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July 19, 2021  |  Electronics

Easy smart home upgrades

Smart home ideas

Sometimes it’s easy to think of a smart home as a big, complicated thing that requires time and expertise to set up, but the truth is, you can outfit your place with the best smart home devices in a matter of minutes. On top of that, they’re all easy to use. (They also add immeasurable convenience to your day-to-day life.)

Upgrading to a smart home can be as easy as screwing in a light bulb — literally — but that’s just the beginning. Here are the best places to start: eight ways to use smart home technology to turn your home into a personal oasis in no time flat.

Simplify cooking with a smart oven

This is one of our favorite new tech developments: smart gadgets that take the hassle out of cooking and deliver high-end meals at the perfect temperature. 

A smart oven is a must because it combines the simplicity of an Instant Pot with a touchscreen interface, healthy recipes, and heating technology that knows exactly when everything is ready. The game-changer here, however, is the versatility that smart ovens bring: They can handle fish, meat, pizza, veggies, and breads — and produce incredible results. Make frozen meals and processed food a thing of the past! 

Make life easier with a smart assistant 

Smart speakers are great, but if you like to cook, or you need a dead-simple, hands-free way to have video calls with friends and family, you’ll want to get one with a screen. 

Smart assistants with screens take the experience a step further: You can ask for recipes and get step-by-step video cooking walkthroughs, or instantly chat with a loved one face-to-face. All you have to do is use a voice command to ask. Truth be told, our favorite thing about smart assistants is how they fit in anywhere: Most people use them in their kitchens or on their nightstands, but we wouldn’t blame you if you wanted one in every room.

Use a smart garage door opener

A smart garage door opener might not sound like a big deal, but there’s nothing quite like the feeling of your garage door automatically opening up to greet you when you get home. Sure, the added security is nice: You can set your garage to automatically close if you accidentally leave it open, or even open it from your smartphone if you need to let someone in while you’re away. 

But the best part is seeing your garage open as you approach, or watching it close behind you as you drive away. (Pro tip: Installing or replacing a garage door opener isn’t exactly trivial, so we recommend working with a qualified contractor when upgrading.)

Upgrade to smart plugs 

If you’re interested in setting your lamps up with some smart lighting but you’re not keen on smart light bulbs, you can use smart plugs and control your lighting from your phone or use voice commands with a digital assistant. Smart plugs are the perfect way to make sure your lamps are included in your lighting scenes, and they make it easy to set up voice-activated routines. Our favorite starter routine: Setting it up so when you say, “Alexa, I’m home!” all of your lights turn on. 

Stay organized with a kids’ smart speaker

If you’ve got kids, consider getting them a kids’ smart speaker. You can use it to help them manage their daily routines with alarms and reminders while supporting their learning with educational apps. 

Kid-friendly smart speakers also come with built-in peace of mind: They include filters and parental controls, so you can curate their experience based on their age or needs. They’re plenty of fun, too (yes, Alexa will fart if you ask) — but our favorite feature? They keep kids off screens.

Customize your lighting with color smart bulbs 

Smart bulbs that can change color are fun for everyone, no matter what age. You can use them to turn a room haunted-house red for Halloween or bring a party to life with active patterns that continually change. There’s really no limit to the number of scenes you can create, and they’re also perfect for scheduled routines. 

Set your lights to cool, soothing tones, or use vibrant colors to change the look of a room entirely. Dial in new scenes from an app, or use a smart assistant to change the lights with voice commands. (Pro tip: If your WiFi network has a guest network, connect your smart home devices to that instead of your primary network so they don’t interfere with web speeds to your more important devices.)

Close your curtains from anywhere with a smart curtain motor 

While you can already buy motorized curtains, most are incredibly expensive, require their own remote controls, and must be purchased with window coverings themselves. Now, smart curtain motors are changing everything: They’re affordable, easy to set up from your smartphone and work with your existing curtains so you don’t have to completely redecorate. 

The smart tech on board is where it gets cool: For example, with the right smart assistant, you can create an automated routine to automatically close your curtains at sunset and open them at sunrise — which will also likely save you money on heating and cooling bills. 

Get a robot vacuum

This one is a no-brainer: Smart vacuums are affordable and handle everything from mopping to animal hair on their own. There are dozens of different models available, many designed for specific use cases, so even if you’ve got an unusual layout or pets that shed a ton, there’s a robot vacuum out there for you. 

 

Jaime Vázquez is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. 

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