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Saturday, August 6, 2022

The 27 Best Smart Home Devices

When The Jetsons aired in 1962, a wisecracking robotic maid named Rosey seemed like something out of a science fiction novel. Fast-forward 60 years, and a robotic vacuum—with less sass—is just one of many smart-technology devices people have in their homes.

“Virtually everything in your home has the potential to become smarter,” says Ibrahim Mawri, a smart-technology expert and the founder of Electric Ride Lab, an education platform focused on green energy. “From your thermostat to your lights, everything around you could benefit from an upgrade to the latest technologies.”

Brian Harrington’s house is a prime example. Harrington, a product marketing manager for a bitcoin company, outfitted his home in Menifee, Calif., with an array of smart devices, including smart locks, cameras, a Roomba, an automatic pet feeder and a smart thermostat. He’s among a growing horde of smart home enthusiasts. More than half of U.S. consumers purchased at least one smart device for their home during the pandemic, a Xiaomi survey found.

Fortunately for budget-conscious consumers, smart home technology is becoming more affordable. “When I started covering smart tech in 2015, most smart home devices were luxury goods,” says David Priest, a smart-technology review editor at CNET.com. “Now the average consumer can purchase smart lighting for under $10 and even video doorbells for under $100.”

Smart tech can increase a home’s value, and some smart home products help trim utility bills. Seven out of 10 home buyers say they’re looking for a smart home, and 78% say they’re willing to pay more for a house with smart devices already installed, according to a recent Security.org survey. 

Ready to make your house smarter? We have ideas for each space in your home as well as smart ways to control your devices.

Editor’s Note: Most prices are as of early June and may have changed.

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Smart Devices Throughout the House

Lighting. A smart light bulb is a great product for smart home newbies, says Nicholas Millette, a smart home expert at The Home Depot, and the bulbs are cheap and easy to set up. A typical smart bulb lets you adjust a bulb’s brightness from your phone and program the light to turn on or off at certain times of the day. Brian Davis, a Philadelphia real estate investor and founder of SparkRental, a landlord-support software company, uses a Teckin smart bulb (starts at $11.50) to set the mood for intimate dinners at home. “When I cook a nice meal for my wife, I switch it to a low brightness, warm white setting,” he says. 

Thermostat. A smart thermostat gives you the ability to regulate your home’s heating and cooling and set temperature schedules using a mobile app, enabling you to maximize energy efficiency. It can also shave money off your home’s heating and cooling bills. Larry Snider, the vice president of operations at Casago Vacation Rentals, installed a Google Nest Learning Thermostat (about $249) in his Scottsdale, Ariz., home last year. “It’s been a game changer,” he says. “It optimizes the temperature in my home by regulating the AC and heat in the most effective way possible so that I’m not wasting electricity.” Snider says the device, which is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, saves him about $17 to $19 a month on energy costs.

Plugs. Wi-Fi-enabled smart plugs and outlets let you turn power on and off remotely. That means no more fiddling with switches when you’re ready to turn off your Christmas tree lights before you go to sleep, Millette says. Get started with the Wyze Plug ($20 for a two-pack), which not only works with the Wyze mobile app but also responds to voice commands through Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. 

Robotic vacuum. Less expensive than many competitors, the Roborock S7 ($650) is Priest’s pick for a robotic vacuum. Like a Roomba, it roams your home on its own, with no assistance needed. It scrubs floors with ultrasound to remove stubborn dirt, such as wine stains and muddy paw prints. It also cleans carpets without making them damp. The machine lasts up to three hours on a single charge, and it responds to voice commands via Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant. Alex Smith, a homeowner in Fremont, Calif., swears by his Roborock, which, he says “has been a major help going around picking up all the dust, dirt, debris and pet hair that make a mess at my place.”

