Energy Circle's 2011 Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts of Efficiency.
This year, give gifts that make a difference -- both for the person receiving them, and for the planet. Gifts of energy efficiency do this by reducing energy use, and saving money forever. A gift of energy efficiency is akin to giving stock shares or another long term investment: it will reap dividends far into the future.
But what is a gift of efficiency? Well, it's either a tool that enables one to make energy efficient home improvements, or a product that's inherently energy efficient compared to its alternatives.
For the do-it-yourself, caulk-gun-slinging, get-things-done, rugged individualist in your family, we recommend buying tools. Tools are used for projects -- for getting things done -- and the home improvement project that gives the most bang for your buck in home energy savings is most definitely air sealing. So, for all of your loved one's air sealing needs:
A Foam Gun, a Can of Spray Foam.
For the bigger air sealing projects in the house -- basement, attic, utility penetrations, rim joist -- caulk don't cut it. You need some spray foam, and you need some foam that performs. The cheap stuff from the big box stores is often messy and tough to install. Make your resident DIY-er happy with a high quality, reusable foam gun and a good can of low-environmental-impact spray foam.
A Caulking Gun, a Tube of Caulk.
Everybody needs a good caulking gun (you knew that, right?). Anyway, it's key to have a good, high quality caulking gun, because nobody likes getting frustrated because of having to mess around with a piece of junk.
We also dig environmentally friendly caulk, with no harmful chemicals. Because nobody wants harmful chemicals hanging around their house.
For the more aesthetically oriented among your friends of family, a couple ideas that involve no elbow grease -- just pure, unadulterated good looks, energy efficiency, and show-off-ability.
Energy Saving Lamps.
Not all lamps are created equal. Lamps designed specifically for energy efficiency are designed to provide the best quality light while utilizing the energy saving technology of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light emitting diodes (LEDs).
Best-In-Class Energy Monitors:
A whole-house energy monitor doesn't save energy, or money, directly. But studies have shown that the presence of an in-home, real-time energy dashboard spur most households to take energy saving measures like shutting the lights off and unplugging unused electronics, because the real-time cost of a home's energy consumption are displayed prominently for all to see. They give you a visible reason to turn off the lights.
Efficiency for the Whole Family:
No reason you can't get the kids involved, too. Some of the coolest energy efficiency products out there -- single-appliance energy monitors that let you know, in real time, how much energy a particular device is using, and how much it will cost in electricity, are affordable and fun for the whole family. Some of our favorites:
Crank Powered Tools:
Crank powered stuff is cool. That's all.
Smart Power Strips:
Excited about the new TV your family is getting this year? Or the new XBox, Wii, DVD player, Macbook, Tivo, DVR, or what have you? Nice. Just remember that you can cut back on the energy that it consumes by plugging it into a smart power strip. Smart power strips automatically cut power to peripheral devices (say, a printer or computer speakers) when you turn a control device off (say, a TV or a computer). They save you the trouble of unplugging everything, and make saving money on energy bills a piece of cake.
Single Appliance Energy Monitors (aka Vampire Hunters):
One of our favorite energy efficiency related family activities is "vampire hunting," which entails going around the house sniffing out vampire energy sources using a single-appliance energy monitor. Energy vampires, of course, are those appliances and electronics that continue to draw power when they're turned off; but the activity can also provide some insights into what the big energy consumers are in the house when they're turned on, as well.
Kill-a-Watt Electricity Monitor
ALSO... LED Holiday Lights!
LED Holiday lights are an energy-saving, long-lasting, cool-to-the-touch alternative to traditional incandescent holiday lights (you know, the ones that burn out, break, and can be a potential fire hazard when wrapped around a dry Christmas tree). And they're more affordable than ever. Some of our favorites:
Happy holidays from all of us at Energy Circle!