Cheap and Convenient Home Enhancements
These gadgets are sure to make your day-to-day tasks a whole lot easier.
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February 01, 2008 by Jeff Winston

If you live in the Northeast, or anywhere with variable weather, you know that choosing which coat (or how many layers) is a process that can have different answers from day to day. Put an outdoor thermometer inside your mudroom with the Radio Shack Wireless Thermometer, for only $20. It also tracks minimum and maximum temperatures.

Worried about water in your basement? For $10-$20 at most hardware stores, you can get a battery-powered water alarm that you leave where you expect water to accumulate. If water appears, the unit beeps loudly enough to hear through most of your house. A higher-end model, the WaterBug ($70 at Smarthome), lets you put the alarm in a convenient place, and snake a 100 ft. wire to where you expect the water to pool.

Are there some rooms (or closets) where you just wish the lights would come on by themselves whenever you entered them? Consider a Screw-in Motion Switch from Smarthome ($30). It’s probably not fit for the living room or boudoir, but for the laundry room or hall closet, it gives you one less thing to deal with when your hands are full.

Finally, start your home control system with an X-10 PR-511 motion-detecting outside spotlight, mounted outside your garage. When it detects arriving vehicles, it not only turns on the attached lights, but sends multiple X-10 commands to turn on other lights either outside or inside your home. $60 at Smarthome.

Clearly, buying all these at once would be a large investment, but perhaps you should start your own “convenience of the month” program. After all, you’re worth it.

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Jeff Winston - Contributing Writer
Jeff Winston has been writing about home electronics since 1998. An electrical engineer, Jeff has contributed to the development of products in the computer, consumer electronics, and wireless industries. He spends his spare time with his wife, kids, and many PCs, sometimes in that order.

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