These Smart Home Devices Can Make Your Home Safer, More Efficient and More Fun

Photo credit: amazon
Photo credit: amazon

We updated this guide in July 2022 to add more information about each featured product. We added picks from Google, Samsung and Levoit to our original top-rated products, selected by the Good Housekeeping Institute.

It wasn't that long ago that smart home technology had a bad case of the meh's, with many consumers taking a "Why bother?" stance. These days, the better question is, "Why not?" Think about it. Why wouldn't you want a smart thermostat that slashes energy costs while keeping your home comfy and cozy? Or a smart video doorbell that lets you see who's at the door from anywhere?

Examples like these are the promise of today's smart home, and it's one the Lab experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute stand firmly behind. We've tested hundreds of smart products, including home essentials like smart light bulbs and smart light switches, smart locks and smart security systems, and smart thermostats. Home appliances like smart air conditioners, robot vacuums and even smart toilets can improve the way you live your daily life. Our evaluations are based on a combination of usability and performance criteria: How easy is the device to set up? Can it talk to other smart home equipment in the home? Is the app intuitive? What's the feature set? We crunch all that data into one bottom-line assessment: Does this product solve real problems and provide real benefits?

Our top picks:

Below are the best smart home devices you can buy in 2022, including top performers from Lab tests, home tests and consumer tests:

The best smart speakers and hubs

While it's easier than ever to set up a smart home, the process isn't foolproof. Case in point: you could add a suite of smart devices, only to discover that they don't work well together. That's where smart home "hubs" come in, and all the major players have their own version — Amazon, Apple, Google, Samsung and more. It makes sense to stick with what you know, so if you’ve been a Siri loyalist from the beginning, go with Apple's hub. Early Alexa adopters who live for Prime deliveries will be best served by Amazon. If you’re an Android user who has a soft spot for Google Assistant and its impressive ecosystem, we’re not here to change your mind.

Whatever the brand, all hubs basically function as command central for your entire smart home ecosystem, allowing you to control all the devices from a single smartphone app. Hubs also make it easy to find compatible devices through their "Works With..." search feature. Finally, many hubs double as a digital assistant, delivering all kinds of voice-controlled support, from checking the weather to calling a car service.

The space-age spherical design isn't the only thing new about the latest Amazon Echo. The digital assistant also comes loaded with smart enhancements that earn high marks with our engineers, including the advanced onboard hub, making it easier than ever to set up any Zigbee-enabled device. (What the heck is Zigbee, you ask? Short answer: It's a widely used smart home protocol, so you won't have trouble finding compatible devices.)

We also like how the Echo's adaptive speaker adjusts to ambient noises in the room to deliver perfect sound quality every time. For homeowners on the go, the Alexa Guard feature provides peace of mind when you're away from home by alerting you to concerning sounds — breaking glass, for example, or the alarm on your smoke detector.

If you need a reliable WiFi system and a strong signal throughout your home to stream movies and connect your devices, the Google Nest router impressed testers with its speedy performance and intuitive setup. Our experts love how each node, or “point,” doubles up as a colorful smart speaker with built-in Google Assistant. They not only look sleek on any bookshelf but can play music, operate other connected devices and more, even in the furthest corners of your home. The router itself comes with up to two possible extensions, making it suitable for both larger and smaller homes.

If you're just looking to beef up your home's internet coverage with a mesh network, the Asus ZenWiFI impressed us with its combination of value and simplicity. Setup is a snap, thanks to the two-piece plug-and-play system that installs in minutes and provides up to 5,500 square feet of coverage, which is more than enough for most homes.

You can then monitor and control everything that's happening on your home's network through the Asus mobile app, a feature parents of teens are sure to appreciate! But you'll still need a separate hub to sync up and control your smart home.

The best smart home basics

Home automation used to be a niche, high-end category designed for luxury housing — think whole-house entertainment systems and closed-circuit video surveillance. But the technology has gone solidly mainstream. In fact, for as little as $20, you can experience its wonder, security and convenience with an array of handy smart home gadgets.

Smart bulbs are often called the gateway product to the smart home experience, because they're so easy to install — as easy as screwing in a light bulb, in fact! From there, you can do all kinds of things through an app or via your voice-enabled smart speaker. That includes dimming the lights, changing colors and programming them to turn on and off while you're away from home.

The Philips Hue starter kit includes four A19 75W LED smart bulbs, along with the Hue Bridge, which allows you to control your home's lighting through the Hue app. You can choose from an enormous menu of customized light settings with millions of color variations, including 50,000 shades of white alone. Our testers found the three-step setup to be simple to follow and scheduling routines straightforward. It won't be long before your lighting is easing you to sleep at night, then gently waking you up in the morning.

Smart switches extend the control of smart bulbs to all the lighting in your home — and to any other switch-wired devices, such as ceiling fans or automated shades. GE's Wi-Fi-connected smart switch is particularly intelligent, combining a dimmer and motion-sensor into a single device. Our engineers also gave it points for compatibility since the switch works with all kinds of bulbs.

smaYou can control the switch by voice using Alexa, Google Assistant or Apple HomeKit. As for installation and setup, you don't need a separate hub, but a neutral wire is required for hookup, so this might be a case where it's worth bringing in an electrician, especially if you're installing a bunch of switches. Just keep in mind that some reviewers say that the Android version of the app needs fine-tuning and that setting up automation for a room is a bit confusing at first.

