6 Green (and Very Cool) Trends for 2010

Energy efficiency is the buzzword this year—but will it be the year of the LED?


Now that we’re finally done with the 2009 wrap-up stories and resolutions that will never be kept, let’s get on to the business of dealing with 2010.

If 2009 proved anything, it proved that green isn’t all that bad. We saw smarter surge suppressors, LED TVs, progress in LED lighting, really cool energy monitoring and home control systems. What’s not to like?

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And here’s the thing: 2010 should be even better. Here are six green tech trends we’re likely to see in 2010—and they also happen to be very cool and practical.

More and Cheaper LEDs
You may not want to pay $35 for an ugly LED lamp from Walmart, and likely made in China. But more and more quality LED lighting products are becoming available, and their prices are bound to go down. What’s the magic number for screw-in LED replacement lamps that are 80 percent to 90 percent more efficient than incandescent bulbs, cast better light than CFLs, and last years longer than both? I’m hearing about $20. We may not see that this year. But we’re certainly getting closer.

Fewer Energy Star TVs, But More Efficient Ones
Heard a TV manufacturer claim that all its sets qualify for Energy Star, the label that denotes an energy-efficient product? You may not be hearing that after May, when new and more stringent Energy Star guidelines go into effect. The current Energy Star guidelines for TVs were the first to include power consumption in the “on” state, instead of just standby, but far too many TVs qualified, so the EPA made stricter guidelines starting in May 2010. You’ll likely see fewer Energy Star TVs then, but they’ll use even less energy.

More Energy Efficiency Mandates
The California Energy Commission recently approved sales restrictions on TVs up to 58 inches in screen size that don’t meet energy efficiency requirements. And like it or not, we’re bound to see more mandates—unless the consumer electronics industry gets really proactive about energy efficiency and being green. Chances are any climate change legislation in Washington will include all sorts of energy efficiency incentives—and if it doesn’t President Obama has the big stick of the EPA, which has declared carbon dioxide emissions from power plants to be a danger to our health. One way or the other, we’ll be hearing a lot more about energy efficiency.

More Energy Monitoring
We’re big, big, big on energy monitoring. After all, studies show that people who have real-time feedback on the energy usage reduce consumption by 10 percent to 15 percent, and the more utilities that roll out smart grid services, the more demand there will be for energy monitoring systems. A huge driver will be Google’s PowerMeter, which is only available now through trial programs with some utilities. It can also work with the TED (The Energy Detective) system, as does Control4’s home control system.

Smart Charging
Some of the biggest energy wasters in the home are power supplies, or AC/DC adapters used for everything from notebook computers to mobile device chargers to printers. A typical house could have dozens of them. And when they remain plugged in to a power outlet, they consume energy—even when the device is disconnected. That means anyone with a charging center is likely wasting energy. APC already has a surge suppressor that can be programmed to shut off at certain times, and we’re bound to see smarter charging stations. Green Plug is one technology promoting universal adapters that can power multiple devices as well as charge them and cut power to the charger when necessary. It’s an idea whose time has come.

More Efficient Networks
A lot of power is wasted by computer and consumer electronics networks with devices left on unnecessarily. All this is being addressed by a variety of technologies and products, from whole-house audio amplifiers that shut down unused channels and computer switches that do roughly the same. Now there will be even more, from an Energy Efficient Ethernet that allows devices on a network to sleep to network proxying, which will allow PCs and other network devices to power down, but still be accessed by the network.


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