15 Cool Tech Gadgets That Turn Your Home into a Smart House
We've culled the new crop of high-tech gadgets that promise to change your life and we found some products that are truly innovative and offer real benefits. Plus, we've included a few gadgets that are just plain cool. Here's the roundup.
Monitor Your Grill From Your Smartphone or Tablet
It's billed as a grilling thermometer, but it works in your kitchen oven as well. The iGrill2 comes with a controller and two temperature probes but will accept up to four (additional probes are sold separately), so you can track the temperatures of different food items that you're grilling at the same time. Or use one of the probes to remotely track the temperature inside the grill when you're slow roasting, smoking or using the rotisserie. Just download the app for your Apple or Android phone. Then insert the probes into the chow and route the cables so they won't be exposed to flames. Set the app for the desired temperature and activate the alarm. Then walk away. Monitor the progress on your phone from up to 150 ft. The iGrill2 app will let you know when you've reached the set temperature. Buy the iGrill2 and accessories from the manufacturer, online stores and discount stores. Know how to tune up your grill before you fire up.
Super-Fast Wi-Fi Router
If you're into wireless home video streaming or gaming, or home automation, you need a Wi-Fi router with the best range and fastest speed. Most Wi-Fi routers have a hard time delivering all the available bandwidth when multiple users are online. That's because they deliver data to only one device at a time. So everyone's speed is based on the speed of the oldest and slowest device in use at the time. The Netgear Nighthawk X6 Tri-Band Wireless Router solves that problem by adding an extra traffic lane. When the router sees a slowpoke device come online, it diverts the faster devices to the new traffic lane, so everybody gets the fastest possible speed. The Nighthawk router also uses six antennas and Beamforming software to locate and direct the signal toward each device. Together with a fast dual-core processor and a powerful amplifier, this Wi-Fi router gets you the strongest signal at almost every spot in your house. Find out other ways to get faster internet for your wireless network.
Control Your Tools With Your Phone
Milwaukee's ONE-KEY line of tools is a new generation of 'connected tools' that can be programmed to suit the job. Let's say you're installing metal vent using self-drilling screws. Just use the Milwaukee app to find the setting for the gauge and type of metal and the size of the screw. Then program the drill or impact driver using your phone's Bluetooth. When you squeeze the trigger, the tool will start at a low rpm to prevent the tip from walking across the metal. The electronic torque monitoring senses when the screw bites in and boosts the speed to drive the screw in. Then it'll slow down and cut off power when the screw reaches the programmed torque—all with a single trigger pull. The ONE-KEY system also has an inventory management and tool reporting feature for pros to keep track of tools and monitor their workers' productivity. Find some handy apps for DIY work.
Answer or Open the Door From Any Phone with Viking Electronics
You get packages and you don't want them sitting on your doorstep. Or, you need to open the door for housecleaners and contractors when you're not at home. Forget the spare keys. Forget the dead bolt codes. These two products from Viking Electronics allow you to answer the door, speak with the visitor from any phone anywhere, and even open the door remotely. Install the C-250 controller between the landline demarcation box and your home phones or between your router and your VoIP box. Connect the controller to the Viking E-40-BN-EWP door box. Then program the controller to dial up to five family cell phone numbers. When a visitor presses the button, the controller rings your home phone with a double ring so you know it's a visitor at the door and not a regular phone call. Answer the door and open the door from any home phone. When you leave the house, simply program the controller to forward the door box calls to your cell phone. If you don't have land or VoIP service, leave the controller in call forwarding mode and it'll send all door box calls to a portable phone. The forwarded call will show up on your portable phone's screen as your front door. Answer the call and enter a code to activate your door strike or Wi-Fi-enabled dead bolt. The Viking units are a bit pricey, but they're commercial-grade products, so they'll last much longer than cheaper consumer-grade versions.
TrickleStar Motion-Sensor Power Strip Trims Your Electric Bill
Your cable/satellite box, Blu-ray player, TV sound system and streaming devices all draw power 24/7, even when the TV is off. It's the same with your computer and its attached printer, scanner and accessory speakers. The TrickleStar Motion Sensor PowerStrip shuts off those power-sucking devices when they're not being used. It takes its cues from whatever device (TV or computer) is plugged into the 'control' receptacle, along with input from the attached motion sensor. Here's how it works. When you turn on the TV or computer, the power strip immediately powers up three switched receptacles for your accessories/peripherals. When you turn the TV or computer off, it shuts off the switched receptacles. And, if the TV or computer is on, but you leave the room for 30 minutes or longer, the motion sensor shuts off the switched receptacles. Come back and it powers them back up. The unit has one control receptacle, three switched receptacles and three always-on receptacles, along with built-in surge protection (1080 joules) for all outlets.
