Which Smart Products are Actually Worth Buying?

Home automation is complicated enough but now that the big dogs are backing it with big dollars it seems like every Tom, Dick, and Harry has a smart product they would like to sell. We’ve taken a look at some of the most popular smart products and given them the test to determine if they are worth your money and effort.

Nest Thermostat and Nest Protection

I get it. It’s a status thing. Who doesn’t want to have an Instagram photo of the Nest? It shows your techy, clean, fresh, cool, and that you can afford to spend $250 on a thermostat. It’s like the Louis Vuitton of thermostats but you won’t look very cool or smart if you bring a date home to a 90 degree house. Or on second thought, maybe you would?

Nest was created to automate thermostat programming. It learns your schedule and adjusts based upon your daily habits. The problem with Nest is that is uses a WiFi signal. It uses this signal to perform its own software updates. Sounds awesome right? Not really. It’s no different from a computer. Have you ever had a Windows computer auto install updates just to have something somewhere mess up? It’s happened to me too. Then you have to revert to an older version or wait for the patch. Nest isn’t perfect. They dispatch crap software just like everyone else. Users online complain of waking up to 80 degree homes or receiving text warnings that their homes are too warm while they are away. The #1 review on Amazon outlines a scarier problem = busted pipes.

Sometimes, they have bugs. The most recent one, 4.0, which the only purpose of was to add support for the Nest Protect, caused issues with some thermostats unable to power themselves. Some Nest owners found their thermostats unable to connect to WiFi. Others found their pipes frozen as the Nest failed to turn on their equipment. Again, not everyone had an issue. But a thermostat is not an iPod. A buggy update is going to cause a much bigger problem than being without your music if you are part of the group that does have problems. They need to stop forcing updates on people (have a way to apply them at will) and test them extensively on their own systems before release.

Though they maintain a 4 star rating on Amazon, more than 30% of their reviews fall in the 1, 2, or 3 star category. However, if I had to choose between a Nest Thermostat and a Nest Smoke Alarm I would choose the Nest Thermostat. Please do not buy the Nest Smoke Alarm. In fact, Nest halted sales after identifying a major flaw that allowed users to unknowingly hush the alarm.

The Nest Alarm awed so many techy people with its release and all of its cool features like hush and talking but do you want in on a little secret? All of the Kidde Smoke Alarms contain a hush feature and they have had the talking feature in many of their models for nearly 10
. According to Heather Caldwell, Marketing and Communication Director for Kidde Fire Safety:

Kidde has a line of alarms that contain a sealed-in lithium ion battery, called the Worry-Free line, which offers homeowners 10 years of hassle-free protection. They never have to replace a battery or hear a low battery chirp for a decade. We developed the Worry-Free line to help address common consumer complaints and pressing fire industry concerns. Most fatal fires in America occur in homes with either no smoke alarm or no working alarms, mainly due to dead or missing batteries.

The best part? You can buy a Kidde from Amazon for less than $30. That means you will save $100 for every smoke alarm in your house.

(photo credit: iSmartAlarm)

(photo credit: iSmartAlarm)

Automated Locks

Not all locks are created equal. Yahoo reported on a test run by Consumer Reports on electronic connected door locks. The locks were put to the test to see if they could stand up to a kick-in and a drill.

The Schlage Camelot Touchscreen Deadbolt smart lock, less than $200 on Amazon, easily withstood our simulated kick-in test, which is why it made our recommended list, though a cordless drill disabled it in less than 2 minutes. The keyless Yale YRD240 smart lock, just over $200 on Amazon, was difficult to drill because it lacks a key cylinder, but it was easy prey to kick-in. Once we replaced its cheap strike plate with a better one (about $10 at home centers and hardware stores), the Yale aced our kick-in test, as did others in this group. But we think a lock should be secure as sold.

Let There Be Light

Door lock automation is mighty popular but so is light automation and certainly automating lights has to be one of the simplest things to automate. If you type in light automation into Amazon search you are likely to find the Belkin WeMo along with some pretty sour reviews. The better alternative that you may not see is called SmartThings. The great thing about SmartThings is that you can start small and work your way up. The $99 hub is all you need to get started. Next you would add something like the Jasco Wireless Lighting control which has 227 reviews on Amazon with an average of 4.5 stars. SmartThings can control tons of things in your house and the list continues to grow daily thanks to open development.

In Summary

If you want to automate your smoke alarms skip Nest and buy Kidde.
If you want to automate your locks try the Yale Real Living Touchscreen + a quality strike plate.
If you want to automate your lights try SmartThings.
Bonus? SmartThings and the Yale Lock are compatible.