3 coolest energy saving gadgets from America's oldest net zero house

By: Matt Grocoff , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses, Home Improvement Tips, Green Renovations, Technology, Old House Blogger Contest, Historic Preservation

For Greenovation.TV I’m constantly looking for the newest devices that make it easier for you to stop wasting money and energy, and hopefully make you more comfortable.  And in our net-zero folk-Victorian we watch every watt.

If you like these or have an energy and water savings item you love, share it with us on our Facebook fan page.  The best comment of the month will get a free copy of Energy Savings For the Novice: Simple Ways to Build Family Wealth and Security.

Here’s my top 3 coolest energy-saving gadgets for under $50 from our home.

Philips EnduraLED

This is arguably the world’s greatest lightbulb. It is certainly the first LED bulb that has been blessed with a chance to shine in our living space and not be sequestered in the basement with our other trial LED bulbs.

The Philips EnduraLED is available at Home Depot and other retailers for $39.95. Now before you scream “outrageous”, consider that my wife and I will not need to replace this bulb until our two year old daughter is in college. It will last 25x longer than an old school bulb.

It gives a deliciously warm light. The 12.5 watt bulb is bright enough to replace a 60 watt incandescent bulb or a 25 watt CFL bulb.

Unlike other energy efficient bulbs, this one is dimmable and has no mercury.

To learn more about how to find quality energy efficient bulbs, see my article on the new lighting facts labels.

Occupancy sensor light switches

If your dad ever screamed and chased after you for not turning off the lights, then an occupancy sensor light switch will surely cure your post-traumatic stress.

Up to 60% of lighting costs go to light empty rooms.  A high-quality occupancy or motion sensor light switch will turn off the light automatically if (when) you forget to.

We have Wattstopper by Legrand in our house and love them.  A word of caution: avoid cheap motion sensors unless you want to be waving your arms trying to get the light to turn back on.  A good quality sensor will cost $25 - $50 and make your life easier.

Bricor & Caroma high-efficiency/performance shower heads

Ahh, the joy of a good, long, steamy hot shower. In our house we were not going to settle for some lame “low-flow” shower head. I have tried literally dozens of efficient shower heads. While they all save money and water, they don’t all live up to their promise of comfort.

There are two that have had the privilege to stick around in our net-zero house: Caroma Flow and Bricor Bravo. They give a luxurious flow that satisfies the pickiest of our house guests. In fact, the Bricor is also used in Ceasar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

These showers use only 1.5 gallons per minute, compared to a whopping 2.5 gallons per minute for a standard shower head. That’s a savings of ten gallons of water for every ten minute shower.

An average family of three will save an astonishing 11,000 gallons of hot water every year!  Dollar-for-dollar, that makes these high-efficiency shower heads one of the biggest energy savers in the house. They retail for about $49.95 and will pay for themselves in energy savings in about seven months.

Check out this video and Environment Report story about this new generation of shower heads.

Matt Grocoff is host of Greenovation.TV and the green renovation expert for Old House Web. His home was selected as one of USA Today’s “Best Green Homes of 2010″. He has been featured in the pages and on the airwaves of USA TODAY, Washington Post, Detroit Free Press, Miami Herald, Preservation Magazine, Travel Girl Magazine, Photon International, Solar Today, Hour Magazine, Fox Business News, NPR syndicates, NBC4, Paul W. Smith Show, Chris Holman Business Hour, and hundreds of online magazines including GOOD and TreeHugger.  Join him on Twitter and Facebook