10 eco products you don't need
- The eco products that aren't worth buying
- Save £535 by leaving them on the shelf
- See our free or cheaper alternatives to help you save energy and water
Save up to £535 by leaving these green gadgets on the shelf...
There’s a plethora of eco products on the market that promise to slash your power, heating or water bills, but our tests reveal that not all of them deliver on those claims. We sent a range of eco products to our lab for testing, while others went to a user panel for assessment.
1. Ecotek Energy Wizard - £25
The Energy Wizard is a voltage optimisation device. It plugs into any socket in your house, and is claimed to cut your electricity bill by up to 10% (saving £60 a year, on average).
Why it's not worth it: Our lab test showed that it didn't reduce the power used, and actually increased it when it was linked to a plasma TV, a hi-fi or an energy-saving light bulb.
2. VPhase voltage optimisation device - £300 (plus installation)
The VPhase is another voltage optimisation device and claims to cut around 10% off your annual electricity bill by dropping the voltage in your home to 220V. It needs to be installed by a qualified electrician.
Why it's not worth it: It did better in our test than the Energy Wizard (see above), and saved some power when we turned on lights and used a vacuum cleaner. The instructions say that it will not save any energy when connected to closed loop (thermostatically controlled) heating. We tested it with a plug-in electric convection heater (with a thermostatic control) and found that it actually increased energy use – the lower output meant that it had to be on for longer. It’s pricey and will take a long time to pay for itself.
3&4. Disposable battery chargers - £25
These rechargeable battery chargers are claimed to recharge ordinary disposable alkaline batteries up to 10 times. We tested both the Battery Wizard Deluxe and the Battery Charger For Alkaline Disposable Batteries with eight Best Buy AA alkaline batteries.
Why it's not worth it: Our lab test found that on average, after only two cycles of charging, the batteries had dropped to 10% of their original capacity, with huge variations across the eight batteries.
5. Standby saver - £20
Our user panel tested the SMJ triple remote control plug set, which allows you to switch appliances off at the mains using a remote control. It claims that by turning off your TV/DVD/video/satellite box when it’s not in use you could save £30 a year.
Why it's not worth it: You are just as likely to forget to use the remote control, and new appliances use less electricity on standby anyway. However, it might be convenient for turning off sockets that are hard to get to.
6. TreeGreen energyEgg - £40
This gadget saves having to remember to switch appliances off. It uses a motion sensor to turn things off for you when you leave the room, or you can press a switch on the device.
The energyEgg comes with just one socket. You can use a multi socket (power strip) in the socket to connect more than one device or buy extra sockets for £6.99.
TreeGreen claims the energyEgg will pay for itself in about six months and suggest consumers use its online energy saving calculator to estimate the payback time. It also comes with a six-month 100% money back guarantee.
Why it's not worth it: ‘At £40 it’s a pretty steep price to pay for laziness’ said one user. You can just get into the habit of switching things off manually and you would not need to spend £40.
7. Freeloader Classic - £40
A solar-powered charger for your mobile phone or MP3 player, the Freeloader Classic acts like an extra battery.
Why it's not worth it: Even on a bright day it did not provide much power to the battery. Although it comes with various adaptors, it does not include an iPod or iPhone adaptor.
8. Mira Eco shower head - £35
This is a water-saving shower head that works by mixing air with the water, retaining the feeling of ‘power’ from the spray but using less water.
Why it's not worth it: It reduced the flow of water by 30-40%, and the spray from the shower was noticeably more aerated, but this made it noisy. There are also cheaper ways to save water – see below.
9. Nordic Galant shower head - £40
This shower head reduces the water flow by using a pulsating action so that no air has to be mixed in. The 6-litre model we tested claims to save between £176 and £433 a year for a family of four on heating and water bills combined.
Why it's not worth it: In one of the homes where we tested the shower head, it only produced a trickle of water. With a higher pressure, it significantly reduced the flow of water (by nearly 50%). Users found it comfortable to shower under. While this was the better of the two eco shower heads we tested, spending less time under your normal shower or fitting a flow reducer (see below) could be as effective.
Update, December 2012: The Galant range has now been discontinued, but new ranges of eco shower heads are available from Nordic Eco.
10. Window insulation kit - £9
The Stormguard Window Insulation Kit is claimed to help reduce heat loss, and provide an economical alternative to double glazing. It’s a thin transparent film that fits over your existing window, acting as a ‘trapped air’ barrier to heat loss.
Why it's not worth it: Our lab test found that the film made minimal difference. It will be of little use on a double-glazed window, but can help a little on a draughty, single-pane window. The film may need to be re-stretched periodically (with a hairdryer), which can be inconvenient. It can easily tear, and you’d have to buy a new pack if it did.
...and 10 eco actions we recommend
1. The Ecobutton - savings: variable
The Ecobutton did really well with our testers. Plug it into a USB port on your computer, and it flashes to remind you to press it when you take a break. It then puts your computer into its most efficient energy-saving mode.
Users really liked the screen that shows how much money and carbon you have saved each time you start using the computer again. One user, using it on her work PC, would have saved £18 a year. At £15, it would pay for itself in less than a year. For more details, you can read our review of the Ecobutton.
Update, December 2012: The Ecobutton has now been upgraded to the Ecobutton halo and costs about £13.
2. Energy monitors - savings: £25 to £75 a year
Our top-scoring Best Buy energy monitor costs only £30. While it won’t save you energy on its own, it will show you how you use electricity in your home, and help you to cut your electricity bill by £25-£75 a year. To find out more, you can read our energy monitor reviews, including Best Buy recommendations.
3. Energy-saving light bulbs - savings: around £45 per year
Fitting all the lights in your house with energy-saving light bulbs will save you around £45 a year. The payback time is generally less than a year. Your questions about bulbs are answered in our guide to nergy-saving light bulb myths and concerns, where you will also find our Best Buy energy-saving light bulbs.
4. Rechargeable batteries - savings: about £500 over 100 charges
Invest in a smart battery charger and some good hybrid rechargeable batteries. Smart chargers, which prevent batteries being overcharged and damaged, are widely available. Our highest-scoring Best Buy rechargeable battery costs £8.95 for a pack of four. A set of eight rechargeable batteries could save you more than £500 over 100 charges.
5. Radiator Booster - savings: variable
The Radiator Booster RBI-707-TT claims to help cut your heating bill by 10%. It’s a white telescopic tube that sits on top of your radiator, and a small thermostatic fan draws the heat trapped behind the radiator and distributes it more evenly around the room, which could help you to reduce your thermostat setting.
Our test lab found that with the radiator booster fitted, the room heated up more quickly, the thermostat needed to come on less often and energy consumption dropped. On the downside, the fan does make a small noise, and not all of our testers were keen on its appearance. One said: 'It looks cheap, like I’ve left something on the radiator by accident.' If you’re not bothered by its looks, it could be £20 well spent.
Update, December 2011: The Radiator Booster RB1 707 TT has been replaced by the Radiator Booster Mk 3, which costs about £25.
6. Insulation - savings: about £300 a year
The most cost-effective way to save heat is to stop it escaping in the first place. Loft and wall insulation are currently being subsidised, and can even be installed free of charge. Insulation costs start at £50 and cavity wall and loft insulation can save you about £300 a year. For more information, see our guides to loft insulation and wall insulation.
7. Double glazing - savings: about £165 a year
Upgrading your windows from single to double glazing can save you around £165 a year in heating bills. Our double glazing prices guide provides you with expert shopping advice, including how much you should expect to pay for various double glazing jobs.
8. Free water-saving gadgets - savings: variable
Check which water-saving devices are available free from your water company. For example, a flow reducer will convert your conventional shower to use less water. About a quarter of all the clean water used in your home is flushed down the toilet. The Hippo water saver (a device that sits in your toilet cistern) could save 2.5 litres on every flush – saving £20 a year if you are on a water meter.
9. Fix it - savings: around £18 a year
By turning off the tap when brushing your teeth and fixing dripping taps, you can save around £18 a year if you’re on a water meter. See our guide to using less water for more water-saving tips.
10. Turn your heating down - savings: up to £70 a year
Turning your thermostat down by one degree in winter could save about 10% of your heating bill. More ways to save on your heating bills are available in our ways to save on heating guide.