Five cool uses to power your yuletide
At the end of the year, thoughts of gifts dance in our heads, whether for others or just treating ourselves to the achievement of being able to turn the page on 2021.
Electricity offers one way to brighten the choices as inventors and innovators keep coming up with new gadgets and gizmos to power our lives with efficiency and fun. Here are five electric ideas to add pizazz to your holiday shopping list.
- Healthy French fries?
Electric air fryers have been around since 2010, but their popularity started taking off about five years ago. As health-consciousness increased, people liked the idea of these cookers that could prepare traditional fried favorites with much less oil. Sales bumped up even more as the pandemic kept people at home and paying more attention to their cooking. Air fryers aren’t really fryers but high-heat convection devices that simulate traditional recipes like chicken tenders, egg rolls, potato chips, fried vegetables and apple fritters. A friend of mine calls his electric air fryer “the greatest invention of all time.”
- Hit the road
“Electric vehicles” doesn’t mean just cars and trucks anymore. The sidewalks of college campuses and downtowns are now shared with electric scooters. And if you’re having trouble keeping up with a bicycle-fanatic, an electric bike might help you scale those steep hills. You can go off-road with an electric All-Terrain Vehicle. If that doesn’t sound like it fits the idea of zooming through the woods, consider that electrics are a lot quieter, whether you’re out for hunting or bird watching. Wear a helmet and drive carefully—ATV safety applies to both gas and electric motors. And if you were born to be wild, you can head out on the highway on a battery-powered motorcycle—an electric Harley boasts instant 100% torque, electronic safety features and the ability to use your smartphone for checking battery status and stolen-vehicle tracking.
- Walk the talk
Walkie-talkies are one of those old technologies for staying in touch that still work great for businesses, conference coordination, or hiking and camping. They can help keep a caravan of cars and trailers together. Let the kids figure out games like hide-and-seek or scavenger hunts. There are even walkie-talkies in the shape of cartoon-character heads, and they can be as inexpensive as $50 for a set of four. Shop carefully and know what you’ll use them for—the range can vary from a half mile to 20 miles depending on the type of model, and whether they’ll be used indoors or outdoors.
- Easy reader
If being bent over a computer keyboard seems too much like work and you’re tired of squinting at the little screen on your phone, take a look at tablets. They come in a variety of screen sizes that make it easier to enjoy that magazine, detective novel, streaming movie or TV show or your computer game of choice. Most models come with the ability for you to write or draw on them.
- Packing power
A portable charger may be one of the least-exciting gifts you can give or get, but you’ll change that thinking when your phone’s about to die as you hike over a hill and see a sunset vista to photograph, or you’re at a concert and they play that song you wanted to record. A word of advice—charge it up the day before; the smallest ones for your purse or pocket tend not to hold a charge for the several weeks they sit in a drawer waiting for the next event.
Shop carefully and know how you want to use the device—they all come with a variety of features and prices. And be cyber-safe: anything connected to the internet can be hacked, so set a strong password. Then focus on having a blast.
Paul Wesslund writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56% of the nation’s landscape.