15 gadgets that will prevent everyday problems and make your life easier
Want to live smarter? These products might help.
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Ever think about how many little household problems you simply put up with? You know the ones I’m talking about—things like setting off the smoke detector when you’re just cooking or never being able to find the TV remote. You (read: I) could probably solve these issues by changing day-to-day habits, but I like making seared tuna, even if it smokes up the kitchen. Plus, I’m nowhere near diligent enough to put the remote in the same place every time. It’s just who I am.
There are tons of these little issues you might run into around the house, and I’m here to tell you that there’s an easy solution: smart technology. Today’s smart gadgets can solve so many common problems, from forgetting to close the garage door to cleaning the grimy area under the couch. Here are a few of our favorites.
1. A smart smoke detector for the kitchen
Next time you sear tuna or burn popcorn, you’ll be glad you have a Nest Protect smart smoke detector in your kitchen. The Nest Protect won the best overall category in our 2019 roundup of the best smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. If there is enough smoke to trigger the emergency alarm, you can quickly silence it from your smartphone via the Nest app—no chair climbing or towel waving required. Instead of a single alarm tone, the Nest Protect speaks in a clear voice to alert you about smoke, fire, or an abundance of carbon monoxide in an area of your home. Keep in mind that the National Fire Protection Association recommends placing your smoke alarm at least 10 feet from your oven, stove, or other cooking appliance to avoid any false alarms.
2. A smart lock so you can ditch your keys
I've got more keys than I'd like on my keychain and that takes up quite a bit of valuable space in my tote bag. Investing in a good smart lock can not only reduce the size of your growing keychain but it also offers an unmatched level of modern convenience. Lock your keys in the house? No problem. Forget your house keys at the office? No biggie. You can unlock your door with a digital keypad or by using apps like Schlage Home or Key by Amazon. After testing a number of smart locks, our smart home team found the Schlage Encode to be the best WiFi deadbolt. If you have a babysitter or dog walker that comes by with any regularity, you’ll appreciate that the lock can remember up to 100 permanent, temporary, or recurring passcodes. Sayonara, bulky keyset.
3. A connected smart plug for your bathroom accessories
How many times have you forgotten to turn off your hair straightener or curler? Not only does this use up electricity all day, but it’s also a fire hazard. The simple solution? Get an iDevices Switch (our top choice for smart plugs) and create a schedule so it turns off your bathroom accessories when you leave the house. You’ll save energy and get peace of mind.
4. A remote-less entertainment hub for your living room
I have three remotes for my TV, and at any given time, at least one of them is missing. Sound familiar? If so, you need the Harmony Home Hub, which turns your smartphone into a universal remote for all your entertainment devices including your TV, speakers, and more. Plus, you can even integrate the Hub with Amazon’s Alexa to turn on your TV via voice commands.
5. An app-controlled garage door opener so you can say goodbye to your old clicker
Ever rush off to work, only to get there and wonder if you remembered to close the garage? The NEXX Garage lets you remotely check if your garage door is closed. If it’s not, you can remedy the situation with a simple tap—no need to rush back home or call your neighbor to help.
6. An internet security firewall for every member of the family
You might not even realize this is a problem, but chances are your home computer’s security is pretty lax. Even if you have antivirus software, you still could be vulnerable to hacking and other internet attacks. The Gryphon Advance Security and Parental Control Mesh WiFi Router is a smart internet security firewall that guards your entire network (up to 3,000 sq. ft.), keeping your sensitive financial and personal information safe. Plus, if your children are always sneaking onto the internet before they finish their homework, this router lets you get serious about parental controls. The Gryphon recognizes every gadget in your home, from phones to laptops and gaming systems, and can filter out inappropriate content. The Advanced Network Protection subscription is free for the first year. After that, it will cost you $7.99 a month or $76.20 for a year of coverage.
7. A smart robot vacuum to suck up dust bunnies
Be honest: Do you really vacuum under the couch or bed when you’re cleaning the house? I know I don’t, and once every few months, I realize how much dirt has accumulated under my furniture. The iRobot Roomba i7+ comes with a hefty price tag, but it’s worth the cost. Our editors tested six popular robot vacuums and the iRobot Roomba i7+ came out on top. The vacuum comes with a charging base that suctions everything out of the bin into a sealable bag and comes with a slew of smart features. This version of the iRobot Roomba, which can hold up to 10 grams of debris, also creates a virtual map of your home, making sure that every nook and cranny gets cleaned.
