Discover high-tech tools for home energy efficiency

In recent years, an expanded array of resources has been developed to improve energy efficiency. Innovations in mobile communication, smart devices and other high-tech gadgets have accelerated the means to which energy usage can be monitored and reduced, allowing the discovery of new approaches to energy efficiency. Here are a few types of gadgets that can help.

Digital programmable thermostats

Using a digital programmable thermostat can enable significant energy savings for heating and cooling. They conveniently allow the user to program them to turn on or off using such criteria as time of day, day of week or with a change in temperature. Many models allow the storage of different daily and weekly schedules. The convenience of not having to manually adjust the home’s temperature throughout the day is also a great benefit.

CFL, LED and smart LED light bulbs

Since the light bulb industry began the transition from incandescent light bulbs to more efficient varieties, the purchase of these bulbs has become increasingly affordable. This holds true especially with compact fluorescent light bulbs. CFLs offer more than 60 percent reduction in energy usage and last 10 times longer over traditional incandescent bulbs. The balance of price, lifespan and energy efficiency makes these an ideal choice for most homes.

LED bulbs go beyond the energy efficiency and lifespan of a CFL with 75 to 80 percent efficiency over traditional incandescent light bulbs and a lifespan averaging approximately 25,000 hours. LED bulbs, though, are considerably more expensive when compared to CFL bulbs.

Smart LED bulbs offer a comparable level of energy-savings consistent with standard LED bulbs, but provide the unique ability to alter the color and brightness of a room’s lighting. Through the use of a WiFi connection, users are able to remotely control usage or settings via smart phone or computer. Despite its higher cost, the additional features these LED bulbs possess have drawn much attention since their unveiling in 2012. The recent development of independent smart phone apps and resources that work with these LED bulbs are making them of increasing interest, even beyond the tech savvy crowd.

Wireless outlet controls

Wireless outlet control devices allow users to power or shut down appliances plugged into it, such as lamps, space heaters or room air conditioners while away from the home. Once it is plugged into an outlet and connected to the home’s wireless internet connection, the wireless outlet control can be accessed through smart phone application or online by computer.

Smart phone apps to track energy use

In addition to controlling the devices mentioned previously, a smart phone can help promote energy efficiency through apps. Smart phone apps are available to assist in determining the home’s energy usage and ways to reduce it. Some even have the capability, with the aid of specific hardware, to permit users limited remote access to certain devices and heating and cooling systems within the home. Electricity usage calculators can help do the math in figuring usage of certain appliances, or for the entire home. Some are even as helpful as to provide lists of ways to save energy; something convenient to carry along while conducting a do-it-yourself home energy audit. While applications such as usage calculators and energy efficiency tips will typically be free, those that allow remote access to devices and systems within the home likely will require some investment.

Many of the energy efficiency apps, as well as those that complement the devices mentioned in this article can generally be located in your smart phone’s apps store or provided through the instructions packaged with the device.

Smart power strips

Much like conventional power strips, smart power strips can save energy simply by flipping the switch off when the devices plugged into it are not in use. Additionally, they also provide the ability to maintain power to critical devices, while cutting power to those not in use. This results in a reduction of energy consumption caused by inactive devices that still draw power, also known as phantom load.

Device charging stations

Using a standard device charger may get the job done, but will continue to consume electricity even after the device has been fully charged. A charging station is specially designed for several portable devices to be charged simultaneously while reducing phantom load consumption. After a device has been fully charged, the charging station will turn off the device’s connection to electricity, eliminating unnecessary energy consumption. Both AC and USB ports are common with most models, broadening the range of devices able to utilize them.

Electricity usage monitors

These monitors are helpful in determining the cost to run an appliance or device over a set period of time. After the price per kWh is entered (in South Dakota, the average is 9.35 cents), plug in the device or appliance and use it normally for a few days. The monitor will finish its assessment and provide some useful information such as cost per month and phantom load consumption. After a few weeks, it should provide a clear picture of where a home’s energy usage is, and also what can be done to reduce the amount consumed.

Some information provided by Energy Savers.