8 energy efficient gifts for the eco-friendly

Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | December 11, 2015

energy efficient giftsGot someone on your gift list who's serious about saving energy? The holidays are a great time to help them become more energy efficient. Choose from this thoughtful list of energy savers to put a smile on their face this holiday season.

Low-flow showerhead

When it comes to saving energy, the little things count. Low flow showerheads can cut down on the amount of water that cascades into the shower, and the newest versions are designed so well that no one will notice that there is less water. That means the same luxurious shower at a fraction of the water usage. Starting at $20 or so, they are so affordable that they even work great as stocking stuffers.

Rain barrels

Now that water is being saved inside, why not take the savings outside? Rain barrels are a great way to make the most of what Mother Nature gives, especially if those barrels have a nice hose attachment at the bottom to make watering the garden easier. At about $60 for the simplest versions and up to a few hundred for the nicer ones, you might be able to find great deals and score more than one without stretching the holiday budget.

Nest thermostat

Saving energy doesn't mean freezing during the winter or sweltering during the summer. The Nest thermostat learns what your habits are and programs itself, so you don't have to worry about keeping costs down. It takes only thirty minutes for a handy homeowner to install, and at between $200 and $250, it's an investment that pays for itself long after all that wrapping paper is gone.

Power strips

Up the power-saving ante with power strips that truly cut down on energy usage. As strips have become more energy efficient, they are better at cutting out the 'vampire power' and lowering utility bills. You can always shut off the power strip when you are done with the items plugged into it, but it's easy to forget to do it. Enter the latest models of power strips, with sensors that detect your motion and power up when you walk into a room -- and turn themselves off when you walk out! It could be the best $70 you ever spent.

Solar battery recharger

Those who are serious about energy efficiency know that solar is where it's at. A small solar battery recharger can juice up their cell phone without drawing power from the grid; just set the charger on a sunny windowsill and let nature do the work. You can choose from a wide variety of recharger sizes for greater flexibility. Plan on $50 for the most basic model and go up from there.

Slow cooker

Housewives of yesteryear had the right idea! The slow cooker allows you to create a delicious meal while going about your busy day. Dramatic amounts of energy can be saved with regular use since you don't have to fire up the oven. A simple slow cooker will run between $20 and $30, and a big one that does everything except wash the dishes can cost $100 and up.

Energy Star everything

If you are looking to give a big gift, appliances are always a hit. But when you wrap them up with a big red bow, make sure they have the yellow Energy Star label, too. That means that you will be saving as much energy as possible, and your energy efficient recipient will love you for it. Good appliances are not cheap; expect to drop anywhere from $300 for a washing machine to $2,500 and up for a refrigerator.

Whole house energy audit

To get a wealth of information on the house itself, opt for an energy audit by a qualified professional. These audits typically run between $300 and $500, and include a complete overview of how your home might be losing energy. Based on the audit, you can then choose to fix those problems one at a time, and maybe even save the big fixes for other holiday gifts!

Energy efficient gifts don't stop with these great ideas. You could throw a few LED bulbs into the stocking, plan for a contractor to come out after the holidays with plenty of new insulation, and even go with a tankless water heater. With so many options, you've got energy efficient holiday gifts covered for years to come.

About the Author

Shannon Lee is a freelance writer and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.