drop style. The sharp-looking timepiece converts ions in the water into clean energy. And contrary to what you might think (what with water evaporating so quickly), you won't need to replace the water all that often. In fact, it'll go six months or more on a single refill. Plus, a built-in memory chip ensures you never need to reset the time. Sounds like now's the time to get one.
4. Product: Voltaic Generator Solar Laptop Charger
Cost: $499 with free shipping
The lowdown: Voltaic's combination of case and solar charger can also charge smartphones and digital cameras, with one hour in the sun equaling 12 to 45 minutes of laptop time.
The verdict: Yes, this cousin to the Voltaic Spark for iPad (covered in my last energy savers column) is pricey, but it too offers invaluable convenience, in addition to modest savings over time. The Generator is a popular product that earns rave reviews from Popular Mechanics, which named it a Top 10 Green Product. It's also dropped $100 since it's debut, and it moreover frees you from the tyranny of needing an electric outlet when your laptop battery runs low. It can carry a 17" laptop, making it much more versatile than other solar laptop chargers.
5. Product: AquaChill Ultra-Efficient Air Conditioning System
Cost: Quotes available through Beutler Air Conditioning; A typical unit runs $10,000 to buy and install.
The lowdown: The AquaChill acts like commercial air conditioning systems by using water to cool the condenser coil, making it more environmentally friendly.
The verdict: Yes, you're talking a lot of money for a unit like the AquaChill, currently available from Beutler, a Northern California company. But consider that you'll get a $1,500 federal tax credit right off the bat, followed by some serious energy savings and added value to your house. Over the course of a typical hot summer, AquaChill will cut $1,100 electric bills to less than $600, all while making a big impact on the environment. Figure about 15 years before the unit pays for itself in energy savings alone, meaning that it's a good long-term investment that will also add value to your home (much like a sleek kitchen will). Expect to see more models like the AquaChill from companies moving to adapt HVAC cooling technology for the home, like these Lennox systems.
All items mentioned are available at the lowest total price we could find from a reputable seller at the time the story was published.
Front page photo credit: daviddehetre via Flickr