Read any collection of energy tips, and you’ll get pretty much the same thing. Turn off lights behind you, unplug your cell phone charger, put your AV center on a power strip, etc. The problem with these ideas, IMHO, is that you have to remember to do them, everyone in your family has to do them, and you have to keep doing them indefinitely to keep getting any benefit. And face it, it’s hard to change behavior.
There are a few things I’ve found which make it simple and automatic to save energy, without adding too much hassle to daily routines, and without any significant expense or installation trickiness.
An example – My wife bought me a very nice espresso machine for my birthday about a year and a half ago; when it’s on, it’s using a lot of juice. The group head has a resistive heater, and the boiler is keeping the water very hot. I’d get up, make coffee, and then I’d be good for a while. Almost invariably, I forgot to turn the machine off when I was done, and there it sat, drawing hundreds of watts, keeping itself warm for the next coffee I wasn’t going to make any time soon. And worse, in the summer, it was adding heat to the kitchen.
Enter the device pictured above. You press a button on the side, and it turns on and stays on for 30 mins, 3 hours, or 6 hours. I set mine to the 30min setting, so when I make my coffee, I push the button, make the coffee, and walk away. It turns itself off in 30 mins. Done and done. The beauty is, I have to take the action when I want something good to happen (like make coffee) – it’s a positive action, not “remember to do this when you are done.”
The other appliance I could use this device on is my stereo amplifier. It pulls tens of watts even when not playing music. Having the timed outlet set to 3 hours or even 6 would stop me from accidentally leaving it on over night. A geekier and more satisfying solution, since my music source is a Logitech Squeezebox digital music player, would be to hook it to an X10-controlled switch, and tell the music server to turn on the amp whenever the device is active, and turn it off when it’s not. I haven’t done either of those things yet, and sometimes the amp is on all night.
Of course, there are other “set it and forget it” ideas like setting computers to sleep when idle, installing motion-detector switches for lights (I prefer ones like this [amzn] which are manual-on, auto-off), programmable thermostats (if you actually program them), etc. But I thought the device above was pretty slick for controlling random devices I’d rather not leave running when I’ve forgotten to turn them off.
Have you found any other unusual but simple, set-it-and-forget-it devices or ideas to help control unnecessary energy use?