12 Money-Saving, Power-Sipping Green Gadgets for Earth Day

Save the planet, and generate a little juice for your bank account in the process.

Vizio SV470XVT HD display

As TVs and monitors have gotten bigger, their thirst for electricity has risen as well, with some flat screens sucking down as much as 600 watts of power. Thanks to some clever design work, Vizio Inc.'s 47-in. SV47OXVT display uses just 235 watts, or about as much as the typical 42-in. LCD display consumes. When it's in sleep mode, it uses only 5 watts -- about what a child's night light consumes -- or one-third that of the typical display of its size.

At $1,300, the Vizio unit is about what you'd expect to pay for a display of this size, and it includes goodies such as a bright HD screen, a 120-hertz imaging engine, tuners for both analog and digital broadcasts, and more input connections that you'll probably ever use. If you watch about four hours of TV or DVDs a day, it can save $35 a year in power costs.

Available from: Vizio Inc. Price: $1,400 Estimated annual savings: $35

Voltaic Generator solar bag

The sun generously bathes the earth in abundant light, but other than the minuscule portion that is currently captured, most isn't being used to generate energy. Voltaic Systems Inc. wants to put an end to that with its line of solar-powered notebook bags and backpacks.

Capable of charging a notebook, cell phone or other gadget, the 4.5-lb. Voltaic Generator case ($499) can be your own personal power grid on the go. On the outside is a rigid 15-by-10-in. solar panel that can grab up to 15 watts of power on a sunny day to charge its 58-watt internal battery. I charged it for six hours on a sunny day, and it was able to start a Lenovo ThinkPad X300 with a dead battery and raise the notebook's charge level to 50%.

The generator comes with a slew of adapters for charging a variety of phones and notebooks, and it could save about $20 (compared with plugging the notebook into the wall every night). And keep in mind the amount of sunshine in your area -- it's probably a better bet in Phoenix than in Portland.

Available from: Voltaic Systems Inc. Price: $499 Estimated annual savings: $20

Belkin Conserve Energy-Saving Surge Protector

Look around and count the number of LEDs glowing in your home when all the other lights are out. These represent printers, TVs and other electronic gadgets that aren't being used. Each of these "quick start" devices uses its share of what's called phantom or vampire power.

Belkin International Inc.'s Conserve Energy-Saving Surge Protector can turn them all off at the source. On top of two outlets that are always powered, it has six outlets that are controlled by a handheld wireless remote control. Flip the switch, and the power is turned off, period -- no more phantom power. The remote control has a 45-foot range and can be hung on the wall next to your light switch so that first thing in the morning, everything gets turned back on.

In a typical small office that operates eight hours a day, the Conserve Energy-Saving Surge Protector can save at least $15 a year by cutting off the phantom power to a 15-in. LCD TV, coffee maker, scanner, microwave and a DustBuster rechargeable vacuum. That means the $45 strip could pay for itself in about three years. After that, all that green goes right into your pocket.

Available from: Belkin International Inc Price: $45 Estimated annual savings: $15.40

HP Color LaserJet CM2320n

Putting images and words onto paper has gotten a lot cheaper and greener with Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Color LaserJet CM2320n multifunction printer (MFP). The first color laser MFP engineered from the start to be a power miser, the CM2320n puts efficiency first with redesigned motors, power supply and fuser. The scanner is illuminated with low-power LEDs.

Together, these components cut the printer's power draw by half when it's churning out pages and even more when it's not being used. While idle, the printer uses only 5 watts -- about a third of the power draw of other color laser printers -- yet, according to HP, it can deliver its first page in 16 seconds. Assuming you print about 50 pages a day, the can cut your power bill by $10 over a year. The more you print, the more you save.

The best part is that this savings doesn't cost more up front because at $599, the CM2320n is priced about $100 less than similar business multifunction printers.

Available from: Hewlett-Packard Co. Price: $599 Estimated annual savings: $9.68

Solio Magnesium Edition charger and HYmini Deluxe

The Solio Magnesium solar charger (top) and HYmini wind generator (bottom) let you forget about outlets and AC adapters for small electronic devices such as cameras, music players and cell phones.

Both are small, light and can fit into a notebook bag's pocket. The Solio has three fold-out photovoltaic solar panels that look like flower petals, while the HYmini has a four-blade propeller and a high-efficiency generator that turns wind into power. Both have internal batteries so you can store the energy and use it when you need it.

Of the two, the $170 Solio is more practical, taking 10 hours to fully charge itself, more than enough to power and charge up a Toshiba Gigabeat T400 media player via an included USB plug. The Solio comes with nine power tips for popular phones. The HYmini requires a wind of at least 9 miles per hour to work, and it took eight hours of simulated 20-mph wind to gather enough power to charge the T400 to half its capacity. To make up the slack, the HYmini's $75 Deluxe kit includes a small solar panel to supplement the wind power.

Either gadget can save about $4 a year compared with charging a phone with an outlet. The freedom to forget about electrical outlets is priceless.

Solio Magnesium Edition charger Available from: Better Energy Systems Ltd. Price: $170 Estimated annual savings: $3.53

HYmini Deluxe Available from: Miniwiz Sustainable Energy Dev. Ltd. Price: $75 Estimated annual savings: $3.53

D-Link DGS-2208 switch

At a power draw of just a few watts, I would not have thought that networking gear uses enough power to make conservation worth the effort. Well, I'm here to say that I was wrong: D-Link Corp.'s DGS-2208 8-port gigabit switch hardly wastes a watt.