Gift Ideas for New Homeowners: Vacuum Dustpan Saves Your Back
You may think this Crowley Jones EV1850 Eye-Vac Pro Electric Dustpan represents the ultimate in laziness. But if you have back issues, this smart vacuum/dustpan is for you. Just set the unit to automatic mode and sweep the debris toward it. The motion sensor detects when your broom is within range and starts up the vacuum. Aim the dirt pile toward the suction port and the vacuum will suck it up. If you have pets, they may activate the motion detector when they walk by. That's why there's a switched manual mode to activate the vacuum. Discover vacuum attachment uses for dust collection in the workshop. Buy the Eye-Vac Pro now on Amazon.
Gift Ideas for New Homeowners: Affordable Inspection Cameras
Not so long ago, video borescopes were for pros only—nobody else could justify the high cost. But over the past couple of years, many manufacturers have jumped into the market with reasonably priced models. So peeking inside walls, appliances and engine compartments isn't just for pros anymore. The model shown (the General Tools iBorescope) is unique: Instead of having a small video screen mounted on the tool, it sends a wireless signal to your Apple or Android smartphone or tablet. Visit the manufacturer's site to learn more, purchase it or check out other models. To shop for other brands, search for 'borescope' or 'inspection camera.' Investigate how to home inspect. Buy it now on Amazon.
Digital Fence Gauge
This digital height gauge (Wixey WR25 Mini Digital Height Gauge) lets you set your table saw blade to a precise height. But we found another great use for it: It's the perfect tool for setting the fence on your router table. Zero the meter and pull the gauge until the depth you want shows on the screen. Then lock the fence in place, precisely where you want it.
WaterCop: Automatic Water Shutoff
A little leak can lead to huge costs and headaches. That's why there are water shutoff systems like the WaterCop control valve. Install it right after your main shutoff valve, then locate water sensors (sold separately) near the most likely leaks (water heater, toilets, dishwasher, etc.). If a sensor detects water, it wirelessly signals the valve to shut off. You can also install a temperature sensor that shuts off the water when indoor temperatures fall to 38 degrees F. That won't prevent the pipes from bursting if they freeze, but it will prevent a flood. Visit the manufacturer's site for more information. Find you water main and gas shut off when you move in to a first home or new home.
Reduce Cord Clutter with a PowerTap Grommet
This power and data port is a neat, convenient way to provide a computer plug-in spot on you desk. The port rotates inside its housing. So you can instantly flip it open to plug in, or close it for a clean, uncluttered look. And no more reaching behind your desk to plug into a wall receptacle. The downside is that you have to cut a big hole (more than 4 in. in diameter) in your desktop. There are two versions: one with outlets and Ethernet ports, the other with outlets and USB ports. To browse or buy, search online for 'PowerTap Grommet.'
Save 10 Percent on Your AC Bill with QwikSEER+ WattSaver
Most furnaces and heat pumps run the air-conditioning blower motor at a fixed speed regardless of the conditions inside your home. But the QwikSEER+ WattSaver add-on controller board makes your AC system more efficient by running the blower motor at the optimal speed to match the temperature and humidity levels in your home. It's proven to save at least 10 percent on your annual AC bill. You can install the unit yourself if you can follow an electrical schematic and feel comfortable cutting a small hole in the sheet metal plenum to mount a sensor on the evaporator coil. Don't want to do it yourself? An HVAC pro can do it in less than an hour. The QwikSEER+ WattSaver pays for itself in about two years, depending on your AC usage and the electric rates in your area. For more information, visit the manufacturer's site.
LED Retrofit for Recessed Lighting: Halo RL560
If you think you can pop an off-the-shelf LED bulb into a recessed fixture, think again. It may not survive the heat buildup in a small space. Plus, it may not provide the same beam pattern or color as your current bulb. So if you're serious about reducing your electric bill, look for a retrofit module made especially for recessed lights. The Halo RL560, for example, fits most existing 5-in. and 6-in. housings. Just screw the threaded adapter into the existing socket, connect the ground wire and snap in the module. The RL560 uses 10 watts and provides 600 lumens (65-watt equivalent). Estimated life is 50,000 hours. It's rated for damp and wet locations and is dimmable. Find the module at home centers, lighting showrooms and online. It's available in white or a satin nickel finish.
Hide TV Wires: Power Jumper kit
A flat panel TV looks great on the wall, but all those wires leading to it don't. If there's an outlet near the TV, the Power Jumper kit (No. 22APJW-7R) lets you get power and digital cable up to your TV invisibly. The outlet and plug are prewired. Just cut a hole near the TV and another below it in the same stud cavity. Then drop the prewired unit and signal cables down from the top opening.
Keep Your Components Cool: CabCool 1202-M
The hard drives in DVR-type cable or satellite boxes run full time and can really pump out the heat. If you keep yours behind closed doors in your entertainment center, you risk overheating all the electronic devices you store there. But there's an easy solution—tiny fans like the CabCool 1202-M. The kit comes with two 120mm cooling fans, an assortment of grilles, a power supply and a preset thermal controller. The controller turns the fans on and off when needed. Or upgrade to the programmable LED thermal controller and set your own on/off temperatures and keep track of cabinet temps on the LED screen.