/ Home & Energy

10 eco gadgets you don’t need

Gift wrapped in recycled paper

With rising energy bills, there’s never been a better time to save energy. There’s a plethora of eco products that promise to slash your power, heating or water bills, but our tests reveal that not all of them deliver.

Have you ever bought an ‘eco gadget’ that was supposed to save you energy or water but just didn’t stand up to its claim or is still in its box because you haven’t got round to installing it yet…

‘Standby savers’, eco shower heads, ‘Radiator boosters’ and hippo bags for your toilet cistern are just a few of the products on offer, but which ones will really help you save water and energy?

Are all eco products worth their money and do you really need to spend money fitting your house with all these gadgets? Is it not just easier and cheaper to change our behaviour and rectify some ‘bad habits’ we all have in wasting energy and water, or is a combination of both the best way?

Not worth the money

We set about finding the answer to some of these questions this month, revealing the 10 eco products that are not worth buying. Why? Because our tests showed they either don’t live up to their energy-saving claims or because there are cheaper ways of achieving the same saving.

During our tests we found that one product, the Ecotek Energy Wizard, actually did the opposite of what it claims to do – it increased the power used by a plasma TV or stereo. And we found that two disposable battery chargers didn’t do the job effectively – but they could cost you up to £35.

One user whose home didn’t have high water pressure found that the water-saving shower head they tried only provided a disappointing trickle of water to wash under.

Good (and cheap) alternatives

As well as revealing the eco products that we think you’re better off avoiding, we’ve also featured 10 good alternatives and money-saving ideas. Some of them won’t even cost you a penny.

1. The Ecobutton. Savings: variable
The Ecobutton (£15) plugs into your computer. When pressed, it puts it into energy-saving mode and tells you how much you have saved.
2. Energy monitors. Savings: £25 to £75 a year
Energy monitors will show you how you use electricity in your home and help you cut your electricity bill.
3. Energy saving light bulbs. Savings: around £45 a year
These have improved a lot over the years and are an easy way to save. Their payback time is quite fast too.
4. Rechargeable batteries. Savings: about £500 over 100 charges
A smart battery charger and some good hybrid rechargeable batteries could save you lots over the years.
5. Radiator Booster. Savings: variable
Sits on top of your radiator and draws up the heat lost behind the radiator to distribute it in the room.
6. Insulation. Savings: up to £145 a year
The best longer-term way to save by stopping the heat escaping. Loft and wall insulation can even be free!
7. Double glazing. Savings: about £140 a year
Replacing old draughty windows for double glazing is not so cheap initially but will save on your heating bills for years.
8. Free water saving gadgets. Savings: variable
Check with your water companies for free water-saving gadgets and devices like Hippo bags and flow-reducers.
9. Fix it. Savings: around £18 a year
Turning off the tap when brushing your teeth and fixing dripping taps can save you water and money.
10. Turn it down. Savings: up to £50 a year
Turning your thermostat down by one degree in winter can save you up to £50 a year.

Your eco-saving experiences

There are still effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint along with your energy bills. Have you got an eco product that really helps you to save money or a simple action we can all take that can save energy?

Or maybe you’ve had disappointing results with a product that should be added to our ‘not worth buying’ list?

Fat Sam, Glos says:
18 July 2011

I’m surprised you’re plugging the Ecobutton – most computers and laptops since about XP have power-saving features built-in – like putting the computer to sleep/hibernation or turning of the screen or slowing down the processor/lowering screen brightness if you’re running on battery only. Better to use these than waste money on a product designed to do this (a waste of energy in itself).

I’m always that major manufacturers still don’t incorporate an Off button – how long have we known about the effects of leaving appliances in stand-by – admittedly, the savings aren’t huge. Sometimes, however, you don’t get a choice of say, a Sky or Virgin Media box. My Virgin Media box is terrible in stand-by (over 20W) but the only way to switch it Off off is pulling the plug behind the TV – not practical every night or when you have programs to record.

Are manufacturers just totally dim or are we, as a nation, not too bothered and don’t demand these standards enough?


Absolutely agree Fat Sam Glos – and I have said on a different convo earlier this year that I think Which? (and others) should be campaigning for a law to make it illegal to sell any appliance without a “hard off” switch.

I’m not going to get on my soap box about LG washing Machines, the Energy Saving Trust or Condensing Boilers, but if anyone wants proof of how spending huge sums on supposedly eco-friendly appliances is a dead loss, see earlier convo’s on similar topics where I have posted at length (or if you are desperate post a request on here and I’ll re-post the lot if anyone really wants me to).

