As with every year, 2015 was full of interesting innovations and smart technologies that help us live a more sustainable life. This year, readers seemed to be drawn to stories about gadgets that could make their homes more self-sustaining -- hydroponics gardens and off-grid appliances -- and as usual, DIY gadgets were popular.
Take a look at the top 10 gadget stories of 2015 to see the year in review and catch up on some stories you might have missed!
The favorite microcomputer for tinkerers and makers finally got an upgrade and it did not disappoint. The new model has a 900MHz quad-core processor making it roughly six times faster than the original Model B, 1GB RAM, which is twice the memory, and is completely compatible with the Raspberry Pi 1 for all of those complicated projects you've been dreaming up.
This is just one of the hydroponics systems stories that caught your attention. The Grove is a bookshelf-sized growing station that has three levels: the top is the growing level, the middle a seeding station and the bottom is a fish tank. Together the sections create a full ecosystem that doesn't need much human intervention.
Instead of generating solar energy onsite with a solar array, a new solar delivery model, called SunPort, uses a small gadget that plugs into a standard wall socket and allows users to choose solar power on demand.
A helpful list of apps to help you stay healthy in 2015 was one of the year's most popular. Now's a good time to read it again!
This small counter-top dish cleaner was popular and controversial. Some of you though it was a gimmick, while others felt it was a step in the right direction -- getting us to think of new, electricity-free ways to get our dishes clean that also save water.
Derek wrote about this great nature app, "The next time you say "I wonder what that plant is?" you might not have to go too far to find out, because a new app from the makers of ZipcodeZoo will give you the tools to help identify thousands of plants and animals, using your location and the appearance of the species in question."
Nightlights tend to be popular posts and it makes sense. We all want a low-power and simple way to get around our house at night without having to turn on bright overhead lights. Derek reviewed the SnapPower LED guidelights and said it "is a pretty sweet solution for an energy efficient safety/guide light which doesn't require any rewiring to install or batteries to operate, and which leaves the outlets themselves clear for other plugs."
The Fontas self-filling water bottle is solar-powered bike accessory that uses a Peltier Element to generate water. It's essentially a cooler with two chambers that facilitates condensation, and takes in air as the bike moves, which is then slowed and cooled down by barriers that allows it to condense and form water, which is channelled and collected in the bottle. Pretty cool!
This tiny foot-powered washing machine had us all dreaming of a life where clothes washing could go off-grid with minimal energy on our part. The Yirego Drumi is 22 inches tall and spins a small load of clothing, water and detergent in the interior ball drum when the pedal is pumped. It can accommodate six to seven pieces, or 5 pounds, of clothing at a time, which keeps it from being a good substitute for a family of four, but it would be suitable for a couple living in a tiny home, camping trips, college students or anyone looking to run their machine less.
The most popular gadget story of the year was this DIY smart garden system that married two of our favorite things: hydroponics and Raspberry Pi. The Robotic Urban Farm System (RUFS), from Paul Langdon of BLT Robotics, calls for parts readily available from most hardware stores for building the growing system itself, and then integrates several Arduino micro-controllers and a Raspberry Pi for automation and monitoring of the system.