The 18 Things You Need to Have a Smart Home
Looking to maximize your home’s potential while doing as little work as possible? These smart devices will change your life.
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Why going “smart” is a smart idea
We’ve all heard the term “smart home,” but what does it actually mean? According to Mark Spates, Senior Product Manager and Smart Speaker Product Lead at Google Nest, what gives a home smart status is technology—specifically its connectivity and automation that stems from ambient computing. “Ambient computing is essentially the idea that we always have access to the information and content we need and have tasks completed on our behalf, like getting directions or checking in on your family,” he explains. Most important, ambient computing means all of our devices work together to provide us with the help we need without much effort on our parts.
This cohesiveness should ultimately make your life easier. “We think of a smart home as one where technology saves you time, gives you peace of mind, and helps simplify routine tasks,” adds Nathan Smith, director, smart home at Amazon. We can pick smart home devices that best fit our home and lifestyle—whether that’s a smart doorbell that lets us know the kids are home safe from school or a smart a vacuum that lets you clean without leaving the couch. And because of that, you’ll use them every day, unlike this smart home device that people don’t trust.
So, where should you start? Spates recommends building your system with a smart speaker or display. From there you can add devices, such as smart lights, plugs, thermostats, sprinklers. “The sky really is the limit in creating a helpful home,” he says. These are the best smart home gadgets that will give you digital control over your entire house.
Smart WiFi: Eero
To have a truly smart home, you need to start with a killer WiFi system, something Spates refers to as the “backbone of a smart home.” Unfortunately, the routers provided by your Internet service usually don’t effectively spread a signal throughout your house, especially if it’s large. What you want is a mesh router, a system of routers that connect to each other so there are no dead zones. Eero, which was recently acquired by Amazon, replaces your router with a primary Eero router. Then, you can add as many smaller routers throughout your home as you please. The result? Seamless Internet throughout your entire house—and even your garage, attic, and guest house, if you’d like! Check out these 15 smart home devices that are worth every penny.
Smart System: Amazon Echo Show
Every truly integrated smart home needs a hub, and two currently dominate the market: the Amazon Echo Show and the Google Nest Hub. Both are great, but ultimately, you should choose the one that works best with your other smart home investments. If you’re an Amazon aficionado, techies have been hailing the new Echo Show 5 as the “best Echo device to date.” It’s compact, with a 5.5-inch smart display, and affordable—especially considering all it does. What is that, exactly? The integrated smart display lets you watch videos, movies, and YouTube videos, gives you control over all your smart home devices, and, of course, offers you an opportunity to chat with your gal Alexa. However, if you want all the bells and whistles—like being able to video chat with people who also have the Echo Show and listen to tunes on top-notch speakers—you should stick with the original. Or should you get the Amazon Dot instead? Read this to find out.
Smart System: Google Nest Hub
The Google Nest Hub allows you to control other products in your home—from locks to lights—with your voice or the Google Home app. “You can also control things like room temperature and ask questions, such as: ‘When’s my meeting with Chris?’ or ‘How long should I brew my green tea?’” says Spates.
Voice match technology helps smart speakers recognize household members, then personalize answers accordingly. Other features show you your spoken commands (so you know Google heard you correctly) or deftly walk you through a recipe from popular cooking websites. This hub also works seamlessly with Google-supported smart home cameras and video doorbells to display their camera feeds onscreen. Do you need another reason to invest in a smart home? Read about how setting one up can actually increase the value of your home.
Smart Lock: Yale Assure Lock SL
Keys are so last year. The Yale Assure Lock SL is a secure, key-less solution for anyone who doesn’t want to carry a key—or distribute keys that can be lost or stolen. Sleek and low profile, the touch-screen deadbolt lock can be easily integrated into your smart home with a $50 network module. It is easy to install and works on two AA batteries. But don’t worry: It has a backup system in case the batteries unexpectedly run out of juice! A smart lock isn’t the only thing you need to keep your house secure. Here are 20 home security secrets you need to know.
