Green Home Products – To Buy Or Not To Buy?

green home

I am facing a bit of a dilemma right now because I want to make my home life as green as possible. Now you’d think this would be as easy as buying all the energy saving, water saving, eco products available but I have a slightly sceptical side when it comes to claims made by the manufacturers themselves.

How many are just labelled as eco friendly for marketing purposes without any proven benefits whatsoever?

In this post, I am going to go through some of the products that I am, or have been, considering to see what the arguments are for or against them.

Ecoballs – Washing Without Detergent

Should you buy it? No, I really don’t think they are worth it for any reason.

I really was on the verge of buying some laundry balls as I love the idea of not having to use chemical detergents when washing my clothes but after doing some research I have found many websites arguing (and arguing very convincingly) that such balls are in fact doing very little in the way of cleaning.

There are many good reviews on Amazon but when you dig a little deeper, you find that when people have done tests with the balls versus without the balls (both with no detergent and at the same temperature), the results are practically identical.

Like many others, I have come to the conclusion that in many cases washing detergent probably isn’t necessary. I must admit that I like the smell of the detergent I use but given my findings, I will try washing with very minimal amounts of it in future. I hope to get an equally good clean with just the faint whiff of fragrance but with far less detergent.

I already use concentrated detergent but if my tests prove successful, I could probably make one bottle last for several months at a time.

I think, if you really cannot do without laundry powder or liquid, then you should try switching to Ecover who have developed products using only vegetable and mineral sources that maximise the biodegradability.

Heated Mattress Protectors

Should you buy it? Yes, most definitely.

I have to admit to already having bought one of these for my flat because I have rubbish electric heaters which aren’t particularly great at heating my bedroom up, and especially not the bed itself which was always freezing when I got in.

I am still conducting tests on the energy consumption but if the claims on the packet that it costs “pennies to run” are true, it could well save me up to £1 per night when the temperatures plunge below freezing as they have done recently.

This equates to around 8KWh of electricity per night which, using figures from the DECC, leads to CO2e savings of 3.6kg! Now, this figure would be somewhat less if we are looking at efficient gas central heating but it would still be sizeable.

I’ll write a whole post about my experiences with the heated mattress protector later but you can rest assured that I will be giving it two massive thumbs up in terms of enjoying a cosy night’s sleep.

Savaplug – Making Fridges & Freezers More Efficient

Should you buy it? Only if you have an old fridge or freezer.

I toiled with the idea of buying a device known as a Savaplug which claims to reduce the energy consumption of a fridge or freezer by adjusting the energy supply to the motor depending on its current need.

The reason I am now going to avoid buying one is that apparently most modern fridges/freezers have such controls built in, making the Savaplug redundant. I have what appears to be quite a new fridge in my rented flat but there is a much stronger argument for buying one of these devices if you own an old fridge. At only £20 or so, and with savings claimed to be as much as £120 over 10 years, it is probably worth it for some people both in terms of cost savings and CO2 savings.

Ramp Up Those Radiators

Should you buy it? Some people rave about them; others slate them so difficult to say.

This little device appeared on Dragon’s Den and has since proven popular with homeowners wanting to heat up their home more evenly and efficiently.

It works by using a small thermostatic fan to blow the hot air around your radiator out into the room, thus heating it up more quickly. It costs very little to run (some say 30p a year) and Which magazine rate it as a product they’d recommend but if you look at the reviews on Nigel’s Eco Store, not everyone is as favourable.

Unfortunately I cannot test the radiator booster in my flat as I have electric heaters that are the wrong shape to lay it on. I think these are primarily meant for gas central heating radiators but at £25 each, you would be best off buying one initially to decide for yourself whether it works before kitting out the rest of the house.

Stop Heating Up The Neighbours

Should you buy it? Sound reasoning for its use and majority of reviews are very positive.

Radiators again but this time it’s about preventing heat loss through external walls. If you think about what it’s like to stand with your back to a radiator, your legs tend to get very warm indeed and this is exactly what is happening to the external walls that most radiators are attached to.

To combat this, you can put some form of reflective material behind the radiator so that more of the heat goes into the room and not out into space (or into your neighbour’s house).