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Smart Devices for Your Kitchen

Child in spacesuit costume interacting with a smart refrigerator

Refrigerator. The Samsung Family Hub 26.5-cubic-foot French Door Refrigerator ($2,800) has a lot of bells and whistles. With Amazon’s Alexa built in, this Wi-Fi-connected model features a touchscreen display that allows you to stream music and TV shows. It also has a camera that lets you see the inside of your fridge, so you can check its contents via a mobile app while you’re grocery shopping. It even recommends recipes based on the ingredients that you have.

Dishwasher. Equipped with special jets that clean hard-to-reach interiors of water bottles, vases and more, the 24-inch GE Profile Dishwasher ($1,449) connects to a mobile app, which lets you monitor the cycle status, check rinse-aid levels and reorder detergent. 

Faucet. If you don’t mind a bit of a splurge, replace your ordinary kitchen faucet with the Moen 7864EVBL Sleek Smart Touchless Kitchen Faucet ($519), and you’ll be able to turn on your faucet in four ways: by voice, by motion sensor, through an app or manually. It even follows voice commands for temperature and measurements—by saying, for instance, “Alexa, ask Moen to dispense one cup of hot water.” 

Countertop oven. The Breville Smart Oven Air Convection BOV900BSSUSC ($400) is a tricked-out smart oven with more than a dozen cooking functions, including an air-frying mode, a dehydrate option and a super-convection setting that reduces cooking time by up to 30%. Its Element iQ System uses algorithms to steer power to where and when it’s needed, delivering precise cooking temperatures in the right places.

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Smart Devices for Your Family Room

Amazon Echo device on a table

TV. There’s certainly no shortage of smart TVs on the market. CNET’s Priest suggests giving the 55-inch TCL 6-Series Roku Smart TV ($750) a close look. He says this model boasts “a bunch of high-end features for the price,” including 4K resolution, voice control and a game mode with great image quality.

Smart Hub. If you have multiple smart devices, you may want to purchase a smart hub. A smart hub is like a mission control center for your home’s smart devices. It ties everything together using one system, enabling you to command all your gadgets from one central interface, such as a touchscreen device or a mobile app.

Some voice assistants double as smart hubs. For example, the Amazon Echo (4th generation)—the top choice of Tom’s Guide—costs $100, while the Google Nest Hub ($60 for the second-generation model) is CNET’s top pick. Other smart hubs, such as the AEOTEC Smart Home Hub ($135), allow you to use voice commands with compatible voice assistants.

Some hubs have interactive features, such as touchscreen controls, while others are no frills. Bells and whistles such as built-in speakers and USB ports can also vary. And some hubs have a limit on how many devices they can support.

Most hubs are compatible with iOS and Android operating systems, but double-check before purchasing a hub to make sure it works with your smartphone and smart gadgets. Read customer reviews to gauge how easily a hub can be set up.

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Smart Devices for the Bedroom

Saatva mattress on an outside patio overlooking the ocean.

Mattress. A smart bed utilizes innovative features and functionality to provide a better night’s sleep. Some smart mattresses, though, cost $10,000 or more. The Saatva Solaire ($2,895 for a queen size) is an affordable option that ticks a lot of boxes. The mattress is topped with layers of latex and gel-infused foam that provide pressure-relieving support. It has 50 firmness settings and allows each partner to conveniently adjust the firmness of their half of the bed. The company provides a 365-night home trial.

Pillow. A smart pillow such as the EMOOR ($270) can also help you sleep better. Its built-in sensors monitor your heart and respiratory rates, sleeping hours, and toss-and-turn behaviors. That data feeds into the Sleepace app, which scores your rest and provides tips to get more zzz’s.

Headphones. SleepPhones ($100) are headphones in a soft headband that play audio via Bluetooth, allowing you to wind down while listening to your favorite tunes, soothing meditation sounds or an audiobook without disturbing your partner. This cord-free wearable, designed to be worn while you sleep, reduces ambient noise, including sound from traffic, conversations and snoring.

