Home Hacks

10 Smart-Home Products to Improve Your Life—Not Complicate It

Let them work for you, not against you.

June  3, 2021
Photo by Rocky Luten

Let’s face it: technology malfunctions. Isn’t always when you’ve got to snap a photo that your phone simply doesn't to work? Or when you’re really jamming out to a song and your car’s Bluetooth connection loses the will to live?

Yep, it’s frustrating, and I’m the first to admit that adding more tech in your life means adding more troubleshooting. However (and this is a big however), there are some products that truly do ease certain parts of your life, instead of bringing more stress to them. Here are some of our most tried-and-true smart home devices that have never failed us.

1. Smart Home Hub

The home hub is the center of the smart home universe, and while you can certainly incorporate one-off products without it, having an Amazon Echo, Google Nest Hub, Samsung SmartThings Hub, or Apple HomePod makes the system smoother and easier to use.

I have an Echo Spot on my nightstand and an Echo Show in my kitchen. In my bedroom, Alexa turns my bedside lamp on and off, tells me the weather and news, sets my morning alarms, and when I need it, plays me soothing sleep meditations or thunderstorm sounds. In the kitchen, Alexa controls a number of lights around the house, sets timers while cooking, plays music or podcasts, and helps convert measurements for those who can't do math (me).

2. Smart Light Bulbs

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if you’re going to invest in any smart home accessory, let it be smart bulbs. Turning my lights on and off with my voice is truly one of the best things in my home, and I have multiple Philips Hue bulbs in various lighting fixtures in my apartment. Some have the ability to dim and change warmth, while others have the ability to turn a range of colors (in case I really need to turn the living room blue). They’re ridiculously easy to install too—just screw them into your light fixture and use your hub or connected app to add them to the network.

3. Smart Plugs

Plugs like these are probably the most versatile of all the smart home products as they turn any outlet into a voice and app-controlled outlet. My favorite application? Putting a timer on my window AC unit so my bedroom is already deliciously cool when I get home.

4. Streaming Video Device

I personally love my Fire TV, and I’ve had a number of smart TV devices over the years. The Samsung TV in my living room doesn’t have all the apps that I want (seriously, how am I to function without the Bravo app?), the Roku stopped working after only about a year, and the Apple TV—though highly regarded—is very pricey. The Fire TV I have in my bedroom has every single app I want (Netflix, Hulu, Bravo, Peacock, Apple TV, HBO Max—you name it), and has not failed me the past three years (knock on wood). I’d also highly recommend the Firestick, which I’ve had very limited issues with, if you’re looking to add onto an existing TV.

5. Video Doorbell

See who’s at the door without getting up, speak to someone through the intercom system (hello, delivery person), pull footage to rewatch, drop in on potentially suspicious activity, and get alerts to your phone when motion is sensed outside the house—all with a video doorbell. Now, some may say that this is too much information and they’d rather be blissfully unaware, but for many others, it actually brings peace of mind, especially when kids might be home by themselves. My parents have the Ring Video Doorbell and absolutely love it.

6. Security Camera

Similar to the video doorbell, adding a security camera like the Ring Floodlight Camera to your lineup might help you feel, well, secure. They capture video wherever you put them, send you alerts when movement is detected, and have an intercom function as well. Not only are these great for obvious security reasons, but my parents use theirs to watch the dog in the backyard and I have a friend who has set theirs up as a dog nanny cam inside their apartment during the day.

7. Tile Key Finder

If you’re someone who’s always misplacing your keys (aren’t we all this person sometimes?) this gadget needs to be part of your life. The small, tile-shaped tracker clips onto keys, backpacks, dog collars, or even children’s toys, and connects to the app on your phone so you’re always able to keep tabs on it. You can also use the app to make the Tile emit a sound if it's hidden under a pile of couch cushions so you never have to dig around for your keys.

8. Smart Smoke Detector

I don’t know about you, but the base model smoke detectors in my apartment are an absolute nightmare. Even with batteries that supposedly last 10 years, I’m always fiddling with them to stop the incessant chirping, and I’m seriously in the market for something more advanced. The Google Nest Protect comes highly recommended, as it is constantly scanning and monitoring your air quality, sending alerts to your phone and out loud when something might be up. It also has a night light with motion sensor to guide you through the dark hallway to the bathroom at 3 a.m.

9. Smart Thermostat

You know that awful feeling of waking up in the night, skin slick because you forgot to crank the AC up before falling asleep? Or, possibly even worse, snuggling under a blanket on the couch and wishing just a bit more warmth without having to leave your cocoon? That’s where smart thermostats, like the Google Nest Learning Thermostat, come in. Being able to tell Alexa to turn the heat up or open up your phone to cool the house down is truly a luxury like no other. Plus, this thermostat actually learns what temperatures you prefer and when, so falling asleep without turning the temperature down is no longer an issue.

10. Robot Vacuum

I cannot emphasize enough just how much I adore my Roomba. So much so that I wrote an entire ode to him. Sure, I still break out the big vacuum when a spill happens or the baseboards need some love, but by and large, the Roomba is one of the best investments I’ve made for my home in the past few years.

Which smart home devices do you have, that you find actually add to your life? Tell us below!

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.

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