Since 2003, I’ve had two MiniDisc players, five iPhones, a CD walkman with a Corrs album stuck inside it, a Microsoft Zune, a portable DVD player (used just once to watch La Grande Bellezza in a gîte in the Dordogne), a Game Boy Advance that I threw out of a moving Volvo, and an iPad that was waterboarded in the Dolphin statue at the Hurlingham by some five year olds in non-regulation socks. Sometimes, it feels like there’s a bottomless pit in my life, marked ‘technology’, into which I’m constantly emptying my wallet.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. In fact, a whole host of tech builders are now designing gadgets so smart and efficient that – far from draining your finances – they actually pay for themselves. Here’s the Gentleman’s Journal’s rundown of the six best pieces of tech that earn their keep.
Nest Learning Thermostat
The Nest Learning thermostat is truly smart. With a motion detector, three temperature sensors and a humidity gauge, the Nest unit knows when you’re home or not and how warm you like the house. It then creates a unique heating schedule that means you’ll never need to touch the thermostat again. It also offers remote control via its simple app, and connectivity with lots of other devices, like the Amazon Echo.
The Nest Thermostat team say it’ll save you 10-12% on heating bills on average, which comes in at around £120 a year. It costs £249 including installation, so it’ll pay its way in about two years.
The Nanoleaf Bloom LED Lightbulb
The Nanoleaf is like no lightbulb you’ve ever seen in your life. With its customisable, origami-like, dodecahedron design and vibrant, uniform, glowing orbs, it is as much a work of art as it is an electronic fixture.
Each bulb comes in at a fairly hefty £30, but the price tag starts to make sense when you hear how it can save you £85 per bulb per year in energy efficiency alone (The Nanoleaf range is 87% more efficient than the closest competitor, Incandecent.) Plus, with a 27 year life span, you’ll never really have to buy another light bulb again.
A Smart Showerhead
Want to shower with Apple CEO Tim Cook? Well, now you can (sort of). Tim and the rest of Silicon Valley are getting wet’n’wild at the moment over Nebia, a super smart shower head start-up that saves water and money by the bucketload. The inventors estimate that the average US citizen wastes $397 dollars worth of water a year in the shower. The Nebia comes in at $399, and eliminates almost all waste water, meaning that you’ll make your money back in 12 months. It’s now in the pre-order stage on KickStarter.
If that price seems a little eye-watering, then there are a few homegrown options that are equally as frugal. Our favourite is the Jet Storm Plus which uses a patented Aircore technology to achieves the same powerful water pressure with far less water. The team reckon the showerhead saves the average household about 10,000 litres of water a year, and that the cost of the unit is easily recouped within a couple of months.
Amazon Fire Stick
Sky or cable television is pretty expensive, and you’ll never end up watching the vast majority of the 700+ channels that you’re paying for. Amazon’s Fire TV Stick is a very smart alternative. Buy this little USB stick for the one-off price of £35, and you’ve got instant access – on your TV – to hundreds of video and movie streaming services.
Even if you chuck on Netflix membership (£7.49 a month) and Amazon Prime’s video service (£7.99 a month), your package will still come in far below the average Sky bundle price of £38 a month. In other words, this little gadget pays for itself instantly.
Panasonic Eneloop Batteries
The trailblazers in re-chargeable batteries, Panasonic’s marquee Eneloop range blows conventional batteries out of the water. A four pack of AA Eneloops costs around £10, while the charging unit costs about £14.
When you consider that a four pack of Duracell AAs will set you back about £2.50, the Eneloop system will make its money back in less than ten cycles. It’ll also go the distance: if an Eneloop battery were charged once a week, it would be 38 years until it reached its advertised lifespan of 2,000 charge cycles.
The Wemo Insight Switch is a plug add-on that connects all your sockets and appliances to your Wi-Fi network, meaning you can easily control any device from anywhere in the world. The little add-on can also monitor everything that’s plugged in at home, so you can see which devices are using the most energy and when.
With a smart plug, there’s really no limit to the money you can save. but Which? reckons you could end up trimming up to 15% off your energy bill. At £50 a go, these clever little gadgets will likely start paying their way after the first year.