Smart home devices have become mainstream in the housing market, on a spectrum between useful and frivolous in design, necessity, and usability. How is the discerning homeowner supposed to decide what smart home products are must haves and which have no place in the Amazon cart?
To help you make smart device decisions for your home, we’ve done some research to summarize what experts in the field report on these myriad devices.
Smart home devices fall into three main categories: security, savings, and convenience. We’ve targeted a few in each category for you to consider.
Increasingly cheap and small camera technology has resulted in a flood of security products. So many, in fact, that it’s overwhelming to decide on a security camera or door lock.
Wireless cameras for outside the home offer some protection from home invasion and theft (both by acting as deterrents, and providing evidence if something happens). It’s also nice to be able to see what’s happening down at the barn, or on other remote areas of your property.
Outdoor cameras are a great security tool— they require little effort to install and pay dividends in peace of mind. Some come with the option to pay for professional monitoring, and most of the newest designs can alert you directly via your cell phone if someone enters the camera’s field of view. This is also a great way to find out if a package has been delivered, or if a thief is trying to remove it from your porch.
Inside the home, cameras help you keep an eye on pets, kids, care providers, or aging loved ones. The smart features allow you to set up alerts so you’re in the know even when you’re away from home.
For a relatively inexpensive option, consider a doorbell camera that monitors activity on your front porch. There are a range of models and capabilities, many of which can now equal traditional mounted models for camera imagery and field of vision.
App-controlled door locks are another affordable, convenient feature. You can use them to let the kids in if they get locked out after school, or secure the door again if the dog sitter forgets to lock up.
Of course, the ultimate safety feature is fire protection, and newer smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors don’t even require you to replace the entire unit. Instead a WiFi radio inside a 9-volt battery can automatically connect with your home network and associated phone app.
Affordable Security Products
Arlo Baby Wireless Camera
Blink Wireless Home Security Camera
August Smart Lock to integrate with your existing deadbolt
Nest Hello Doorbell Camera
Nest Protect Second Generation Smoke and CO2 Detector
Smart home devices can be found for nearly every room of the house now, all aimed squarely at making your life easier. Alexa and Google Assistant are prime examples of devices initially seen as toys that have grown into heavily relied-upon conveniences in homes around the world.
Other versions have hit the market, but one thing is for sure: the personal assistant is here to stay. It’s no surprise really, considering everything these devices can do. Of course you can place an Amazon order verbally while simultaneously cooking dinner, and everybody loves being able to voice-command music, but personal assistants that link into your other smart devices can be a life saver, or at least a money saver.
Even while you’re away from home, your assistant can turn down the heat (oops, forgot when I left town!), turn lights on or off for safety, and integrate with your TV and other appliances.
Echo Plus (2nd Gen) for premium sound and smart system control
Samsung QuickDrive WW80M645OPM Washing Machine
Rheem Performance Platinum Hybrid Smart Electric Water Heater
GE Profile Series Dishwasher
D-Link WiFi Water Sensor
Speaking of lowering the bills, smart devices are leading the way in efficiency, which in turn means lower power and water bills. Appliances are big ticket items that require an investment and careful consideration, but there are many other products you can incorporate into the home with fewer dollars and easy swaps.
Smart thermostats are probably the easiest and most worthwhile smart home addition. Being able to set your thermostat to heat or cool at certain times saves money around the clock. Plus, you can control it remotely with a cell phone or personal assistant device.
Smart light bulbs are another intelligent investment, offering natural lighting at a fraction of the cost of standard bulbs alongside the convenience of centralized control. Even electrical outlets have made the smart leap, with plugs that monitor energy consumption and can be controlled remotely.
You’ll also see significant electrical and water savings with smart washing machines, water heaters, and dishwashers. And leak and water sensors could save you from the devastating expense of a flood in your home.
Ecobee4 smart thermostat
Philips Hue A19 smart light bulbs
Belkin WeMo Smart Outlet Plug
Whatever your budget and needs, there’s an app for that, and a smart device to go along with it.