Bottom line: if it’s not in use, switch it off at the wall (or pull the plug out); never replace a working older appliance with a new one in the hope of saving energy – you won’t (and even “The Experts” admit this under pressure) and don’t waste energy by trying to live in a tropical climate rather than waring seasonally suitable clothes. I’ve saved far more by these three rules than anyone I know who has bought “eco gadgets”.


Well said Dave.


Technologically, how difficult can it be to have a real ‘Off’ button your remote control?

I accept that you can’t then have an ‘On’ button on the remote (because the appliance has to be in some kind of ‘On’ mode in order to be able to receive the signal from the remote) but it’s hardly any effort to switch something back on with a hard ‘on’ button on the appliance.


erm, please excuse my unfortunate choice of words!



In the 1970s we had some TVs with remote controls that controlled the volume and channel, and had an off button that made the on/off button on the TV pop out. To switch on again, you had to stand up, walk to the TV and press the button. That would be unthinkable in the 21st century (but might be a jolly good idea).

The TVs I’m referring to were, I believe, made in Britain by British companies. How quaint.

John says:
20 July 2011

its not hard to do this. you can buy power sockets which do this for you and turn off everything else connected to this plug – games console, DVD player etc… or standby other devices such as sky box or pvr.
So, it wouldn’t be hard for TV manufactures to do this for you…


I’m surprised you haven’t joined in our Conversation on this very issue Fat Sam! https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/tvs-on-standby-without-an-on-off-switch/


@wavechange – that is exactly what I meant, yes!

@patrick – I will investigate 🙂

Rose says:
19 July 2011

Our washing machine has an “eco sensor” for the amount of water to put in when it rinses. The result is frothy clothes/towels etc that I then have to rinse in the washing machine one or two more times to get them even moderately froth-free (and that’s with us putting in detergent that’s just a fraction of the amount the container tells us to put in!). A good test is to fill up the sink then rinse a newly washed flannel in it. Then continue for about 10 mins until it’s sufficiently froth-free to use (especially if you have sensitive skin!).
I’m also not convinced about condenser boilers (one of which we had installed on recommendations from just about everyone when our previous boiler “died”). We have to run our hot water taps for so long to get the hot water through (which is then scalding hot as we don’t have mixer taps!), that we were wasting huge amounts of water and now just use the cold tap instead!
I agree re turning down the thermostat. We’ve had ours at about 18 degrees for years and it’s reflected in our gas usage when compared with other local houses’ averages. We always tell our visitors to bring something warm when they come round in the winter (we’re quite comfortable in autumn/spring clothing, not even needing thick jumpers) but our friends have their thermostats set at about 25 degrees and sit around in sleeveless (summer type!) tops and t shirts in the depths of winter so it’s no wonder they feel cold in our house!

John says:
20 July 2011

Your right about a combi boiler (of which your condensing boiler is a type of). However, most new houses (last 5 years or so) use a condensing boiler to heat a tank of water which is then used for your hot taps, resulting in much quicker hot water than a standard combi boiler. The boiler also heats the radiators, so you can set it to heat the tank at the same time as the radiators come on in the winter. This is basically a new version of what boilers used to be like before combi boilers came along.

Also, most new toilet flushes have a double flush – with two buttons on the top, one inside the other. Pressing the larger button just does a small flush – suitable for the yellow stuff. Pressing the smaller button (inside the big one) results in a larger flush which will flush away anything. Much better than a standard water saving cistern or putting a brick in the cistern.


Agree with John – especially on his point about boilers: combi’s have always been and will doubtless continue to be utter rubbish. If they were marketed as the 20th/21st century equivalent of the Ascot over-sink heater (which is essentially what they are) no one would have ever touched them.

As for toilets, I know I am incredibly the “odd one out” but I still have a high level flush toilet with a chain hanging down – it uses less than a gallon of water (around 4 litres) for a flush but the force of water due to the height of the cistern means that nothing is ever left in the pan.

We can’t expect everyone to install a high level cistern (most modern houses wouldn’t be able to fit them in) but I’m just making the point that actually water saving is not a new thing at all – technologically or economically.

Rose says:
19 July 2011

Forgot to mention the water-saving loo cistern, too, that we have to flush twice if we want whatever’s in the loo to disappear!