Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Here’s a gift-buying idea you may not have thought about this holiday season — gifts for your house. I’ve come across a few unique products that your house just might love having installed and used on it.

These are some pretty neat products that can help you determine your energy use and humidity level, protect your home from flooding and other services.

A note to male readers: Although you might get excited about these gadgets, don’t think that the woman in your life will share the same enthusiasm. Put them on your wish list, and next time you see Santa, ask him to add them to your stocking.

They are available from various sources online and retail centers. Use your favorite search engine to find shopping options by plugging in the product name.

• Kill-a-Watt meter. Have you been wondering why your power bill keeps creeping upward? The Kill-a-Watt meter, from P3 International, tracks total power consumption by the hour, day, week, month or year for any standard household appliance that plugs into a 110-volt outlet. Find out just how much power it’s taking to operate your new electronic gadgets, table lamps, and most other devices that plug into standard wall receptacles. The Kill-a-Watt meter displays voltage, line frequency and power factor. No batteries required. About $35.

• Hygrometer. The Bemis hygrometer is a calibrated digital humidity and temperature gauge. It measures humidity in a range from 10 to 99 percent and temperature from -50 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Some health problems can stem from the humidity level in your home, and a hygrometer can help you monitor if you need a dehumidifier or a humidifier in your air-supply system. From about $22.

• FloodStop. Prevent major water damage with FloodStop. This gadget attaches to your water-supply line, and it will automatically shut off the water to your washer if there is a leak. It takes just five minutes to install. FloodStop shuts off the water at the appliance. It protects against broken hoses, bursting hoses and many of the failure-prone components within the washing machine. There are other systems available for ice makers, toilets and hot-water heaters. From about $70.

• Home-office wireless network. This would be one of the best gifts to the whole household. Although it might not be exciting, a wireless network can reduce clutter in your office and release your computers from being locked in one room to share online, printer and scanner access. For less than $200, you can have all your computers talking to one another, printing to the same gadgets and using your broadband Internet simultaneously.

I’ve begun the transition, and it’s been a great experience — especially when my children want to do homework using the Internet and I have to write. My laptop goes to the basement with me, and they get the desktop — we’re both surfing without interfering with each other’s tasks. Starting at $70 — and the prices keep dropping.

• Home-address plaque. Does your house number look just like everyone else’s on the street? Consider sprucing up your curb appeal, starting with your home numbers. Brass, bronze, carved numbers can add a touch of class to your front door. Home-address plaques — bronze or painted — can look pretty spiffy, too. Plaques start around $59 and can move to the hundreds, depending on your taste. Numbers start as low as $4 each.

m Garden gifts. Now is really the time to get all those items for your garden you put off last summer. If you can find the special wind chimes or iron bench now, during the off season, you’ll save a bundle. Waiting until springtime shopping sales will actually mean higher prices. The savvy garden shopper can come up with some fantastic deals now.

Online resources for home products:





M. Anthony Carr has written about real estate for more than 15 years. Contact him by e-mail (

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