Smart home products are sure to be on many holiday shopping lists. Are you interested in smart home technology but aren't sure where to begin? Are you shopping for someone else and need ideas? Maybe we can help.
Start with a need, not a product
A cool gadget can catch your attention, but the most highly prized products are the ones which solve real needs. "Smart home" covers a wide variety of applications - everything from controlling heating and cooling, programming lighting, providing security, and saving time and money.
The best way to start is think of a pproblem you want to solve. Do you travel for business and worry about home security? Perhaps you have a new baby and want to control when and how the doorbell rings as well as be able to see who's there without having to open the door. Do you want to protect your home from potential water damage? Do you when to see when your teens get home from school? (And who's with them???)
Consider security, comfort, and convenience
Most products fall into one of three categories: security, comfort, or convenience.
Connected security cameras from companies such as Ring and Nest can send custom alerts when they see people in or around your space. You can also use the applets from IFTTT (If This, Then That) to create other tasks. integrations like turning on a porch light when a camera detects someone in your backyard at night. Also in the security space are connected products like smart door locks and DIY options like creating your own connected baby monitor.
Comfort is another big driver with products ranging from simple smart thermostats like the Nest and Ecobee to a more robust smart thermostat that doubles as an entire home controller from Nexia. You can automate window blinds like the FlipFlic. Products like these can be easily programmed to maintain desired temperatures in your home while cutting energy costs.
On the information side of the comfort space are products like the Awair air monitor and Sleep Number C2bed—devices that track comfort-related data and send alerts to help users breathe and sleep better.
Connected light bulbs like the Philips Hue line or Lifx are great products for new smart home technology users. These products conveniently let you control lighting color and intensity from your smartphone, and trying out a single bulb is a relatively small and simple investment. Keyless locks and connected doorbells by companies like August and Ring are convenient but offer a practical value, too.
Amazon Echo. You know you want one.
When asked for their favorite smart home products, many experts recommend the Amazon Echo and its Alexa voice control. With Echo, you can use the Alexa App to connect services you already use like Spotify, Pandora, and Google Calendar. Setup your smart home devices from WeMo, Philips Hue, SmartThings, Insteon, ecobee, and more. See what books are available to read from your Kindle and Audible libraries. View shopping and to-do lists while on the go. Control your timers and set custom tones for your alarms, and much more.
If you’re not a fan of Amazon, Google’s Home is a voice-activated alternative, and Apple has its Home app
Don’t be afraid to experiment! LittleBits is one of several companies now offering smart home starter kits, It's a great way to see what you can do and have a chance to try out different technologies. If you have any trouble figuring out what to do, you can always resort to watching a YouTube video. Or asking your teenager...
I don't know about you, but I wasn't familiar with the Aerus brand. Turns out Aerus is the new (well, if you can call something that happened in 2001 "new") brand name for Electrolux, and they're offering a new laundry product, so you know there's a quality company behind the name.
I saw the product, LaundryPro, at a trade show demonstration earlier this year for, and I was fascinated. It's perfect for me - it doesn't use hot water, so I'll save money and it will be more gentle on my clothes. It doesn't use detergent, bleach, or fabric softeners, so I'll save time and I won't have to lug huge containers home from the big box store. It will help with that pesky mold problem common in front-loading washers, too.
Was it too good to be true? I bought a device to take home and test. The device hangs on the wall and connects on one end to your cold water line and on the other end to your washing machine. You do need a 110V outlet for power, and we had only one in the laundry room (why????), so I had our electrician add one.
So I've used the product now for about three months, and I love it. The clothes come out feeling, looking, and smelling so clean, and now I can keep the door closed (I used to keep it open to help with the mold. I've given away all my detergent and put duct tape (of course) over the washing machine's compartments.
It's easy to install if you're a DIYer (see the video below), or we're happy to have our plumbers do the job for you.