Do you want to make your home smart, but feel dumb when you research what to buy?
The number of smart home devices has increased dramatically in 2017 as Amazon, GE, Google, Samsung and others are innovating on ways to simplify and automate homes. However, the proliferation of devices and standards can be confusing to a consumer, so the research team at OhmHome has reviewed and summarized the best smart home gadgets in 2017.
We also recommend Amazon’s free in-home smart home consultations, which the company began in April of 2017 (conducted by Amazon employees – think GeekSquad).
Best Home Energy Monitor
As electricity prices have increased and solar and electric vehicles become more popular, many consumers are considering adding a home energy monitoring system. These devices provide real-time visibility into energy usage and some provide more granular appliance level data.
Although home energy monitors may seem expensive at upwards of $400 for models with solar capabilities, when used properly they can save up to 30% of energy costs, so can pay for themselves in less than a year if you have an above average utility bill.
The CURB Home Energy System monitors six dimensions of real-time energy usage data at 8,000 times per second and comes with 18 dedicated hardware sensors for accurate appliance-level data.
CURB is WiFi connected and comes with a smart phone app that provides information and control of appliances via Samsung’s SmartThings API.
Best Smart Speaker
The Amazon Echo is much more than a speaker – it uses Amazon’s artificial intelligence technology Alexa to answer questions related to the news, traffic/weather, local businesses and message friends and family.
In addition, the Echo can be used to control hundreds of smart home devices or smart home hubs including lights, fans, switches, thermostats, garage doors, sprinklers, locks and more.
It is compatible with WeMo, Phillips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, Nest, Ecobee and others.
The Echo has seven microphones and beam forming technology so Alexa will hear your voice from across the room even if the music is playing loudly.
If you would prefer to use the Echo and the Alexa assistant with your own speakers, you can get the Echo Dot.
Best Security Camera
The Zmodo Smart Wireless Security Camera is the best selling smart security camera ($99.98) and is a better value than the Blink Home Security Camera ($169.99). The installation is easy and the camera is connected to the Zmodo app, which allows users to receive intelligent motion alerts from their smart phone.
All videos are uploaded to the cloud and saved for 36 hours for free and all users are eligible for a 30 day free trial of the cloud service. Although there have been delays in the cloud service, the company announced that it officially launched in August 2017.
The camera also has 80ft infrared night vision and is weatherproof, so can be used indoors or outdoors and operate in heavy rain and snow.
Best Smart Thermostat
The Ecobee3 is really, really smart and adjusts a home’s heating and cooling based the home’s energy profile, the weather, occupants behavior and thousands of other data points. The Ecobee uses room sensors that help manage hot and cold spots in your home (additional senors can be purchased in packs of two for $80).
The Ecobee3 saves homeowners an average of 23% annually paying for itself in less than a year. A smart thermostat can be combined with a home energy monitor to deliver even more energy savings. The Ecobee3 connects to the Amazon Echo and can be controlled by Alexa.
Best Smart Light Bulb
The Phillips Hue Ambiance Starter Kit comes with 2 bulbs, a bridge and dimmer switch. These light bulbs can be controlled using Echo to choose between 50,000 shades of white from warm to cool white.
The lights bulbs can also connect to smart wearables such as Fitbit and Jawbone to turn on the lights when you awake or have reached your sleep goal.
The Phillips Hue requires a bridge, but there are several options that use Wifi and do not require a hub, including one from GE.
Best Smart Switch
Smart plugs can be used as an alternative to a smart light system in which controls are at the bulb level vs. the outlet.
The iHome Control Smart Plug allows you to control any appliance or lighting (lamps, heaters, fans, window air conditioners, decorations and other bathroom/kitchen appliances) through your smart phone.
These smart plugs also connect to Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Wink, Smart Things and Nest Control.
Best Smart Home Hub
As you expand your smart home devices, you will need a hub to manage all of them together and the Samsung SmartThings is the best available hub.
The Samsung SmartThings can be controlled via an app or the Amazon Echo.
Best Smart Home Lock
The Kwikset SmartCode 910 is easy to install (10 minutes with a screw driver) and connects with Amazon Alexa. The lock, which is controlled by a keypad can be re-keyed in three easy steps and automatically locks within 30 seconds for piece of mind.