Smart Air: Airthings
When buying or selling a home, many people are shocked to discover they have radon in their living spaces. This is scary and also potentially dangerous. In case you didn’t know, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths for non-smokers in the United States, killing 21,000 per year. Airthings is a simple clean-air solution that detects radon and other air pollutants—such as CO2 (carbon monoxide) and TVOCs (total volatile organic compounds)—in addition to monitoring air pressure. View your readings on the app and act accordingly. Clean air is that simple!
Smart Sound: Sonos Beam
The Sonos Playbar may be the gold standard of smart home acoustics, but the brand’s more reasonably priced soundbar, the Sonos Beam, is pretty darn amazing. First of all, it works seamlessly with the whole Sonos system, ensuring surround sound in any room of your house. Just add a few Sonos One speakers wherever it makes sense. Second, it has the smarts of Amazon’s Alexa, which means you don’t need a remote to adjust the volume. It also supports AirPlay 2, Apple’s streaming technology. And lastly, you don’t have to be super tech-savvy to set it up.
Smart Sound: Polk Audio Command
This Bluetooth-enabled sound bar may cost less than $300, but it doesn’t scrimp on sound. Alexa is built right into it, meaning you can shout demands like, “Turn up the volume!” to the device instead of your significant other. An added bonus? It has a built-in subwoofer.
Smart Temperature: Nest Learning Thermostat
Having the ability to regulate your home’s temperature with a WiFi-based thermostat is effective for a variety of reasons. For one, it can measure the current temperature in any room and adjust it accordingly. It also gives you the ability to control your home’s temperature from wherever you are. And ultimately, it can shave several dollars off your energy bill. According to a study conducted by Nest, this saved customers an average of 10 to 12 percent on heating costs and 15 percent on air conditioning. Just keep in mind that if you invest in the Nest Learning Thermostat, you should consider building a comprehensive smart home with other products from Nest, such as the Nest Cam and Nest Protect Smoke + Carbon Monoxide Alarm. Want to save even more on your energy bill? Here are 6 easy tricks.
Smart Memories: Aura
Gone are the days when you need multiple picture frames to display all your photos. The Aura is an easy-to-use, high-end digital frame powered by a seamless app. Just download the app on iOS or Android, connect your frame to a power outlet, and sync it with the app. Then choose all of your favorite photos off your phone or social media. You can create specific galleries or have the app create a smart gallery for you, choosing how quickly your photos rotate. Or, you can simply keep the same photo in the frame at all times. You can also connect your frame to your friends’ and family members’ phones, sharing photos to their galleries as well. There are also power-saving “sleep” and “wake up” modes, as well as an auto-dimming feature that self-adjusts to the light in the room.
Smart Art: Meural
The Meural Canvas is basically the Aura of the art world. Redefining the gallery wall, it turns any wall into a revolving art gallery, giving you the opportunity to display millions of dollars worth of artwork in your home—for the price of the frame and a $49 per year membership.
Smart Scent: Moodoo
Who needs candles and incense when you can infuse a room with the aroma of your choice via an app on your smartphone? Moodoo is an air-scent machine that works similar to a Keurig. Simply place fragrance capsules in the diffuser, and choose which one (or even a mixture of a few) you want circulating through your room. Within seconds, sweet smells will start permeating from the little machine. So which fragrance should you choose? These are the best fragrances for every room in your home.
Smart Security: SimpliSafe
According to the FBI, burglaries account for more than $15.6 billion in losses every year. A home security system can help to keep you from becoming a statistic. In the past, setting one up was complicated and expensive. SimpliSafe is the first-ever home security system that is entirely self-installed, customizable, with no long-term contracts.
Just purchase the package of your choice—which comes with things like the sleekly designed base station; a keypad that helps you arm and disarm the system; a key fob that lets you control the system remotely; and motion sensors, entry sensors, a video doorbell, and SimpliCam, their indoor security camera. Then, spend less than an hour installing it. No professional needed!
