Holiday gifts, smart savings and the future of tech
This holiday season, give the gift of tech. If you’re searching for the latest gadgets and electronics to gift but don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a list of ideas for your tech-savvy friends and family members, with a range of prices and interests.
Gifts for those on the go
We all have one or two friends who never stay in one place, so they’ll appreciate gifts that keep them charged and entertained while on the go.
A portable charger (or power bank) can keep their smartphones and tablets juiced, and the good news is this gift won’t drain your wallet. You can purchase portable chargers online or at local retailers for as low as $20. Typically, these compact devices can fully charge an iPhone three times before running out of steam.
A Bluetooth speaker is another great gift to keep those on the go entertained. Whether they’re listening to their favorite tunes or watching the latest flick, Bluetooth speakers can clarify and amplify volume to satisfy any media enthusiast. Prices range depending on features, but you can purchase a quality Bluetooth speaker online or at local retailers for as low as $30.
A Bluetooth speaker is great gift to keep those on the go entertained. Whether they’re listening to their favorite tunes or watching the latest flick, Bluetooth speakers can clarify and amplify volume to satisfy any media enthusiast. Photo: Abby Berry/NRECA
Gifts for the chef
Every foodie knows that temperature matters when mastering the perfect cut of meat. A Bluetooth-connected thermometer can help your chef ensure a delicious (and safe to eat) meal. Just download the associated app and keep an eye on the grill right from your smartphone or tablet. Prices vary from $30 to $200, but you can purchase these handy gadgets online or at any big box store, like Walmart or Target.
A digital kitchen scale, shown above, is a must for any culinary pro. No more guessing—the easy-to-read digital screen ensures the exact weight or amount required for that perfect dish. Prices vary depending on the weight the scale can handle, but you can find a 13-pound maximum weight scale for about $20 on Amazon.com.
Gifts for the pet owner
Let’s face it—pet owners would be lost without their fur babies. Luckily, pet tracking products continue to advance, so pet owners can always keep a watchful eye on their furry friends. Most trackers simply attach to your pet’s collar. Prices vary depending on the tracker’s capabilities, but some features include water resistance, health monitoring and exceptional battery life. You can purchase pet trackers online or at your local pet store.
Pet cameras, like the PetChatz model shown here, enable pet owners to monitor their furry friends in real time with their smartphone, tablet or laptop. Photo: PetChatz
Speaking of keeping an eye on pets, you can also purchase surveillance cameras for real-time monitoring—some cameras even let you toss treats to your furry friend while you’re away. Additional features include a microphone so you can talk to your pets, a built-in laser toy for our feline friends and the ability to snap a photo or take video from your smartphone. Prices depend on the bells and whistles, but you can purchase a pet camera for as low as $40 on Amazon.com.
With the holidays approaching, shoppers will soon be eying an abundance of devices and gadgets to gift friends and loved ones—or to buy for themselves.
When it comes to cool new technology, many consumers are turning to smart home devices that offer convenience as well as other benefits, including one often-overlooked perk: energy savings. With so many options available, choosing the best tech for your needs can be overwhelming.
Smart lights allow you to manage home lighting from anywhere, anytime. Photo: Moritz Kindlez
Here are four tips to help you determine the right smart home technologies for your home.
- Ask yourself how smart you want your home to be
Smart plugs, energy-use apps and home monitors are cool devices that can help you save energy. But to make the most of them, it helps to understand how they work. Before you invest your time and money, ask yourself, how much technology do you want? What are your habits when it comes to setting up and using the latest development?
If you like to tinker, an energy app on your phone could be fun and help you save money. But as electronics get smarter, even non-tech savvy people are finding them easier to use.
- Get the most bang for your buck
The most frequently recommended energy saving device is a smart thermostat. That makes sense, because the thermostat controls your heating and cooling, which account for the most energy consumption in your home. Smart thermostats can do things like program an energy schedule to adjust the heating or cooling when you’re sleeping or out of the house during the day. Additional smart thermostat features include detecting movement in a room to adjust energy use, learning your daily habits, responding to voice commands and tracking the weather.
Renters might even be able to convince a landlord to pay for an energy-saving smart thermostat.
When it comes to cool new technology, many consumers are turning to smart home devices that offer convenience as well as other benefits, including energy savings. Photo: Geralt/Pixabay User
If you have a heat pump, you could benefit by contacting your electric co-op before using a smart thermostat. Lowering the temperature too much when you’re not home could result in switching to more expensive auxiliary heat to bring the house back to room temperature.
Other devices that can produce energy savings for minimal cost and effort include smart lightbulbs, outlets and charging stations.
- Determine your energy-saving goals
A home energy monitor is one way to save on electricity, and the range of choices means you’ll need to ask how much you’re willing to pay and if it’s worthwhile. One study found that spending about $1,800 on a full-home, commercially installed energy monitor could save about 16% on electric bills and pay for itself in 10–15 years. Much less ambitious approaches involve downloading an app on your phone so you can keep track of your electricity use, and even turn smart appliances on and off when you’re away.
- Do a simple energy checkup
Take a walk through your home with the intention of identifying everything that uses electricity. You’ll likely notice a lot of functions that could be managed with smart devices. If your phone sits plugged in long after it’s charged, smart power strips and smart outlets can stop the electricity use when the battery is at 100%.
Smart thermostats offer convenience and achievable energy savings. Photo: Ecobee
Smart lightbulbs can be controlled with an app on your phone, saving energy and giving your home that lived-in look when you’re away. Ceiling fans can now adjust themselves for the best air flow depending on the temperature. Motion detectors can turn indoor lights on and off when you enter or leave a room, and even solar-powered outdoor lights can detect when you’re approaching and light the way.
With just a little planning, you can make sure this gift-giving season is merry, bright—and smart.