Mother Earth Living

Best for Home Energy Savings

Try these five energy-saving home products to stay warm and save money this winter.
By Misty McNally
January/February 2009
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Approximately 45 percent of your energy bill is spent on heating and cooling, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Honeywell’s VisionPro IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) programmable thermostat could cut that figure by 33 percent, depending on your climate and usage.
Photo Courtesy Honeywell

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Energy savings for dummies

Approximately 45 percent of your energy bill is spent on heating and cooling, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Honeywell’s VisionPro IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) programmable thermostat could cut that figure by 33 percent, depending on your climate and usage. Temperature controls accommodate up to four automated changes daily, making it easy to adjust for bedtime, waking and weekend schedules. The unit also manages your home’s humidity and ventilation. “Seventy percent of homeowners keep their programmable thermostats on ‘hold’ because they’re so difficult to set,” Honeywell spokesperson Pam Enstad says. “The VisionPro IAQ’s touch screen guides homeowners through easy-to-follow, on-screen menus.” VisionPro IAQ: $200 plus professional installation. (800) 328-5111.

Insert heat here

Typical fireplaces lose as much as 80 to 90 percent of their heat by drawing cold air in from the outside and allowing warm air to escape up the chimney. The solution? Install a wood-burning or gas insert into an existing masonry fireplace to increase efficiency and reduce particulate and carbon-dioxide emissions. “An insert is a closed system that draws in combustion air from outside and keeps warmed air inside your room,” Vermont Castings spokesperson Jennifer Coombe says. This EPA-approved, wood-burning DutchWest model with a blower fits a standard fireplace box and heats up to 1,500 square feet of space: $1,800. (800) 668-5323.

Bright idea

“An Energy Star-labeled CFL uses almost 50 percent less energy and lasts up to 10 times longer than a standard incandescent bulb,” says Peter Kane, spokesperson for Osram Sylvania, which offers compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) in a range of wattages, sizes and styles. CFLs contain mercury, a toxic metal that should be recycled at your local household hazardous waste collector. Sylvania’s line of low-mercury Energy Star CFLs contains only 3 milligrams of mercury—even less than the new, environmentally minded industry standard of 5 milligrams. The company also sells CFL recycling kits. The $15 MiniPak holds up to 12 used CFLs and includes shipping to the CFL recycling center. (800) 544-4824.

See the light

Founder Eric Kaster used recycled aluminum to craft Eleek’s durable, energy-efficient and elegant Takashima sconce. The sconce’s standard “Edison” base accepts screw-in incandescent, compact fluorescent or LED bulbs; it also comes with a two- or four-pin CFL base. Pin-based bulbs, which last four to five times as long as a comparable CFL, are now required in California for all new residential construction. “We believe the first tenets of sustainability are beauty and durability,” Eleek co-founder Sattie Clark says. “Something attractively designed that holds up well naturally stays out of the waste stream.” Eleek manufactures home furnishings in its Portland, Oregon, wind-powered plant. The company encourages retailers to return shipping containers for reuse. Takashima sconce: $1,025. (503) 232-5526.

Shine on, carry on

Charge your electronic devices with a messenger bag? You bet! Voltaic Systems packs and messenger bags have built-in solar panels that generate up to 4 watts—enough to re-juice your cell phone, PDA, camera, MP3 player or two-way radio. Rainy days won’t dampen the pack: The panels are waterproof, and a battery pack stores surplus energy collected when it’s sunny. Each bag is made from recycled PET beverage containers and keeps six to eight bottles out of the landfill. Voltaic CEO Shayne McQuade is always looking for sustainable, convenient ideas. “I tested a foldable, portable solar charger and realized I didn’t often pull it out of my bag and set it up,” he says. “Putting panels on the outside of the bag seems more practical.” Voltaic Systems packs and messenger bags: $199 to $249. (212) 627-5012. 

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