You’ve probably heard about the usual ways for saving energy. Some energy savers such as programmable thermostats and compact fluorescent bulbs are relatively new on the market. Yet, despite their recentness, these devices may have already become obsolete.

Thanks to newer technology, you can start saving even more on utility bills and energy costs. This is especially important now for the winter months, when energy costs for heating can be at their highest. The only problem is that you’ve probably never heard of these new tools.

Even for those who have heard, here are five of the latest ways to save on your utility bills by reducing energy costs.

Hot water

The old: Low-flow shower heads

What’s new: Shower heads that block the flow of hot water

Low-flow shower heads are great. They reduce the hot water you use by half, if not more. But what about running water as it heats up? If you live in a house like mine, then you know that it can take a few minutes for water to heat. Instead of letting it run and risk wasting hot water, there’s a new solution: ShowerStart.

ShowerStart automatically saves water as it heats. Rather than letting the hot water run, ShowerStart reduces the flow to a trickle once the water hits 95 degrees F. Once you get in the shower, simply flip a switch or pull a cord to resume regular hot water flow.

ShowerStart costs about $27, and the manufacturer reports that you can save up to $75 per year in utility costs.

Power strips

The old: Power strips with on/off switches

What’s new: Smart power strips with automatic functions

If you’ve been reading up on how to save electricity, you’ve probably heard that many electronics still use power even when they’re off. Estimates say that about 10% of your electricity bill can be attributed to these so-called “vampire power” sources.

Think about DVD players, TVs, and video game systems: the problem is that it’s a pain to have to continually unplug and re-plug in these electronics.

Power strips with manual on/off switches seem to have solved this problem. Instead of unplugging five devices, you need only to flip one switch, though users are nevertheless required to rely on memory. In response to this problem, something better has come along: advanced power strips.

Advanced power strips come with a variety of features that can help you to save electricity. Some models detect when plugged-in devices are turned off and thus cut power to the whole strip. Others run on a timer or by remote, thereby allowing users to control electricity when the power is turned off.

These power strips range widely in cost, though some models start at around $25. If the average household loses $200 to vampire energy costs each year, then these power strips can pay for themselves in the first year of ownership.


The old: Programmable thermostats

What’s new: Smart thermostats

A few years ago, programmable thermostats became all the rage. You only had to program them to optimize the temperature for the time of day, and you were all set, right? However, this approach might not have worked as well as we had thought.

That’s because programmable thermostats might help only if used exactly as intended. Otherwise, you can end up spending more on heating and cooling. In fact, a study by Florida Power & Light found that people with programmable thermostats used 12% more energy to cool their homes.

As the debate raged on, new technology entered the mix: smart thermostats.

Led by models such as Nest, smart thermostats learn habits and can thereby better control temperatures for increased energy savings. These thermostats also know when the homeowner is away, and temperatures can be adjusted online via WiFi.

Retailing for about $250, Nest can save you about 20% on your heating and cooling bills, according to the manufacturers.

Light bulbs

The old: Compact fluorescent light bulbs

What’s new: LED lighting

A couple of years ago, compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs were heralded as the technology that would replace incandescent bulbs. Incandescent bulbs, which had been used for decades, were being phased out by law, and their 40- and 60-watt versions were banned from manufacture in the United States. Despite the decades-long reign of incandescent bulbs, which saw no changes to lighting technology, it’s now taken only a few years for new options to emerge and replace CFLs. The newest among these options are LED lights.

LED lights use about 80% less energy than incandescent bulbs and 30% less than CFLs. And the savings don’t end there. LED lights last up to 10 times longer than CFL bulbs. Though the upfront cost is higher, you can increase savings given the longer lifetime of LED lights.

While LED lights are still more expensive for now (starting at around $5–10 per bulb), you can expect this price to drop over time, just as that of CFLs has.

Electricity usage

The old: Testing power usage outlet by outlet

What’s new: Monitoring power usage automatically throughout your house or apartment

Each month, you receive a bill for the electricity used throughout your house or apartment. But where does all of that energy go? It’s hard to tell unless you use a device such as Kill-A-Watt monitor to test each outlet individually.

Now, there’s technology that can do this for you. It’s called SiteSage.

SiteSage lets you monitor individual circuits within your house or apartment. SiteSage is installed directly into your electrical services panel, from where it feeds electricity usage information directly via your WiFi connection. Users can then view the information on their computer by using the software included.

This software gives specific recommendations for saving on energy costs in each area. SiteSage manufactures claim that you can save 10–30% with their product, and one Amazon reviewer has written that his bill dropped by $154 per month.

SiteSage isn’t cheap. It starts at $499 for the 14-circuit model. You’ll also need to pay extra to subscribe to the software service, which starts at $7.20 per month.

This solution is a bit extreme for the average homeowner and can probably best serve households with high electricity bills. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if a more affordable version of the product emerged in the future as the price of similar technology also declines.

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