Spaces for Life

The ReTouch Home Improvement blog



Spaces for Life: 5 of my favorite gadgets for the home

By Lance McCarthy

When I was an English teacher, we read a Ray Bradbury book called the Martian Chronicles. One of the chapters described a future home so advanced that it kept making breakfast, calling out voice reminders and vacuuming even after a nuclear holocaust. Crazy huh? Actually, we aren’t far from that now. Some amazing recent advancements to the home are well worth a second look.

Here are five of my favorite current gadgets for the home:

Am I the only one that has passive aggressive battles with my spouse using the thermostat? Nest might signal a truce. Founded by the former senior vp from Apple’s Ipod division (you had me at “Apple”) this gadget is pricey but sexy. Lifehacker presents a great review here, but suffice it to say, it learns your habits, can adjust as an oven goes on, can be controlled remotely on your phone, and can even tell you how your actions are affecting your utility bills. Nice.

Tip: if you must keep your house 75 in the winter and 65 in the summer, you are beyond help, even from the majestic wonderfulness of Nest.


Did you know the incandescent light bulb was invented in 1879?! I wonder if ol’ Edison thought his invention would still be in use 140 years later? We are finally seeing some alternatives to this filament powered orb from the olden days. CFLs are great, except for that whole mercury thing. LEDs are on the way to greatness. This is still a pretty new industry, so I think there will be some growing pains here, but there are some great pro’s. They last 60 times longer than incandescents, run cooler, and use a bunch less energy.

Tip: check the temperature of the light on the box label. This can make a room feel like an operating room or a cozy bedroom.

This is the most Bradburyish thing on the list. The basic principle here is that each electrical item in the house can be replaced with a Lutron device that allows it to be programmed. Almost any programmable result is possible. You can turn off the lights from the airport. You can light a path the the fridge in the middle of the night. You can have movie lighting or Superbowl party lighting in the basement. Close your blinds by remote. I could go on…

Tip: we use this in old houses where we need to add a switch without tearing up a wall. The switch can work remotely.

Keypad entry lock

I hate keys. The Schlage Electronic Entry Keypad was made for me. It allows you to replace your keys with codes. They can be changed so you can allow your trusty contractor in without giving him a key. They prevent you from locking yourself out. Nuff said.

Tip: Just don’t forget your code. That would be unfortunate.

Infrared Universal remote

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this one is a total guy thing. No more pile of remotes on the coffee table and a pile of components near the tv. This remote by Logitech has a screen, and allows control of up to 15 components. Add a Logitech Harmony RF Extender and you can hide all the components in a cabinet out of sight. Bippity boppity boo.

Tip: Don’t put the dvd player too far away or you’ll have to go hiking every time you need to change the disc.

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