Summer is coming to an end, which means we're on the verge of sealing ourselves into our respective homes for winter - that time when all our bills go up because we're so concerned with silly things like 'staying warm and comfortable'. Nobody likes paying their bills, so it's well worth investing in some stuff that can make you less dependent on the national grid.
While th best ways of keeping the heating off are to wrap up warm and invest in multiple layers of clothing, we're talking about gadgets and tech that can make your improve your power usage. That includes making your radiators more efficient, keeping tabs on the power you're using and more. Let's take a look.
Solar Phone Charger, £12
Plugging your phone into the mains doesn't cost very much. In fact past estimates claim that the total cost of the power they actually use is less than £1 a year. But obviously that adds up when you consider all the different smart devices in your house. If you want to take your stuff off the grid whenever possible, a solar-powered charger might be one way to go. It's not the most efficient way to try and save money, but with a 15,000 mAh battery back-up and two USB ports, you can leave this charging up and use it when needed. [Buy it here]
24 Hour Plug In Timer (2 Pack), £8.49
Sometimes going old school is the best thing to do. If you want to control the amount of time specific devices are in use, whatever they may be, the best way to control that is with this analogue timer. Each button around the outside of the dial represents 15 minutes, all covering a full 24 hours - much like the ones found on boilers. With those you can programme specific times when power is or isn't going to your appliance. And because it's analogue it doesn't actually require much in the way of extra power. [Buy it here]
Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd Gen), from £198
A smart thermostat is a great way to keep control of the heating, regardless of whether you're in the house or not. With energy prices consistently rising above 'rip-off' prices, that's a good thing. Nest lets you set up an automatic schedule, learning from you and programming itself based on your habits. It also allows separate control for the hot water tank, an automatic switch off when you leave the house, and more. There's also integration with Amazon Alexa and Google Home, plus remote control from a smartphone app.
Netatmo Smart Thermostat, £130
If you want something a little cheaper, there's always the Netatmo smart thermostat. It has an e-ink display (which uses less power than Nest's LCD), integration with Amazon's Alexa and Siri, a smartphone app (Android, iOS, and Windows), remote controls, easy installation, auto-care (that informs you of any problems), and auto-adapt that learns from you and programmes itself. [Buy it here]
geo Minim Electricity Energy Monitor, £35
If your energy provider hasn't gifted you with a smart meter, you might want a device to keep tabs on all your energy usage. This monitor does much the same thing as a smart meter, letting you see how much power you're using in real time - displayed in CO2 emissions, kWh, and (most importantly) GBP. It's easy to install, and it keeps a history of your usage so you can see where your money is being drained. [Buy it here]
LED bulbs are not uncommon these days, and they don't exactly cost the earth anymore. They're a worthy investment, especially as the days get shorter, but smartening them up can help you control your usage by controlling the bulbs. A lot of smart bulbs tend to be quite pricey, since you need to set up a whole complex smart home hub system to get them working, but not these.
Ikea's Trådfri bulbs cost £9-£15 on their own, and can be used as regular bulbs or in conjunction with other bits and pieces. A remote control (£15) is worth purchasing for obvious reasons, but you can also buy kits that include motion sensors, dimmer switches, and so on. You can buy a hub if you'd prefer, which lets you control the bulbs from your phone rather than relying on a remote control you're going to lose down the back of the sofa.
Elgato's Avea bulbs are more expensive with each bulb costing just under £30 each. The upside is that each one is compatible with smartphones and tablets, without the need for any extra hubs or remote controls. They connect to your device via Bluetooth, and even come with alternating colours and modes to match how you're feeling - one of which is the wake-up mode that mimics the rising run.
Pulse Eco Showerhead, £28.50
If your house has a water meter (which I assume it does), everything you can do to save water is saving you pennies. One of the bigger water users is the shower, and the Pulse Eco Showerhead can make yours more efficient - even if you have an electric or low-pressure shower. By pulsing the water every 30-40 seconds, it promises to save up to 60% more water, but without you feeling much difference in terms of water flow. [Buy it here]
SuperFOIL Radiator Foil Insulation, £11.15
I'd wager a good 99.something per cent of people heat their homes with radiators, which seems to work rather well for the most part. The problem is that radiators are bolted to the wall, which means a decent chunk of the heat they produce is getting blasted in the wrong direction. Sort that out with this foil insulation that goes behind each radiator, and reflects the heat back into the room it's supposed to be in. You can use scissors to cut this stuff up as well, so it's easy to make sure it's the right length for your own radiators. [Buy it here]
Automatic Radiator Bleeders, £8.20
Every sensible radiator owner knows that they need to be bled every so often, to pull out any air bubbles that interfere with the normal heating duties. If that's too much of a chore, you can use one of these automatic bleeders to do everything for you. Installation is easy, and it means you can continue to be lazy without sacrificing the efficiency of your home. [Buy it here]
Black & Decker TLD100 Thermal Leak Detector, £27
Not one for the layman, but if you're having trouble detecting draughts in your house then you might want to give it a try. It works with warm and cold draughts (not that you'll really need the former in this country), shining a red or blue light when it detects one. The temperature range is customisable, and lets you find any dodgy areas so you can patch it up (or pay someone to do it for you). As I said this isn't for everyone, but if you want to make sure your home is nice and sealed up then this something you can use to make it happen. [Buy it here]
Phillips HD464 Eco Kettle, £25
Last, but obviously not least, is this eco kettle from Phillips - because we do love the kettle in this country. This one is a low-cost option with a concealed heating element, which prevents limescale build-up (if that affects you) and means you don't have to boil excess water if you're only making a single brew. It holds 1.7 litres in total, has a double action filter, and most importantly heats your water quickly. Phillips estimates that it'll use around 66 per cent less power than a standard kettle, and for this price that's a nice deal. [Buy it here]