Thursday, 3 January 2013


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10 Of The Best Home-Improvement Innovations Of 2012
Popular Science, 2 January 2013.

Pimp your abode with these home-improvement products.

Thinking of revamping your place? Do it in style with the newest technology for the home.

1. Nest Learning Thermostat

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A thermostat has tremendous power: It controls heating and cooling, the most expensive, energy-guzzling system in a house. Until the Nest, thermostats wielded that power blindly. The Nest learns a household’s schedule and preferences after just one week and programs itself (and if those preferences change, the Nest adapts accordingly). It uses activity, humidity, and temperature sensors to monitor the indoor climate and adjust it for maximum efficiency.

The Nest can also shut down the air conditioner’s compressor a few minutes early to make the most of the cool air still available after it cycles off. The homeowner can always adjust the device from home or the road, but will rarely need to - which makes this the first thermostat truly compatible with people’s lives.

Power: Rechargeable lithium-ion battery
Compatibility: 95% of 24-volt systems
Price: $249

2. Switch Lighting Switch75

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The Switch75 is the most convincing proof that LED technology can replace the traditional light bulb. The LED bulb provides the same warm light as a 75-watt incandescent while consuming 75 percent less energy - and it can be used with dimmers and in recessed fixtures. The secret to its efficiency is a liquid-silicone cooling system that transfers heat across the entire bulb’s surface. The Switch75 is only available to commercial users now, but the company will release a consumer bulb by the end of the year. Price: $40–$60

3. Black & Decker Matrix Quick Connect System

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Black & Decker packs several tools into a single device with the Matrix: a lithium-ion-powered drill with a set of changeable heads, each optimized for a specific task. After a job with the impact driver’s 1,300 inch-pounds of torque, pop off the head and replace it with a detail sander - or a jigsaw, a router, a trim saw, or a multi-blade oscillating tool. No power tool has ever put more functions behind a single trigger.* Price: $70 (20V drill); $29–$39 (heads)

*Note that pinning the blade guard out of the way, as we've done here to show the saw's burly teeth, is dangerous and expressly discouraged by the company. Always use tools as directed by the manufacturer.

4. Wilton Bad Ass Sledge Hammer (B.A.S.H.)

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A sledgehammer’s highest calling is smashing stuff to bits, so it helps if the sledge itself is indestructible. The ergonomic neck on Wilton’s B.A.S.H. absorbs vibration, and the steel core locks the grip-friendly composite handle to the tool’s head. B.A.S.H. is so tough that its manufacturers have offered $1,000 to anyone who destroys it during normal use. For a sledgehammer, that’s quite a guarantee. Price: $80 for 8-pound, 36-inch model

5. Big Ass Fans Haiku

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With its residential Haiku model, Big Ass Fans changed every convention established by a century of ceiling-fan design. That hot, loud, electromagnet-driven AC motor is now a cool, quiet, permanently magnetized DC drive that’s 80 percent more efficient. Instead of flat blades, three air foils slice through the air. Whoosh mode, one of 10 settings, mimics nature to increase the cooling effect: It varies wind speed by precisely 0.47 hertz, so that it feels more like a breeze on the skin. Price: From $825

6. Ryobi Cordless 40-Volt Blower

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Noisy, polluting gas-powered leaf blowers can be the scourge of the neighbourhood, but until now cordless electric versions have been too weak to recommend. Ryobi’s 40-volt lithium-ion model is the most powerful consumer-grade cordless blower ever. It packs 96 watt-hours of runtime, which translates to 38 minutes of blowing at full throttle. After a 90-minute charge, the 6.8-pound machine can resume blasting maple leaves at 150 mph. Price: $169

7. DeWalt 10-Amp Compact Reciprocating Saw

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To shrink its 10-amp reciprocating saw to 14.5 inches - 20 percent shorter than typical corded models - DeWalt reconfigured the design, angling the helical gear and the tool’s motor so they both fit into a smaller housing. Now the 6.8-pound saw is powerful and small enough to sneak deep into a stud bay to cut off nails, or slip under a sink to sever old pipes. Price: $129

8. Bodum Bistro B.Over

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The Bodum BISTRO b.over automates what many consider the gold standard of coffee making: the painstaking pour-over method. Water heated to just shy of boiling travels through borosilicate glass tubes to a titanium-plated stainless-steel filter. En route, it passes through a showerhead to drench grounds evenly for proper extraction. Coffee drips directly into a double-walled carafe to preserve the heat - and the flavour. Price: $250

9. Gyro 4V Max Lithium-Ion Rechargeable Screwdriver

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The Gyro by Black & Decker is the first power tool to use the home-improvement industry’s equivalent of gesture control: The screwdriver senses a user’s motion and spins the bit accordingly. There’s no trigger. Grasping the handle activates a gyroscope, and a microprocessor translates a flick of the wrist into the speed and direction of rotation. In the future, it could migrate to more tools and arm a generation of gamers, too. Price: $40

10. Quirky Cube Tube

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At long last, an ice cube tray that won’t spill water all over as you load it into the freezer. The Cube Tube, crowd-developed at the website Quirky, is a creative redesign of a static household product. Just fill the silicone sleeve with water, insert the divided spine, twist on the spill-proof cap, and slide it into the freezer. When it’s time to ice a drink, tap the sleeve, pull the spine, and watch the cubes slide right out. Price: $20 for two trays

[Source: Popular Science. Edited.]

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