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I Saved Energy With Gadgets & Gizmos: A Case Study

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 2 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Energy Energy Saving Gadgets Solar

“It all sort of happened by accident,” laughs Madhuri Nahar. “I started out with a torch and it’s all just grown and grown from there!”

On the way home from lectures one day, Madhuri called into the local convenience store to pick up a few groceries and sitting in a big bin beside the front door was a huge pile of wind-up torches.

“They were only a couple of pounds and they looked pretty bright when I tried them in the shop. I was sick to death of always running out of batteries and the electricity at my flat was forever tripping out – so I thought, well why not? It’s a great little thing; I keep it in my bag and take it everywhere.”

Walking Off the Grid

Her torch also came with a whole series of adaptors to charge different kinds of mobile phones, which Madhuri admits she thought of as a bit of a pointless gimmick – until, that is, she and a few friends went on a walking holiday in the Brecon Beacons.

“We’d pitched our tents in a lovely spot, just in sight of Pen-y-Fan (the tallest of the mountains) and then we discovered that three days of relentless texting and chatting to mates had left us with scarcely a dribble of power between us. My trusty torch was in big demand that day!”

The experience set her thinking.

Energy Saving Addiction

She’s quick to point out that “it wasn’t exactly a ‘life changing moment’ or anything like that, but it did make me realise a few things – and when you’re about to get a job and start paying all your own bills, saving energy suddenly stops being something you just talk about. Besides, I’d got a little addicted to the whole idea.”

In a very short time, she acquired a whole range of energy-saving gadgets and gizmos – mostly solar powered. The list to date includes outdoor lights for her new flat’s garden – a free gift from a plant mail order company – a security light, a desk fan she bought as a kit from a toy shop and a solar-powered battery charger that recharges AAA, AA, C and D batteries, as well as being able to plug directly into small appliances to power them.

An Endless Inspiration for Presents

“I think I’m kind of known as ‘gizmo girl’ to family and friends,” Madhuri giggles, “but all the same I think they’re really grateful – they never have to think too hard about presents any more. It’s like ‘hey, let’s buy her a new gadget’, so I’m not complaining!”

Her mother gave her a wind-up radio for her birthday, her younger sisters clubbed together to get her a solar waterproof torch – that floats – for her walking expeditions and her brother bought her some solar-powered Diwali lights. Even her grandmother has got in on the act, buying her a portable PV system for her iPod.

“It was so sweet of Nani,” Madhuri explains, “especially since I don’t think she has the faintest idea what an iPod is, so I’m pretty sure my sisters helped. It’s brilliant; it just folds up and sits in my rucksack – how cool is that?”

And the Energy Savings?

It’s hard for Madhuri to measure the energy savings that she’s been making, largely because she doesn’t have anything to compare them to, never having lived in her new flat without her collection of gadgets. What is clear is that if it wasn’t for her gadgets and gizmos she’d be paying out more – and mostly on batteries! Wind up torches and radios help, but her solar charger seems to have made the biggest difference.

“When I was a student, I seemed to be buying batteries every five minutes, for one reason or another. These days, I’ve got loads of rechargeable ones and free power. On sunny days, I can have four fully charged batteries in about six or seven hours – so I’m not forever running down to the corner shop to get a new pack!”

The garden lights and her new solar powered water feature obviously also save her energy and money – an important consideration for new graduates with student debts to pay – compared with creating the same effect using mains connected equivalents.

The Future

It seems that Madhuri has really been bitten by the energy saving bug. She’s recently replaced all of her old-style light bulbs with new low energy ones, thanks to an offer in her local supermarket – proving herself to be a canny shopper as well as the ‘gizmo girl’ her family have her down as – and she’s already got her eyes on her next gadget.

“I’ve started saving for a solar-powered laptop charger to help me stay in touch when I’m off walking but they’re rather expensive.” (The model Madhuri’s after has a price tag around £600). “I’m dropping some fairly large hints – so you never know!”

If there’s one thing her experiences make clear it’s that – laptop chargers aside – you don’t have to spend a fortune to make a difference to your energy usage and bills. None of Madhuri’s gadgets cost much over £20 and most of them were less than half that – and she bought her 10 cut-price low energy light bulbs for 99p!

Gadgets and gizmos aren’t going to save you a fortune, but when it comes to matters economic or environmental, as the well-known supermarket always says, every little helps.

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