2022 tech gift guide a blend of the fun and practical
Smart tech, from the home gym, to the road, to the kids' room
Smart technology is about using energy wisely, and here in B.C., we get a leg-up on many areas of the world because our powered-by-water electricity is clean, renewable, and affordable. That's why our popular annual gift guide is unlike any other – big on promoting the use of electricity to power our lives.
Get set for the odd surprise, and for a few items that are anything but typical holiday gift ideas. We've included them because they're fantastic technologies that help improve our homes, save energy, and help fight climate change.
Home and away
Apple AirTags and Tile Tracker
Digital tags for keys, wallets, packs, and other items have been around for years. But the limitation was that you had to be reasonably close to the tagged device to be able to find it via your smartphone. That has all changed with the Apple AirTag and improvements to rival Tile Tracker, which extends findability from your home or car to your neighbourhood, city, and beyond.
There are pros and cons in going with either choice. AirTags only work with newer iPhones while Tile Tracker can be used with Apple or Android devices, and the Tile Tracker – with a hole in one corner – attaches more easily to keys and other items without requiring an additional attachment.
The AirTag's big advantage is in activating Apple's Find My network to use other iPhones, iPads, and Mac devices to track down an AirTag via secure BlueTooth signal. If you can't find a tagged object nearby, you switch to Lost mode, and an army of Apple devices will be recruited for the hunt. Tile offers a "Community Find" feature, but only devices equipped with the Tile App can join the search.
If you choose AirTag for a friend or family member, note that the AirTag's Find me feature only works with newer iPhones, starting with the iPhone 11.
OXO Good Grips Chef's Precision Digital Instant-Read Thermometer
You can spend a whole lot on a meat thermometer, and you can still wind up with something that looks more like it should be in the toolbox than in your kitchen. A happy medium, for price and aesthetics, is this OXO Good Grips thermometer.
If you swapped out your old vegetable peeler for an OXO Good Grips swivel peeler, you'll know how this company sweats ergonomics to get its usability right. Ditto for the thermometer, which features a pivoting head so that you can read the temperature at various angles.
Swidget Smart Controls
Winner of one of five 2022 Consortium of Energy Efficiency's 2022 best product awards, the Swidget is a versatile plug system with a growing list of snap-in components. You can snap in a dimmer or other control, but the game-changer here is the Swidget's wifi/USB insert that also supports IFTTT – as in 'If This Then That' control – designed so that the user can create applets to work with other IFTTT smart devices and services in your home to schedule, control, and monitor.
The wifi insert works with voice commands via Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and the USB port gives you smartphone charging without the need for that bulky charger.
MYSA smart thermostat
The smart thermostat has been an eye-opener for many British Columbians. The MYSA smart thermostat – from a Canadian company – not only allows remote scheduling via smartphone, it syncs with an app that provides a monthly breakdown of exactly how much energy you're using for heating. And if you have multiple thermostats, it can break that down to individual rooms or floors.
And yes, you can get a MYSA that's compatible with electric baseboard heaters.
One of our Team Power Smart members recently told us how their MYSA month-end report showed that their baseboard heating alone accounted for 90% of their total electricity bill during the incredibly chilly month of December 2021.
Health and recreation
Ohhh... yeah. Get the post-workout massage you crave without visiting the massage therapist. The Theragun Mini is designed for portability, ideal for travel or to toss in the tennis bag for a between-sets muscle massage. Plug it in for a charge that can last up to 150 minutes.
TRX All-in-one suspension training system
This one fits nicely under the tree. And while it's an exception on this list in that it isn't powered by electricity, it's a far better fit for your wallet than a mega splurge like a Mirror home workout system, a NordicTrack elliptical machine, or a Peleton bike.
This "whole-body" workout pack is for the person in your life who has spent a lot of time in the gym and craves the ability to do resistance and core training at home. The collection of suspension straps and 'hooks' for attaching to doors, trees, or outdoor posts is really about making the gym portable. It comes with detailed instructions on how to work TRX's seven foundational moves of pushing, pulling, lunging, hinging, squatting, planking, and rotating.
Learn more and see available options at trxtraining.com.
Sight and sound
Quality noise-cancelling earbuds don't just sound better in noisier environments. They're also better for your hearing, as cranking up volume levels to overcome the roar of cars on a busy street is a one-way ticket to hearing loss.
If you're looking at earbuds as a gift, start by considering whether the recipient is an 'Apple or nothing' person. If they're all-in on Apple's design and features, fork out the big bucks for the second generation Apple AirPods Pro. But if you think you can stray from Apple, there are some excellent options.
Popular rivals (but still very pricey) include Sony's WF-1000XM4 and Bose QuietComfort earbuds. On a budget? While the noise-cancelling isn't as strong as the leading earbuds we've covered here, the EarFun AirPro SV is a stellar choice for under $100.
