Energy Adviser: Give the gift of energy savings

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There is always that one friend or family member who is nearly impossible to buy gifts for. If you're still scratching your head while shopping for those last few people on your list, consider a green gift that cuts back on energy use. To get your creative juices flowing, we've put together a list of gifts that keep on giving all year long.

Appliances that are turned off, but remain plugged in, still suck up electricity. Televisions are a prime example of appliances that suck energy when not in use. This is mainly due to all the accessories that often accompany the big screen -- cable boxes, DVD or Blu-ray players, gaming consoles and sound systems. Belkin's Conserve Smart AV Energy Saving Power Strip ($29.99) lets you control power to your entire entertainment system simply by turning off your television. A master outlet senses when you've turned the TV on and automatically allows power to the five outlets for your other audio-visual components. Turn your TV off and all the other electronics go off, too — presto — no energy is wasted while accessories sit in stand-by mode.

If you'd like to measure the true cost of any appliance on your utility bill and the environment, Belkin also offers a Conserve Insight Energy-Use Monitor ($29.99). This device makes it easy to be smarter about energy use. Not only does it monitor your electrical usage in watts and operational cost, it calculates the amount of carbon dioxide, which shows the real impact of your energy use on the environment.

The Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor ($39.95) is another option. It lets you calculate electrical expenses by the day, week, month or year. It monitors voltage, line frequency and power factor. Knowing these facts, you can decide whether it's time for a more energy efficient home appliance.

With TED the Energy Detective Electricity Monitor (less than $25), your utility bill will never be a surprise. TED monitors your entire house, not just one circuit at a time. However, it requires a hookup to your electrical panel — something not advisable for anyone untrained in electrical circuitry — so you might want to hire an electrician. Once installed, though, TED shows you know immediately how much electricity your home consumes, how much you spend on electricity each day and how much you've spent on electricity during a billing cycle.

Thermal leak detectors

For that energy detective tracking down power-draining drafts, Black & Decker offers a product line of thermal-leak detectors ranging from about $30 to $100. These detectors help find any drafts that can push heating and cooling costs higher. The detectors discover problem leaks around doors, windows and ductwork, as well as expose other harder to find air leaks in the home. Any drafty areas are instantly spotted by a thermal reference light that reveals hot and cold spots.

But the ultimate power savers are human-powered devices, including wind-up flashlights and radios. They don't plug in, use no batteries and won't increase anyone's carbon footprint. You can find wind-up LED flashlights from a variety of sources for about $10, but if you're looking for one to handle power outages, it falls closer to the $50 range. A radio with a hand crank runs from about $15 to $50 depending on its features.

If the more common DVD players, stereos or other electronic devices are on your list, look for the Energy Star seal while shopping. Compare the costs to power the new item and pick up gifts for those last people on your list that give back in energy savings all year.Energy adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.