Most of us have installed compact fluorescent bulbs, maybe even LED bulbs, because that reduces our carbon footprint, is easy, and saves money in the long-run. We all know that it also saves energy to turn down the thermostat when at work or at night; to turn off lights when leaving a room; and to unplug electronic devices that are in “standby” mode while still using electricity to look for messages from your remote. If we were vigilant about these latter activities, we could easily save more than 15% on our energy use, but if you are like me, you often forget to do these simple actions. There are three technologies that will do these routine actions for you.
Programmable/Smart Thermostats can be inexpensive (<$40), but still specify different temperatures for four time periods unique to each day of the week. More expensive models can be controlled over the Internet and/or will learn by observing your behavior over time. Before buying you should (1) know the key features of your heating and cooling systems– perhaps recording the number and colors of the wires leading to your current thermostat–and (2) read the on-line reviews given at Amazon. com, Lowes.com, or HomeDepot.com. Smart Light switches use detected motion and/or ambient lighting to control lights. They generally cost less than $20, but check online reviews and make sure it can handle your lighting, e.g., some switches have trouble with fluorescent lights. If you install it yourself, don’t forget to cut power to the switch at the fuse (or circuit breaker) box.
Smart power-strips not only protect your appliances from voltage surges, but can cut power to some plugs when the appliance plugged into the “master” plug is turned off. For example, if your computer is plugged into the master plug and you turn the computer off, the strip could cut power to monitors, printers, speakers, etc. Prices seem to start at about $30. If your phone service is from a DSL or cable modem, be sure the power-strip has an outlet that is always on.