This morning I awoke to pictures of flooding in the Northeast, tales from relatives about power outages in the South, and worries about wildfire smoke in my neck of the woods. It’s clear that we can’t stop climate change, and in all honesty, there’s little individuals can do to protect themselves.
However, with some forethought and spare cash, there are devices that might make your life in these apocalyptic times a little more bearable. Let’s talk about some of them.
Air purifiers and air quality sensors: Ideally, you will have both air purifiers and air quality sensors so you know when your purifier needs to run and when it needs to work harder. On the sensor side, I’ve used the Purple outdoor air quality monitor (which is also part of a network that helps populate data for other apps, so I am helping the community), the Awair Glow, and the Airthings Wave. For purifiers, I’ve been using two different Coway devices (one of which is plugged into the Awair Glow so it turns on when the Glow detects a problem), and the Filtrete Smart air purifiers that have both a sensor and the purifier in one device. Expect to pay about $100 to $200 for the individual sensing devices and between $100 and $600 for the air purifiers, depending on how much air they move and how smart they are.
Smart sump pumps: If you have a basement you are probably familiar with a sump pump. But as my colleague Kevin will attest, they can fail, and they can do so at the worst possible time. That’s why he and I thought a smart sump pump would be nice to have in case of extreme flooding because you’ll feel more confident that it will work and can monitor it remotely as needed. Expect to pay about $450 for this option that can tell you before it fails. For optimum peace of mind you’ll want to pair it with the next item on the list.
Smarter batteries: One constant of wilder weather is power outages. Plus, during wildfire season some utilities are shutting off power to prevent stray sparks. This is where a rechargeable battery can come in handy. Having a “smart battery” that can communicate how much electricity is left, what’s charging, and how fast it’s recharging can come in especially handy. Some even let you prioritize how much energy you can use for certain outlets. Kevin recently purchased a $300 EcoFlow River battery that he can use to charge his devices or to brew a cup of coffee in the morning. For more money (a lot more) EcoFlow makes the Delta Pro, which can power your AC, or sump pump for a few hours if needed. It can also power your fridge for about a week.
Water monitoring systems and shutoff valves: There are several types of devices that can monitor your home for leaks, either with dedicated sensors placed on pipes or on the floor, or by using algorithms to measure how water flows through your pipes. These can come in handy in freezing weather, especially if it’s a sudden freeze in a place that doesn’t typically freeze, like Texas had happen earlier this year. People don’t wrap their pipes in Texas because freezes aren’t a threat, so when it did happen peoples’ pipes burst. The monitoring systems, especially the sensors that wrap around pipes and can track temperatures, such as this one from Resideo/Honeywell, can help. But ideally you’ll have a device that can shut off the water automatically when leaks happen. Phyn and Moen (Flo) make such devices. You’ll need a plumber to install them and they cost about $600-$800. You could also buy a standalone water valve controller for $150 to $250, but you’ll need to turn it off remotely whenever you think there’s a risk.
Low-cost drone: After crazy weather has moved through, whether it’s a hurricane, tornado, or even just random golf ball-sized hail, your roof may be in a shambles. This is where a low-cost drone can come in handy. You can fly one over your home to check out the roof and to look for any additional damage that might be worth noting. We’d recommend one of these options suggested by Wirecutter. Since Wirecutter plans to charge people soon, I’ll just tell you that as of November 2020 the site recommends the DJI Tello for $100 or the Snaptain S53 for about $65.
It’s also a good idea to have rechargeable lights and flashlights around the house as well as a water filter and a camp stove, but those don’t need to be smart. And if you want to help reduce your environmental impact, I recommend LED lights and smart thermostats, which can help reduce the overall energy usage in your home. But really, at an individual level, there’s not a lot you can do, so your best bet is to prepare for things to fail and hope you have devices that will help you see things through.