Can energy-saving devices save you money?
Donna Werbner checks out four energy-saving devices which claim to save you £256 a year - and finds out whether they're really worth getting.
I've always been 'green', way before being 'green' was cool.
And I can prove it - at least on a small scale.
- I switch off the light when I leave a room.
- I wear jumpers to avoid putting on the heating in winter.
- I freecycle, swap books and read newspapers online.
I just don't do it in order to save the planet. I do it because I'm stingy.
It's not that I don't care about the environment and climate change and the ice caps. I do.
It's just that my motives are, well, more parsimonious than eco-friendly.
Does it matter? At the end of the day, of course, the result is the same. Often, what's better for the environment is better for your bank balance.
Notice I said: Often. Not always.
Like me, you may have often been intrigued by energy-saving devices that promise to save you heaps of cash - as well as boosting your green credentials.
But are these promises really too good to be true?
I decided to put four of the latest, trendy eco-saving devices to the test. And Nigel - from Nigel's Eco Store - offered to help me out.
Here's how much Nigel predicted I would save with the following eco-energy-saving devices:
Showerhead: Costs £14.99. Predicted annual saving: £165.
Ecoballs: Cost £29.99. Predicted annual saving: £74.
Ecobutton: Cost £14.99. Predicted annual saving: £50.
Standby Saver: Cost £13.49. Predicted annual saving: £37.
This means a total investment of £73.46 in the first year would yield a £256 annual saving.
Now obviously I could not conduct a scientific test with only one product - so please note that I am only giving my personal views, and looking at whether the devices have saved me, personally, any money. Your own conclusions may be very different.
But here's what I thought, anyway.
As I understand it, an eco-showerhead works injecting air into the water stream. Then, apparently:
- The pressure of the air bubbles inside the shower head causes turbulence and spins the water at high speed
- This extra velocity increases the pressure of the shower, despite the fact that the injection of air into the stream means you are actually using less water.
So effectively, you are showering with less water, but it should feel exactly the same.
And by saving water, you are of course saving the cost of the energy you would otherwise use to heat this water. As well as helping the environment.
Sounds great, doesn't it? I certainly thought so.
Was it any good?
I must admit that, to me, the pressure didn't really feel any different. And I found this actually quite remarkable, considering that the device can save the average family of four 56,000 litres of water a year.
In the end, however, I switched back to my old showerhead. The new head might have been saving me money and water, but I couldn't get the angle of it right for my shower. I had to spend the entire shower hunched over to get the aim of the water right. And the money I would save really wasn't worth that much discomfort on a daily basis.
Having said that, I'd recommend it to a family of four who could make significant savings.
These are plastic balls which you put in your laundry, saving you money on detergent. Here's how they work, according to Nigel's ecostore:
- Each ball contains "pellets made of mineral salts"
- These pellets "produce ionizied oxygen"
- This ionized oxygen, combined with the movement of the balls on your clothes, "penetrates deep into your washing, lifting dirt and grime away".
Sounds amazing, doesn't it? And apparently, because there's a lot less to rinse out, you can use a shorter cycle and wash at a lower temperature.
Was it any good?
Again, I didn't really notice any difference. My clothes didn't feel any dirtier or cleaner than usual. Which would imply that the ecoballs work.
But again, in the end, I switched back to detergent. I live in a small flat and haven't got much room to dry my clothes. So I use a washer-drier. Not very environmentally-friendly, I know. (That's why I wanted the ecoballs! )
But unfortunately, you can't use ecoballs in a drier.
So again, on a practical level, the 'green' option didn't work out for me, personally. But if you use a straightforward washing machine, I reckon ecoballs are worth trying.
The ecobutton hooks up to your computer via a USB cable. You press it, and it switches your computer off. Press it again, and it switches your computer back on. Pretty simple... so where's the clever science bit?
Here it comes....
- According to eco-button.com, each time your computer is put into 'eco-mode' - aka 'switched off' - the "clever ecobutton software records how many carbon units and how much power an dmoney you have saved using the ecobutton".
- You can then use this data to help reduce your carbon footprint as well as your energy bills.
Was it any good?
No. In fact, this was the most useless device of the bunch. Basically, it did exactly the same thing as the standby button on my laptop. So instead of pressing that button, I pressed the ecobutton instead.
Yes, it told me how much electricity I'd saved. Big deal! I certainly wouldn't say that knowing that sort of data is worth the £15 the ecobutton costs.
At the end of the day, what really annoyed me about this device is that it promises to save you energy - and it doesn't actually do that. Press the standby button on your computer, and you'll save just as much.
A rip-off to avoid at all costs.
You plug your TV, DVD player, PC etc into this device and it stops them from spending all day in standby mode.
So you switch off the TV with the remote control, and a few minutes later it goes off completely. Then, when you want to switch it back on, you will have to go up to the standby saver and physically switch the device on. Then the TV will come on, in standby mode. Then you can use the remote control to switch the TV on.
Complicated, isn't it?
Was it any good?
Personally, I liked this device. This is because I used to feel very guilty about leaving the TV on standby all day long... but I was always too lazy (and forgetful) to switch it off by hand.
The downside is, guests who have stayed over have been unable to work out how to turn the TV on. And it is a bit of a hassle to have to go up and turn the TV on every time you want to watch it. If this would annoy you, then it's not the right product for you.
What's more, the device I've got only allows you to have a TV plugged in. So sadly, according to this academic institute for energy saving research, this product is only going to save me about £10 a year - which means it will be October 2010 before I'd save any money at all.
Have energy-saving devices revolutionised my life?
I'd have to say, no, they haven't.
I gave them my best shot, but most of them just weren't for me - and so far, they haven't saved me any money.
Of course - and I stress this again - I'm only one person. This is not meant to be a scientific study, just a summary of my own personal experiences.
What do you think? Have you used any of these products yourself? Or do you know of any others that really are worth getting? Let me know what you think using the comments boxes below!