Now that smart home devices are becoming more affordable and easier to install than ever before, you might want to expand your own home’s collection of smarter technology. We decided to comb through the products on the market and recommend the best smart home devices to help you make your life easier, safer, and more energy efficient.
Forgetting your keys is a huge hassle, and that nagging worry about whether or not you locked the door when you left on vacation can ruin an otherwise relaxing trip. A smart door lock not only keeps your home safe—it gives you quick access and lets you rest easy.
Some smart locks look like regular deadbolt locks but with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi capability. Other locks have touchscreen keypads to give you a high-tech look and the convenience of a backup code. You can set your lock to sense your smartphone so it automatically locks the door when you leave and unlocks it when you get home. You can also set rules for your lock, like programming it to arm your security system whenever the door locks. And you can control your lock remotely, so you can lock or unlock the door for a neighbor, whether you’re across the world or snug in your own bed.
If your household is like most, your kitchen is probably a common gathering place, so it’s a perfect location for a smart speaker like an Amazon Echo or a Google Home. These affordable devices can help you operate other smart devices in your home using voice commands, but they also offer nifty features all on their own. If you’re baking and you use the last of the sugar, there’s no need to stop what you’re doing to make a note. Simply say, “Alexa, add sugar to my shopping list.” The next time you’re at the store, pull up the Alexa app on your smartphone and you’ll see everything you’ve added to your shopping list.
You can also use your smart speaker to play music, make phone calls, listen to news, check the weather, help you get answers to important questions (“Alexa, why is the sky blue?”), set timers, play games (Jeopardy is one of our favorites), and more.
Turning lights on and off isn’t exactly a major inconvenience, but smart bulbs offer quite a few surprising benefits for your home and your wallet. Smart lightbulbs last ten times longer than regular bulbs, and they only consume 8.5 watts of electricity as opposed to the 60 watts eaten up by conventional bulbs.
Smart lights like Philips Hue lightbulbs are easy to install—it’s as simple as changing out a lightbulb. Once your new light is in, you can use your smartphone to change the color, dim it to your desired brightness, or have it turn on and off at certain times of day. The scheduling option puts your lighting to work as a safety feature as well, because having lights turn on and off throughout the evening can trick potential burglars into thinking someone is home even when the house is empty.
Bathrooms and Bedrooms
If you’ve ever been halfway to work and wondered if that flatiron is still plugged into the outlet, you might be interested in learning more about smart outlets.
You can use your smartphone to control power to a smart outlet, making smart outlets like the Conico WiFi Smart Plug an inexpensive, energy-saving device for any room. If you don’t want to swap out your regular lightbulbs for smartbulbs in bedroom lamps, smart outlets are another easy way to give you smartphone control over your lights. And if you connect the outlet to your smart speaker, you can enjoy the convenience of voice-activated light and appliance control.
If there’s one good reason to make our homes smarter, it’s to protect our kids. Smart video monitors have progressed quite a bit from their grainy beginnings. Nowadays, they’re hi-tech marvels that not only offer live video but can also provide night vision, two-way talk capabilities, temperature sensors, and even sleep tracking for your kiddo.
No more rushing into the nursery at the first sound of crying—with smart video monitoring, just pull up the app on your phone and take a peek into the nursery. You can check on your baby and see if they need your help or if they’re just fussy and trying to settle down. As an added bonus, you can use saved video footage to capture great shots of your little one and share cute moments with family and friends.
You open the washing machine to put in a new load and the odor of mildewed clothes hits you: you realize you completely forgot to switch the previous day’s wet load to the dryer. You sigh, restart the washer again, and hope you don’t forget it this time.
If this sounds familiar, a smart washer could be the perfect solution. Smart washers not only alert your smartphone when they finish a load and remind you to switch it to the dryer, but also sense the size of the load and adjust the detergent and water levels accordingly.
Smart washers like the LG TurboWash have even more handy features like specialized cycle settings and a speed-wash setting that only takes fifteen minutes. Another great feature is the LG SmartThinQ app and its ability to communicate with the washer to help you troubleshoot problems and come up with a diagnosis—potentially saving you some pricey service calls.
One of the first smart home devices on the scene was the smart thermostat. And while it may be old news, it’s still one of the smartest investments you can make for your home. You can program your air conditioning and heating systems to use less energy during certain hours of the day, like while you’re away at work or while you’re sleeping. You can also program the thermostat to know when you leave the house by attaching rules to it like, “If the security system is set to ‘away,’ raise the thermostat to eighty degrees.” A smart thermostat is a truly convenient way to save time and money—and leave a lighter carbon footprint.
The Nest Learning Thermostat is one of the best on the market, and it can also serve as a hub for your other smart devices. It’s easy to use, and its motion sensor detects when people are around, so it even does some of the programming for you by learning your normal daily schedule. The first few weeks after it’s installed, you can manually adjust the temperature to your comfort level, and after that it will use the patterns it detected during the learning period to start adjusting the temperature automatically.
Anyone who has ever dealt with a basement flood due to a burst pipe or a faulty water heater knows that it’s not easy to recover from. Smart moisture sensors (also called flood sensors or leak sensors) can help you worry less and may even stop a leak from turning into a flood.
Placed near the floor, these sensors can detect the presence of water and alert your phone. More importantly, they can be connected to other smart devices in your home, like your main water shut-off valve, and automatically send an alert to shut off the water in case of a leak. You can also connect the sensor to your smart lights upstairs, setting them to flash if a leak is detected, so you’ll be alerted to a problem even if it happens in the middle of the night.
Like a front door lock or a heat styling tool, a garage door is another part of your home you don’t want to worry about when you’re out and about. A smart garage door opener with Wi-Fi lets you see if your door is open or closed, and you can operate it remotely from anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection.
You can also set it to alert you when the door opens and closes, so you’ll know when family members come and go. Some smart garage door openers can even serve as a hub for other smart devices in your home.
Do I need a SmartThings hub to use SmartThings products?
While a SmartThings hub is ideal to ensure a smooth installation and setup of your SmartThings home devices, it uses Zigbee and Z-Wave protocol. That means other hubs that use those protocols can also work as the brain of your smart home. Whenever shopping for new smart devices, it’s always a good idea to check their compatibility with what you currently have in your home.
What is the best smart home hub to use?
It’s a matter of personal preference and compatibility, but if you’re starting from scratch, we like the Wink Hub 2. It supports several different protocols, including Zigbee and Z-Wave, making it compatible with a wide range of smart product lines (including Ecobee, Philips, Nest, Schlage, Yale, and Chamberlain). If you already have at least one smart device in your home, keep in mind that it may be able to do double duty and also serve as a hub for other devices. Amazon Echo and Nest Thermostat are two examples of smart devices that are also hubs.
If I’m just starting out with smart home devices, which should I get first?
Here at SafeWise, safety is our top priority, so we recommend starting with smart security products. Most smart security systems can double as a smart hub for your home, so they’re a great place to start. Check out our Top 3 Smart Home Security Systems Available Right Now for our most recommended systems.
The best thing about smart devices is the opportunity to make your home work for you, whether you’re at home or away. Imagine coming home after a long day at work, having your door automatically unlock when you approach, your security system disarm, and the lights come on, welcoming you in with a warm glow. The temperature is just how you like it, and you ask Alexa to play some soothing music while you relax. When it’s time for bed, a simple voice command locks the door, arms the security system, and turns out the lights, and you can rest well knowing you’ve built a smart home system that fits you like a glove.
How We Chose the Best Smart Home Devices
To bring you information about the best smart devices for your home, we researched the wide range of smart home devices available, talked with smart home device experts, and drew on our own experiences with smart technology. Visit our methodology to learn more.
Written by Kasey Tross
Kasey is a trained Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) member and a freelance writer with expertise in emergency preparedness and security. As the mother of four kids, including two teens, Kasey knows the safety concerns parents face as they raise tech-savvy kids in a connected world, and she loves to research the latest security options for her own family and for SafeWise readers. Learn more