5 Interesting Energy Saving Gadgets for 2013

As energy costs proceed in one direction only, it is fair to say that any new invention that can serve its purpose and use less power, has to be a darn good idea. Tesco may assure us that ‘every little helps,’ but if everyone in the world relied permanently on the following new gadgets, it wouldn’t be a little help to the environment, it would be a lot.

Water-Power-Can-Clocks

Water Powered Can Clock

The Can Clock is so simple to use that it is easier to operate than a TV set. Simply fill the clock up with water and watch it tick away for the next six months. What do you do after six months? You fill it up with water again.

Apparently the water releases electrons once inside the body of the can and this creates an electric current that powers the clock.

You can buy the Can Clock for a mere £9.99. Would they replace Big Ben in London with a giant version? – We doubt it.

For more information check out Can Clock

USB-Cell-Battery

USB Cell Rechargeable Batteries

The USB Cell Rechargeable Battery manufacturer makes some pretty boastful claims regarding the efficiency of its energy saving gadget. The manufacturers, USB Cell, say that you save 7kg of carbon and 3kg of toxic waste if you use them just 50 times!

USB Cell also claims that these batteries can be charged 500 times, which, costing just £10.99 for a two cell pack will save an awful lot of money.

Simply plug the batteries into a USB port and utilise your PC’s power to have fully charged batteries.

For more information check out USB Cell

Eco-Button

Computer Eco Button

An office that comprises just 50 PCs will save a whopping £2,500 in electricity a year just by installing the Eco Button – apparently.

All you have to do is press this little button when you get up to make cuppa, go for a meeting, or whatever, and your computer will be left in its least energy consuming state without totally shutting down. On your return, simply press the button and, hey presto, it is restored to its optimum working power.

For more information check out Eco Button

Cold-Solar-TV-Remote

Cold Solar TV Remote

The Cold Solar TV Remote does exactly what you’d expect it to do, with the additional bonus of charging out of direct sunlight.

No more annoying battery failure when you are frantically trying to switch away from the adult channel as you hear your wife or, worse still, you mum coming down the stairs!

For more information check out Cold Solar TV Remote

Hy-Mini-Hand-Held-Wind-Generator

The Hy-Mini Hand Held Wind Generator

The Hy-Mini Wind Generator is one cute device, which is almost therapeutic to use. This lightweight and compact eco-gadget has a built in battery, which you can charge up in winds of over 9 MPH. Once the battery is charged simply plug in your mobile phone, ipad or whatever, and suck all the power into the chosen device.

Imagine that you are on top of Ben Nevis and you need to make an emergency telephone call but your cell phone’s battery is flat. The Hy-Mini could well bail you out of the pickle, providing of course that you can actually get a signal on top of Ben Nevis!

For more information check out Hy-Mini Hand Held Wind Generator

Saveometer power monitor review

There are two types of conservationist: ones in favour of the planet, the other in favour of their pocket. The Saveometer electricity and gas monitor is  – perhaps unsurprisingly – aimed at the latter.

This is our third power monitor at Latest Gadgets – the OWL is currently perched atop of mantlepiece, while CurrentCost has been pawned out to a needy family member. Rather than run through the features of a standard device, we’re going to cover the options unique to the Saveometer.

Saveometer

Unlike other monitors, the Saveometer keeps track of gas consumption. That basically means you have a one-stop shop for monitoring your utility bills (who needs water, anyway?). The feature is gladly received, although its not without its drawbacks.

Because gas and electricity are measured in different units, the Saveometer primarily displays the price of your emissions. The screen switches between the cost of your current ,  weekly and monthly usage. You can manually enter the cost per unit, varying for up to four different periods of the day.

If you’re interested in your kilowatt or cubic gas use, you have to scroll through the various display options. It’s frustrating that you can’t choose what you want the primary display to be.

While being forced to view your consumption in monetary complaints is an annoyance, the device is not without its charms. It tells you the weather, for instance. And the temperate. AND the humidity. The time is also set by an automatic, atomic clock.

The stand-out user-interface feature, however, is the bar chart of the past 28-days. You can compare your day-to-day usage at a glance, and hopefully aim for a downward trend. It becomes sort-of fun to ensure that you’re continuously using less power.

