3 Green gadgets Steve Jobs would've loved

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

Steve Jobs used design to change the world.  He created the products needed to get us to a future he imagined. Jobs brought us the iPod, iPhone and iPad to engage in the same basic functions as other products.

But, these products let us enjoy these tasks in ways that were simple, elegant, and beautiful.  The interfaces were so intuitive that even a child could use them.

Steve Jobs insisted that, like a refrigerator, Mac products were appliances; you shouldn’t need to know much to use one.

While at Greenbuild International Conference in Toronto last week, I found three products to handle simple home tasks with Jobsian ease.

Each of these products serves the same purpose as existing technologies. Simply, they are nothing more than a thermostat, a light bulb, and a light switch.  What makes these products worthy of your home is that they are easy to use, they save energy, they make your life better, and (unlike a Mac) they cost less over their usable life.

1.  ecobee Smart Thermostat

They’re are plenty of programmable thermostats on the market.  But, if the interface feels like you are looking for a secret passage in an old Donkey Kong game then they are useless.  The ecobee Smart Thermostat is designed so that you can actually use it.   It makes your home comfort intuitive and simple to control.

The Smart Thermostat is a WiFi enabled programmable thermostat with a full-color touch screen with helpful icons to make it almost fun to use. The convenient program Wizard guides you through the initial setup and programming.

The feature that puts all those hair-pulling, crazy-making thermostats to shame is the ecobee’s ability to remotely control your heating and air conditioning system from your smart phone, iPad or Android tablet. Forgot to turn down the thermostat after leaving for vacation?  No problem.  Crank up the ecobee app and program your HVAC to save some energy and money while your gone and give you comfort the moment you return home.

2.  Philips AmbientLED

This bulb is beautiful in both design and function.  It’s the world’s first LED replacement for a 60 watt incandescent bulb that gives off a stunningly warm light.  Philips AmbientLED uses only 12.5 watts and it has met or exceeded the quality and energy efficiency requirements to qualify for the ENERGY STAR label.

It’s the first LED bulb that is a highly-efficient, cost-effective lighting option for consumers. The bulb lasts 25 times longer and uses 80% less energy than the 60W incandescent it was designed to replace.

The compact fluorescent is the PC and this LED is the Mac of the lighting world.  Both have the same function, but one has a better design and a more perfect user experience.

3.  Lutron Maestro Dimmer Switch / Vacancy Sensor

The problem with the old-school motion sensors is that you had to wave frantically to keep them on and they didn’t have a dimming option.  The Lutron Maestro is available as a dimmer or switch with sensor.  It turns lights off after the room is vacated (auto-off) or turn the lights on (auto-on) when you enter the space.

It’s a simple, smart device that allows you to be stupid.  If you forget to turn the lights off, it will do it for you.  You don’t need to know how it’s able to sense fine motions to ensure the lights remain on when the room is occupied.  It just does.

Matt Grocoff, Esq. LEED is founder of Thrive - Net Zero Consulting Collaborative, host of Greenovation.TV, a contributor to The Environment Report on Public Radio, the green renovation expert for Old House Web, and a sought after lecturer. His home is America’s oldest net-zero energy home and was called “Sustainable Perfection” by The Atlantic, honored as one of USA Today’s “Seven Best Green Homes of 2010″ and Preservation Project of the Year.  He has been featured in hundreds of publications and news shows including Washington Post, Detroit Free Press, Preservation Magazine, Solar Today, Fox Business News, Huffington Post and more.  Join him on Google+, Twitter and Facebook