Tech allows us to be more efficient in our energy use, without making our lives less comfortable or our businesses less successful. But we utilise more power than ever before due to our reliance on IT devices. Here's how to use tech to save money – and the planet.
How to save money with tech: Smart lighting
Any home or small office can have intelligent lighting that works only when a room is occupied. Unless you are determined to divest yourself of cash you should consider LED bulbs. Some key benefits to using LED rather than incandescent bulbs are that they use less energy, produce less heat, and last much longer.
But smart lighting for the different rooms in your house, be controlled from afar or scheduled to turn on and off at pre-set times from your smartphone or tablet, and even to function as an alarm, gently waking you in the morning. Some smart bulbs can even blast out tunes from your ceiling. And all will save you money if you calculate the cost over a long period.
Interested? Visit our best smart lighting round-up.
How to save money with tech: Smart heating
You've probably seen the adverts for Hive with its quirky song about how great it is to control your heating from a laptop, smartphone or tablet. And yes, it is – pun intended – a cool thing to be able to do. But more than that, smart heating is likely to be a key part of every home going forward. As fuel costs rise and supplies run dry the ability to heat our homes in an efficient way will stop being a nice bonus, and will become an essential part of every home's economics. You can find out everything you need to know about smart heating in our piece Best smart heating systems and thermostats 2016.
How to save money with tech: Energy-usage monitor
Energy-usage monitors are your friend. They keep you accountable, inform you of how much energy you're using within the home in real time, how much it's costing – and how much you can save, prompting a change of expensive habits if need be.
There are two types of energy monitor – hand-held screens that work alongside a separate unit, which can clip onto your electricity meter, or online house energy monitors.
Smart meters may soon be rolling out, replacing current meters. Information on your gas and electricity could be automatically sent straight to your energy supplier using wireless networks, getting rid of manual reading.
The Geo Minim Electricity monitor alerts the user to unusual patterns of energy, and uses a CT clip around the mains incomer. It has an easy-to-read LED screen too. You can buy it from Amazon for £35 here.
How to save money with tech: Efficient showerhead
The average shower in the UK lasts eight minutes, and in that time around 60 litres of water is used, water that uses energy to heat. With an efficient shower head, you're restricting the volume of water coming through.
The Ecocamel Jetstorm Plus can be used with all shower types, including electric showers, and offers three spray patterns. The showerhead injects air into the water stream so you use less water.
How to save money with tech: Hybrid computers
A laptop that is also your desktop and a tablet is more than just a cool gadget and a way to work on the hoof. Hybrid devices mean one computer instead of several: and that has the potential both to save you money, and to save precious resources. The most energy a computer will ever use is in the construction of its parts, so being able to use a single laptop or tablet wherever we are is a huge efficiency. And – obviously – buying one device rather than three is a good way of saving money, even if you will have to shell out to get a decent hybrid. You can find reviews of all the best laptop tablet hybrids in our piece: Best convertible laptops and tablets 2016 UK.
How to save money with tech: Keep your old PC
Not unrelated is the value of keeping your existing computer rather than giving in to the constant upgrade cycle. Computers these days last longer than once they did, in part because of the greater reliability of components, but also because once you have a sufficiently fast system with enough storage, there really is no need to upgrade. Reader, we are at peak PC.
This can lead to inefficient power usage, of course. But the laptop that lasts for five years is better for the environment than replacing it with a brand new and more efficient device every year or two. We all change our phones far too often, too.
You can elongate the life of most tech hardware without having to replace the whole thing. Replace that inefficient spinning hard drive with an SSD. Displays can be replaced or upgraded, as can power supplies.
If you do have to buy a new phone or PC, be sure to recycle your older kit, either by donating it, selling it or passing it on via a freecycle site.
How to save money with tech: How to minimuse PC power usage
Check the power settings on your PC or laptop. Most have energy saving options on them. This is a great way to reduce power consumption because it's a one-off thing and can be really effective.
Keep your computer peripherals (printer, scanner, speakers etc) turned off when you're not using them.
You will want to keep your internet router turned on when you're at home during the day, but there's no realy reason for it to be on when you're asleep. Some routers offer a power schedule which you can program to make it turn on and off automatically.
How to save money with tech: Standby power
The average household spends around £70 per year keeping household electronic devices on standby. That's over 10 percent of a house's total electricity consumption. Think about those TVs, set-top boxes, DVD players, PCs, audio systems and games consoles. Do you really need to leave them on standby through the day and night?
Obviously it makes sense to leave a Sky or Virgin box on standby if you have scheduled programme recordings, but aside from that items can be completely switched off.
How to save money with tech: Solar charger
So you're saving energy on your big home gadgets, but what about the small gadgets that still need charging every night? Why not investigate a solar charger, which just requires the power of the sun in order to charge your smartphones, tablets and cameras? Check out our review of the best solar chargers here.
How to save money with tech: Kitchen tech energy saving tips
You can’t turn off your fridge or freezer at night to save money but you can cut down these devices’ electricity usage. Keep the inside of a fridge between 0-5°C. Defrost food in the fridge, as frozen food helps to cool the fridge. Keep your fridge and freezer at least three quarters full, recommends Which? Magazine. You could fill them with bottles of water to take up space – although over-filling will stop air circulating round the compartments properly.
• Washing clothes at 30 degrees C as opposed to 40 degrees C, uses 40 percent less energy and is generally as efficient, according to the UK’s Energy Saving Trust. Look for Eco cycles to further cut power.
• Don’t pre-rinse dishes before putting them in dishwasher. This can save a significant amount per year. If you have a water meter letting the dishwasher do all the cleaning is more efficient than putting stuff under a running tap.
• Use your dishwasher only when it is full, maybe every two days.
• Adjust the water level on your washing machine to match the load size, especially when using hot water. Always use a cold rinse. Also, clean the lint filter regularly.
• Try not to use a clothes dryer. Tumble dyers and the like are incredibly energy greedy! Which? Calculates that one load in a C-rated electric tumble dryer costs around 49p, compared to just 14p per load in an A-rated heat pump dryer. Switch to the old outside line method when possible or use a dry room and allow a bit of extra time for the clothes to dry. If you have to use the dryer use the auto sensor function if you have one to conserve energy by not over-drying your clothes.
• If you must use a tumble dryer wring out or spin clothes before putting them in.
• Don’t overfill your kettle, just boil the amount of water you need. Check how much energy a kettle uses with an energy monitor. You’ll be shocked at how much electricity is used making a cup of tea. And keep it descaled, as all that limescale makes the kettle work harder to boil.