Gizmos and gadgets galore! It seems like there are so many innovations available to make homes more technologically advanced. Personally, I would love to have one of Jane Jetson’s meal machines! But are all the gizmos and gadgets really making life better? That’s the debate that I hear among many designers and clients. The more complicated our homes become, the harder they are to repair or maintain. Costs increase and may just make many gadgets more of a hassle than they are worth.
This is similar to the change in our car designs. The more “cool” and electronic our cars become, the more likely things will break. Since we cant typically fix them ourselves anymore, there is a greater cost towards maintenance. A friend of mine (you know who you are!) just spent over a thousand dollars repairing her automatic seat adjuster in her car because it got stuck in the far back position and she couldn’t reach the pedals to drive!
In spite of the risks of installing gizmos beyond your expertise to fix them when they break, there are still some very cool things out there that just could be worth the hassle even if they don’t work right 3 years from now (or become obsolete faster than that).
The simplest and least complicated gizmo I’ve seen (and own) is the Amazon Echo (AKA “Alexa”) . This habitually pleasant voice in a cylinder can control lighting, door locks, and music systems. Simply install a compatible switch for a recessed light, or plug a lamp into one of the “smart plugs” and… BAM! You have a voice controlled light. Bye bye to the “Clapper” . Alexa can do it for you now. For example, you can say, “Alexa turn off the silver lamp” and she will comply with a response “I will turn off the silver lamp” and then the light goes off. My favorite is controlling all the basement lights so that when I’m going to bed at night and too lazy to go downstairs to check to see if my kids turned them off, I can simply say. “Alexa turn off basement lights” and she magically does! (without the whining).
Another electrical item I’ve installed a few times is the Docking Drawer. Think device caddy, but now hidden in a drawer with an outlet in the back. You can open and close the drawer without getting caught up in all the cables. Marie Kondo eat your heart out.
If you are wanting surround sound or a music system that can work throughout multiple rooms and be controlled from one device, consider Sonos. This system is something to plan for in advance of a project as it requires strategically placed electrical outlets for some speakers. But its wireless system is NOT Bluetooth dependent so the sound quality is much better.
Want automated lighting controls beyond what Alexa can do you for? Go for the Lutron Whole Home Controls using their new “Architectural Style” switches. Love these! Using this wiring system, the house can be controlled from a mobile device or iPad with benefits like “Vacation Mode” , integrated blinds for windows, accessing lights from a car remote and much more.
If you are a music lover, another popular gadget is a bluetooth shower head. The Kohler Moxie Showerhead is one of the favorites and a top seller in the Bluetooth shower head market. The shower head is polished chrome and has a modern metal look. Its actually a magnetic attachment so you can change your mind later, without changing out the entire fixture. But beware: there are also showerheads where the bluetooth feature can connect to your phone so you can actually answer phone calls WHILE IN THE SHOWER. Since that is just weird, do your friends and clients a favor and avoid that one!
Another interesting “Smart Appliance” are the refrigerators that can track your inventory, keep track of expiration dates on food, and store recipes. This connects to an app on your phone that allows you to see, from the store, which items you may need. One example is the LG Think Q that has a 8″ LCD screen. The chat option is a great idea.
Speaking of drinks, there are 2 gizmos I have not had the pleasure of purchasing but are on my wish list.
There are a number of Smart coffee makers, as well as intelligent tea makers. I’ve read mixed reviews as hard core coffee drinkers are not satisfied with the way these devices store and grind beans, or what kinds of options the app allows them to control from their phone before they get out of bed. One is the KRUPS EA9010 coffee maker that has gotten the best reviews, from what I can tell. Still, at $2500 this is not a cheap indulgence.
The other gizmo I find fascinating (while also being totally over the top) is this rotating wine refrigerator from POLYCAVE that pops out of the ground. And spins. And lights up. Ooooh. (Just ignore the cheezy music)
If you’re still interested in learning about more smart home products that might make Jane and George jealous, click here to check out some 2015 “smart products” like thermostats and lawn sprinklers. Or this article highlights some great inexpensive home security options.
Please comment below and share any home innovations that you have used or seen that you think are great!