As winter approaches, it’s time to stock up on smart home gadgets that will help your family adjust and thrive. These devices can help you save energy, keep your family comfortable, and even make sure your home is secure.
A smart thermostat can help you cut your heating bills, while a programmable smart light can add a cozy touch to your living room.
1. Nest Thermostat
About this product
Almost a decade ago, Nest introduced the world to smart thermostats that offer energy savings and sleek design. And while Google bought the startup that launched Nest back in 2011, its flagship $249 third-generation Learning Thermostat still sets the standard for home automation devices.
This year, the company refreshed its look with a slimmer profile and a bigger screen for easier viewing. It also introduced Farsight, a feature that uses built-in sensors to detect your presence and display the time, indoor temperature or current weather forecast on the screen.
The updated design looks more like the Apple iPod and works with your voice through Alexa or Google Assistant (it doesn’t support HomeKit, which limits its integration with other devices). You can choose from seven metal finishes — including stainless steel, mirror black and brass. But it’s the software that makes the Nest stand out, and it’s the only smart thermostat to automatically create a schedule that adjusts for your lifestyle over time.
2. Philips Hue
The Philips Hue ecosystem is one of the largest in smart lighting, with a range of bulbs, switches and outdoor lights. They can be controlled directly via the app or by voice with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, or with Apple HomeKit and the included Bridge (if you’re an iPhone owner). They also work with IFTTT and can be set up with basic automations within the free Philips Hue Sync software for Mac and Windows.
If you’re not ready to invest in a Bridge, the newest Hue white LED bulbs now have Bluetooth radios built-in, allowing them to pair directly with your phone and control themselves without a separate hub. The Hue Tap remote, which works with both iOS and Android phones, can turn individual bulbs or rooms on and off and change their brightness, while the wall-mountable Click smart switch (formerly from RunLessWire) offers quick, physical controls that can trigger various lighting scenes.
The most popular starter kit comes with three white bulbs and a Hue smart button for $99. A wireless Zigbee motion sensor is another option for $50, which can automatically turn on your lights at night, keep them on for a preset amount of time after you exit a room, and even alter their brightness based on the time of day.
3. August Smart Lock
The August Smart Lock is a smart lock that works with a lot of the same ecosystems as other top-rated products like the Nest Learning Thermostat and Philips Hue Connected LED bulbs. This model also offers some features not available on competing products. For example, you can use the door sensor and app to assign key codes for guest access. It also supports a variety of automation settings including automatic lock and unlock based on location and time of day, and smart alerts to let you know when your door is locked or ajar.
You can even link the lock to a smart hub like a SmartThings or the iSmartAlarm system and control it using IFTTT recipes—for instance, you could set up a “good night” scene that shuts off lights and locks up the door as you head to bed. You can also ask Siri or Alexa to lock or unlock your doors, though this requires a PIN code for security reasons and only works if the August device is nearby.
4. Honeywell UberHeat
The Honeywell UberHeat offers 1500 watts of power in a compact, sleek design. It’s an ideal personal heater or desk top heat source. The unit is easy to use with 2 comfort settings, an adjustable thermostat and built in safety features including a tip over kill switch, cool touch housing and overheat protection.
Usability is simple, despite the fact that this model lacks a remote control. There is a toggle switch that allows users to choose between low and high heat, while the radial dial has visual markers that indicate a low or high target temperature.
When we tested the model, it was able to quickly warm a room to the desired temperature and turned off automatically once that point had been reached. Additionally, it has a built-in timer that can be set for one, two, four or eight hours. The unit also has excellent overheat protection and a cool-touch housing and handle. Lastly, it is designed with an attractive white body that adds to its aesthetic.