Everyone and their mother is talking about “smart home” products, and you’re probably wondering if you even need that stuff. Smart tech was certainly a major topic of conversation at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year, so we know it’s more than just a fad for hardcore technophiles. But what does that mean for you as a consumer? Here’s what you need to know about smart tech, including how it’ll help you save money through smart home devices and appliances.
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SMART LIVING ROOM
These are the products that get the most time in the spotlight, so you’re probably familiar with a good chunk of them. The living room is the foundation of your home and will help support the rest of your smart home revolution with interconnectivity and convenience.
Any smart TV will do if you want a connected home theater experience, but picking out the right one for you can be difficult. Check out these articles on how to choose the best smart TV for your home theater setup and guides that will save you money and time spent in the store. As for how a smart TV will save you money? It’ll help you cut the cable cord (which can climb to more than $100 a month after all those promotional offers wear off) and get connected with your favorite shows online for a fraction of the cost without having to hook your PC up to your TV every time you want to watch something online. Having a smart TV also means you won’t need to get a Roku, Apple TV or other expensive streaming box because the TV comes with that built into it.
Smart sound systems are everywhere these days, and if you’re looking for something to play both your digital tunes and your TV audio, Sonos has you covered. It’s biggest downside is that you have to use its app for all your music needs, so if you’d prefer more freedom, go for something like this Sony Bluetooth sound bar. If you haven’t already kicked your CD habit (which you should because digital music is definitely cheaper and less wasteful), these digital solutions will help you consolidate your library and save you space in your home.
You’re probably wondering why you need “smart” lightbulbs and how that’s even going to save you money. Apart from being awesome, smart lighting solutions allow you to easily control a house full of lights with just your phone and a wireless connection, saving you money on your electric bill. You can also use your phone to dim them and use them to help you wake up or get ready to go to sleep. Philips Hue is a lighting solution and an app that lets you wirelessly control all the Philips Hue lights in your house (up to 50 per Hue hub) in a range of colors and intensities that you don’t even need to leave your seat to turn on and off.
Food management is difficult, from buying the right ingredients to making sure you use them effectively before they expire, and it can be a chore in itself just to keep track of all of it. These smart home technologies and appliances help you shop, cook and clean while saving you money.
If you’ve got the ambition and the cash to drop on a total or partial kitchen redo, then consider what smart appliances can do for you. The Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator is a thing of modern beauty, providing users with an inside view of their fridge when the door is closed using its app. This definitely helps you save money by knowing what you already have at home, even if you forget your shopping list. Aside from its convenient interior cameras, the Family Hub Fridge allows users to order groceries from its integrated touch screen and app functionality, which saves you money on gas and trips to the store.
If you’re not down to replace your whole kitchen piece-by-piece with new smart technology (or you’d like to ease yourself into it), try some of these accessories to save you money in the kitchen. The Bruno Smartcan is a trash bin that helps you keep track of your garbage. Using the Bruno app, you can check how many bags you have left (and conveniently order more) and remind yourself or family members to take out the trash on garbage day. It also helps with sweeping up with its vacuum feature that sucks up any debris swept in front of it. This product is definitely more convenience than money-saving, but it does keep you from buying too many trash bags by keeping track of how many or how few you have left.
U.K. company Firebox has produced a smart coffee machine called Smarter Coffee that allows you to control it from your smartphone and uses real beans, not cups or bags or whatever the other machines use that produce tons of waste and cost a ton to replace. You’ll need an outlet adapter to use it in the U.S., but that’s pennies compared to what you’ll save with your perfectly customized cups of coffee with no guesswork, no tossing out burnt beans and no wasted water.
SMART KITCHEN TOOLS
We all need a hand in the kitchen sometimes, and these smart devices are just the ticket for the busy home cook. Supermechanical’s Range thermometers are a perfect pair of oven-safe food thermometers meant for everything from pot roast to candy making. You’ll need an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to operate them, so Android users will need to use the alternative iDevices Kitchen Thermometer that can also be used for grilling. There are also smart scales that help you measure your ingredients and even adjust the recipe if you don’t have enough of something, like the Drop Scale by Adaptics. These tools are amazingly helpful for keeping waste and excess out of the kitchen, saving you money on grocery bills.
Automate EVERYTHING. Automate your sink, automate your soap, automate your toilet, even automate spill clean-up. Never do anything in the bathroom with your hands again (except wipe — they haven’t automated that yet). You can do a whole restroom remodel, or you can retrofit some upgrades to smarten up bath time.
Ever wondered what a smart toilet looks like? You’ll have to wonder a bit longer, as the technology hasn’t really caught up to integrating apps with your commode, but there are some touchless flush options that are easy to install. Kohler’s Touchless Toilet Flush Kit is one way to make your bathroom feel more futuristic, and it costs less than $100. How does that save you money? It’s more hygienic (fewer germs, fewer trips to the doctor), and it’s not you holding the flush lever down and using more water than you need when all you’ve done is no. 1. Need more water saving measures in your bathroom? Try the Eva Drop smart shower attachment that allows you to preset your desired temperature and will slow down or shut off water flow based on what you’re actually doing in the shower.
