10 Smart Home Products You Actually Need
From the kitchen to the bedroom, here’s the tech that matters.
Thinking of all the smart home products on the market can make your head spin, so where do you begin when you decide to actually upgrade your home?
"Most people start with an assistant and look for something to work with it," says Grant Clauser, senior editor for audio, video and smart home at The Wirecutter. But that's actually backwards. To be most efficient, you should first create a task and then invest in an assistant to run it, meaning the Alexa you got for Christmas isn't living up to anywhere near its full potential yet.
But don't work, "there's actually a use for smart home devices in almost every room, including outside," says Brianna Jensen, ASecureLife.com's smart home expert. "The beauty of smart home tech is that you can spread it throughout your home and access and control it from anywhere." Clauser recommends concentrating your smart products in the rooms in which you spend the most time. For some families, that might mean smart speakers and light switches in the living room for movie night; for others, it might mean a team of smart appliances in the kitchen to make whipping up dinner easier than ever. So if you're ready to start making your home life run a bit more smoothly, these are the products you should explore.
Once you're cozied up with a good book and a mug of hot tea, the last thing you want to do is get out from under the covers to finish your going-to-bed routine. Clauser recommends installing a Wemo switch on your lights and fans to go from chill mode to sleep mode in just a few words-absolute bliss. And if getting up in the middle of the night to wage war with your spouse over the thermostat is getting old, Rebecca Edwards, in-house smart home expert at SafeWise.com recommends a smart thermostat to help you keep your home comfortable, manage your energy costs, and regulate different temps for different rooms to keep everyone happy.
These days, consumers are increasingly comfortable using tech in the kitchen. "I have a number of devices in the kitchen for controlling lights, and an Echo that acts as a timer or recipe source to make cooking easier," says Clauser. While you could use your smart home assistant to call up measurements and recipes, smart appliances like the Whirlpool(R) Connected Smart Range* store your favorite recipes on its easy-to-use touchscreen, responds to voice commands via your smart assistant, and lets you activate a Keep Warm setting so your dinnertime masterpiece isn't ruined while you're chasing down a homework assignment. Not the cook in your family? Whirlpool's(R) Smart Dishwasher* senses the size and soil level and automatically adjusts to get all your dishes cleaned in half the time. The dishwasher also integrates with Nest thermostats to avoid washing dishes during energy rush hours, helping this smart home upgrade pay for itself.
Movie night at your place? With smart devices, it's easy to build out a home theater setup that more than rivals your local multiplex. "If you want to be able to turn off the lights once you've already sat down on the couch, a Wemo or a Philips Hue bulb can do that for you," says Clauser, who also likes the Lutron Caséta dimmer system. Jensen says smart speakers are the fastest-growing category of smart home tech and finds them especially useful here. "Most people start in their living rooms with their smart speaker, in large part because it's a central spot in the home and where people spend a lot of time." The Polk Command Bar streams audio at the highest possible quality, and lets you use your voice to control Fire TV, connected smart home devices and the sound bar itself, making it the perfect upgrade.
Want real piece of mind? Invest in products that keep your home a safe space and deter unwelcome visitors. "I really like smart doorbell cameras, which let you screen visitors, interact with people who come to the house when you're not there, and help deter package thefts, which is a huge problem especially during the holiday season," says Clauser, who recommends the Ring video doorbell. Similarly, Edwards recommends a smart lockthat works with Bluetooth, mobile apps, or even fingerprints. "It's perfect if you have kids coming home after school, or if you have people like dog walkers that you need to let in, she says. Clauser's pick is the Kwikset Kevo lock.
If your heart leaps every time you pull out of your driveway and head off to the airport, smart home integrations were made for you. Smart smoke and CO2 alarms like the Nest Protect can send you mobile alerts if something is detected. "Even better, get a smart smoke detector that works with your home security system. This way, if you have a monitored system, you have a third party watching out for dangers -and they have a direct link to emergency services," says Edwards. Clauser also recommends placing an iHome Control Wi-Fi Dual Leak Sensor iSB02 under your sink, in your basement, or anywhere else you're concerned about water damage. "Water sensors can alert you to a leak under your sink or even from a fishtank-it's not exciting in and of itself, but it can trigger a text when you need it most," says Clauser.
*Appliance must be set to remote enable. WiFi & App required. Features subject to change. For details and privacy statement, visit whirlpool.com/connect.