There’s a big difference between new tech and smart tech. While you could spend endless amounts of time and money tricking out your house with app-controlled locks lights, a lot of the newest gadgets don’t perform as advertised. Even when they do, many provide a minor convenience for a not-so-modest investment.
On the other hand, there are some particularly smart home devices that can save you significant cash, meaningfully improve your life, or both. Here are our favorites.
THE AFFORDABLE SMOKE ALARM
Outfitting your whole home with smart CO2 and smoke detectors is an expensive proposition. For just $35 a pop, the Roost battery—slipped into your existing detectors—will notify your phone or other device whenever an alert sounds. It also allows you to silence false alarms. The battery lasts five years, and a replacement pack is just $15.
A THIRD EYE
All day, every day, this 1080p HD camera allows you to keep an eye on your pad. Its night vision is superb, and its sound- and motion-sensing capabilities allow the camera to notify you when something’s up (while ignoring traffic or other innocuous background chatter). Bonus: For parents who’ve shelled out $300 or more for crappy baby cameras, this is a MAJOR upgrade, and a great gift idea.
THE SMART(EST) THERMOSTAT
The NEST and Honeywell options are better known. But unlike its competitors, the ecobee3 allows you to monitor the temp in multiple rooms—a major benefit if your home, like most, has hot and cold zones that don’t always correlate with your thermostat’s location.
A VOICE-CONTROLLED PERSONAL ASSISTANT
Play your favorite Pandora channel. Get score updates. Add reminders to your calendar or notepad. All you have to do is say the word, and Echo will complete any one of a thousand different tasks. Yon don’t even have to ask nicely.
SIMPLER HOME SECURITY
Why pay the cable company—that one you really hate—a big chunk of change every month when you could have the same setup for a flat rate? The iSmartAlarm provides door, window, and motion sensors that will alert your Apple or Android device when something’s amiss. Pair it with the Nest Camera mentioned above, and anyone who decides to break into your place will regret it.
BLINDS THAT OPEN THEMSELVES
HunterDouglas Powerview Blinds
$400 & up, hunterdouglas.com
Motorized window blinds? At first it sounds absurd. But by admitting or blocking sunlight, programmable smart blinds can save you serious bucks on your HVAC bills. Another perk: Synching your blinds with your morning alarm, so you wake up to sunshine.
THE REMOTE POWER BUTTON
Belkin WeMo Switch
Plug any electronic device into this smart outlet, and you can turn the device on or off remotely using your phone, computer, or tablet. You can also program the outlet to power up or down your device on a schedule. The possibilities are endless.
THE HAND OF GOD
If you’re going to inject all this tech into your home, you’ll need a centralized way to control it. While each of the gadgets on this list comes with its own app, the SmartThings hub consolidates all those controls into one place.