65" Sony BRAVIA 4K OLED Smart TV
If you're lucky, you could win this TV as the grand prize in our fall contest. If not, and you're in for a splurge on a TV with mesmerizing picture quality, all the bells and whistles, and ENERGY STAR® rating for efficiency, move this BRAVIA to the top of the list.
OLED technology employs an organic substance as the semiconductor material in light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The result is what's now considered the best picture quality in a thin flat panel TV.
We love electric bikes, and we don't think it's any coincidence that B.C. – with 98% clean electricity and an abundance of bike lanes in our cities – has embraced them too.
One big player in the e-bike space is California-born Rad Power Bikes, known both as a pioneer and as an unabashed believer in sturdy bikes with fat tires that can carry a lot of stuff. The RadRunner 2 nails that space at a reasonable price – the base model is just under $2,000 – and offers cargo bike utility in a moped design. Bonus features on the new version of the RadRunner include a cushier seat, improved handling, and rugged, puncture-resistant tires.
Oh, and in case you missed it. It's built to carry up to 300 pounds of human and gear.
Enel X Way JuiceBox 48 electric car charger
A deluxe (and very smart) Level 2 electric vehicle charger for your home. EV equipment was a new category in the Consortium of Energy Efficiency's 2022 best product awards, and the JuiceBox 48 – up to nine times faster than charging an EV on your regular household current – was one of five winners.
It's also one of the chargers eligible for a new BC Hydro top-up rebate. We're offering additional funding of up to $250 for single family home customers who install an eligible JuiceBox smart charger. This is in addition to the existing rebate of up to $350 offered by the Clean BC Go Electric EV Charger Rebate Program.
The JuiceBox features weather proofing for outdoor installation, plus smart charging via an app that can schedule to avoid peak times of electricity demand. That would be the mid-evening on those coldest winter days in B.C. This charger can take a long-range (576 km) Tesla Model 3 from a 20% to 80% charge in about six hours.
Incredible Inflatable Aero Dancer STEM Experiment Kit
Inflatable tube dancers are having a big moment, thanks in part to the latest Jordan Peele film NOPE. But what if your kid could have one, and learn something at the same time? The Aero Dancer experiment kit has an assortment of STEM learning moments, thanks to an assembly that teaches the basics of gears and circuits, to physics experiments with air pressure, air flow, aerodynamics and fluid dynamics. And it's not just a dancer – activities include air basketball, a floating ball trick, and an air cannon.
Sillbird STEM 12-in-1 Education Solar Robot Toy
This robot kit gets raves from parents and tech reviewers for its quality and its cool factor. Kids of ages eight-plus learn to build 12 different robots with one Sillbird STEM kit, then watch them move with the power of the sun.
Shop around if you're interested in this kit, great deals off the regular retail price can be found.
The great outdoors
Solgaard Lifepack solar backpack
It's tough to say what we like best about this pack. Is it the fact that, unlike so many other packs, it has loads of storage slots of varying sizes (including secret pockets for passports and cards) to help organize your stuff? Or is it the fact that it's made of upcycled ocean plastics?
The big differentiator here is that the Solgaard Lifepack features a 15,000 mAh power bank that's charged by a solar panel and which also features wireless charging. That means you can use the USB port to charge your phone or, if you opt for the Lifepack with a Bluetooth speaker, to power music.
BioLite SunLight 100 portable solar light
We're all about the power of water, but there are times and places where there's no place to plug in. That's where solar-powered lights come in, and where the BioLite SunLight 100 really... umm... shines.
One side of the easy-to-carry BioLite is a large, square solar panel to collect the power of the sun. The other side is an array of LEDs you can select for various levels (and a rainbow array of colour options) of lighting. The built-in kickstand is great for angling the solar panels to catch the sun's rays at different times of the day, or as a stand for lighting a table top.
How long for a full charge? Seven hours in the sun gets it up to 100%, or two hours plugged in via USB to your car or home outlet before you hit the wilderness.
Tip! If you're there for the gift opening, let your recipient know they can exit the retail demo mode – an array of blinking colours – by pressing and holding the SunLight's button for 10 seconds.
Insta360 ONE X2 video cam
The venerable GoPro is no longer the only cool kid on the block. The Insta360 One X2's design and abilities makes it a huge challenger and a good choice for those who prefer its usability – and it's amazing slow-mo 360-degree Bullet Time mode – to the latest GoPro.
The camera has a load of great features, from a button that snaps panoramas without you moving the camera, to FlowState stabilization that steadies video while you're in motion, to its upgraded waterproofing to 10 metres depth. And the camera's Shot Lab tutorials ensure you're getting the most out of the technology.