Innovative energy technology brings a new dimension to holiday gift-giving this season with a growing array of earth-friendly products that save power, cut costs and educate. Including outdoor solar-powered lights, digital thermostats, LED holiday bulbs and power strips, manufacturers are working to give consumers a wide choice of gift ideas at reasonable prices. Let’s get started.
• Smart Strips look like the old-fashioned power strips found in the tangle of cords connected to PCs and auxiliary devices under our desks, but they’re smarter. Priced at about $32, they automatically cut off electricity to printers, modems and wireless devices when a companion computer powers down, thus reducing “phantom” power losses. Smart Strips also are good for entertainment centers where you may need lots of plug-ins for video games, a game player and TV. The Smart Strip has a few outlets on its display bar that remain “hot” even when others power off.
• The clever Kill A Watt monitor is for the people who need to know stuff. It plugs in between a wall outlet and the appliance or device being used. It will instantly tell you how much electrical energy is being consumed in amps, volts and watts. The Kill A Watt meter, made by P3 International, sells for about $22. Kill A Watt power strips are available for $74.
• LED holiday lights. Energy Star-rated LED holiday lights can make a significant contribution to reducing a traditional holiday power bill. Strings of LED lights use 90 percent less power than traditional lights and are available at most retail stores for about $12. Make sure they have the Energy Star label.
• GE makes an indoor mechanical timer that is programmable in 30-minute intervals that turns indoor lights on and off while homeowners are away. The timer — on sale for $4.99 at retail stores — provides a maximum of 48 individual settings per day.
• Digital programmable indoor thermostats make it easy to cut your heating bill by automatically managing indoor temperature settings while you are away at work, in bed sleeping or gone on vacation. The same automatic thermostat works on heat pumps in summer when you want to set air-conditioning temperature ranges. Make sure the read-out is easy to see and that programming instructions do not require an advanced degree. Prices range from about $36 up to about $100, depending on features.
• Motion-sensitive outdoor lights are a good option if you like outdoor lighting around your house but hate leaving lights on all night. One of these lights will only go on when something moves within its perimeter, and will be priced at $17 to $22.
• Don’t forget to check the label when shopping for new appliances. The Energy Star label tells you that what you’re buying is going to use less electricity than standard products. In the market for a new TV? Look for the orange Energy Forward sticker, which means it’s engineered to be the very best of Energy Star and will save you energy and money for years to come.
• A retractable clothes line offers another gift option. Drying clothes the old-fashioned way, by hanging them on a line, can be a big energy-saver. Maybe someone on your list has room for drying in a heated basement? A retractable line with a chrome base made by Moen can cost as little as $16, while a multiprong unit attached to the wall may run more than $100.
• Instant-on LED light bulbs are another gift option. Old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs probably haven’t been considered exciting since about 1915. Now new LED light bulbs might be a worthy gift, since they cost a lot more but last 10 times longer than incandescents. Give the slow-adapters in your life an instant-on LED (light-emitting diode) light bulb or two. Do your homework and make sure they are Energy Star rated for durability and brightness. GE and Westinghouse both make LED bulbs priced at about $18 per bulb. Some may cost as much a $40 depending on use, brightness and size.
• To reduce cold drafts from air gaps in older homes, thus saving on heating costs, stuff the stockings of your homeowner friends with cans of Great Stuff sealer, which can be sprayed into cracks and crevices anywhere in the house. A 12-pack sells for about $50 and makes an easy gift for every neighbor on the block.
Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.