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Green Gadgets

Technology is a fact of modern life,

but some of it comes at a significant cost to our resources. If you’re looking for home-technology upgrades, these gadgets not only make life easier, they’re kind to the environment and save you money on utilities.

By Sara Bruskin

1Automatic Pet Doors

photo courtesy PlexiDor

Automatic pet doors have sensors that detect specially programmed collar attachments so they only open when your pet walks up to them. The doors lock between uses, which means cold or hot air doesn’t constantly leak into the house. Many models have four settings that you can change throughout the day: full access, in-only, out-only and locked. Locking flap models range from $50 to $100; complete automatic doors go for $300 to $1,800.

2Solar-Charging Outdoor Speakers

photo by Successo-Images

Music can turn al fresco dinners and outdoor picnics into a party. But rather than wrestle with extension cords or lug around extra batteries, invest in solar-powered outdoor speakers to add environmentally friendly ambience to your soiree. You’ll save on electricity, and most models are water-resistant for continuous outdoor use. A small travel speaker costs $30 to $90, while larger speakers run $70 to $200.

3Smart Plugs

photo by SpeedKingz

We’ve all heard about ‘energy-vampire’ appliances and gadgets, those that suck electricity while plugged in, even if the device is off. Smart plugs prevent this. They activate and deactivate the plug according to set schedules, or you can control them from your smartphone. An added bonus: no more wondering if you left the iron on. Average cost is $10 to $40.

4Smart Faucets & Showerheads

photo courtesy Kohler

These days, smart water sources in the sink and shower are more accurate and responsive than when they first debuted. Today’s models are especially good at conserving water, and some smart showerheads even lower the water pressure when you step away to lather up. Some models have digital displays with temperature-control options so you won’t waste water while adjusting the temperature, and a few are voice-activated. Smart-faucet adapters start at $30, while smart-faucet sets range from $180 to $800. Digital shower adapters start at $250 and full systems range up to $3,000.

5Solar-Powered USB Charger

photo by Dmity Galaganov

A solar-powered USB charger is both environmentally friendly and incredibly convenient. These chargers let you juice up your cell phone, camera, tablet or other gadget at any location with direct sunlight. Some models adhere to windows for daily charging or strap onto packs for long hiking trips. Many have multiple ports so you can charge more than one device at a time. Their prices range from $18 to $90.

6Smart Thermostat

photo courtesy Nest

How many of us have accidentally left the air conditioning or furnace on when we left for work? Nobody pays constant attention to a thermostat, which results in wasted energy. Some smart thermostats learn your routine and automatically set the temperature to your liking. Others simply pair with your phone to make scheduling and remote changes easy. The cost ranges from $75 to $250.

7Robot Vacuums

photo courtesy iRobot

You might think robot vacuums use more electricity than conventional vacuums because they have to propel themselves across the floor. But these tiny vacuums rely on brushes to loosen debris, so they don’t require as much suction as their upright counterparts. This is why a Roomba uses 20 percent less energy than a Dyson upright. Robot vacuums with decent ratings (four stars and up) range from $150 to $2,000.

8Smart Lighting

photo by Zhu Difeng

Smart lights that react to movement or set schedules can help you conserve energy, avoid stubbing your toe at night and mimic the look of an occupied home when you’re out. There are different methods for achieving this: You can screw in smart bulbs, install smart switches or plug your lamp into a smart plug. Smart bulbs range from $15 to $60, with some products delivering extra features and color-change options. Smart switches are in the $25 to $50 range, excluding installation.