8. A motion-activated smart light so you can light your way at night
If you frequently visit the bathroom (or any room in your home for that matter) at night, you have to choose whether to turn on the bright lights or navigate around in the dark. Philips Hue solves this dilemma with its Smart Motion Sensor Lights. The sensors will automatically turn on the lights for a set amount of time after motion is detected, and you can even set it to use a gentle light that won’t blind you. There's no messing with wires (a win for renters and those who don’t want to damage their walls), as the plug runs on batteries. Oh, and did we mention the set up takes just a minute? Easy peasy. Your midnight trip to the bathroom run just got a whole lot brighter.
9. A smart sprinkler controller so you’ll never forget to water the grass again
I don't know about you, but remembering to water the lawn is one area where I could stand to improve, especially when I’m out of town. Enter the Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller. This system was rated the very best smart sprinkler controller after undergoing testing by our smart home team. The Rachio panel is easy to install and integrates with Nest, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings, and Apple Homekit. You can call out to your smart speaker of choice and say "water the lawn," or use another custom command. The Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller can also be used to set a manual watering schedule, or you can let the app determine the most appropriate agenda for your lawn based on a few details.
10. A smart indoor security camera that keeps a watchful eye on your home
If you just moved into a new house or apartment, you might want to install a security system. They can get pretty pricey, but the Logitech Circle 2 Indoor Camera can keep your property secure at a much lower price tag. Our editors ranked this the best overall indoor security camera on the market right now. Why? The Logitech camera is easy to set up, doesn’t require hardwiring (a plus for renters), and offers free 24-hour cloud storage. If you're gone all day, not to worry. The Circle 2 compiles a montage of the day's events so you can stay up-to-date with what's happening at home. But you can also check in from afar using the Logitech app. The camera also works with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant.
11. A smart speaker to answer all of your questions
Do you ever roll out of bed and want to know the weather for the day? Or what the latest headlines are? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just call out and get answers to questions like these without having to check your smartphone? Amazon’s Echo Dot speaker has you covered. You can ask Alexa to answer questions, make phone calls, play music, set alarms, control compatible smart home products, and more. Oh, and the Echo Dot comes in three colors (charcoal, heather grey, and sandstone), so it fits right in with your home’s interior decor.
12. A portable battery charging pack for when your smartphone battery is running low
Between work responsibilities, trying to figure out what recipe to cook for dinner, and keeping up with my seemingly never-ending personal to-do list, it’s safe to say that my mobile phone battery suffers quite a bit throughout the day. Thankfully, my portable USB battery pack swoops in to save the day when my smartphone battery dips below 20%. Our editors tested the best USB battery packs and determined that the RavPower Turbo Series 20100mAh is the best bang for your buck. The charger is slim enough to fit into a backpack or purse so you can charge your devices on-the-go. Outfitted with two USB ports, the portable pack can charge smartphones, laptops, and more.
13. A smart watch that functions as a personal assistant
The Apple Watch Series 3 may not be the latest model, but the price is just right for those who don't want to spend more than $200 on a smartwatch. It's easy to see why the Apple Watch Series 3 has over 1,400 reviews and an overall 4.5-star rating on Amazon. It’s waterproof, features an optical heart sensor, keeps track of your workouts, reads text messages, makes phone calls, and more. I was on the fence when I got my Apple Watch, but it's become such an integral part of my everyday life that I couldn't live without it now. The convenience of being able to look down at my wrist without having to whip out of my phone is worth every penny.
14. A pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones so your cord never gets tangled again
I’m all about the cord-free headphones life (hello, convenience), and that’s why I can’t get enough of my Apple AirPods. I have small children, so I’m constantly chasing after them while trying to keep up with phone calls and, of course, my favorite podcasts. With more than 24 hours of listening time and up to 18 hours of talk time, it's no wonder these tiny white earbuds have over 1,592 reviews and a 4.8-star rating at Best Buy. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that our editors said these headphones are the best truly wireless earbuds, either.
15. A smart pressure cooker so you can whip up a gourmet meal in one pot
Pressure cookers are nothing new to the world of kitchen appliances (and you may already have one). However, a smart pressure cooker like Instant Pot Smart WiFi 6 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker is a step above the rest. Rated as Amazon's Choice, the kitchen appliance has a 4-star rating out of 952 reviews. Pressure cookers are a dime a dozen these days, but it's the WiFi capability on this model that has me sold. You can control the pressure cooker and monitor it from afar using the Instant Pot app, available for iOS and Android devices. This frees up time for you to take care of other tasks after a long work day, like relaxing on the couch.
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.