Cutting-edge technology doesn’t come cheap. Since 2003, I’ve had two MiniDisc players, five iPhones, a CD walkman with a Corrs album stuck inside it, a Microsoft Zune, a portable DVD player (used just once to watch She’s All That in a caravan in Wales), a Game Boy Advance that I threw out of a moving Volvo, and an iPad that was waterboarded by some five-year-olds. Sometimes, it feels like there’s a bottomless pit in my life marked ‘gadgets’ into which I’m constantly emptying my wallet.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. In fact, a whole host of tech manufacturers are now designing gadgets so smart and efficient that – far from draining your finances – they actually pay for themselves. Here’s our rundown of the best pieces of tech that earn their keep.
1. Nest Learning Thermostat
The Nest Learning thermostat is truly smart. Equipped with a motion detector, three temperature sensors and a humidity gauge, the Nest unit knows when you’re home or not and just how warm you like the house. It then creates a unique heating schedule that means you’ll never need to fiddle with the thermostat again. What’s more, it offers remote control via its user-friendly app, and connectivity with lots of other devices, like the Amazon Echo.
The Nest Thermostat team say it’ll save you 10-12 per cent on heating bills on average, which comes in at around £120 a year. It costs £249 including installation, so it’ll pay its way in about two years.
Available at Amazon, priced £174.
2. Nanoleaf Bloom LED Light Bulb
The Nanoleaf is like no lightbulb you’ve ever seen in your life. With its customisable, origami-like, dodecahedron design and vibrant, glowing orbs, it’s as much a work of art as it is an electronic fixture.
Each bulb comes in at a fairly hefty £30, but the price tag starts to make sense when you know it can save you £85 per bulb per year in energy efficiency alone. (The Nanoleaf range is 87 per cent more efficient than incandescent bulbs.) Plus, with a 27-year lifespan, you’ll never really have to buy another light bulb again.
Available at Nanoleaf, priced $39.99.
3. A Smart Shower Head
Want to shower with Apple CEO Tim Cook? Well, now you can (sort of). Right now, Tim and the rest of Silicon Valley are getting wet’n’wild over Nebia, a smart shower head start-up that saves water and money by the bucketload.
The inventors estimate that the average US citizen wastes $397 dollars worth of water a year in the shower. The Nebia comes in at $399, and eliminates almost all waste water, meaning you’ll make your money back in 12 months. It’s now in the pre-order stage on nebia.com.
If that price seems a little eye-watering, then there are a few homegrown options that are equally as frugal. Our favourite is the Ecocamel Jetstorm Plus, which uses a patented Aircore technology to achieve powerful water pressure with less water. The team reckon the shower head saves the average household about 10,000 litres of water a year, and that the cost of the unit is easily recouped within a couple of months.
4. Amazon Fire Stick
Sky or cable television is pretty expensive, and you’ll never end up watching the vast majority of the 700+ channels that you’re paying for.
Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, on the other hand, is the very definition of a smart buy. Buy this little USB stick for the one-off price of £24.99, and you’ve got instant access – on your TV – to hundreds of video- and movie-streaming services. Even if you chuck on Netflix membership (£5.99 a month) and Amazon Prime’s video service (£5.99 a month), your package will still come in far below the average Sky bundle price of £38 a month. In other words, this little gadget pays for itself instantly.
Available at Amazon, priced £24.99.
5. Panasonic Eneloop Batteries
The trailblazers in rechargeable batteries, Panasonic’s marquee Eneloop range blows conventional batteries out of the water.
A four-pack of AA Eneloops costs under £10, while the charging unit costs about £14. When you consider that a four-pack of Duracell AAs will set you back about £2.50, the Eneloop system will make its money back in less than 10 cycles. It’ll also go the distance: if an Eneloop battery were charged once a week, it would be 38 years until it reached its advertised lifespan of 2,000 charge cycles.
Available at Amazon, priced £7.57.
6. WeMo Insight Switch
The Wemo Insight Switch is a plug add-on that connects all your sockets and appliances to your Wi-Fi network, meaning you can easily control any device from anywhere in the world.
The little add-on can also monitor everything that’s plugged in at home, so you can see which devices are using the most energy and when. With a smart plug, there’s really no limit to the money you can save, but consumer watchdog Which? reckons you could end up trimming up to 15 per cent off your energy bill.
At £50 a go, these clever little gadgets will likely start paying their way after the first year.
Available soon at Belkin, priced £49.99.