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An Energy Efficient Gift Guide

Courtesy of Consumer Energy Alliance

Having a hard time finding the perfect gift this holiday season? Consider energy-saving gifts that are sure to bring holiday joy while saving your loved ones some hard-earned cash. Here’s a guide for presents that will save money, energy, and the environment this year:

1)  The Energy Department estimates that unused electronics can make up as much as 10 percent of your monthly utility bill when they’re plugged in. Protect a loved one from these “energy vampires” by giving them a cell phone charger that automatically shuts off when the phone is fully charged, like this one from Vampire Labs ($14.95).

2)  Programmable thermostats are one of the most effective and easy ways to cut down on energy use. These thermostats allow you to set up a schedule to automatically cycle down heat and A/C when they aren’t needed, like when your family is gone for work or school. Taking advantage of effective heating and cooling schedules can save as much as 5% go 15% a year on your heating billThis thermostat from Nest does the work for you by adapting to your temperature preferences and has a remote access option to change the temperature from a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Looking for a lower-tech (or lower-budget) option? Programmable thermostats can also be found for around $20 at your local hardware store.

3)  Looking for stocking stuffers? Decorative and practical, these Solar Powered Mason Jars from Brookstone ($12.97) charge in direct sunlight during the day and then glow for hours after sundown, acting as the perfect night-light for a child or outdoor lighting for a patio or garden. If you’re the crafty type, you even learn how to make your own.

4)  Students won’t have to worry about finding an outlet in a crowded library or classroom with this solar backpack from SolarGoPack ($119.95). When placed in direct sunlight, this backpack can charge any electronic device.

5)  If you’re looking to purchase a big-ticket item, be sure to check the ENERGY STAR website for the most energy efficient brands. Appliances account for about 13% of your household’s energy costs, and replacing outdated appliances with energy efficient products could save you money. For example, replacing an outdated home entertainment system with new ENERGY STAR models could save you more than $200 over the life of the products.

6)  A caulking tool kit for windows like this one from ACE ($12.99) could be the perfect money-saving gift for the handyman on your list.  The Energy Department estimates that this easy weekend project could provide 5 – 10% in energy savings. Find more projects to make your home energy efficient from Energy.gov’s Energy Saver page.

7)  If you don’t quite feel like getting completely off the grid when camping, consider this solar powered tent ($207.95). The tent is equipped with a solar panel that can keep low voltage devices charged when placed in direct sunlight. That way, you’ll have the option of staying connected even if you decide to avoid technology during your trip.

8)  Efficient light bulb design has come a long way, and now there’s no need to sacrifice style for practicality with these designer bulbs. Each bulb uses 80% less energy than standard blubs, with a lifetime of about eight years. Considering that a single 60W traditional incandescent costs $4.80 a year on average, this is a great option for those looking to save on energy costs anywhere they can.

9)  Running short on ideas for toys? This kid-size hand crank flashlight from Ikea ($9.99) is a great tool to introduce your child to the concepts of energy generation and storage by letting them “make” their own light. And since there’s no need to worry about the battery dying, there’s no limit on how long kids can play with this flashlight.