Re-Thinking (and Re-Wiring) Green: Eco Friendly Tech Tips to Keep in Mind

March brings to mind thoughts of the colour green – all the shades of spring (if we Albertans are lucky), Saint-Patrick’s Day beer, and the new Avengers movie (well, it’s actually out in April. But it’s got the Hulk!).

But amidst global environmental concerns – not to mention the costs to your pocketbook – it might be time to consider: how green is my home?

Here are some tech tips on greening up your living quarters by using less energy and using it more efficiently.

 

Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats adapt to your schedule by analyzing your habits and collecting other environmental data. There are a number on the market at various prices, but one of the best (as determined by toptenreviews.com) is the Nest Learning Thermostat.

Benefits: Easy to install, this WiFi-enabled thermostat has features such as automatic scheduling (it learns the temperatures you like and programs them accordingly) and automatic away (it turns itself off when nobody’s home). You can control it by phone, laptop or tablet. The Nest comes with a built-in rechargeable battery and is compatible with many other smart home products.  

 

Smart plugs/sensors

Forget to unplug the coffeemaker this morning? A smart outlet or power strip lets you control anything you can plug into the wall from your phone.

Benefits: This is great for peace of mind, especially for those of us with a little OCD. A smart plug, like the Wemo Mini WiFi Smart Plug, connects to your home WiFi network, enabling you to keep an eye on your electronics when you’re away from home via your smartphone or tablet. Smart plugs also save energy and fit into a normal electrical outlet. 

 

Smart light switches

Like other IoT devices, a WiFi-enabled smart light lets you control your lighting through an app on your smartphone. Many can work with home voice assistants. When selecting a smart light switch, some things to consider are whether it requires an extra piece of equipment to connect to your network and will work in rooms with more than one light switch.

Benefits: You can turn your lights on and off from another room or even from out of the house, and program your lights on a schedule, like turning them on at sunset and off at sunrise. The Belkin WeMo® Light Switch also lets you turn off (or on) specific lights every day or even different lights at different times and on different days, via a WeMo app downloaded onto your smart phone. It also works with other smart home products, including Alexa, Google Home and Nest.

 

Smart light bulbs

Probably the most common item on this list, smart light bulbs are super-efficient and energy-saving. Features include voice-activation, group-control (turn on or off all the lights in your abode at once), and even colour-changing ability (the FluxSmart WiFi LED Light Bulb).

Benefits: Smart bulbs are getting even smarter. Philips’ Hue line features connected, controllable light bulbs and strips that let you set a lighting schedule and control your lights from anywhere with the Hue app. With the Philips Hue White Ambiance Light Recipe Kit, you have the option of setting one of four light recipes for relaxation, reading, energizing, and for waking up. The kit comes with up to 10 Philips hue lights for remote controlled operation and is easy to set up and mount.

 

Home entertainment

By definition, most of today’s TVs are already energy efficient, especially in comparison to yesterday’s cathode-ray clunkers. The differences in efficiency in Smart TVs are in degrees. However, an ENERGY STAR-certified television (TV) uses 27 percent less energy, on average, than a standard model. And there are energy savings to be had when it comes to streaming. 

Smart TVs (a TV with internal components to stream content) are still the most efficient way to deliver content onto a large screen. But digital media players (DMPs) provide an inexpensive, easy to use, quickly installed alternative. DMPs like the Roku 3900CA Express Streaming Player use four times less energy than a cable box and 11 times less energy than a computer to stream from online services like Crave, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. ENERGY STAR-certified streaming devices use 25 percent less energy than standard models. 

You can also help lower your energy bill by looking for other products that enable streaming and are ENERGY STAR-certified, including modems/routers, set top boxes, computers, and laptops.

When streaming to a small screen, tablets are four times more efficient than laptops. Desktops use 15 times more energy than a tablet.

These are some of the easier more actionable tips for greening up your home. If this is the time of year you start thinking about spring cleaning, why not think about spring greening your home as well? The long-term savings will be enough to warm you up in the winter months to come.

 

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