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Smart Devices for the Bathroom

Contemporary and stylish outside shower with background of black tile

Showerhead. Liven up your shower routine with the Kohler Moxie Showerhead ($129). The showerhead has a wireless, waterproof speaker that lets you listen to music, hear the news and more while you shower. Its Amazon Alexa–enabled showerhead removes easily for charging.

Scale. Smart scales measure a whole lot more than just your weight. CNET’s top-rated model is the QardioBase2 ($123). Each measurement gets sent to a mobile app that lets you view your weight, body fat percentage, muscle mass, water weight and bone-density percentage. The app also lets you set goals, and it calculates weekly targets to keep you motivated.

Toilet. The Woodbridge B0990S Smart Toilet ($1,522) has a built-in bidet. It has other nifty features, too, such as a motion-activated open-and-close lid, automatic flushing, a heated seat and a night light. It comes with a remote that can be wall mounted.

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Smart Devices for the Laundry Room

Stacked Samsung washer and dryer in a modern laundry room

Washer and dryer. With the Samsung WF45R6300AW and DVE45R6300W ($1,099 each), you get a stackable washer and dryer with the latest smart technology at a reasonable price, says Kimberly Holland, who tested the product for The Spruce. The Wi-Fi-enabled washer allows you to use your phone to control wash cycles and get end-of-cycle alerts. The dryer offers the same options for drying cycles, and it has multi-steam technology that smooths away wrinkles.

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Smart Devices for the Basement

Airthings air monitor device on a coffee table in a living room

Mold detector. Mold can cause a variety of health problems, such as stuffy nose, wheezing and red skin—and sometimes more severe reactions. But not all mold infestations are easy to detect, because some mold has no odor. The Airthings Wave Mini ($80) can help spot warning signs of mold by monitoring a room’s humidity and air quality. It’s best placed on an external wall, near the floor.

Water-leak sensor. This smart device can help prevent water damage by alerting you the moment that water is detected. The Proteus AQUO ($99) sends alerts by e-mail or text message. It’s easy to install—you simply plug the sensor into a wall outlet and connect it to your home’s Wi-Fi network.

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Smart Devices for the Outdoors

Man uses his smart phone to operate a Gardena robotic lawn mower

Robotic lawn mower. Hate the hassle of mowing your lawn? A robotic mower will do the work for you, but those smart mowers don’t come cheap. If you have a small lawn (up to 2,700 square feet), the Gardena Robotic Mower Sileno City ($597) might fit the bill. A boundary wire you bury or install with stakes (included) indicates which area of the garden should be mowed. Although this mower lacks GPS and Wi-Fi capabilities, it cuts grass evenly, and the company says that it can mow “small and complex lawns.” It uses collision sensors to ensure it operates safely, without causing damage to your garden or flower bed.

Grill. Up your barbecue game with an outdoor smart grill, such as the Weber Genesis EX-325s ($1,179). This three-burner natural gas grill has integrated smart technology that sends notifications to your phone when it’s time to flip burgers, steaks and other grub according to your desired doneness.

Security camera. Homeowners like Todd Saunders have discovered the inexpensive way to increase security. The CEO of FlooringStores, a site that matches consumers with flooring companies, uses a Ring security camera ($200) to see when packages are delivered to his home in Port Chester, N.Y. “I’ve definitely cut down on instances of porch piracy,” he says.

Door lock. The first thing Ashton Robertson and her husband did after buying a house in Corvallis, Ore., in March was install a smart lock on the front door that she could lock and unlock using her phone. She purchased the August Smart Lock ($199), a product that SafeWise.com’s safety and security expert Alina Bradford owns. “It works with the deadbolt you already have, so it has foolproof installation,” Bradford says. The August keypad costs an additional $60.

Sprinkler controller. Keep your lawn lush with a smart sprinkler controller, a gadget that lets you control your watering schedule. Consider the Rachio 3 ($196 for a eight-zone unit), an easy-to-use sprinkler controller that adjusts watering based on weather forecasts. Its internal software can also create tailored watering schedules based on your lawn’s specific needs, factoring in your soil, plants and sun exposure.

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