Q: Are Wi-Fi smart thermostats really worth the money, or are they just a come-on to people who can't resist the latest gadgets?
A: These thermostats let you remotely control your home's temperature through a computer or smartphone. They allow you to do things like adjust the heat/air conditioning when you're at work to save money and then turn it back to normal while you're on your way home, so by the time you walk in the door, your house is perfectly comfortable.
For someone as involved with technology as I am, I have not made great efforts to automate my home. I do have an Amazon Tap that I use with Alexa Voice Assistant, but other than a few lights, most of my home operation is old-school. I figured that if I got to the point where I had to replace my thermostat, I probably would get a Wi-Fi smart thermostat, but until then, I was of the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mind-set. Admittedly, part of my hesitation was the price. My research showed the better ones cost $250 or more, and less expensive models had mixed to middling reviews.
Recently my thermostat started acting up. It was time to take the plunge and get a smart thermostat, and I was ready to spend that $250 to get a good one. I made an appointment with an electrician and started cramming on the subject of smart thermostats, seeing if I had missed anything in my prior research.
And that's how I discovered the ecobee3 Lite Smart Wi-Fi Thermostat (ecobee.com). My digging uncovered nothing but praise for it, from reviewers and users alike. And it's only $169, so I ran out and got one in time for the electrician to install it. This is one purchase I was satisfied with and excited about from the moment I started using it, and I realized that it was something I should have done a lot sooner. I was actually glad my hand was forced by the malfunctioning thermostat.
The ecobee3 lite has a colorful, responsive touch screen display that is mirrored on the smartphone app, making it easy to use when home or away. You also can monitor and control the temperature in multiple rooms by using optional remote room sensors, which are $79 for a two-pack. Though I decided on a professional installation, the company says it can be user-installed and includes detailed, simple directions.
The pricier models do offer extra advantages, including Alexa Voice operation, but I am content with the $169 model.
Q: Can you recommend a good-quality pocket camera? I can spend up to $500.
A: The compact camera market is dwindling because of competition from smartphones, but your budget will get you one of the best pocket cameras ever made. The Sony RX100 (sony.com) typically sells for $448-$499 and has a large 1-inch, 20-megapixel sensor. The RX100's still and video image quality is top-notch, and I've been contentedly using one for years.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.