WiFi Smart Plugs
We have all heard about smart homes where appliances, lighting, and other systems are seamlessly connected to a central control interface. These systems can be a somewhat intimidating and more than a little costly. WiFi smart plugs are a great way to get the benefits of smart home technology at a very low price.
These smart plugs connect to your existing home WiFi network and do not require you to purchase a hub controller. You can use smart plugs to turn appliances on/off from anywhere using an app on your phone or tablet. The app also lets you set up a schedule for the plug being on/off. These plugs are compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant voice control. You can buy a set of four plugs for around $60 through online shopping sites or home improvement stores. Yes, it seems a little geeky to give smart plugs as gifts; however, these are really cool and will save you money on electricity.
Solar Phone Charger
Remember when you could get by with charging your cell phone a couple of times a week? Well, the flip phone era is long past and our smart phones have a huge appetite for energy. Portable power packs work great for days when you are going to be away from an electrical outlet. Of course, you have to remember to charge up the power pack being leaving your house. Solar chargers solve this problem.
Solar chargers are about the same size and shape as your smart phone. They function as a power pack that you can charge from a wall outlet or they can charge from their integrated solar cells. These are great for camping, hiking, biking, or anytime you might need to recharge your phone in a remote location. Another benefit of solar phone chargers is they reduce the need to use your wall charger. Cell phone wall chargers are notorious energy vampires – even when the phone is not being charged. You can buy these for around $25. Larger versions capable of charging tablets can be purchased for $75-$125.
Yes, something about the phrase “shower timer” gives us the urge to re-gift. However, this can be a cool tool to save energy and water. Let’s assume you have a low-flow shower head. A 10-minute shower uses about 10 gallons of hot water. Multiply that by the number of people in your home and days in the year and it quickly adds up. Showering is the second highest consumption of hot water in our homes on a per use basis and the highest in terms of total hot water usage.
Anything we do to manage our hot water consumption when showering will help to lower our energy bills. For about $25, you can get a shower timer that will help remind you of how long you have been in the shower. HITO makes a nice compact version that allows you set a time (e.g., 5, 8, or 10 minutes). The display can also work in a count up mode if you just want to monitor your shower time without having an alarm. If nothing else, most shower timers include a clock to help keep you on schedule with your morning preparations.
Standby Power Monitor
Standby power monitors will appeal to anyone who loves technology but hates wasting electricity. We have all heard about electricity vampires and how they waste your hard-earned money. Standby power monitors actually provide you a means of identifying the offending devices. Save A Watt makes an affordable standby power monitor. You simply plug the monitor into an outlet and then plug an appliance or device into the monitor. When the device is supposed to be in standby mode, the monitor shows you how many watts (if any) it is continuing to drain from the outlet.
In addition to identifying electricity vampires, Save A Watt also sells a TV standby killer. This device goes an extra step by preventing the TV from draining any power while turned off. In other words, when you turn off your TV, it is really off. Save A Watt bundles their standby power monitor and TV standby killer for less than $25 in online stores.
Thermal Leak Detector
Are we seriously recommending giving someone a thermal leak detector as a gift? Absolutely! An amazing amount of the energy we use heating and cooling our homes is wasted because our homes are poorly sealed. Windows, baseboards, and outlets are huge sources of air leakage. Instead of resigning ourselves to wasting energy, a thermal leak detector can easily identify the problem areas.
Black and Decker makes a very affordable model that costs about $25. This is not an infrared camera with a color image display. Those models cost around $250 to $300. This Black and Decker model uses infrared sensors to measure surface temperatures and includes a nice digital display and easy-to-use controls. It also comes with a guide to fixing basic thermal energy leaks. If there is anyone on your shopping list that is handy and likes gadgets, this is an awesome gift to consider.