Home Smart Home: The Latest Tech to Make Your Living Space Safer and Easier to Maintain
Give your home's I.Q an upgrade with smart home products designed to make your living space safer, more energy efficient and easier to maintain. Photo: monkeybusinessimages/GettyImages
Anyone remember Rosie, the robotic housekeeper who petered around The Jetsons in the ’60s?
“I swear on my mother’s rechargeable batteries,” she once joked, when asked by Judy Jetson to keep a secret.
While we’re still a few years away from a domesticated humanoid robot that can wash our dishes and make our beds, today’s smart home products are designed to make your living space safer, more energy efficient and easier to maintain.
The following is a look at a half-dozen smart ways to bump up your home’s I.Q.
Ring a Ding
Amazon’s Ring video doorbells (from $80) are a great way to see who’s at your front door, and chat with them via your smartphone, even if you’re not at home. The latest model, Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 ($325) is a premium wired doorbell that offers “head to toe” video to see much more, along with a “bird’s eye” view of your property, using radar, to detect and track motion (for some extra, peace of mind); HD audio, to hear your guests better; and the option to have your Alexa smart speaker leave instructions for the visitor, such as telling a courier to please leave the package behind a railing.
To Serve and Protect
Speaking of the front door, the Schlage Encode Smart Wi-Fi Deadbolt ($349) adds security and convenience, as you can lock or unlock your front door with a code, an app, a traditional mechanical key, or a smart speaker, such as saying aloud “Google, lock the front door” while sitting on the couch. The Schlage companion app also lets you send someone a temporary, custom code — say, to a friend, family member or housekeeper — to grant access to your home, and shows you when your lock has been accessed with the virtual key. There are different colours and finishes to choose from.
Using an app or your voice, Wi-Fi thermostats let you conveniently adjust heating and cooling, but some — like the Ecobee SmartThermostat ($269) can automatically optimize settings per room. By sensing occupancy, this smart thermostat works with room sensors to help manage hot or cold spots in your home, and delivering the optimal temperature to individual rooms. You get one sensor in the box, along with the thermostat, but it supports up to 32 sensors. A two-pack of sensors costs $90. There’s also built-in Amazon Alexa support, so you can ask to read you the news, set a timer, or, and of course, adjust the temperature, and much more. Ecobee says you can save up to 23 per cent on your annual heating and cooling bills.
Let There be Light
Curious about smart lighting? The Sengled Smart LED Multicolor A19 Kit ($130) is surprisingly easy to set up and use. You’ll get three light bulbs, wall switch and a small hub to plug into a router — which then lets you control your lights via the Sengled app on a smartphone or tablet — so you can choose desired brightness and colour schemes per room (supporting up to 16 million colours), set timers and schedules, and even use your voice to turn lights on and off, or dim them, through Amazon Echo or Google Nest smart speakers. If you only need two bulbs in the starter kit, Sengled has a less expensive option for $99, which doesn’t include the wall switch.
You’re not alone if you’re concerned about water damage and the havoc it can wreak. Whether or not you’ve had a prior issue, the Mydlink Wi-Fi Water Sensor ($60) has a long sensor cable you can place wherever you like — around a water heater, washing machine, under a sink, by a sump pump or any spot there could be a potential water leak — and you’ll be immediately notified if and when leaks are detected thanks to a loud 90-decibel alarm. Not at home? No worries. If it detects moisture, you’ll get a text notification or an alert on the free Mydlink Home smartphone app and can have a family member or friend check it out to minimize damage while you’re away.
You’ve heard of robotic vacuum cleaners, but how about a model that’s both a vacuum and mop in one? The Shark AI Robot VacMop Pro Wi-Fi Vacuum ($600) can navigate around your home autonomously and suck up dust, dirt, and pet hair — on hardwood floors, tile and carpet — while the mopping function can scrub hard floors up to 100 times per minute to efficiently break down stains. In fact, the VacMop mode vacuums and mops at the same time — and intelligently avoids the carpets as it mops. Designed to clean your home quickly and efficiently, it navigates row by row, room by room, using laser-guided vision, and automatically returns to the dock to recharge when the battery runs low and then resumes cleaning. It’s compatible with an app and smart speakers, too.