Tech to Get You Through Winter Weather

Tech to Get You Through Winter Weather

Depending on where you live, you might be dealing with some unpleasant cold weather lately. (If not, I’m a little jealous of you.) As always, many of us are dealing with dropping temperatures, freezing rain, blizzards, or a little bit of everything winter has to offer.

There’s a lot that goes into things like weatherization and car care, so of course, this article should act as a supplement to the basics. Specifically, in this article, I’ll be sharing a few ways you can use tech and the internet to make it through winter!

First things first: focus on safety

The most important thing to remember during inclement weather is that you should always stay focused on safety. There are some suggestions in this article that are mostly for convenience or money-saving. However, you should always carefully look into safety tips for different situations.

To go over winter weather tips, take a look at the National Weather Service’s Winter Resources.

For your home

Reduce energy
You might want to consider how you can best save energy while keeping warm in the winter. There are many things you can do to cut back on energy use. One way you can reduce energy is by upgrading your thermostat.

For instance, one affordable thermostat is Lux’s Programmable Thermostat. This thermostat doesn’t have a ton of bells and whistles, but it’s helpful because you can program it to change the temperature while you’re away. It can also be set to turn the heat back up at a certain time, so when you get home, the temperature is comfortable again. This way you don’t have to worry about wasting heat for hours every day.

If you have more money to spare, you can also try one of the popular smart thermostats. One option is the ecobee4. It’s much pricier, but you can do additional things like change the temperature from an app and use its integrated Alexa voice control.

Cuddle up
You can keep extra warm with a cozy blanket. Maybe you have roommates who aren’t as bothered by the cold, or maybe you just like to curl up under warm blankets. Either way, an electric blanket might make winter easier to endure.

Sure, electric blankets aren’t new tech. But there are better options than there used to be. For example, Sunbeam has a queen size electric blanket that is designed to actually be comfortable while also letting you set the different sides of the blanket at different temperatures, and it has an auto-off feature.

If this is a bit too costly, there are cheaper options available. Just make sure to buy from a brand you trust, and always use an electric blanket as intended to avoid accidents!

Prepare for power outages
Aside from the usual preparations, make sure you have a way to keep your devices on if the power goes out. You might just need or want an inexpensive, low-power battery pack. Or you could look into full-blown backup generators.

You can find small portable chargers for just a few dollars. Aibocn has one for just under $10. If you want more than just one or two charges from your battery pack, Anker has many portable batteries available. Their 20100mAh battery pack can charge some devices up to 7 times from just one charge of the pack.

Consider everything you’ll want to charge during a power outage, and then consider purchasing a battery pack that can charge what you specifically need.

For traveling

Clear your windows
If your windshield is frozen over, you can use a variety of products to melt the ice and scrape it off. If you want to potentially make things even easier, try adding a new device to your collection. There are ice scrapers available that plug into your car’s lighter outlet and heat up to help melt the ice while you scrape.

One example of this is Zone Tech’s Ice Scraper. It’s heated, uses a squeegee to clear away water, and is designed to avoid scratching windows. Launch Innovative Products has a similar heated ice scraper. This one also has a light so it’s easier to see while you’re scraping.

Warm your seat
If you get out early in the morning, you might have come to dread sitting on your car seat because it gets so cold. Some cars come with heated seats, which is great, but if you have an older car (or don’t have the money for actual heated seats), you have options. Specifically, you can purchase heated seat covers.

There are quite a few of these products on the market, and many of them are reasonably priced. A good example of this is Wagan’s Heated Seat Cushion. The seat cushion is held down with straps, and it’s powered by plugging it into your car’s lighter outlet. You can even add an adapter for extra when you buy it, letting you use the seat cushion other places, like at your desk.

If price is less of an issue, there are also heated cushions with more features. SNAILAX has a seat cushion that can heat and cool, so it works year-round. It also plugs into the lighter outlet, and this cushion automatically turns off after 30 minutes, helping prevent things like overheating.

Keep your drink warm
Warm drinks are important during the winter, especially if you have to leave the house to go to work or run errands. Whether you’re drinking coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or any other hot beverage, it can sometimes be difficult to keep them warm after leaving home.

Naturally, there are products meant to help combat this issue. The electric mug from GEEPIN is one option. It’s a thermos that plugs into your car’s lighter outlet and keeps the liquid inside it hot. You can also just use it as a kettle and make drinks with it on the go. It seems to heat quickly and get hot enough to take care of those icy winter days.

You might also consider a cup warmer. If you enjoy stopping at a coffee shop to pick up a drink, you can keep it warm with something like the Auto Cafe Take-Out Hot Cup Warmer. Like many of the devices mentioned, it’s powered through your lighter outlet. It fits the typical cup of coffee, plus it only turns on when a cup is placed in it, and it turns off once the cup is removed.

For your devices

Get weather alerts
Making it through winter is a little easier if you’re keeping up to date with the weather. Sometimes, despite checking the weather regularly, something can be missed or come seemingly out of nowhere. Weather alerts are a great way to overcome this issue.

