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Making Your Home Smarter

home tips Jul 26, 2016




Best Smart Home Hub

7/10VERY GOODREVIEW  $99.00  AmazonIf you have a wide variety of smart home gadgets, you’ll need a central system to integrate and control them all. While it has its imperfections, we found the Samsung SmartThings hub to be the best of the lot. It works with a wide range of devices and has a battery backup. Plus, Samsung will integrate this technology into its 2016 4K TVs, meaning you won’t need to plug yet another gadget into your router.



Best Smart Thermostat

9/10SUPERIORREVIEW  $249.00  Amazon

    Android, iOS


While there’s a lot of futuristic things about the Ecobee–such as its slick touchscreen interface–its best feature is something that thermostat makers should have thought about years ago: How to make sure all the rooms of your house are getting heated or cooled properly. A small wireless sensor gets placed in the room that stays chilly, and the thermostat will keep the heat on until it senses that room has warmed up enough. Now that’s smart.

Compared to the competition, the Ecobee3 also has the best overall feature set, and its mobile app worked seamlessly. It’s compatible with Apple’s HomeKit and the Amazon Echo, to name a few smart home systems. Also, the fact that I could get all of my rooms—not just one—to the right temperature makes all the difference.



Best Video Monitor

9/10SUPERIORREVIEW  $271.93  AmazonThe third generation of the excellent Dropcam, this $199 camera now shoots video in 1080p (up from 720p), and has a magnetic, swiveling base that lets you set it up almost anywhere. It features two-way audio, sharp night vision and a powerful digital zoom, and integrates with other smart home products, such as the Nest Learning Thermostat. But to really make use of Nest Cam’s features, you’ll have to shell out $10 or more per month for the Nest Aware program, which gives you access to cloud storageand much more.



Best Smart Speaker

8/10TOTALLY WORTH ITREVIEW $179.99  AmazonYes, it’s a Bluetooth speaker, but the $180 Amazon Echo has a number of voice-activated features that let you control a number of smart home gadgets, as well as connect to other smart home hubs, such as those from Belkin and Samsung. It can also read you audiobooks, check the weather, and even let you purchase things online just by using your voice. And, as a speaker, it sounds great, too.



Best Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Detector

9/10SUPERIORREVIEW US$34.99  RoostWhile the Nest Protect Smoke + CO2 alarm is great for those who want a 2-in-1 device that connects to several smart home devices, there’s something to be said for the Roost Smart Battery. This $35 gadget plugs into any existing smoke or CO2 detector and makes it a smart device. Now, when your alarm goes of, it will alert you (and others) on your smartphone, from where you can either call 911, or silence the alarm, in case a piece of burnt toast is to blame.



Best Smart Garage Door Opener

$85.95  AmazonSearching or reaching for that elusive garage door opener remote while trying to navigate a dark suburban street, toppled garbage cans or your kids’ toys – or your kids – often proves awkward and dangerous. Chamberlain’s garage door opener lets you tap your device’s screen to open or close your garage from anywhere. Soon, the company also plans to add geofencing capabilities so it can sense when you’re near your driveway to automatically open and, when your car is safely ensconced inside, close your existing garage door. Part of the Home Depot/Wink ecosystem and Apple’s soon-to-be HomeKit initiative, MyQ can control nearly every garage door opener from all the major brands manufactured after 1993.



Best Smart Home Lock

8/10TOTALLY WORTH ITREVIEW $223.00  AmazonThe SmartCode 916’s small size makes it less conspicuous than other locks, and allows you to use your old house keys if you want. Kwikset’s SecureScreen feature — which makes you punch in two random digits before entering your code — helps ensure burglars can’t guess your password by fingerprint smudges alone. And it has an alarm if someone tries to break in. The 916 lacks a standalone app, but can be connected to several smart home hubs via Z-wave or ZigBee. Overall, a great all-around lock that allows you to ease into the world of smart locks, “unlocking” its best features as you feel comfortable.



Best Cookware

6/10WORTH CONSIDERINGREVIEW $129.99  AmazonPart of the company’s WeMo wireless smart home platform, Belkin’s Crock-Pot (released spring 2014 in collaboration with Jarden Consumer Solutions) is the first smartphone-controllable slow cooker. Via the WeMo iOS or Android smartphone app, you can adjust the crock pot’s settings from anywhere, receive reminders, change the cook time, adjust the cooking temperature, use the timer to calculate cook times and process, or check the status of your dish so you can come home to a perfectly cooked meal.



Best Water Monitor

8/10TOTALLY WORTH ITREVIEW  $299  AmazonMore often than not, by the time you discover a water leak in your home, it’s going to cost a fortune to get it fixed. WallyHome helps you detect those leaks before they get serious. Attach its sensors to water-prone places like sinks and toilets, and if a drop of water falls, an alert is sent to the WallyHome hub so you can act immediately. Monitor your home 24/7 with the simple WallyHome app, which lets you set your own alerts and shows you all the locations of your sensors as well as the temperature and humidity in those areas. At $300, WallyHome is a steal compared to the thousands you could pay if your home suffers from a leak.



Best Humidity Monitor

$24.97  AmazonCondensation and mold – yuck – often form when certain rooms become too damp and humid. For just $34.50, the nearly invisible Leviton Humidity Sensor and Fan Control does what its name implies: a sensor detects excess humidity and automatically activates the already installed ventilation fan to help reduce condensation levels. You can set sensor sensitivity, humidity level and automatic timeouts to meet room-specific ventilation needs.



Best Light Bulb

$149  StackStack’s Alba Smart LED light bulbs are ready to react based on where you are. Using embedded motion sensors, the bulbs can detect when you’re in the room and turn the lights on and off. Inside is an ambient light sensor, allowing the lights to automatically change from a hard white to a softer white, depending on the light in the rest of the room. As an added perk, Alba bulbs work with Nest to keep the heat up when it senses you’re home during those blustery winter days.



Best Smart Home Controlling System

$149  NuBryteThe NuBryte console lets you make your home smarter on your own terms. This touch-screen panel replaces your wall switch, and, using a small built-in camera, will automatically turn the lights on when you enter a room. It can also be used as a security camera, and you can link two or more consoles to create a whole-home network. NuBryte has your back in case you’re running late. You can send a message to your home’s console from your smartphone so your family members know you’re on your way.



Best Bed

$1099.98  Sleep NumberForget fitness trackers doubling as sleep monitors — you want your entire bed to track your sleep. The Sleep Number c2 Bed with Sleep IQ monitors how you sleep all through the night by tracking breathing, heart rate and movement. With that data, it will give you pointers on how to improve your sleep quality and get some more shut-eye each night. And with the adjustable mattress, you and your partner can customize each side of the bed for the most comfortable night of sleep possible.



Best Refrigerator

REVIEW US$4,795  Best BuyThis connected refrigerator has everything but the kitchen sink. Its large touchscreen lets you view family members’ schedules, leave notes for each other, order groceries, play music, and even watch TV. Additionally, the fridge has three cameras on the inside, which take a picture and email it to you every time you close the door. No more guessing if you need a quart of milk while you’re at the store! Pricey, yes, but this is the most innovative fridge ever.


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