Straight Talk Articles

5 Efficient Products to Give (and Keep)
November, 2019

Dear Pat and Brad:

With winter and the Holidays coming, I’m starting to think about unique gifts I could give that wouldn’t use too much energy. Got any ideas? – Monica


Dear Monica:

It’s a great idea to give energy-efficient gifts. I dug around and came up with a bunch to pick from. You might even want to keep one or two for yourself!


1. Smart power strip. Price: $15 - $100

Smart power strips give more control than a traditional strip. By plugging the main hardware item, such as a computer or monitor, into the master power outlet, you control the rest of the devices – when that main device is turned off, everything else plugged into the strip also powers off. Some smart power strips can also be operated via remote control or smart phone apps, and some come with programmable timers.


2. Smart thermostat. Price: $30 - $600

A smart thermostat can adjust the temperature by learning from your habits over time, which saves energy and keeps you more comfortable. It can also be controlled through a smart phone app. Just make sure you’re going to use all its functionality before taking the leap! See our October 2018 article on Choosing a Thermostat to see if a smart thermostat is right for you (see web link at bottom of article).


3. Solar backpack. Price: $30 - $325

Walking or biking to the office, the field or a mountain lake? I know it sounds crazy, but you can make the most of the sun’s power with a solar backpack. These handy devices can collect and store enough electricity to power a cell phone, tablet or even a laptop. The solar panels stitched onto the back of the packs are flexible and waterproof. Best of all, they can have all the features and functionality of their traditional non-solar cousins.


4. E-Bike. Price: $250 - $9,000

Electric Bikes are regular bicycles with an electric motor that can be engaged as needed. They are gaining in popularity for people who face challenging terrain, bike to work and don’t want to work up a sweat, or perhaps find regular cycling too physically challenging. Plus, studies show that e-biking can bring many of the same physical benefits as non-assisted pedaling. They even come in foldable versions. One downside is they are heavier than regular bicycles.


5. Electric Scooter. Price: $80 - $3,000

The $49 foldable foot-powered scooter that exploded onto the scene a decade ago has grown up in a big way. In some larger cities, electric scooters are now available to rent at random locations, found and paid for via apps. Or you can buy one to use for your daily commute or as just a fun way to bomb around the neighborhood. Higher-quality versions will have longer range, larger tires and better suspensions – along with higher cost, of course. The catch is that they’re still largely confined to paved surfaces.


6. Tablet computers. Price: $40-$4,000

You may already have at least one tablet device in your home. But have you considered how much energy it can save? Swap out your TV for an ENERGY STAR-certified tablet the next time you binge a show, and you can use seven times less power!  You can also use the tablet to access a mapping program that will help you reduce the miles you travel on errands.  Or you can look at your electric use on your electric co-op’s website and find energy saving hints.


7. A warm evening at home. Price: $0-$50

If you really want an energy-efficient gift that gives back, start with a book. It uses 100% less electricity than a TV or portable device. Then put on a sweater and pair of slippers so you can lower the thermostat a couple of degrees, and spend a few hours reading on the couch with your favorite companion. Now that’s an energy-efficient evening worth repeating.


This column was co-written by Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen of Collaborative Efficiency. For more information on energy efficient gifts, go to the November 2019 More Information Page.


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An e-bike can make cycling easier if you face challenging terrain, bike to work or find regular cycling too physically challenging. Source: firebladeguy, pixabay.