Odds are that your home network is used for only about half the day. The rest of the time, it does nothing but sit around with its LEDs flashing and millions of packets flying back and forth to make sure that everything is still connected and be ready for the first byte to come through. The difference is that the DGS-2208 is smart enough to shut down LAN connections as they stop being needed -- like a PC that has gone to sleep -- and tune the signal to the length of the cable.

With eight active connections, the DGS-2208 uses the same 6 watts as a traditional eight-port switch, but its power draw drops to 2 watts when its connections are idle. All told, the $63 switch can save $2 per year compared with a conventional switch. Well, it's a start.

Available from: D-Link Corp.

Price: $63

Estimated annual savings: $2.42

Etón MicroLink FR160 and Baylis Eco Media Player

Power for your media player or radio doesn't have to come from a power plant or disposable batteries. Cranking a handle for a few minutes can power the $30 Etón MicroLink FR160 radio (top) and the $209 Baylis Eco Media Player (bottom). They are a bit bulky, but they can let you boogie or listen to All Things Considered while others are looking for an outlet.

The MicroLink radio weighs 8.5 oz. and can grab AM, FM and Weather Band programming, while the 5.9-oz. Eco plays digital audio from its 4GB of internal memory and or its SD flash card slot. The Eco can also tune in FM stations and display images and video on its 2-in. color screen. Both gadgets have an LED flashlight and speaker, but they sound much better with headphones.

Hands-on reviewing takes on a new meaning with these wind-up entertainers, which have power handles that cleverly fold flat and pull out for use. It takes 2 minutes of cranking the MicroLink to get 15 minutes of radio time, while a minute of winding the Eco translates into an hour of playtime.

Both devices work as phone chargers as well -- 15 minutes of winding the Etón MicroLink radio nudged the battery in my Sony Ericsson W580 up one quarter of a charge. The MicroLink also has a small solar panel to augment the cranking on a sunny day.

Crank-powered gadgets were originally developed for emergencies or for areas where electricity is difficult or impossible to access. However, they have their uses for the rest of us as well -- they can not only save you $1.28 a year versus rechargeable players and radios, but they also have the unintended benefit of providing a mild aerobic workout every time the battery runs down.

Etón MicroLink FR160

Available from: Multiple vendors, sometime in April

Price: $30

Estimated annual savings: $1.28

Baylis Eco Media Player

Available from: Real Goods Solar Inc.

Price: $209

Estimated annual savings: $1.28

nPower Portable Energy Generator

Can't bear to take an elevator for a floor or two? Hate cabs and like to walk? In the near future, you may be able to turn this inability to sit still into usable power. Several kinetic-energy generators are on the way that will be able to harness walking to charge a phone, music player or camera.

None are on sale yet, but Tremont Electric Co.'s nPower Portable Energy Generator, or PEG, could be available by fall for $150. The 9-in.-long tube will go in your bag or attach to a belt clip or arm band, and it will be able to convert about 1.25% of your motion -- walking, jogging or just going up or down stairs -- into usable electricity.

Inside the tube is a movable magnet that generates up to 4 watts, perfect for charging a small digital device. All it will take is about an hour of walking a day to charge an iPod, according to Tremont Electric, potentially saving about $1.28 a year compared with charging the music player. At that rate, you'll have to do a lot of walking to get it to pay for itself -- which, if you're looking to lose some weight, is not that bad an idea.

Available from: Not available yet

Price: $150

Estimated annual savings: $1.28

PowerFilm AA Foldable Solar Charger

Rechargeable batteries are ecofriendly because they can be reused hundreds of times, but every plug-in recharge means a small amount of electricity is needed to juice them up. Not so with PowerFilm Inc.'s AA Solar Charger, a juice maker costing approximately $75 that comes with a pack of four AA batteries.

Thanks to the company's innovative flexible amorphous silicon solar cells, the charger unrolls to reveal 80 square inches of active photovoltaic cells that can generate up to 2 watts. At 4 ounces, the solar charger is lighter than a plug-in charger, so it can go wherever you go. I put it on the back shelf of my sedan, and after 7 hours in direct sunshine, the four batteries were ready for use in a digital camcorder. It only adds up to about a dollar a year of saving versus plug-in charging, but the device can save a bundle when compared to throw-away batteries.

Available from: Various vendors

Price: $56-$79

Estimated annual savings: $1

The Energy Detective (TED)

Knowledge is power, and it's impossible to calculate power savings without knowing how much electricity is used. For those with a Available from: smart power meter, it's easy. For the rest of us, there's The Energy Detective, better known as TED.

The $145 device has two parts: a sensor that clamps onto your circuit breaker's incoming power cable and a remote display. The sensor monitors how much power is being used and sends the data over the building's power lines to the display screen; the screen needs to be within 150 feet of the sensor to work.

The small screen can show power use and cost in real time as well as totals for previous months. It can help you figure out which saves more energy: turning the AC thermostat up a degree or unplugging the TV when it's not being used. The optional $45 Footprints PC application analyzes this data, looking for trends that could translate into additional savings.

How much TED can save depends on how deeply you look at your consumption, but realizing you have a problem is the first step to dealing with it.

Available from: Energy Inc.

Price: $145

Estimated annual savings: Depends on use

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