Every week for the past year, I’ve covered smart home products in this column – everything from frying pans to toilets to alarm systems.
Smart home products let you control and automate items around your house. They have come a long way as far setup, usage and cost, so keep that in mind when you’re deciding what products you want.
Additionally, keep in mind these smart home features while shopping around:
▪ Do they integrate with Amazon Alexa or Apple HomeKit?
▪ Is a hub needed or will it work with your existing hub?
▪ Will the product work on WiFi for connecting anywhere or Bluetooth, requiring you to stay within 33 feet of the device?
▪ As far as setup, can you do it yourself or will professional installation be needed?
▪ Is it battery or AC powered, or even solar in some cases?
▪ Is a subscription or pay service required?
I’ve come across many great smart home products during the past year and there will be plenty of new products announced at next month’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Here are a few of my favorites from this past year:
With a simple setup, including connecting the Rachio smart sprinkler controller ($199.99 for an eight-zone controller) to your Wi-Fi network, you’ll have control of your lawn and watering bill from your smart phone.
The installation was simple, assuming you have a sprinkler system already in place – you simply have to swap out the controller box.
Once the hardware is connected, you control the system with the Rachio app, which lets you schedule watering days and the length of time in each zone. The app shows you how much water you have used along with how much has been saved due to the system shutting down for rain and changing the water times as the seasons change.
Elgato’s Eve Smart Home products work with Apple HomeKit and include wireless motion, window and air quality controls through plugs for controlling just about everything in your home. Everything is hub-free and has easy setups.
The newest product to the Eve line is the connected wall switch ($49.95). This can be an addition to an existing light switch or a replacement. Once installed, the app controls lights with a tap on the switch or with a Siri voice command on an Apple device.
You can create a single or multi-light setup, as well as group multiple Eve wall switches within the app to an intelligent lighting system.
The wall switch is connected with Bluetooth or, as I tested it, over the Internet with an Apple TV.
Check the Eve website for electrical requirements and setup.
All you need is Wi-Fi and the free Arlo app to get the Arlo security cameras (prices start at $144, kits available) up and running. The HD cameras are 100 percent wire-free, have integrated infrared lights for night vision and are weatherproof.
You get free cloud storage to save recordings for a week for up to five cameras. If you want the recording saved for a longer period of time, upgrade options are available.
With the Arlo app, you can control schedules and receive alerts when motion is detected.
The August Smart Lock ($229) replaces the inside deadbolt latch for controlling a lock with a smartphone.
After the installation, you’ll need the free password-protected August app and a financial-level digital security protected account. The app lets you set the lock to open hands-free as you approach and control who has access to the lock.
Your account keeps an activity log of when it is locked or unlocked. It can be controlled via Wi-Fi by adding the August Connect plug ($79), which connects to a wall power outlet within 30 feet of the lock.
Four AA batteries are included, and you will be notified by the August app when they need replacing.