Whether you’re taking a shower, tossing your trash or enjoying the sunshine on your face as you glare out the window at your annoying neighbor, you can find a gadget that will help you do said activity without killing the planet at the same time.
Here are five of the latest innovations – four on the market and one on its way – to help you in your quest to have a more eco-friendly home.
You remember back in the day, when we used to think going green meant having to sacrifice? Not so much anymore.
Now you can reduce your water consumption while feeling like you’re at the spa. The Nebia
shower system turns liquid into millions of tiny droplets, creating the sensation of more water, while actually using less. The startup says its system saves as much as 70 percent of the water used in conventional showers.
The average shower lasts about eight minutes and uses 20 gallons of water, while the Nebia system uses just six gallons. Nebia began shipping units worldwide in January 2017. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook is sold – he’s an investor.
The Joneses may own a Tesla, but you’re pretty sure they don’t turn their lights off when they leave the room. Now you can find out. Neurio Technology
makes a home energy monitor that lets you use your smart phone to track your energy use in real time. Installing the monitor to your home’s electrical panel is easy, you don’t have to cut wires. Then you just connect the app to the monitor, and your phone will show you in easy-to-read graphs which appliances are eating up the most energy, and how often and how long you’re family is using them.
Neurio even lets you compare your own energy use to your neighbors’. Take that, Joneses.
The robots of science fiction novels inevitably bring darkness, but not Caia
. Caia is a natural light robot – made by a startup called Solenica – that promises to brighten up a room by redirecting sunlight. You place this solar-powered gadget in a window, then point it in the direction where you want light. And that’s it.
Technically, Caia is a heliostat, a device with a mirror that turns to keep reflecting sunlight toward a predetermined target. Caia does this using a special sensor, always remembering where you told it to send the light. Solenica CEO, Dr. Diva Tommei, came up with the idea while sitting at her desk in her gloomy office at Cambridge University as she watched people enjoy sunshine outside.
Caia is still in the prototype stage and can be pre-ordered through the company’s Indigogo campaign
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Composting goes a long way toward eliminating food waste, but it’s messy and takes up space. For folks without a compost pile and worm bin, or access to a composting service – aka most people – there's a new kitchen appliance to deal with the food scraps that mostly end up in landfills.
Whirlpool, which makes the Zera Food Recycler
, says the contraption can break down a week's worth of scraps into homemade fertilizer within 24 hours. The EPA estimates that more food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in our everyday garbage. And 20 percent of total U.S. methane emissions – a big contributor to climate change – come from landfills.
So go dig those cold french fries out of the trash and get composting.
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The idea of solar windows is not new, but it has been gaining traction. New scientific research has shown that transparent solar cell technology could soon advance enough to go commercial.
Scientists at Michigan State University have been working on transparent solar panels
, which could be used as windows in homes or cars and generate electricity at the same time. The material is designed to capture just “invisible” light, the ultraviolet and near-infrared kind, so the light we see gets through to brighten the room. But there are still kinks to work out.
Rooftop solar panels are typically 15 to 20 percent efficient, whereas the transparent solar cells hit only around 5 percent. Still, Richard Lunt, professor of chemical engineering and materials science at Michigan, told Newsweek
he expects to see a three-fold improvement in efficiency of the transparent solar cells. Commercial versions of these high-tech panels should be on the market in “the next few years,” he said.