Earth Day 2013: 5 gadgets that help make going green easy

With Earth Day 2013, here are five ways to head down a greener path. Sometimes, setting goals to shrink your carbon footprint are like New Year's resolutions. They don't last, and you move on. However, if you're serious about leading an eco-friendly lifestyle, there are some green gadgets that can help make the transition easier.

1. The Nest Thermostat

The Nest thermostat adjusts the temperature when you're away from your home to conserve energy. Nest is launching in the UK Tuesday.

The Nest Thermostat is as close as one can get to a “smart” thermostat. It remembers your preferred temperatures, learns your schedule, and programs itself to use less energy when you’re not home.

Between its adaptability and the changes you can make through its smart-phone app, the thermostat can reduce your heating and cooling bills by 20 percent, according to the company.

At $249, the product's regular price is somewhat higher than most thermostats', but its features make up for the cost. It includes activity sensors, a Wi-Fi antenna, three temperature sensors, and a humidity sensor.

Here’s how it works: you install the thermostat, enter your zip code so that the thermostat can determine local weather, and set the temperatures for when you’re in the house and away. You can adjust the temperature by turning the outer ring left or right. Once you leave the house, Nest activates Auto-Away and reduces its temperature to the away setting until the time when you’re likely to return home.

The thermostat will remember if you change the temperature a few days in a row at a particular point in time, and within days you’ll have it activating Auto-Away according to your schedule. Even better, the thermostat will not be confused by one-off adjustments.

The Nest website says Auto-Away works in 90 percent of homes even if the Nest is in an area you don’t pass on your way out of the house.

PC Magazine gave the Nest Thermostat a 4.5 out of 5 and the Editors’ Choice for home automation devices in its review early in the year. Editor John R. Delaney notes that the thermostat works well. His only issue is that his home office is far from the thermostat and there were a couple of times where the heat shut off while he was in the office. The Nest went back to normal after he pushed the ring, but it took a while for the heat to come back on. The thermostat did adjust, however, by waiting an extra hour before activating Auto-Away.

“It’ll cost you more than your typical programmable thermostat, but it’s worth every penny,” he writes.

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