31 Aug 2007
Product Review: The Electrisave.
A while ago I wrote a product review of my EcoKettle, for which I got quite a lot of flack from those who don’t think there is any such thing as an eco gadget. Actually I subsequently read in Chris Goodall’s excellent book How to Live a Low-Carbon Life a pretty thorough demolition of the EcoKettle, arguing that they will take 4 years to pay back and are not built to last anything like that long. So, anyway, we’ll move on from the EcoKettle to a gadget I recently bought which I think is rather wonderful, and which I would recommend to anyone, the Electrisave.
The Electrisave comes in two parts, one that clips on to the cable coming out of your junction box, and the other which is a display unit that you keep in the house. It is easy to programme with the amount you pay for each unit of electricity, and then it tells you at any moment how much energy you are using, in pence, kilowatt hours, or kg of carbon. For someone like me who never really got the hang of kilowatt hours and so on, being able to see, at that moment, how much energy is being used at that moment in pence is really useful.
What it does is to make you very mindful of what energy is being used. It is a great tool for educating kids about energy, as it is very easy to see what effect using different appliances has. I find myself looking at it everytime I am in the kitchen (ours stands on the kitchen table) and wondering what has been left on. When going away, it is great for checking nothing has been left on. When the family is gathered to eat, meals often begin with “who’s left something on in their rooms?”
It has been a real eye opener for me in terms of where energy is most extensively used in my house. Despite nagging my kids to turn off lights all the time, actually having all my lights on with low energy bulbs uses a negligible amount of energy (perhaps 0.1p). Pop the kettle on and it goes up to about 35p! Other big users are the electric cooker, and anything that heats things. The iron and the vacuum cleaner also bump it way up. Some things that surprised me were how much juice my stereo uses even when it is just left switched on but not actually playing anything, and also the difference between my laptop and the old desktop PC the kids play games on sometimes.
We also bought lights for our kitchen which turn out to use a staggering amount of energy, so they get turned on very little. I often find myself wandering around the house, Electrisave display in hand, muttering ‘where is that coming from?’ One rapidly becomes an energy nerd, obsessing over how much energy is being used and where it is being used. The main lesson for me has been that we can give people all the energy efficient lightbulbs and energy efficiency advice, but the thing that actually makes the difference is the mindfulness, just having an awareness of what is being used and where. Also, this is a great tool to use in education too, in schools you could have it in the classroom and document what is being used and how various energy efficiency measures effect it.
When I bought it, the woman in the shop said, when I balked at its price tag, that people usually offset the amount spent on it quite quickly, due to the savings it led them to make. While she would, of course, say that, I can see her point. I think this is one of the most useful things I have every bought, it is simple to use, and in terms of the awareness it instills about energy consumption, is an essential addition to every household (energy companies should really fit these as standard in everyone’s homes…). The Electrisave can be bought by mail order from the Green Shop.