The system can be controlled by an app, which will alert you if there’s an intruder. However, customers do have the option of adding on a professional monitoring plan for $15 or $25 per month, which includes both police and fire-department alerts. There are several packages to choose from, but this eight-piece option will keep your home well-equipped and protected. Going out of town? Here are 14 things smart homeowners do before going on vacation.
Smart Clean: iRobot Roomba i7+
Here’s the deal: All high-quality vacuums are expensive. So if you’re going to spend the money on an efficient and effective vacuum, why not shave an hour or two off your weekly cleaning chores by splurging on a top-of-the-line robotic vacuum?
The iRobot Roomba i7+ is basically a genius. It features Imprint Smart Mapping, allowing you to label rooms and select specific rooms to clean. It automatically cleans itself, disposing of all that dirt and other icky stuff you don’t want to touch, as well as recharges itself. And it even features a High-Efficiency Filter that captures 99 percent of mold, pollen, dust mites, and dog and cat allergens.
If money isn’t an issue, check out the iRobot Roomba s9+. In addition to boasting a stronger motor than the i7+, it has wider brushes, a larger filter, a square front, and a new 3D sensor in the front of the robot that helps it get millimeters from the edge of the wall and deep into corners. Want to cut your cleaning time in half? Here are 16 genius cleaning hacks from professionals.
Smart Outlet: Kasa Smart WiFi Plug
When nearly 16,000 Amazon users endorse a product, you should listen. The Kasa Smart WiFi Plug gets rave reviews on the online retailer’s site, and it retails for under $15. Here’s why everyone’s obsessed, aside from the super affordable price tag: It lets you create a schedule to automatically turn on or off home electronics and appliances. You can control it with your voice through select Alexa, Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana devices, or use the Kasa app on your smartphone. Ultimately, it will make your life easier and save you money on your energy bill. What’s not to love about that?
Smart Light: Philips Hue White LED Bulb
Let there be (smart) light! Techies love the Philips Hue range of smart light bulbs, which offers everything from your standard indoor bulb to outside floodlights. The bulb works with Amazon’s Alexa to support dimming through voice control. However, if you want the full Hue experience (for example, to take advantage of voice activation), you have to purchase the Philips Hue Hub or have an Echo Show or Echo Plus.
Smart Camera: Nest Security Camera
Whether you need to keep an eye on your kids in the other room, see what your pets are doing when you’re out of the house, or want to make sure there are no intruders lurking nearby, a smart camera is an essential to any smart home. The Nest Security Camera works with Alexa and the Nest app and will alert you when any unusual activity or movement is detected. It also has a two-way microphone and speaker, so you can hear what your kids are chatting about or yell at your dog if you spot him chewing up your socks. If you’re using other Nest gadgets in your house, this camera is a must-have addition. Not sure where you should put cameras? Here are 10 places smart homeowners install security cameras.
Smart Doorbell: Ring
Keep unwanted guests out with the help of a video doorbell. The Ring, which has HD video and infrared night vision, is Amazon’s best-seller and retails for less than $100. It works with Alexa to illuminate and send announcements to all your other Echo devices when your doorbell is pressed or motion is detected. You can also see, hear, and talk to visitors through Echo Show or Echo Spot, your phone, tablet, or computer, as well as send alerts. It works on any home, with any existing doorbell and even without existing doorbell wires. It also lets you check in on your home, no matter where you are. And oh yeah, it includes lifetime theft protection, so if someone steals it, you will get another one for free.
Smart Surveillance: Ring Stick Up Cam
The Alexa-compatible Ring Stick Up Cam, one of the latest offerings from the Ring family, is a truly genius product. The small camera is battery operated (meaning no ugly wires) and will give you great visibility as to what is going on outside of your home, via the Ring app or on your hub. It also features a microphone, so you can have a conversation with whoever is close by. Even better? It is super easy to set up. Everything you need—including a USB battery charger—is in the box. Want to amp up your security even more? Add the Ring Alarm to the mix! Now, find even more smart home devices that are worth every penny.