Remember the excitement you felt when first using a smartphone? You suddenly had access to a device that did a multitude of things at once – making your life immeasurably easier. This is the signpost of great technology, and it doesn’t just equal convenience – better tech can mean you save money on the things that matter.
One of the most significant expenses we deal with every day is energy: be it for our cars, our homes, even our morning showers! We look at some new technological innovations that could help your hip pocket and conserve energy usage.
The bread and butter of water savings
Before we jump into ‘the cool stuff’, here are a huge number of ways to use less water around the home.
- Fix water leaks, such as changing washer in a dripping faucet.
- Install dual flush toilets.
- In the bathroom, water efficient shower heads can reduce the volume of water used, without compromising on pressure!
- Don’t leave taps running while cleaning your teeth or shaving.
- Using a shower timer to keep bathing sessions within a reasonable timeframe.
Those are the typical, boring ways to save. Let’s take a look at some of the newer, more interesting methods.
Bath time … with a twist
If you’ve been setting an egg timer every time you shower to save water (good on you!), you might be interested to hear there are timers that don’t require anyone to turn them on, instead sensing when water drops on them.
But one of the cooler ones (pun intended) we’ve seen is a model from New Zealand called Showerguard, which takes a much more hard line approach. A plumber/electrician installs a device into your hot water pipe, and you set a limit for showers (e.g. 7 minutes). If you exceed that limit, it shuts off the hot water. This is perfect for households with teenagers who selfishly hog the hot water, and indeed anyone who wants to conserve both water and energy.
Zero electricity washing…
Another water intensive appliance is the household washing machine, so selecting an efficient model can save heaps of money. Front loaders typically use less water than top loaders, and can be gentler on clothes. Making sure each load of washing is close to capacity is also a more efficient use of the water each time (although overloading it can place undue strain on the machine).
If you really want to take water and electricity saving to the next level where your clothing is concerned, there are now manually operated washing machines on the market, here are two of them:
The Drumi: This manual washing machine utilises foot power to agitate the clothes. The Drumi very little water (just 5 litres!), and holds 2.3kg of clothing. So if you’re into regular light loads this washer could save you a bundle.
The Laundry POD: Hand operated, this washing machine is like a giant salad spinner. It’s makers claim is uses 20% of the detergent of regular washing machines, only 6 litres of water (around 5x less than a standard machine), and no electricity – that’s some serious savings!
Save gas around the home
Gas is used in some households for cooking and/or heating. If it’s used for cooking only, then it may be possible to make modest savings by carefully planning meals to use already hot ovens, or by ‘stacking cooking’ (e.g. vegetables can be steamed above other cooking food).
Where gas is used for water heating, a solar system with a gas booster can make a big difference to how much extra energy is required to heat water. Turning down the gas thermostat can help as well, given that water doesn’t necessarily need to be heated beyond a comfortable skin temperature (bring a thermometer into the bath one day to see where yours should be set to).
Where gas is used for heating the home, insulation and draft proofing can improve the efficiency of heaters. Lower thermostat settings will also use less gas for heating, and closing off heating vents in unused parts of the house will add to savings.
What about generating your own gas?
For a more hands on approach, using household waste from the kitchen and pets, you can now potentially make your own natural gas to use for cooking using a home bio-digester. One nifty system from the US turns organic matter into biogas and liquid fertilizer for your garden – imagine using your leftovers to power the BBQ.
— HomeBiogas (@Home_Biogas) February 7, 2016
Drive your way to savings
One way to save fuel costs is to car pool to make each trip more efficient, and with numerous online car-pooling services available like this Australian service, finding someone to share a ride with can be a simple task.
However, driving more efficiently can potentially have huge saving on fuel costs – and there are some simple solutions you may not have thought of. In the United States, one Parcel delivery company instructed drivers not to take left hand turns wherever possible. As they drive on the right hand side of the road, left hand turns mean crossing the stream of traffic which meant drivers had to wait to turn, using up time and fuel, and also causing more accidents. Their policy has saved more than 20 million litres of fuel since being implemented in 2003.
A strict left hand only policy in Australia might not have the same impact for an average driver, but trying to find ways drive more efficiently is an admirable goal, so give it a go!
Modern technology in vehicles often advises drivers how much fuel they have left based on their driving habits, and smartphones make even greater advances possible. Some systems, such as the Gofar, take this a step further, giving feedback on the most fuel efficient speed for you to travel at, so you can drive in the ‘sweet spot’ and make your fuel go further. Check out the YouTube clip:
Home automation pipped to keep cents in your pocket
Home automation technology has been around a while, but it’s quickly becoming more affordable to more people. The ability to adjust your thermostat when you’re away, and have the system learn your preferences can cut energy bills. An example is this learning thermostat that tracks when you are awake, asleep, at home and away, adjusting the temperature accordingly. Technology like this will likely become more common as processors and control chips get smaller and cheaper.
Technology in other areas is advancing too. As technology like LEDs replaces inefficient lighting, for example, less electricity is used for something as simple as keeping your house lit at night. Old fashioned dynamos can easily power small items like torches or radios, and many of them can even build up enough charge to power up a phone battery to make an emergency call.
Dance and kick your way to free power
Finally, recent innovations are looking at how people can power their leisure time while they have fun and exercise. These electricity generating footballs (you read that right!) can power up while you play sport, perfect if you want to recharge your phone during the ride home. Additionally, this groovy dance floor harnesses kinetic energy when people move across it to power its lights.
It’s easy to see how advances in technology are going to make it even easier in the future to reduce our reliance on costly resources, but until that time the best way to save is with simple home management tips and the right power provider.