I'm not ashamed to admit it—I love smart home tech. It has the potential to drastically improve our homes, and how we live in them. Just imagine what your home could do for you if your thermostat could talk to your phone, or your security camera could talk to your lights.
Yet more often than I like to admit, smart home tech can be disappointing. It doesn't always "just work," as many devices claim. Smart switches will randomly stop responding. Smart thermostats can lose their WiFi connection. And initial setup won't always go as smoothly as promised.
Luckily, I've tested and lived with dozens of smart home products. I even recently outfitted a home with 60 (yes, 60) smart home devices. And I can tell you that there are fantastic smart home products out there! You just have to know which ones to buy. So I've put together a list of my favorite smart home products that just might change how you live in your home.
1. Ring Video Doorbell - $200 on Amazon
The Ring Video Doorbell is one of my favorite smart home devices. It works as a doorbell, motion sensor, security camera, and a two-way intercom to speak with guests. And the best part of installation is that it can work of an existing doorbell power line. I installed two at a family vacation home and they're a great way to keep tabs who is coming and going when we're not there—like our neighbor's dog Max, who occasionally wanders by.
2. Chamberlain MyQ Garage Door Controller - $99 on Amazon
I don't know about you, but I frequently forget whether I've closed my garage door. And with this Chamberlain MyQ controller, you can check and close (or open) the door from anywhere. I've used the actual MyQ garage door openers, but this $99 controller will work with just about any modern garage door opener.
3. Amazon Echo Dot - $49.99 on Amazon
Alexa is the queen bae of the smart home. The virtual assistant can control just about any connected gadget—from lights to robot vacuums. And I personally prefer Dot over the full-size Echo simply due to the price. At $49, the Echo Dot is a steal. And if you own speakers, you can connect the Dot via hardwire or Bluetooth for better sound output.
4. LIFX A19 Smart Bulb - $59.99 on Amazon
I'm not a big fan of smart bulbs. All it takes is one flip of a light switch to cut the power and make them dumb again. But I have tested many smart bulbs, and my personal favorite is the LIFX smart bulb. You can change the bulb to any color imaginable, as well as just about any temperature of white light. It can also be controlled with your voice through Alexa, which feels like magic the first time you try it. But perhaps my favorite thing about this bulb is that it doesn't require a hub to use it.
5. Switchmate - $29.97 on Amazon
This clever little switch is a great alternative to hardwiring in new smart switches—and you don't need to know anything about wiring, or hire an electrician. It magnetically sits on top of a "dumb" switch and will turn the switch on and off for you via Bluetooth. At at just $29.97, it's definitely worth trying out. New integration with the $99 Wink Hub 2, means you can even control Switchmate remotely.
6. Ecobee3 Smart Thermostat with Remote Sensor - $247.98 on Amazon
Here's my smart home hot take: The Nest thermostat is overrated. For the same amount of money, the Ecobee3 comes with a remote sensor that you can put in another area of your home to better balance heating throughout your home. It also works with both Alexa and Siri, whereas the Nest works with Alexa and Google Home. And if you don't care for the extra sensor, you can get the Ecobee 3 Lite Thermostat for just $168.95 on Amazon, which offers significant savings compared to the Nest.
7. Samsung SmartThings Hub - $99 on Amazon
Last, but not least, I want to mention the SmartThins Hub. I'm always asked what the purpose of a smart home hub is—and I could bore you with the technical details—but I'm not going to go there. Instead, I want to tell you the advantage of connecting everything via a hub, and it's rather simple—you can control just about everything in your home from ONE app.
All of these devices come with their own app to control them, and who wants to bother with that? The Amazon Echo was a breakthrough because it provided one way to control everything. But you don't always want to shout across the room to Alexa. And if you're not home, you're back to dealing with a dozen different apps. This isn't the case thanks to SmartThings.
SmartThings doesn't work with everything, including a couple of the products on this list, but it does offer a robust ecosystem and a compelling way to connect all your devices. I installed one at home and I absolutely love it. It's not perfect, but it makes managing your home (dare I say it?) fun.