The other fun feature (no sarcasm) is the price awareness light. Use over 4p/hour and a green light will turn on, over 20p and that’ll turn yellow. Over 30p? Red. And over 40p, it’ll manically flash red at your until you stop killing the planet. It’s pretty cool – after all, hasn’t everyone secretly wanted to warn others “we’re at yellow alert!”

And unlike electricity meters in homes, gas ones do not have a standardised monitoring system. The documentation explains that there are “millions of meters ready for Saveometer” – meaning there are tens of millions that aren’t. Ours included. There’s no way to hack yourself a solution, so make sure you have a compatible meter before purchasing the gas monitor.

The list of Saveometer compatible meters is available here.

First look: Logitech K750, the wireless solar-powered keyboard

Logitech-k750

It is quite clear that the team at Logitech take their environmental responsibilities seriously, as in recent months they have been working on a revolutionary new solar powered keyboard. The elegant Logitech K750 keyboard is almost one third of an inch thick and comes in a smart black design. No detail has been spared on this new computer peripheral, even the keys have a snug curvature which makes typing something of a pleasure.

Dennis Pavillard, Vice President of product marketing for the Logitech keyboard and desktop range, said, “the keyboard is still the best input device for typing emails and IMs, updating your Facebook™ page or posting responses to your favourite blogs — and the Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750 is the next big innovation in keyboard technology…Plus, with its PVC-free construction and fully recyclable packaging, it’s designed to minimize its footprint.

Ultra green computer users are being encouraged to download the Logitech solar power app, which provides regular updates on how much energy the keyboard has remaining. This will save the frustration of discovering that the keyboard has run out of energy just when you need to write up an important document.

Check out the product video:

Individuals who like to play their computer games in complete darkness shouldn’t worry, the Logitech can last up to three months without access to a light source. Those people who are keen on maintaining their keyboard’s energy reserves can press the off switch whenever they’re away from their desks.

The complete Logitech package includes a USB receiver device, which can be wirelessly connected to the keyboard. The receiver has a special function, which enables the user to sync up to six peripherals to one USB. This impressive gadget is expected to go on sale in most of the major UK computer shops during January 2011. The estimated price is a very reasonable £69.99.

TWIG: Tesco barcode scanner, easyroommate iPhone app, thinksound TS02

The week in gadgets.

The almost ubiquitous iPhone, has an almost ubiquitous tag line. “there’s an app for that.” Any the burgeoning App store means that there an app for almost everything – even the truly ridiculous.

Tesco-Barcode-Scanner

Another watchword for ubiquity, in the UK at least is Tesco and the two have joined forces to launch a barcode reader for the iPhone. The barcode reader, which is now part of the Tesco iPhone app, is as easy as it sounds. Just swipe the barcode of an item and it’s added to you online basket, so you can re-up on biscuits whenever you’ve eaten all of your flatmate’s hob-nobs.

If you’re looking for a new flatmate however (preferably one who doesn’t eat all your hob-nobs) then there is also an app for you. Easyroommate.co.uk has launched an free iPhone app that shows details of all available flatshares in the local areas, with relevant filters and allows you to contact the advertisers all from your handset – helpful if you have difficulty getting access to a PC or are between houses. According to the people behind easyroomamate.co.uk, one in six flatshares are snapped up in 24 hours, so having the flatshare app can be a real boon if you are on the prowl for a new place to live. Those lacking in iPhone love can also head to the sites mobile version, which should work on most other handsets. Check it out.

thinksound

Advance MP3 players have launched a range of environmentally friendly earphones. The thinksound TS02 (which features the mic, there is a TS01 sans mic) has lovely high-definition drivers. But most strikingly, they come encased in hand-crafted wood, which adds a little to the sound quality and a lot to the look of the TS02s. The packaging is recycled materials and the wood is from renewable sources, so the thinksound set is very environmentally friendly choice and a £49, it’s a pretty budget friendly option as well.

