My Favorite or New Gadget or Gizmo

When I was Technical Director at Boardwatch Magazine I had a column called Gadgets and Gizmos where I wrote about where I wrote about our favorite, yes, you guessed it, Gadgets and Gizmos.

Many of us here have backgrounds in hardware, engineering, testing or just have unusual tools or equipment. I think it will be great to share some of the gadgets or gizmos we have and tell a short story about the equipment we have and use, whether it be a tool or device we use in our home. This can be test and installation equipment or weather and home automation equipment.

So jump in and give us a short story about what you have,


I picked up a few of these when they were on sale at Harbor Freight for $1.99 last month:

Best money that I ever spent…Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries :wink: aside.

With the promised Hub firmware feature to turn off the bright green beacon that guides me to the weather observer’s lounge in the middle of the night, I needed something to help me find the facilities in the dark…


I haven’t bought any new switch covers though I di need to replace all of them. I’m going screwless.

I did get a new Z-Wave board tobtestvfor my home-automation controller. Now hopefully all my Z-Wave devices will work properly.

The new board is installed and it only took 60 seconds to be back online.


Here is a cool gadget at a great discount.

Schlage Z-Wave Connect Camelot Touchscreen Deadbolt with Built-In Alarm, Satin Nickel, BE469 CAM 619, Works with Alexa via SmartThings, Wink or Iris

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Looks like a good place to store four Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA batteries! :rofl:

Seriously though, I’ve had the Apple HomeKit model of that lock for well over a year now. It is an awesome piece of hardware, and I like being able to unlock my front door from my watch…


As I believe that I have mentioned before, I just finished a self-installed central air conditioner system about two weeks ago. The unit is ducted, but based on ductless inverter compressor hardware.

The system came with a proprietary digital wired remote, as well as an infrared remote identical to the ones shipped with ductless units. The manufacturer also provides on/off dry contacts for use with an old-school thermostat, but strongly discourages using them for a thermostat since you will lose all of the benefits of the inverter compressor. In other words, the shiny Ecobee smart thermostat hanging on the wall for remote control of the baseboard hot water heat is not much use with the new AC unit.

The “attack vectors” for controlling the unit remotely are the IR interface, and a Modbus-type screw terminal interface for connecting to a commercial building controller that isn’t sold in North America. The manufacturer’s recommendation is a China-sourced wifi IR remote that they sell, with no integration into anything but their phone app. (Did I mention how much I loathe IR for remote automation, since it does not provide feedback that a command was received?) I am resolved to rolling up my sleeves to see if I can figure out the Modbus-type protocol on an Arduino or Pi, but needed something fast in the mean time.

Tado is having a clearance sale on their Smart AC controllers, since they are about to launch a new generation. The other option is $1.00 cheaper for a Sensibo, but my preference is for Tado because they are located and manufactured in Europe with no ties to non-existing privacy laws and cloud servers in China. It interfaces to all of the usual suspects, and there is a third-party HomeBridge driver available to let Siri control it.

In terms of looks, it blends into a white wall really well…until the LED display illuminates. Then, you are greeted with a grainy dot-matrix attempt at icons that will make you wish for a Davis weather console since its 1990’s LCD is more clear! :man_facepalming: In its defense, the Tado has a few capacitive touch hotspots, whereas the Davis will never have those.

The Tado unit comes with two control modes. In the simple mode (thermostat control), it uses its internal temperature sensor to turn the AC on/off via IR. This requires scanning only four settings from the factory remote - lowest/highest temp cool, and low/high temps heat. I will let you figure out how this is better than simply hard-wiring the Ecobee to the dry on/off contacts, since it looks like it will have the same problem of not utilizing the inverter compressor to save energy. The other mode (non-thermostat) uses the AC unit’s internal temperature probe, which makes the inverter compressor happy. To use that mode, one simply needs to sit in front of the Tado for an hour and a half pushing every possible temperature/fan/mode option into the factory remote to teach the Tado what it should already know out of the box. By the time that I finished, the first thought that I had was that it would have been faster to decode the Modbus interface than program the IR remote codes!

Long story short, I have the HomeBridge plugin set up, and Siri can control the AC from my watch. I am not ready to declare this my favorite gizmo right now, but will give it a few days to see if the IR loses sync or the unit annoys me enough to smash it to bits… :slight_smile: