Energy Adviser: Geeky energy gifts on a budget

Looking for high-powered gift ideas for the energy geek in your world? Shock them with your creativity when they unwrap one of these bright ideas!For the detective in your crew, a thermal leak detector is a great way to go. With it, you can send your resident energy investigator off to find the heat leaks around wall plugs on external walls, doors, windows, dryer vents and the plumbing coming into your home. Of course, once these are found, it’s time to plug the holes and stop sacrificing energy to these hidden escape routes. And at just $30 to $50, the investment might pay for itself if leaks are found!Give the gift of automation! Local retail, big box and hardware stores are offering easy home automation upgrades that are simple enough to set up by the homeowner. At less than $40, they don’t deliver full automation, but they will allow control of some appliances and lights remotely. This type of gift is perfect for anyone concerned with home security, or for the more scattered who might appreciate the ability to turn off lights after they’ve already left home.With another snowy and windy winter on the horizon, gifts that afford safety and comfort in an outage are at the top of the useful-gift-list. Clark Public Utilities maintains very reliable service, but even the most meticulously maintained system can be hit hard in storms. When the power is out for a stretch, you may need to rely on portable lighting sources and chargers. Crank-powered devices need no sunlight or batteries. For under $50, the REI Ground Zero LED Lantern provides emergency light after you wind it up. It also recharges most smartphones, tablets, music players and e-books using a USB connector. A low-level indicator lets you know when you need to crank it up again.Manually powered radios also come in handy in emergencies. Crank radios start around $20 and can run up to $80 for features like solar power, USB-connections, and multiple bands.An emergency lighting gift also doubles for camping and hiking. The Lumenaid pack light is under $20. It’s solar powered and comes with five brightness settings. In low-mode, it runs 24 hours on a single charge. The pack light is collapsible, shatterproof, waterproof, dustproof, and easily goes anywhere — even under three feet of water. Like other camping lamps, it uses LEDs to help extend its light-on time.For friends and family on the move, consider a headband with multiple LED bulbs. Not only are they useful in darkness to find your way around hands-free, but for the crafty one or DIY-er who may need to shine a light on their work, a headlamp can come in handy for projects from needlepoint or knitting, to an under the counter plumbing repair.Smartphone chargers also make useful gifts. While standard ones are rechargeable from a wall outlet, solar chargers are available too. Starting in the $30 range, solar chargers can be both water and shockproof. If waterproofness is your main interest, look for one with rubber covers over all its ports. At least one available model comes with a built-in compass and flashlight if there’s an adventurer on your list. All have a USB connector for recharging phones and tablets.Energy geek or not, these useful gadgets are sure to be appreciated. Gifts that make homes more energy efficient and provide a level of safety during an outage are always in season.Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.