OWL wireless electricity monitor review

Have you ever wondered about how much electricity you’re using? No? Well, you should. Because if you use too much, you’re killing the planet and stealing from your children. Don’t have children? Your stealing from your family’s children. Live a solitary, lone existence and hate everyone? Well, okay – this probably isn’t the gadget for you.

OWL is a company that pride themselves on creating devices for lowering your power consumption. It has a beautiful font and uses lots of green on its packaging. It also makes the OWL Wireless Electricity Monitor. We’ve tested it to death (figure of speech: it is still taking pride of place on our mantelpiece) and have got some pretty positive things to say.

OWL

Unlike some energy monitoring kits, the OWL’s Sender and Display units didn’t come paired before use. This meant that there was a bit of instruction-reading and button pushing before it’s ready to monitor. This isn’t much of an issue, but coupled with the fact that it has one of those annoying screw-in battery cases and you’ve got the two annoyances with the product. The only two.

Other than that, you see, it is quite marvellous. Even the aesthetic of the device has a wonderfully retro charm. Intentional or not, it is certainly endearing. If only it had been finished in bakelite.

On the well-designed display unit, the display of the important information was clearly a big deal for OWL’s engineers. The information on current usage takes up over half the screen. Hitting the “Mode” key will scroll the main display through your current KW (electricity) usage, how many kilograms of CO2 you’re pumping out an hour (0.022KG at the time of writing) and your cost per hour.

Under the main information display are two more sections. One provides you with a time, date and temperature reading, all of which prove more useful than one might think. They turn the OWL into a one-stop box for your household data needs.

The other section has a long-term version of the information displayed in the top box. For instance, mine is telling me that I’ve used 90.974KW/H since installation, created 0.0418 tonnes of C02 and spent £11.371 on electricity.

You can reset these totals at any time (with the reset button on the back), or you can hold down the ADJUST key to change it from total to an average reading for the day, week or month. It’s a neat little feature.

Ideally, it would have been nice to enable a scrolling mode which runs through all of the options, or mix and match – to display current energy use combined with total cost. However, as it stands it’s extremely easy to navigate and very responsive.

For a unit with a mere three buttons, there are a plethora of options to set if you want to delve particularly deep. You can change the tariff rate to work out your exact spend based upon your energy suppliers rate, although variable rates are a bit awkward. On/off peak times can be defined (with up to six variables allowed), but the option to drop the cost after a certain usage is not available.

You can also set an alarm to alert you if you go over a certain power usage. It is extremely difficult to find a reason for this function – set it too low, for example, and it’ll go off every time you turn on the kettle or run the iron. Set it too high and you’ll only hear the beep when the dishwasher and washing machine are engaged in an energy death-match, refereed by the fan-assisted oven and his tireless linesman, the power shower.

For green-freaks, the best thing about the device is the PC connectivity. Plug it into your computer and minute-by-minute power usage for the last 30 days will be uploaded to the OWL software. If you forget to do it within thirty days, the device also stores day-by-day power usage for nearly two years. There are plenty of different options to display the data, too. From live usage, to historical usage, to a tariff comparison chart, for finding the best deal for you.

Your usage history can also be displayed on the device, but it is nowhere near as nice a bit fiddly. Only the most neurotic of energy-savers would go to the trouble of viewing the data with the various button-presses that it entails.

Of course, no energy monitoring device would be useful without the guarantee of an accurate reading. It all comes down to the sensor device attached to the transmitting unit, which clips on to the power cable on your electricity meter. Tom at Owl cleared up the technical details for us:

The sensing device is basically a current transformer. It converts the magnetic field generated by the alternating current going through the live cable (coming from your house’s electricity meter) into a low voltage signal which is sent to the transmitter. It is this conversion process which controls the accuracy of the overall device, the better the build quality of the sensor the better the device accuracy can be.”

“We pride ourselves in very well made sensors, accurate down to a starting power load of 40W, and low power usage sensitivity of around 14W. Above 1A the best we guarantee is 10% accuracy and above 3A we deliver better than 5% accuracy.

While we couldn’t test those figures, we did manage to conduct a MacGyver test – that is, a test cobbled together from the things around us. Basically, we turned off everything except for a 100w bulb. Taking into account various electrical anomalies, the power reading should be between 90 and 110 watts – the closer to 100 the better. OWL told us 97. We were thrilled.

