BY PAUL WESSLUND
Electricity doesn’t just have to light up your tree this Christmas; it can also power your holiday gift list.
Electric gadgets can cook, entertain, help with chores and improve your health.
Before you head to the store or online to start shopping keep in mind:
- Don’t always buy the cheapest. Inexpensive rechargeable batteries, for example, can catch fire. Or their charges can be limited, giving just a few minutes of use at a time. Buy from reputable companies, and shop around to compare prices.
- Be cyber safe. Any internet-connected device can be hacked. Security cameras and smart TVs often come with a preset and weak password. Change it, and always keep the software updated.
Gift ideas for everyone on your list!
For the cook. Sous-vide is the latest kitchen trend. In French, it means “under vacuum,” but it’s basically a cooking technique that seals the food in a plastic bag and slow cooks it in water. Sous-vide devices come as an electric pot, or for less money, as a wand that you stick into your own pot of water with the plastic bag. You can even control the sous-vide cooking with your smartphone.
For the handyperson. Electric lawnmowers, trimmers and chainsaws eliminate spills and trips to the gas station. Rechargeable battery models are best for suburban yards where the job takes about 30 minutes. Plug-in versions have the hassle and distance limits of a cord but are more powerful and cheaper. Electric models are quiet and won’t disturb the neighbors. Electric blowers also pollute a lot less. Most gasoline leaf blowers put more pollutants into the air than most gas-powered cars.
For fun. Electronics are always popular items during the holidays. Televisions are getting thinner and lighter, and they’re coming down in price, all because LED (light-emitting diode) technology has improved.
Virtual reality glasses or goggles not only put you right in the middle of the action in a video game, but they can also be useful for home repairs. Companies are starting to offer virtual reality diagnostics for their products that show details like which way to turn the wrench to fix a problem.
For health. Smart watches and wristbands keep track of how far you walk each day and can appeal to your competitive streak by choosing a virtual walking or running mate. A wide range of power scooters are available for fun or commuting; some even have pedals to supplement the motor so that you can get a bit of exercise too.
For the home. Amazon’s Alexa and Echo, as well as other smart speakers, are gaining popularity. To recharge all your devices, you can choose options like smart power strips that avoid continuing to use electricity after a device is fully charged, or portable block chargers to extend your phone’s battery life while traveling. Avoid using wireless charging devices because they use a lot of electricity to operate.
For your pet. Electronics will shoot tennis balls for your dog to fetch, feed and water pets while you’re away, monitor their health, and cameras can keep track of what they’re up to when you leave.
Paul Wesslund writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association