Look up “early adopter” in the dictionary and I wouldn’t be surprised if you see a photo of my husband Chip. He tunes in to the Apple announcements with eager anticipation, was one of the first people I know to get TiVo, and upgrades his computers and smartphones while most people are still learning how their technology works.
And, since he’s married me, he’s also been particularly interested in energy-efficient technology. Hybrid and electric cars, for instance, and he’s been lobbying for us to install solar panels on our roof, even though our house is shaded by a giant tree.
The marriage of technology and the environment is a particularly interesting one to us both — smart appliances and home systems are making it possible to reduce energy usage without sacrificing quality of life. Here are a few that are on our wish list.
- Nest Learning Thermostat. The Nest is a quick learner — within a week it learns its household’s habits and schedules and programs itself to adjust the temperatures to your schedule of waking and sleeping, comings and goings. This allows you to reduce your energy usage since you’re not unnecessarily heating or cooling your house when you’re sleeping or away. It’ll create a monthly energy report to help you figure out how to reduce your energy consumption further, and even remind you when it’s time to change filters, which makes your HVAC run more smoothly. A study in southern California determined that Nest users saved more than 11 percent in air conditioning–related energy usage.
- Aros Window Air Conditioner. I sure wish the Aros had been invented when I lived in New York City, a place where central air was rare and the first hot day meant hoping you didn’t drop your clunky window unit onto the sidewalk below as you tried to anchor it into your third-floor window. Available from Quirky, an incubator company for inventors, the Aros air conditioner can be controlled via smartphone app and, using your smartphone’s GPS, can start cooling your home when it senses you’re on the way. Like the Nest, it learns your schedule and habits. It also helps you save energy by making suggestions based on usage and upcoming weather.
- Lutron light control. Lighting accounts for approximately 12 percent of a household’s energy bill, so smart lighting is good for both the planet and your wallet. Lutron’s whole-house system of dimmers, vacancy sensors, shade controls, and pathway controls is about as smart as modern lighting systems can get. Dimming and timing your lights can be especially effective at reducing energy-use when paired with energy efficient light bulbs.
- Tankless water heater. A tankless water heater like those from Rinnai can significantly cut down on energy usage, especially if your existing conventional water heater is electric. How does it work? A tankless water heater only heats water when you turn on the faucet, rather than spending energy keeping an entire tank of water hot until it’s needed. What’s more, tankless heaters can last twice as long as regular ones, which means you’re not filling a landfill with a bulky appliance when yours gives out.
- Front loading washing machine: Front loading machines are more efficient because they use less water, have a larger capacity, and remove more water from clothes before they go into the dryer. For example, Samsung’s washer dryer machine can handle up to 32 bath towels in one load, uses hot water more efficiently, and does not use additional cold water to spin-dry the clothes.