Nonetheless, there still are companies looking to cut heating bills, water use and other consumption.
Warmly Yours, a Long Grove, Ill., company has a line of area-rug underlays that company co-founder and President Julia Billen said can cut heating costs by about a third to a half.
The devices have a built-in heating element to allow consumers to warm up a room without overheating the rest of the house.
"You will always have rooms where you cannot get a level of comfort by cranking up the thermostat," Billen said, citing the room over her garage as an example. "I could crank the thermostat up to 100 and the room is never going to get warm."
Warmly yours is selling two room sizes. One is 8 feet by 10 feet for $399 and the other 3 1/2 feet by 4 feet for $199. A larger size was discontinued because it was too large to be shipped easily but there are two mini versions, 18 inches by 24 inches and 24 inches by 36 inches that are built into a piece of carpet for use under a desk.
Billen said the 8-by-10 unit uses 736 watts of power, compared to 1,200 to 1,600 watts needed to power a forced-air furnace.
"We designed this with a lower watt density," Billen said. "You can radiate warmth into the room without pushing watts."
Billen estimates the small underlay costs about 3 1/2 cents an hour to operate while the larger version costs 6 1/2 cents.
"We learned about it from Asia," Billen said. "The Koreans are very smart about how they go about warming their homes. ... In Korea they build the product into the rug. We knew we couldn't do that here. Everyone has their vision about how they want their homes to look. It's all about fashion here. In Korea, certain designs are more utilitarian."
Billen said the Warmly Yours units, manufactured by Heatsolve in Ireland, are just a new way of introducing radiant heat -- something we learned from the Romans. Billen said the company is looking for new ways to use the technology. Next on the list is an outdoor version to keep snow and ice off the front stoop.
On the water front, fourth-generation plumber Michael Schuster has developed a $25 device that turns any toilet into a dual-flush unit that at the same time eliminates costly leaks caused by flapper problems. In fact, it eliminates the flapper, chain and handle altogether.
The HydroRight replaces the innards of any tank toilet and puts two buttons on the outside so users can decide whether to use the quick flush or the full flush. MJSI Inc. of Shorewood, Ill., says on its Web site the device can cut water usage by 30 percent and estimates consumers will see an annual savings of $100.
"The whole key is how easy it is to install," marketing director Marlena Cannon said. "You don't have to take the tank off. You just slide the converter over the flush valve. … People have told us it takes longer to read the instructions."
The unit is available nationally and in Canada at such stores as Ace Hardware and Home Depot.