As technology improves and becomes more affordable as well as energy efficient, alternative energy gadgets are popping up everywhere. We now have a spectrum of nifty toys from solar powered backpacks that can charge your cell phone, to cars you plug into a basic outlet. The following is a list of a few energy gadgets that haven’t gotten as much press as portable solar panels or electric cars. These devices may garner more attention in the future since they are all fairly new to the market. Some of these dev ices will save you energy now, others are more interesting. Thanks to technology, they are relatively affordable as well.
The water powered battery
Japan released this gadget in 2007 and named it the NoPoPo battery (No Pollution Power). This product appears to be a standard AA battery, but must be filled with plain tap water before use. After it is filled, or “charged,” the battery can be used to power a device like any other AA battery. These batteries can also be refilled up to five times before needing replacement.
Currently, these batteries only produce a low current suitable for powering small devices like radios, remote controls, and flashlights. But additional development of this technology could open the door to a host of environmentally friendly applications.
Energy saving power strips and outlets
We’ve all heard that we should unplug our phone chargers, computers, and other appliances when not in use to avoid wasting energy, right? Well now, we can have a power strip or outlet that will cut the power for us. For around $10 for an outlet or up to $50 for a power strip, we can plug in what looks like a normal outlet adapter or power strip, but actually senses when appliances are off and automatically shuts down power. This saves money on electricity that would otherwise be wasted via the “energy vampires” in our homes. The strips generally work using a “master” outlet where the main appliance (such as a TV or computer) would be plugged in, along with several other outlets that are switched off when the main appliance is not in use. For example, if a computer is plugged into the main outlet, the strip will cut power to the printer, monitor, desk lamp, and any other devices plugged into the power strip that won’t be used while the computer is off. Some utilities even offer incentives for customers to purchase and use these “smart” power strips.
Home energy monitor
Energy management systems that allow you to monitor your home energy use don’t have to be a huge investment costing upwards of $1000. High-end systems are out there, but for most home owners, a lower cost solution is more practical. Energy monitors are now on the market costing anywhere from $50 to upwards of $1000. If you’re looking to get a peek at your energy use without spending a fortune, a smaller unit can still offer real-time information by communicating with your home electricity meter. These gadgets can put you and your electric utility on the same page when it comes to billing as well. You can compare your usage information to the information provided on your bill to ensure that you are charged the correct amount.
Home wind turbine generator
Wind turbines are enormous eyesores that require a large area of land to operate, right? Not exactly. Technology has improved to the point where a small electricity generating wind turbine, enough to power a small house, can be easily installed on a rooftop or pole. In fact, wind generators are beginning to come in shapes other than the traditional propeller style blades. Some models are almost artistic in their design. We’ve become used to seeing roofs lined with solar panels, perhaps now small wind turbines will begin to spring up on our rooftops as well. At an average cost of under $500 it is not out of the question.
Algae powered street lamps
Yes, you read that right. Scientists have recently developed technology that converts the photosynthetic process of algae into energy that can power large lamps. The most exciting aspect of this development is that during the photosynthetic process, the algae actually consume CO2 from the atmosphere! The process through which the carbon is scrubbed from the surrounding air is not entirely clear to scientists, but these lamps not only have the potential to add some light to the night, but also act as a carbon sink in densely populated areas. Large cities generally don’t have an abundance of trees, so these lamps may make a suitable substitute in terms of offsetting some carbon emissions.
This short list of energy efficient gizmos that have recently hit the market or have been developed is only a glimpse of the progress being made in the industry. Solar panels have become so portable they are powering everything from cell phone chargers to lighting systems, and even entire households. Energy efficient gadgets are popping up in offices, industrial settings, and even education and children’s toys. There is room to save energy and reduce our carbon footprint everywhere. We just have to understand what tools are available.
Energy Curtailment Specialists, Inc.