15 Smart Home Devices That Are Worth Every Penny
Tech experts dish on the genius products that might just change your life. They’re easy to set up too—if you can use a smart phone, you can have a smart home.
A socket like no other
If you’re looking to get your feet wet with smart home devices, the WeMo Mini Smart Plug is a great option. “This is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to branch into smart home tech,” says tech consultant Stephanie Duchaine Montgomery. Simply plug it into an outlet, and you can control any device—lamps, fans, curling irons—from your phone anytime, anywhere or by using Alexa. The “Away Mode” turns on and off lights in your house randomly to make it seem like you’re home. Check out these other ways to make it look like you’re home and fool burglars.
See clearly who’s at the door
Security is a leading area for smart home devices, according to tech expert Lance Ulanoff. With Ring Video Doorbell, just ask Alexa to see who’s at the door, and know right away when packages have been delivered or guests have arrived. With Ring Video Doorbell’s motion sensors, you can choose to receive an alert to your phone if someone approaches your house and communicate with any visitors who ring the bell. One advantage over similar video doorbells: It can be battery-powered, so it’s no problem if your doorbell isn’t hard-wired.
Keep an eye on your home inside and out
The Nest Cam Indoor and Nest Cam Outdoor cameras offer continuous video recording, send you alerts when there’s motion or unusual sounds, and allow you to speak directly through their microphones to scare away intruders. All three also work with Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant. These little mistakes could make your home vulnerable to theft.
Stay comfortable and save
Want to lower your energy bills? Of course you do. The Nest Thermostat E saves households $131 to $145 a year, based on typical energy usage. Nest allows you to set different temperatures for when you are in or out of the house, and to make adjustments with your phone or by using Alexa. It will even turn itself down when it senses you’ve left the house—by tracking your phone.
A thermostat you can talk to
The Ecobee4 thermostat works much like the Nest thermostat but with one major difference: It has a built-in Amazon Alexa voice command, so even if you don’t have a separate Alexa device, you can tell the Ecobee to adjust temperatures or even give you the news or order groceries. Here are more things you didn’t know your Amazon Alexa could do.
Check in on your pet
What’s Fido doing all day while you’re away? You’ll know for sure with the Furbo Dog Camera. Live streaming video lets you watch your pet’s every move on your phone and receive alerts when there’s barking. The Furbo will even dispense treats and allow you to say “good dog!” through a two-way audio speaker.
Get more out of your fridge
The Samsung Family Hub refrigerator does way more than keep your food cold. It allows you to create shopping lists, order groceries, and share schedules and send messages to family members all from the large touchscreen on the fridge door. Not sure if you have enough milk while you’re at the grocery store? See what’s inside your fridge right from your phone. You can also stream music and sync with your Samsung TV to keep watching a show while you fix a snack. “This is a little bit more of an investment, but for busy families, it can make a huge difference,” says Montgomery.
Never vacuum again
The first popular robot vacuum is still the best. And the latest model, the Roomba e5, has overcome the drawbacks of previous versions: Its multi-surface rubber brushes are less prone to getting clogged with hair, and the super-powerful suction and high-efficiency filter trap dirt and allergens like never before. And of course, you can control the Roomba from an app on your phone when you’re out.
Make laundry (at least sort of) fun
Want your clothes to come out clean in less time and get an alert when your wash is ready to dry? The LG Smart Wi-Fi Enabled Front Load Washer takes up to 30 minutes less to do a standard load, removes up to 95 percent of pet dander, and uses steam to get clothes clean and fresh. Pair it with the LG Smart Wi-Fi Enabled Dryer, which you can also control with your phone. It senses the moisture level to determine the optimal drying time, gets wrinkles out of clothing, freshens non-washable items, and more. Both are compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Check out the 14 facts everyone gets wrong about Alexa.
The smartest smart assistant
Proving that good things come in small packages, the Alexa voice-command enabled Amazon Echo Plus can play your favorite songs, make phone calls, research information, order a pizza, and control Alexa-compatible smart home devices. Get cold at night? Program a Routine to raise the temperature each night and never worry about having to get up to adjust the thermostat. Take your Routine a step further and have Alexa turn off the lights too at your ideal bedtime. Alexa’s large ecosystem of compatible options beats out other assistants like Google Assistant, according to tech and security expert Craig Peterson. Don’t miss these things your smartphone knows about you.
You know to use LED bulbs to save energy. Now take it to the next level with the Phillips Hue Light Bulbs. Put the bulbs in your lamps, connect the Hue bridge to your wi-fi router, download the Hue app on your phone, and you can control when and which lights go on and off and dim them—all without having to get out of bed or off the couch or when you’re not home. For security, you can set it to turn lamps on randomly when you’re away. It will even let you use your bedside lamp to wake you by mimicking a sunrise.
No more surprise water leaks
The Flo water detection system gives you peace of mind in case a pipe bursts, a tub leaks, or your basement gets flooded during a storm. In fact, 60 percent of users discover a leak they didn’t know they had when they install Flo. It monitors your water use, identifies leaks, and sends alerts to your phone when there is a problem and automatically shuts off the water for you.
Home assistant that shows and tells
The Amazon Echo Show is everything you love about your Amazon Alexa but with video capability, so you can ask Alexa to show you a recipe, watch live TV and sports, or see who’s at the front door. You can even make video calls with loved ones, simply say “Alexa, call cousin Emily” to be connected with a family member who lives across the country. You can also enable “Drop-in” for your closest friends and family. Just say, “Alexa, drop in on my daughter” to start an instant video call.
Your own personal irrigation expert
Never get a dry patch of grass on your lawn again. The Rachio Smart Sprinkler lets you input plant type and sun exposure to give your yard the optimal water it needs. In addition, its Rachio Weather Intelligence feature automatically adjusts your watering schedule based on local weather conditions, so if rain is in the forecast, your Rachio will water less. Rachio is good for your wallet too, saving you up to 50 percent on your water bill. It works many smart home platforms, including Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Beware: these are the things that could be spying on you in your own home.
A gorgeous lawn, the smart home way
Why spend a perfectly nice summer day mowing your lawn when the Robomow RS612 can do it for you? Like the Roomba for your floors, the Robomow “reads” the perimeter of your lawn and automatically cuts grass to your desired height. It can handle slopes of up to 20 degrees and switches off when it’s done. It’s quiet too. No need to worry about it when you’re out, as you can control the Robomow right from your phone. Use the time you’ve saved to start that beautiful garden you’ve been dreaming out. Next, don’t miss the 40 coolest tech gifts you’ll want to keep for yourself.
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