You see, we also had another energy meter device installed for comparison, and it rolled in at around 76 watts. The OWL was 11% closer to our prediction than the competing device.

This test was such a low-tech solution that naming the other monitor would be unfair – any number of things could have affected that outcome. However, with such a close relation to our prediction, it does show that the OWL is a pretty accurate monitoring system – and one that is recommended.

Current cost power monitor: Making you green with Envi

At first I was sceptical – how could a manufactured piece of plastic that plugs into my electricity supply actually reduce my carbon footprint? Once I plugged in the Current Cost Envi electricity monitor, however, my mature scepticism mutated into a boyish excitement. In an effort to reduce my energy usage, I had entered into a competition with myself.

While reducing my energy consumption may be a challenge, setting up the Current Cost Envi certainly wasn’t. It’s a simple two-step procedure: connect the white monitoring device to a plug socket, then clamp the black box around your electricity metre’s input cable. The monitoring device will then display how many watts you are using.

Current-Cost

If you don’t know anything about your electric metre, don’t worry. Just clamp the black box around everything until the monitor starts showing numbers.

The idea behind the system is that by actually seeing your electricity usage, you’ll be better suited to judge how much you are using. If you’ve left something on, the increased wattage will clearly show you.

The device also displays more than just your current usage. It calculates your cost per month, which can be changed depending on your tariff as well as displaying the time and the room temperature. It also displays your total electricity consumption for the day, over the last seven days, over the last 30 days and a breakdown of your night, day and evening usage.

For those who are extremely interested in monitoring their electricity habits, the device also has an Ethernet port for plugging into your computer. You’ll need to purchase the USB-to-Ethernet cable separately, however.

When you do hook it up to your PC, you can connect it to Google’s Power Meter software and view your past electricity usage from wherever you are in the world.

Unfortunately, the device seemed to have some serious problems in connecting with my Windows 7 computer. It is said to be Windows 7 compatible, but it had comm port issues on my system. It will be a shame if this happens to other people, however, because the ability to see whether your electricity usage is going up or down over time is key to the importance of the monitor.

Even without Google Power, the monitor encourages good habits – and dispels useless ones. For instance, leaving three 60W light bulbs on doubles my typical household electricity usage. Meanwhile, turning off the switch that shows the cooker is turned on will save precisely one watt.

Energy-saving aside, the device itself has a very basic build quality. Obviously, the white finish wasn’t going to be bone china, coated with ivory and dipped in platinum. But it is a lot more plastic than is pleasant.

The problem is that, aesthetically, you’d rather hide it under the sink then proudly display it on the mantelpiece – even if you wanted to parade your green credentials. And by hiding the device, you’d be negating the point of it. It’s about time the energy-saving market looked hotter than the planet it was trying to cool.

Aside from these niggles, the current cost of the Current Cost (£39.95) is a very low for this technology. And a visible authority on what is wasting electricity can only be a good thing for reducing your energy consumption. It also offers tangibility to electricity – the knowledge of how much electricity everything uses.

Perhaps more than anything, however, the beauty of the device lies in the feeling of self-worth that it allows. Every time something switches off and the number of watts-used drops, my face is galvanised into a smile.

Solar-powered Puma Phone pouncing into shops

Gadgets are generally not known for their eco credentials, with many coming across as beautiful but evil pieces of technology designed to seduce the human race into eliminating the earth’s natural resources.

However, every now and then something comes along that is a little kinder to the planet but still manages to function well and look good. Step forward the new Puma Phone, a joint venture between Puma and Sagem Wireless. It’s a smartphone with entertaining features wrapped up in a glossy exterior – that just happens to be charged up using solar power.

Puma-bag-and-Phone

Obviously, if you want to get the best of the solar panel, you need to be outside. Luckily, there are a few features that will encourage a bit of outdoor activity. In the spirit of the Puma brand, the phone has a pedometer, a stopwatch, a GPS tracker to trace a running or cycling route and a bike speedometer. There’s even a compass in case you happen to get lost in a forest or when heading out to the open seas.

