7 Last-Minute Green Gadget Gifts
Designed by the creator of the Apple iPod, Nest is one of the coolest programmable thermostats on the market. The thing that makes this "learning thermostat" unique is that is creates a "climate schedule" that is unique to your habits by using historical data. It offers great visual cues (blue when it is cooling things down and red when it is turning up the heat). It was also designed for relatively easy installation. At $249, this is not a cheap gadget. It also happens to be back-ordered, so you might have to give your green gift recipient an IOU into early 2012.
There are plenty of solar-charging devices on the market design for smart phones or mobile phones. The Spark case from Voltaic Systems is focused on a much larger device, the Apple iPad. Spark includes 8-watt, waterproof solar panels that can produce a peak output of 6 volts or 12 volts. That means it will take about 10 hours to completely charge an iPad using just the sun. On thing that makes this gadget intriguing is the fact that you can buy it for your tablet and also use it to juice up other consumer electronics devices. At $299, Spark isn't exactly inexpensive but it does come with a two-year warranty for the panels and a one-year warranty for the battery.
The SoliCharger, which works with the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s, combines a case, solar charger and speaker systems into one device. Weighing about 9 ounces, the case also comes with adapters and can be charged through the USB port on your computer if you can't find some sunlight. SolLight says you can also use the case with a Sony PlatStation as well as other MP3 players or mobile phones. The device usually costs $59.95 although the company was running a holiday special for $49.95.
The Modlet from ThinkEco and sold by Best Buy reinterprets the modest electrical outlet, turning it into a smart device that can help homeowners better manage power consumption for appliances and such. How does it work? You plug it into a standard wall outlet and the plug in the consumer electronics products or appliances that are sucking up too much power. The Modlet is programmed via a wireless connection to your computer. (You have to download software to get it set up.) The starter kit is $50, including software; additional two-socket Modlets are $44.95 apiece.
The Cookup INOX from French company ID Cook is a stainless-steel solar barbecue that uses its parabolic shape and solar reflector to focus heat on cooking food. The temperature created by the grill is up to 392 degrees, and supposedly you can cook chicken in about 60 minutes. The barbecue has a footprint of approximately 49.2 inches by 28.3 inches, and a dish diameter of 41.3 inches. WIth the conversion from euros to U.S. dollars, the product is priced around $390.
The Solio Bolt is one of the most unusually shaped mobile solar chargers you can find. IT comes with two panels that rotate to be best pitched toward the sun. It comes with a 3.7 volt/2000 mAh lithium-polymer battery. Bolt weighs 5 ounces, and it measures 4.7 inches by 1.3 inches by 2.5 inches. It takes up to 9 hours to full charge; once charged it can juice up your GPS receiver, flip-phone or digital camera up to three times. It can charge an e-reader or smartphone twice. The Bolt carries a list price of $70.
Logitech went solar with it wireless keyboards this year, offering models for both Macintosh and Windows systems. The Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard uses either sunlight or ambient lighting to keep charged up, working for up to three months on a full charge. (That's pretty accurate; I got mine in August in only recently had to make sure to leave the keyboard out so it could charge up again.) The keyboard currently carries a list price of around $71.99. It needs a unifying receiver to connect to your computer.