Are you about to set up home for the first time, perhaps finally get your dream home, or retiring and down-scaling? Perhaps your washing machine just died, or you realise it’s chomping more than its share of power?
If so, then there’s never been a better time to find out what’s new on the green scene, so that you can make the eco-friendly choice this time round. It’ll save you money by reducing your electricity and water bills and you’ll have the feel-good spin off of helping to save the planet!
Browsing the internet, I was amazed at the sheer choice of green-gadgets on offer. From radios that work with water pressure from a shower head (uh huh…) to solar-powered spoon scales and hand-powered computer printers run on coffee grinds, there’s really no excuse for not greening up any more!
Some of the interesting array of green gadgets out there include:
- Eco-kettles designed to boil just enough for one cup in 35 seconds and at lower temperatures! It is estimated that, on average, we boil twice the volume of water needed every time. Which means twice as much energy, twice as much time. With a 3kW kettle that’s the same as wasting the energy of around 50 light bulbs! With the eco-kettle the internal reservoir holds a full capacity of water ready for use, while the measuring button allows any quantity – from a single cup to full capacity – to be released into the saparate chamber for boiling. According to UK consumer trials this saves on average 31% energy compared to normal kettles. Biogrow supplies eco-kettles for R399 plus R45 postage.
- Solar ovens are ideal for most of South Africa and especially neighbouring Namibia, where there are over 300 days of sunshine a year! Choose gas cookers for overcast days.
- Eco toasters designed to toast one slice at a time. By the way, the 4 slices toaster is one of the highest energy consumers in the house, after the hot water geyser and the microwave oven.
- New designs of vacuum cleaners with energy saving motors use about 0.5 – 1.5kW less than their conventional cousins. The important thing here is to always look at the back of your appliances to see how much Watt they use. Multiply by the minutes used an it’s easy to work out the kiloWatt hour consumption of your device.
- Another absolute must have is the hotbox/haybox/wonderbox cooking device which captures the residual heat in a pot of food and continues to cook it for hours afterwards – for free! I don’t understand why everyone’s not cooking this way.
If nothing else, it’s a great time to be a designer of green appliances! But aside from the more wacky inventions, what we need now is a little help in choosing those basic purchases.
Recently with some relief I discovered that dishwashers are greener than hand washing! If you think that a dishwasher is not green, have you noticed how much cold water needs to be run before the hot arrives at the sink? In my modern townhouse that’s a whole sink full. Add one more for the rinse. If you fire up your geyser for 45 minutes we’re talking plenty wastage here! (Luckily a Redwater Diverter can be attached to catch that cold water though)
So what do we need to look out for in basic domestic gadgets?
- An energy efficiency rating or the Energy Star symbol of efficiency
- an Eco-cycle , and either a half load option, or 35°C cycle or a cold water setting
- a sound rating of below 55dB (the average is between 50-60, the lowest 49dB – click here)
- Remember to run your dishwasher only when it is full and stop it before the drying cycle, leaving it open to dry naturally.
Washing machines can be huge energy and water consumers but used on the correct cycles, even your old model can become more eco-friendly. Washing on too hot a cycle shortens the life of your fabrics, so choose cold or 30°C for a normal wash and 40 for soiled. There are many super-biodegradable laundry products on offer, like Triple Orange Wonder Gel. Why not use an eco-friendly laundry ball – it will save you money, leaves no trace in the water and now you can confidently use your washing machine water in your garden.
Fridges are the third highest consumer of household energy as they run 365 days a year. Here are some tips when choosing your next fridge:
- loose the icemaker in favour of good old fashioned ice trays – you’ll save 20 % electricity
- choose the right size for your needs. Too big or too small = inefficient energy usage.
- a fridge with a top freezer section is most efficient, bottom freezer next most efficient and a side by side fridge/freezer combination is the least energy efficient.
Other ways to save energy wastage with fridges is to:
- check your door seals regularly
- clean the coils at the back, keeping them free of dust and grime
- defrost regularly – iced- up freezers use loads of energy to maintain that ice!
- Keep the door shut. Leaving it open for one minute takes half an hour to get back to temperature again!
My favourite gadget of all though is the clever device which switches off your electrical appliances after two minutes of no use, like the TV and all its accessories, saving you money, electricity and reducing the fire risk in your home. You can plug in multiple appliances and they all go off at once.
A walk around your house in the dark will reveal just how many electrical gadgets have little lights burning when they are not in use. They are all using electricity while on standby, so this gadget’s a winner!
Now is your chance to look around your house with fresh insight and decide which changes would alleviate your carbon debt and your pocket in the long run. It’s very important to dispose of those old ones in a responsible way. If your machines are energy intensive it’s best to have them responsibly recycled.
A pre-paid electricity meter allows you to monitor how much electricity you are using per gadget and keep an eye on things; quite an eye-opener! If you don’t have a pre-paid meter, get an e2 monitor (above) which keeps track of your consumption, cost and carbon footprint.
By Annabelle Venter