Home Gadgets


While we’ve long been fans of connected domestic appliances for upping our home control and a little light showing off, the use of them as guilt-appeasing eco-warriors is on the rise. From energy app alerts to integrated iEfficiency systems, it’s never been simpler, or techier, to be seen to be green.

Smart homes are unarguably the year’s biggest technology trend. First, Google snapped up our favourite Wi-Fi-connected thermostat purveyor Nest, brainchild of former Apple iPod engineer Tony Fadell, for a cool $3.2bn. Next, Fadell’s former employer revealed HomeKit, part of the upcoming iOS 8 software that will power iPhone and iPads from autumn, which lets developers tap into a new interconnected system of home upgrades with the use of its voice-recognition PA, Siri. Indeed, a yelp of “rise and shine” to turn on lights, run a bath and brew the perfect cuppa is really not very far away at all.

Yet applied to energy conservation, the potential becomes clear. Swap “rise and shine” for “bedtime” and you could be switching lights off, turning the heating down and lowering your carbon footprint in one go. Indeed, Tado (above), Nest’s crowd-funded rival, has just released its expansion into air-conditioning control, Cooling, which uses Apple’s iBeacon wireless-alert tech to turn air-con systems on and off depending on your location.

Tech accessory firm Belkin has also moved into the home-automation business, with its award-winning WeMo (above) system fuelling low-energy light bulbs and more, while the likes of Honeywell’s Evohome and British Gas’s Hive heating hubs are proving popular. The rather nice side effect of all this looking after the planet, of course, is lower bills, too. But with eco awareness meaning more to the masses the near we get to some of The Inconvenient Truth’s more worrying short-term deadlines, tech firms are having to get increasingly environment-friendly. Apple takes ads out on the back of national papers to shout about its admirable efforts towards sustainability – and jokes that it wouldn’t mind competitors copying that particular idea – games console manufacturers like Sony and Nintendo reference energy efficiency in their selling points alongside processor speeds, while notorious power-hogs, the TV firms, are heavily investing in energy-efficient OLED displays.

British Gas’ Hive (above) and Honeywell’s Evohome (below) remotely controlled heating hubs, cleverly heats individual zones in your property.

“We get to some of The Inconvenient Truth’s more worrying short-term deadlines, tech firms are having to get increasingly environment-friendly”

Away from Silicon Valley startups and electronic headliners, though, there is some fairly standard kit to get your eco abode started. Solar hot water heaters are installed easily enough on decking, in gardens or on roofs to pull the sun’s rays in through photovoltaic panels and into your bath water. Smart power strips are clever, too, a plug-block stand-in that connects to your bevy of entertainment controllers to over-ride the energy-sapping stand-by modes of TVs and set-top boxes.

If you want to get even deeper into the environmental, Econovate’s recycling-cum-innovation team now makes load-bearing structural breeze blocks from natural materials. Made with waste paper and cardboard, the Econoblock’s technology makes it great for thermal insulation or building that garage for your new, carbon footprint-crushing Tesla Model S, the battery-electric motor that finally goes on sale this summer. Well, if you’re going green, why do half-measures?

Matt Hill
Editor T3 Mag