5 Gadgets to Protect Your Home This Winter

Man clearing snow from roof
Photo: Maria Dryfhout/Shutterstock

Everyone knows it makes planetary and fiscal sense to batten down the hatches in cold weather, but who says winterizing your home has to be boring? Check out these geeky gadgets designed to reduce your energy use while increasing your techno-cool quotient.

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Electronic pet door

Those pet doors with flaps might save you from getting off the couch to let Max into the yard, but they also spew hot air from your home. Plexidor Electronic, an electronic pet door from Pet Door USA, provides increased efficiency and security for your home. Pets wear a "collar key" to trigger the door (much like your key card lets you in the parking garage), which has a panel that panel slides up just long enough to let your furry friend in or out.

The collar key uses RFID chip technology, takes no batteries, and is waterproof. The door is made from the same material as football helmets, ensuring your home's security. Doors range from $129 to $800.

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Individualized vents

Ever been to a house where you can see your breath in the living room, only to cross into the bedroom and have your glasses fog from the swampy heat? Prevent unwanted temperature differences (and a constantly running furnace) with Activent. This wirelessly controlled, individualized vent system helps maintain a toasty temperature throughout your home.

Replace existing vents with Activents to create heating and cooling "zones," taking control away from the central thermostat. Each vent opens or closes depending on the temperature it senses for the individually controlled room. The vents are available in various sizes and cost $74.99 each.

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Motorized shades with timer

Daylight may be in short supply in the winter, but you can maximize its warming potential for your home even while you're at work. Motorized shades or shutters on a timer can be programmed to open and close as the sun peaks and sets. Wall switches let the homeowner control the window coverings at will.

Companies like NextDay Blinds can install blinds, shades or shutters that can be battery operated or connected to a power source. Blinds range widely, starting at $120 per window. Custom motorized blinds start at $200.

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Gutter-cleaning robot

People don't often think of their gutters when preparing their homes for winter, but last year’s Snowmageddon should serve as a reminder of the dangers of an ice dam and the risks of clogged water spouts.

Scared to climb up there and dig out nine months' worth of gunk? iRobot makes a product to do that for you. The Looj robot scoots along your gutters, plowing debris up and over the sides for you to rake up. For a greater geek factor, iRobot can package the Looj with a robotic vacuum, the DirtDog, which will clean your garage or basement floor for you while you browse the Internet. The Looj robot costs $150; the Looj-DirtDog combo costs $230.

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Draft detector

Don't just assume your front windows and doorframes aren't leaking hot air or letting the elements in. Your personal draft detector can use infrared technology to help you visualize your energy leaks. Most models can also be used to check the settings of your fridge/freezer or make sure the insulation around recessed lighting is installed properly for heat management and safety.

The $60 Black & Decker version looks and feels like a laser gun and lets you set the temperature difference as needed.