There are ready made panels by Radflek and they have proven to be very popular with the Amazon crowd. At just £16.99 for a 10 radiator pack, they apparently pay for themselves inside of a year and by allowing you to turn down your thermostat by a degree or two, they can reduce your carbon footprint by many kilograms.

Aeroponics – Plants Without Soil

Should you buy it? Probably not but might suit some lifestyles.

I recently saw a product demonstrated on Channel 4′s Home of the Future called an Aero Garden and it immediately piqued my interest as it claimed to use less energy than a 60w light bulb.

I really like the idea of growing small amounts of veg or herbs in your home, particularly as I live in a flat with no outside space to grow things in. The reduction in food miles and packaging is a real plus for the product, as is the fact that it is made entirely from recyclable components.

The only slight problem I have with the Aero Garden is the raw materials that go into making it. I’m not entirely sure that, in the UK, the food miles and packaging are enough of a reason to justify the production of the unit in the first place – especially when you consider that you could go and get locally produced herbs and vegetables with almost zero packaging at a market.

I think this is more of a convenience product, designed for people who cannot get to a market regularly (or choose not to).

Magnetic Secondary Glazing

Should you buy it? If you own your own home and have single glazing then it is well worth considering.

I must admit that during the recent cold spell, it was quite difficult at times to keep my flat warm without having the heating on whenever I was there. The crappy single glazing in the majority of my rooms struggles to keep the heat in and there are drafts around the edges where the caulk has worn away.

I searched for solutions to this problem but then realised that I was best off trying to copy the solution that my landlord must have installed years ago – secondary glazing. Only my bedroom has secondary glazing at the minute but it does make the room easier to heat up and keep warm.

Now I am just a tenant and I wouldn’t spend my own good money on permanent secondary glazing for the flat but during my research I did come across a type of temporary secondary glazing that is magnetic and sticks to your existing window frame.

It is relatively cheap compared to double glazing so I think that this would be a good investment for many homes with single glazing or old, ineffective double glazing but I don’t think it would work for me…at least not in my current flat.

You see, the magnetic strips that hold the plastic glazing in place needs to be flat against the frame of the window but because I have sash windows, there is a step between the top and bottom window. I would require a more permanent solution which is not my responsibility in a flat I do not own.

Stop Standby In Its Tracks

Should you buy it? Undecided at present but most likely it will be worth it.

Standby…isn’t it just a little red light? Not a chance.

I have been meaning to do this one for a long time – I have quite a few electronic items setup in my living room including an amplifier, subwoofer, LED TV, blu ray player, Sky+ HD box and Xbox 360 and some of them remain on standby when I’m not there.

I see their little lights but I just walk on by…not very green.

Apparently, if you take the UK as a whole, you get a massive 7TWh (that’s terawatt hours) of wasted electricity due to electrical equipment being left on standby. This amount of energy equates to around 800,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year.

Now I like to be sure that there is a problem before I go buying a solution (because lets face it, products designed to reduce carbon footprints will actually have a footprint of their own) so I intend to measure the energy usage of my entertainment system using one of my two energy monitor plug adapters.

Given that most of my equipment is fairly new, there is a chance that they have been designed to use very little electricity when on standby. If this is the case, the payback in terms of carbon and cost might end up being years if not decades.

If I find, however, that these appliances are drawing a noticeable amount of power then I could invest in a special multi-plug adapter that effectively turns them off at the press of a button.

Other Home Products

These are some other ideas for products that might be useful in some homes:

  • Chimney pillows to stop hot air escaping up open fireplaces that are no longer in use.
  • Floorboard draught excluder to plug the gaps between floorboards that could be leaking hot air.
  • Automatic radiator bleeders to ensure your get the most heat from every radiator in your house.

Do you have any other ideas for household products that promote a greener, lower carbon lifestyle? Let me know your experiences with these or any other gadgets in the comments section below.

Steve (156 Posts)

I am chief writer and editor on Green Steve. Blogging since 2011, I like to delve into a wide number of topics to help people reduce their carbon footprint. You should follow me on Twitter here. And add me to your Google+ circles here.

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