Cheap and Convenient Home Enhancements


These gadgets are sure to make your day-to-day tasks a whole lot easier.

Feb. 01, 2008 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Life is hard, we all deserve a break. So why would you turn down opportunities to make your life more comfortable? Oh yeah, what it costs. Well, here are a few solid happiness-makers that won’t break your bank.

After hopping out of a long shower, what could be nicer than warm, dry towels. The Wonderbar from Warmrails hangs onto your existing towel rack, plugs into an outlet, and draws no more electricity than two or three CFLs (about $25/year). By constantly warming your towels it improves comfort and eliminates musty smells. For only $45 at Smarthome, it’s a keeper.

You’re in your family room and the phone rings. You could get up, which you need to do even to see a normal tiny Caller-ID display, or you could get a big display from Telnote. Unlike older one-line displays (like the one Radio Shack used to sell), the Telnote device gives you both lines in 1” high LED characters, so you can see who’s calling from across the room. Only $50 from

Is the mail here? Never wonder with the Mail Chime. Stick the transmitter on your mailbox door, and the receiver wherever it can be heard. When the mail comes, you’ll know! If you have a home control system, plug the receiver into an appliance module, and reset it from anywhere in your house by remotely turning it off for a few moments. $44 from Trendyhome, or $49 from Smarthome.

Trouble sleeping? Have you thought about the Marpac 980 Sound Machine? This two-speed device contains a real electric motor and creates a soothing, consistent, but not overwhelming sound. Put it under your bed and plug it into a home control module, or even a lamp timer, so that it runs during your regular sleep hours, and then forget it’s there and enjoy the night. Price: $57.

Here’s another way to know what’s going on outside, the Reporter Wireless Driveway Sensor ($70 at Smarthome) beeps whenever a car comes up your driveway. It detects vehicles or people, but not pets or small animals. Locate additional transmitters near your shed or barn for extra security.

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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