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Wireless wonders: Best home and garden gadgets

iStock_000000377198XSmall_ThermometerWinter.jpg

Temperature falls below zero, with lots of snow.iStock

For the tech-obsessed people in your life, there are a ton of great wireless gadgets that can make the home smarter and more efficient. These innovative gadgets can link the home to a smartphone or tablet, allowing you to give the gift of total control with a few swipes of the finger. Here are a few of the best wireless home and garden gadgets.

For the Weather Watcher

If there are loved ones in your life who always have the TV tuned to the Weather Channel, the Netatmo Personal Weather Station is the perfect gift. The wireless base stations monitor a number of variables, from basics like temperature and humidity, to more advanced metrics, like air quality and noise levels. This data gets beamed back to your smartphone or tablet, where the company’s app crunches the numbers, giving you an easy-to-read display, as well as graphs and alerts should conditions take a turn for the worse. The system comes with two monitors, one for outside and one for indoors, so you can even keep an eye on your indoor air quality.

For the Penny Pincher

The Nest Thermostat created buzz in the tech world when it debuted last year. Co-founded by Tony Fadell, the man behind Apple’s iconic iPod, the Nest’s sleek design made the humble thermostat cool. But it was the device’s smart features that really excited people. Unlike programmable thermostats, which require homeowners to create a complicated schedules to raise and lower the temperature throughout the day, the Nest uses a system of sensors track your daily habits, learning the best times to adjust the home’s temperature, saving you big bucks on your energy bills. And the Nest links up to your smartphone, allowing you full control over your thermostat when you’re away. The company recently debuted version 2.0 of the thermostat, featuring a slimmer design and improved compatibility, allowing it to work in 95 percent of homes with low-voltage temperature systems.

For the Environmentalist

A lightbulb might seem like a pretty bland gift idea, but the simple bulb is starting to become a whole lot more exciting. The LED bulb is the next big thing in energy efficient lighting, offering longer life than compact fluorescents, without the harsh glare of those bulbs. But that’s not what makes the latest LED lights so exciting. Philips Hue builds wifi connectivity right into the bulb, allowing you to control it from your smartphone or tablet. More than just a wifi controlled on/off switch, the Hue is a smart lighting system that allows you to control a range of settings. For instance, you can time the bulbs to turn on slowly in the morning, waking you up without the harsh blare of an alarm clock. Or change the light’s color -- a warm glow to read by, a soft blue while you watch a movie, or shift between purple, red and green to liven up a party.

For the DIY Pro

While cordless drills are nothing new, these portable powerhouses have been getting a serious upgrade in recent years. Drills have long relied on NiCad batteries, but now most tool makers are switching to newer lithium-ion cells, offering longer runtimes and up to 40 percent more power. In addition to new battery technology, offerings from DeWalt, Makita and Milwaukee also feature brushless motors, which cut down on the friction the drill produces, extending battery life and boosting their power.

For the Gardener

For the green thumb in your life who sometimes forgets to water regularly, check out a wireless watering system for the lawn or garden. The IrrigationCaddy uses a system of sensors to monitor moisture levels in the soil. Linking up to your home’s wifi network, the system can let you know when things are getting too dry, and you can even program it to start up the sprinklers when the lawn could use a little rain. Want to check in and see how things are doing? The system delivers a full report to your web browser, so you can be sure your plants are getting the proper love and care they need.