There are many ways to get weather alerts. If you already have a weather app on your device, you probably already have access to alerts. Apps like Accuweather and Weather by WeatherBug have options in the settings to get severe weather alerts. If you have a weather app, check the settings to see if you have this option.

There are also apps that specifically cater to sending weather alerts. There’s AlertsPro, which uses the National Weather Service to provide warnings and alerts. Then there’s NOAA Weather Radar & Alerts (by Apalon Apps), which can even let you get alerts for numerous different locations.

Check in with friends and family
If there’s been a serious winter weather event in your area, your friends and family might be worried about you. If you have the Facebook app (or access to Facebook some other way), you may be able to easily let everyone know you’re okay.

If enough people let Facebook know about a serious event that’s occurred, their Safety Check will be activated. This feature is found in the “Crisis Response” section on Facebook. This feature lets you check in and say you’re okay.

Of course, the situation has to be extremely serious, and Safety Check might not be activated even if you’re in danger. In this case, you might consider simply posting on Facebook that you’re safe and then tagging specific friends and family in a comment to the post. It may not be quite as effective, but it can get some peoples’ attention.

Make a shopping list
Shopping to prepare for a winter storm is usually not particularly fun. Stores can be chaotic if winter weather is coming. One way to get in and out more quickly is to make an easy-to-follow shopping list beforehand.

A shopping list app can be particularly useful. You don’t have to carry paper and a pen, plus you can quickly add and remove things as you need to. Try using a popular app like List Ease (for Android and iOS) or Grocery iQ (for Android and iOS).

9 Alexa Skills You Should Enable

9 Alexa Skills You Should Enable

If you have an Echo, Echo Dot, Kindle, Echo Show, or any other Alexa-capable device, you probably already know that there are a lot of different ways you can take advantage of Alexa’s capabilities. With products like the Echo Dot making Alexa more and more easily available, and with the recent rumors about the upcoming Fire TV devices, it’s a good time to look into some of the fun, interesting, and downright useful skills that can be enabled on your Alexa devices. Alexa can answer some basic questions and say (or sing) a lot of funny things, but these skills will make you even more happy to have Alexa as your friend.

Bird Song

Bird Song lets you ask to hear certain birds, ask for a random bird, and ask to play a game to identify bird songs. Bird Song currently has 4.7 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Curiosity

Curiosity offers interesting pieces of information on many different subjects. Asking Alexa to “open Curiosity” prompts the skill to offer two random categories you can choose from. After you answer, Curiosity will tell you something interesting about that subject. Curiosity currently has 4 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Ingredient Sub

Ingredient Sub helps people in the kitchen by providing helpful tips for ingredient replacements. If you get halfway through a recipe and suddenly realize you’re out of eggs, you can ask Ingredient Sub, “What can I substitute for eggs?” Ingredient Sub will list options you can choose from. Ingredient Sub currently has 3.7 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Jeopardy!

Jeopardy! is just what one might expect, and it’s a lot of fun. Every weekday, the Jeopardy! skill provides an extra clue from each of the day’s different categories. The skill is complete with the sounds you know from watching the show. The skill lets you know how you did that day, and it also tells you how you’ve fared over the week. Jeopardy! currently has 3.4 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Meditation Timer

Meditation Timer offers three different soothing sounds that are helpful for meditation. After you open the skill, you can tell Meditation Timer how long you would like to meditate. A gong will sound, and one of the three sounds will begin to play. If you want to switch to a different sound, you can say, “Play next.” The three available sounds are forest, rain, and surf. Meditation Timer currently has 4.1 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

NASA Mars

NASA Mars gives you a chance to find out what’s going on with Mars and listen to rover updates. You can ask general questions about Mars, and you can ask what the rover is currently up to. NASA Mars currently has 4.4 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Radio Mystery Theater

Radio Mystery Theater is one of many skills created by Appbly.com. This particular skill lets you listen to CBS Radio Mystery Theater dramas from back in the day. There are many episodes to choose from, so you’ll have plenty of entertainment. (You might also check out other similar skills like Radio Dimension X and Radio Suspense.) Radio Mystery Theater currently has 4.2 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Weather Sky

Weather Sky is a great way to get more out of your weather reports. Weather Sky can give you a very detailed report for your current location or any other location in the US. You can also ask for past and future weather information, and a fun little addition is the ability to “change the weather” by asking for weather like rain or wind (unfortunately, it does not yet have the capability to actually change the weather, just play some sounds, but I can only assume the technology will get there someday). Weather Sky currently has 3.8 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Yes Sire

Yes Sire is an intriguing and fun adventure game you can play just by enabling the skill. You play as a medieval lord who is given a series of questions that determine your success throughout the game. You have to think carefully about your choices when presented with different scenarios. If you are careful in your strategy, you will do well, but if you aren’t paying close enough attention, you won’t last long in the game. Yes Sire currently has 4.9 out of 5 stars in the Alexa App.

…and much more

There are also plenty of specific skills run by different companies that let you do things like check your credit card balance (skills like Amex and Capital One, among others), call a ride (Lyft and Uber), and order food (like Domino’s or Starbucks Reorder). You can also often find your own local news station available to add to your news briefing. Whatever your interests, there’s a growing number of skills available.