Bathrooms get dirty. Like, real dirty. So why not have a tiny, adorable robot clean it up for you? iRobot’s Braava mopping and sweeping robot is the cute solution to your messy bathroom problem. It even works with Swiffer pads, so you don’t need to buy from iRobot to replace the mop and sweep cloths. It can also clean the rest of your house, but I figured you might as well start with the bathroom (because bathrooms are gross, yo). So where do the savings start with this little robo-buddy? To start, you don’t need to spend time cleaning the floors because it’s doing that for you, plus the mopping and sweeping pads that come with Braava are reusable, meaning you don’t have to keep spending on disposable cleaning products. Just toss the mopping cloths in the washer and they’re ready to scrub your floors spotless once more.
While Braava mops the floor, mop your teeth with the slick Oral-B SmartSries electric toothbrush that connects via Bluetooth to your phone and tracks your brushing habits (which you can share with your dentist). If you’ve ever wanted highly detailed feedback on your brushing technique and skill, this is the perfect toothbrush for you. If you want something for the kids, try the Kolibree, which actually turns brushing your teeth into a game. The brush comes with an app that reacts to how your child is brushing their teeth and gives them points if they brush all the areas of their mouth properly and for the right amount of time. It’s kind of awesome. The money-saving side of fancy toothbrushes means (genetic factors aside) you’ll hopefully be taking fewer trips to the dentist for cavities.
From having your own personal sleep therapist to being awoken by the gentle hues of the rising sun every morning, smart home products in the bedroom can make your life much more relaxing.
Most smart technology is about tracking something, be it how good you are at running or brushing your teeth, and smart beds are no different. The Sleep Number SleepIQ technology that you can pair with any Sleep Number bed allows you to track everything about your sleep habits down to your heart rate, helping you figure out how to get better, more restful sleep. Fewer sleep deprivation-related ailments means fewer medical bills to pay, plus good sleep helps you balance your diet and weight and makes sure you make it to work on time.
Air quality is a big issue in many places, especially cities, so make sure the air inside your bedroom (and the rest of your house) is as clean as possible with Foobot, which is a smart air purifier that uses its sensors to detect factors that influence the quality of your home’s air. Not only can you monitor pollutants, the Foobot app will give you tips to improve the air quality in your home, which has a whole host of health benefits (and I don’t need to tell you how being healthy can save you money). And while the health benefits of aromatherapy are still up for debate, having a house that smells awesome is always a plus, so check out this variety of smart essential oil diffusers that will make your home a more pleasant place in which to live.
Get solar powered with many of these smart backyard tools and gardening accessories. If you do any kind of landscaping or gardening, these tools are perfect for you.
The Rachio Smart Sprinkler, which also integrates with the Nest and Wink home solutions, monitors the moisture of your yard’s soil to meter out the proper amount of water it needs to stay healthy. It can even predict the weather based on your location to prevent over-watering. The Edyn system is more geared toward the hardcore gardener, measuring moisture, soil nutrients and pH levels so you can keep a close eye on your delicate plants. You can use Edyn to track your plants individually with tips and notifications on their growth cycle, and Edyn provides curated collections to help you plan out your next garden plot. Eventually, the Edyn system will be able to run your irrigation system, too, but currently the water valve is in development.
A house isn’t a home until it’s intelligent, fully realizing its existence and contemplating its purpose in our world as a sentient being. Unfortunately, we’re not there yet, but you can still outfit your home with complete smart systems that help you save and make your life immensely easier.
TOTAL SMART HOME SYSTEMS
Nest has grown from a single smart thermostat into a triple threat of heating and cooling, carbon monoxide detector and camera system. Nest products sync up automatically with each other and can be monitored from an app, and the Nest system works with other smart, non-Nest products (like the Rachio Smart Sprinkler mentioned earlier). If you want added security with the Nest Cam, you can subscribe to Nest Aware for $10 or $30 a month (this is related to how much cloud storage you get) and get continuous recording, alerts and your video history up to 10 or 30 days. Aside from keeping you safe, the Nest thermostat can save you money on your energy bill by helping you more smartly regulate your heating and cooling in your house. It learns when you are and are not home and adjusts according to the parameters you set, turning off excess heating and cooling when you’re away and turning it on a few minutes before you get home so you arrive to a comfortable house.
An alternative to Nest is Wink, which actually works with Nest but has its own network of connected products (which actually overlaps quite a lot with Nest). The upside to Wink is that you don’t necessarily need a smartphone to control everything if you have the Wink Relay Touchscreen Controller. Both of these systems are awesome and give you access to a full range of interconnected products, which you can control through Nest or Wink. There are a few other total smart home systems out there, but these are the ones you’ve probably heard the most about. These systems help you save money by giving you ultimate, fine-tuned control over everything in your house that’s connected to them, right down to the light bulbs. (Philips Hue works with both Nest and Wink!)
When you start your own shopping spree, be wary of products that call themselves “smart” or show up in smart tech searches but are really just fancy with no online or app integration. Watch out for concept products, too, especially ones that seem too good to be true, and ask for investments or crowdfunding. I’m not saying they’re all shams, but be discerning! If you’re looking for other ways to save money, check out our “Creative Ways to Lower Your Utility Bills” article.