When the rain starts coming down, you can stay indoors and play with the phone’s ‘spin and scratch’ music player instead – a good, silly feature that sums up this phone’s cheeky attitude. There’s even an on-demand puma called Dylan that you can call up whenever you like, if that’s your thing.

Aside from the fun stuff, the phone has a strong set of basic features, including a 2.8-inch touch screen and 3.2 megapixel camera with LED flash. There’s also internet access, video calling, Bluetooth photo sharing and an integrated FM radio.

The solar power on this phone hints at the importance Puma is placing on greener issues, and this is being carried through to the development of new packaging for its sportswear. The ‘Clever Little Bag’ is a reusable shoe bag that protects new shoes all the way from the factory to your house.

Less packaging means less raw materials, reduced weight, lower fuel consumption during transportation, and no need for plastic bags on purchase. Puma’s clothes are also being given a packaging makeover, being bagged with sustainable material instead of polythene.

Overall, this phone is a good-looking smartphone with some fun features and useful sports tools. And the fact that it can be topped up with a little bit of sunshine while you’re out and about can only make for a happy gadget. Available from April 2010.

5 free iPhone apps for a greener life!

Love Food Hate Waste

Did you know the average household in Scotland throws away £430 worth of food a year? That’s almost enough to buy an iPad with! So, whether you’re appalled at food waste, or just on an economy drive, the free app from the Scottish Love Food Hate Waste campaign is worth downloading (after all, it’s free!)

One of its most useful attributes is the portion planner. Handy for newbie cooks, or even for the more experienced home cook who is catering for more or fewer people than they’re used to, it helps you get measurements just right. It also offers a useful weekly meal planner and shopping list facility (planning meals by the week is a sure-fire way to avoid waste), recipe ideas and a blender. Simply pop in the ingredients you have and it will come up with some recipe ideas. We were particularly taken with the Haggis pakora recipe, but would like to see the choice of ingredients widened in the future.

3.75/5

Walk Score

If you’re set on saving the planet by living without a car and relying on Shanks’s pony, here’s one way to help you decide how walker-friendly an area is. Whether you’re planning to move home, or just heading off on holiday or for a short break, this app will help you work out how close you are to local shops, restaurants, stations, coffee shops, bars, libraries, gyms and more. Even if you’re not fussed from an eco point of view, it’s a handy way of working out how close that hotel you’re thinking of booking for a city break is to local facilities.

4/5

Good Guide

Serious eco warriors will question the credentials of every new product they purchase, which is where the Good Guide comes in. As well as listing the health, environmental and social impact of products ranging from air fresheners to toys, food stuffs and many more, a new feature allows you to scan in the barcode to get instant results. At this moment, there are more American than UK brands listed, but if your product isn’t featured, you can suggest it be added to the app. You can then build a list of your favourite products. An easy traffic light system allows you to gauge the item’s status quickly. While it offers food for thought, I can’t imagine trawling round the supermarket and scanning in every product.

3.5/5

My Water Diary

Whether you want to save water to save the planet, or save your bank balance if you have a water meter, My Water Diary is a step in the right direction. If you don’t want to see your money going – er – down the drain, keep a tab on your water usage with this neat little app. It helps you add up water usage for baths, hair washing, toilet flushes, floor mopping and lots more. It doesn’t stop there, either; accuracy is increased by an ability to rate each action – whether you gave your hair a quick rinse or had to give it a good lathering, for instance. An easy way to raise awareness of how much water you use, all done with a sense of humour thanks to quirky icons and watery sounds.

5/5

Recycling Group Finder

If you’re not familiar with Freecycle, I’ll enlighten you quickly. You’ve had a clear out – there’s a pile of photography mags, a set of shelves you no longer have room for and a couple of lamps that you had before you repainted the bedroom. You could take them to the tip – but better to advertise them on the Freeycle website and someone will come and take them off your hands. Likewise, you can put up requests for that elusive something, from a couple of spare pieces of laminate flooring for the smallest room in the house to a baby’s cot. This app allows you to use your location to identify the nearest recycling groups to you (including the equally useful Freegle and independent groups), and join from your iPhone.  What could be simpler?

4/5