If you spend too much time on your couch surfing the net or watching TV, you might not be aware of some of the latest in technology that automates tasks around your home, which, well, might help you spend more time relaxing on your couch.
From keeping your home comfortable and cooking quick meals to harnessing the power of the sun and fostering the next crop of inventors, this list offers a variety of ways to use the latest technology.
Thermostats rarely rate as gotta-have gizmos, but Nest is different. Invented by a former Apple designer after being frustrated by programming his own thermostat, Nest is the first device that learns your schedule and creates a program based on what it learns. After a week of learning, Nest is ready to take over, and offers ways to help you cut your energy bill.
The sleek design and simple controls give the device a futuristic look compared with other thermostats on the market.
An outer dial ring sets the temperature. The thermostat displays blue for cooling and orange for heating. It also displays how long it will take to reach the set temperature.
Sensors built into the thermostat can determine room activity, relative humidity and light levels. The Auto-Away feature uses this information to sense when the home is unoccupied. Nest’s built-in Wi-Fi allows control of the home HVAC system through a computer or smartphone app.
Returning home from a trip? Turn on the heat or air conditioning from the airport so your home is comfy when you get there.
Easy to install, Nest requires connecting four wires.
$249, additional thermostats $25 each at http://www.nest.com.
Egg-and-Muffin Two-Slice Toaster and Egg Poacher
If you like fast food breakfasts, but hate to hit the drive-through in the morning, this might be your new best friend. In four minutes, the Back-to-Basics egg and muffin toaster can toast two muffins, poach or steam-scramble two eggs and heat a slice of meat.
But wait, there’s more. It also can boil up to four eggs at once. Adjusting the amount of water controls how hard the yoke is cooked.
$33 at Amazon.com.
Stop Vampire Leaks
The Belkin Conserve Socket uses a simple three-setting timer to shut off power to any device plugged in to it. It is simple in looks and operation. Timer settings include six hours, three hours and a half hour. Plug it in and set the timer on the side. It is perfect for managing charging devices, where you don’t want to leave it going once the device is charged.
$9.99 at Amazon.com.
Fizz, Bubble & Flash!
We wouldn’t have some of the cool gadgets on this page without inventors. Help channel the inner inventor in your son or daughter with “Fizz, Bubble & Flash!: Element Explorations & Atom Adventures for Hands-On Science Fun!”
Discover what you have in common with party balloons, footballs, computer chips, pizza dough, table salt and TV screens; “Break” a water molecule; produce fluorescent light (without using a switch!); enjoy a half-life snack; compare antiperspirants; separate the iron from your breakfast cereal; find out why broccoli smells, and soda makes a coin shine; and discover the secret of static cling and what makes a smoke detector work.
$12.95 at Amazon.com.
For Power on the Move
Freeloader Portable Solar Charger
If you want to go wireless, truly wireless, you need to cut the power cable cord. The Freeloader Portable Solar Charger lets you do that by harnessing the sun to charge your MP3 player, smartphone or other electronic devices.
The Freeloader has a 1,200mAh lithium-ion battery that can be charged in three hours by it plugging into a USB device or in as little as eight hours from its solar panel. It comes with a master USB cable with nine adaptor tips to fit most devices.
$39.99 at http://www.thinkgeek.com.
For gadgets around the home that require AA or AAA batteries, consider going with Eneloop rechargeable batteries.
Not like your father’s rechargeable batteries, Eneloops use a redesigned nickel–metal hydride technology that increases the shelf life of the battery. That means you can charge it, stick it in a device and expect it to work even three years later. Eneloops are rated to be recharged approximately 1,500 times.
4-pack of AA batteries and a charger for $15.49 at
More than one-third of all adults in the United Sates own smart phones. If you are one of them, here are some apps that might help you save money.
Light Bulb Finder. This app helps you select a more energy-efficient light bulb for the fixtures in your home. The most useful feature is the payback calculator, which can help you decide if making a change is worth it. Available free on both iPhone and Android.
Battery Saver. Several apps extend the charge on the battery by turning off energy-hogging features, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS, allowing for less frequent charges. Search “battery” at the iTunes Store or Android Market.