Energy Adviser: Energy-smart gifts are fun, practical and save money

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Other gift suggestions

Here are a few more affordable, safe and practical gift ideas:

Alarm clock with battery backup

Surge suppressor

Safety outage kit

Fire extinguisher

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Hand-crank flashlight and radio

Compact fluorescent light bulbs

Clothesline or freestanding clothes rack

Battery charger with rechargeable batteries

Flameless candle set that uses flickering LED lights

If you have some hard-to-buy-for folks on your holiday list, we're here to help you out. You could get Aunt Sally a sweater and Uncle Ed a pair of slippers like last year. Or you could give them one of these tools that will help them in their efforts to avoid wasting energy and money. These gifts, found at big box stores or online, keep on giving.

A great gift for parents and children alike are solar-powered Sun Jars. These jars, when left in sunlight, will use solar energy to charge their batteries. After collecting sun during the day, a light sensing device will determine when it becomes dark, and light up the LED bulbs inside the jar to emit a warm, cozy glow. These jars are perfect for garden lighting, parties, and kids' night lights. Sun Jars can be found online, with prices ranging from $20 to $30.

Get a specialized charging station for all of your mobile devices. Phone chargers left plugged into an outlet, even if they are not in the process of charging a phone, still use power. With the Belkin Conserve Valet ($40), you can charge all of your devices in one place and once they are fully charged, the power automatically shuts off.

Smart Strips are essentially power strips, but smarter. Priced at about $32, they automatically cut off electricity to printers, modems and wireless devices when a companion computer powers down, thus reducing "phantom" power losses. Smart Strips have four outlets that can be used as a normal power strip, so they can also be used for home entertainment centers that require plug-ins for video games, DVD players and game consoles.

Smoke pencils or smoke pens are a fun, useful way to determine where drafts and air leaks are coming from in your home. If you suspect drafts may be coming from the windows or doors in your home, pull the trigger on the smoke stick, which will release a harmless smoke. Watch the way the smoke moves to spot any drafts so you can seal the leaks. Smoke pencil or pen prices range from $25 to $30.

The Kill A Watt monitor plugs in between a wall outlet and the appliance or device being used. It will instantly tell you how much electrical energy is being consumed in amps, volts and watts. The Kill A Watt meter sells for about $22. You can also check one out at your local library or call us and we'll let you borrow one for a week or two.

There are many energy-efficient lighting gifts, such as emergency plug-in flashlights that activate when the power goes out; solar-powered yard lights; lights with motion detectors that only come on when they sense movement in the area; and Tiffany-style Energy Star decorative lamps.

The gift of electricity warms in a literal sense. Clark Public Utilities offers gift certificates that can be used to help pay electric bills or for any other services the utility offers. Call us or visit one of our offices to get yours.Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.