We’ve been hearing for years about the idea of “smart homes.” It seems to be a given that our appliances will be “connected” and “smart” in the future, but it’s unclear exactly what that means.
We’re still in the early days of smart appliances, but a number of them are already on the market. Not all of these devices are winners, but a handful of them do come with some extremely useful features. The problem for anyone looking to upgrade their appliances is that it’s tough to know which smart devices are worth investing in now, and which ones haven’t proven to be useful yet.
To shine some light on this emerging trend, we’ve scoured the world of smart home products and hand-selected five of the best appliances that make good use of their connectivity. If you want to begin turning your regular home into a smart home, these products are a great place to start.
1. Nest Thermostat
Perhaps the best-known smart home device, the Nest Thermostat has earned its strong reputation by delivering useful features not available on any “dumb” thermostat.
So what’s all the fuss about? Probably the best thing the Nest does is that it doesn’t pester you. There’s no learning curve for customers, because the Nest thermostat does the learning for you. You treat it like a regular thermostat, turning it up or down depending on how comfortable you are in your home. The Nest then uses that information to heat and cool your home automatically based on your preferences.
In other words, you don’t have to do anything special to use the Nest thermostat. It learns what you want and then does it by itself. Not only does it let you stop fiddling with your thermostat, but it also saves you between 10% and 15% off your heating and cooling bills. You can buy a Nest right here.
And if you don’t have central air? Try this smart window air conditioner, which offers most of the same features.
2. Kwikset Kevo smart door lock
Using keys is so 20th century. This Kwikset Kevo deadbolt may look like any other lock, but it comes packing enough smarts to let you in with the touch of a finger — provided you have the Kevo app on your phone.
Using the app, you can unlock the door from anywhere, which comes in very handy if someone is locked out and you’re not around. You can even digitally send keys to guests, so they can come and go as they please, even if you’re away from home.
This lock has one more cool feature that shows off the futuristic possibilities of the smart home: The lock can tell your Nest thermostat when you come through the door, so the Nest can set the temperature to your liking right away. Buy a Kwikset Kevo smart door lock here.
3. Dropcam Pro
Whether you’re worried about burglars or you just want to check in on what your pets are doing while you’re at work, the Dropcam Pro provides you with powerful home security monitoring from anywhere. The device itself is a small camera that takes just 60 seconds to set up out of the box. You place it where you want to monitor, download the smartphone app, and you’re good to go.
On a technical level, the Dropcam Pro has a wide 130-degree field of view and built-in night vision, so the feed never goes dark. The app offers an array of features, including a 24-hour live stream feed, two-way talk, and intelligent alerts based on sound or movement. Basically, when you set up a Dropcam Pro, you’ll never miss a thing. Buy one here.
4. Nest Protect
From the makers of the Nest thermostat comes the Nest Protect, the smartest smoke and carbon monoxide detector on the market. For starters, it can notify you through an app whenever it detects smoke or carbon monoxide, or even when the batteries are running low. That means you’ll be the first to know if something happens while you’re away.
In addition to an alarm sound, the Nest Protect adds a human voice to let you know exactly what foreign element it’s detecting and where. This means you can just follow the directions and get out of the house safely in the event of an emergency.
Better yet, if you have a Dropcam as well, you can connect the two devices, and the Dropcam will automatically record and store video during any Nest Protect event. That’s the kind of device interaction the ideal smart home is all about. Buy a Nest Protect here.
5. Flux Bluetooth LED light bulbs
If you’re like me, switching off the lights before going to bed often means walking through the dark, tripping over a cat, spilling a glass of water, or stubbing your toe. Those days are over, thanks to this smart light bulb from Flux. Not only can you turn it on and off easily using an app, but you can also program the automatic lighting schedule of your choice.
Beyond that, these bulbs can light up in — seriously — 16 million different colors. But don’t worry, you can save your favorite shades for easy access. You can even set this bulb to change color in time with music, which is perfect for parties.
But to avoid bumping into things, my favorite feature is that you can climb into bed and use your phone to turn off the lights, no matter what room the bulbs are in. Buy some Flux smart light bulbs now. You can also check out Philips Hue smart light bulbs for similar features from a better known brand.