Smart thermostats control your home's temperature automatically, reducing heating and cooling costs and helping achieve optimal climate conditions throughout the year. The ultra-sleek Ecobee with Voice Control earned top marks in our testing when it came to versatility. As the name implies, you can control it by voice via the integrated Alexa speaker. Room sensors enable you to monitor and control the temperature in specific areas, like a nursery or home office.

Our testers found the Ecobee comparatively easy to set up and use. They also like the energy consumption tracking and geofencing features, as well the thermostat's ability to regulate indoor humidity during the dog days of summer.

The best smart home security

The following smart home devices provide peace of mind when you’re away from home — and more comfort and convenience when you’re in it! Whether it’s to check in on an elderly parent or a sleeping baby, send the housekeeper or dog walker an entry code for the front door or lock up for the night when you’re cozy in bed, these devices add next-level practicality to any smart home.

Smart cameras let you keep eyes on your home when you're far from it. That's helpful for checking in on four-legged friends — and rebellious teens too! The Arlo Pro was a top performer in our tests, perfect for indoor or outdoor use alike. Installing Arlo is as simple as screwing in the magnetic base and popping on the camera.

Our engineers like that the Arlo is fully wireless, so you can place it anywhere that's in range of your home's Wi-Fi. Integration with Google Home and Alexa enables easy remote access and you'll also receive alerts straight to your phone. Arlo is unique from other home security cameras in that it can capture color videos at night, good for catching prowlers in the act. Though to save the video recordings, you'll need to purchase a subscription after three months.

A video doorbell lets you answer the front door from anywhere and often chat directly with visitors. It can also help deter package thieves. That combination of convenience and security makes video doorbells one of the most practical smart home products. Our testers singled out Arlo for its crisp picture quality, day or night, and its 180º viewing angle, useful for capturing more of the front porch. A $3-per-month subscription plan gets you 30 days of video storage.

Arlo's advanced camera can distinguish people from animals, cars and other moving objects, to keep irksome false notifications to a minimum. It's compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and it works with IFTTT (If This Then That), allowing you to create chain reactions through your smartphone, for example turning on the porch light when someone rings the doorbell.

At its best, smart home technology is all about simplifying your life. The August WiFi Smart Lock is a prime example. Installation is a cinch, with the cylindrical device attaching to your existing deadbolt on the inside of your door. Downloading the app is seamless and intuitive — no separate hub needed. From there, you'll be able to control the lock from anywhere, share access with other users, and program the lock to open and close automatically as you approach your home and enter inside.

The August WiFi Smart Lock pairs with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit, enabling voice control, maybe to check that the front door is locked from bed. If you add in the August Doorbell Cam Pro, you'll also be able to communicate with visitors and let them inside, all through the same August app.

Putting in a home security system used to mean pricey professional installations and no-break multiyear contracts. DIY solutions have wrested control from the big alarm companies, without compromising security. SimpliSafe was one of the earliest disrupters and its Home Security kit is still a favorite with our engineers, because of its value and versatility.

The kit includes everything you need to get started: the base station, a wireless keypad, motion sensors and a panic button. Installation is peel-and-stick easy and setup of the system through the mobile app is straightforward. We also like that you can easily add more components to the system, including smoke detectors and temperature sensors to protect against freezing pipes. And if you decide you want to layer in professional monitoring, plans start for as little as $15 per month.

The best smart home entertainment

If you’re looking for the latest and greatest in home entertainment, you’ll have no choice but to go smart! From TVs to streaming devices, the best models on today's market are all infused with smart technology to maximize your viewing and listening experience.

In the age of cord-cutting, smart TVs with full streaming capabilities are more or less the standard. To find the best sets, our engineers also looked hard at factors like resolution, sound quality, viewing angle, ease of interface and more. LG is a clear favorite on all fronts, with this impressive OLED lineup. Whatever the size, these LG TVs all boast whip-fast response times with low input lag for easy use. The interface runs on WebOS 6.0, meaning the menu of apps runs along the bottom of the screen for quick scanning, and you'll get content recommendations thanks to personal profiles. Granted, you pay a pretty penny for such high-quality TVs, but the LG OLED picture quality is second to none, especially if you do a lot of watching in the dark.

Even with a smart TV, you might still want a separate streaming device to bring content onto the screen. Streaming sticks are the simplest, most cost-effective solution, and the Roku Streaming Stick+ is the one our engineers like the most. For starters, it works with practically every streaming app, so whether your latest binge is on Netflix, Hulu, Disney, HBO Max or Amazon Prime, Roku won't leave you in the lurch.

Our testers also found the Roku super simple to set up — just plug it in, connect to the WiFi and you're ready to start streaming. There's also a long-range wireless receiver, so you can stream in rooms that are on the other side of the house from your main router. Last but not least, Roku's full 4K HDR capabilities mean it won't become obsolete anytime soon.

The best smart appliances

Connected technology is changing the way we interact with major appliances in the home. Want to watch TV on the refrigerator? You can do that. Care to preheat the oven on the car ride home from the supermarket? Not a problem. While convenience is a big benefit of these high-tech enhancements, there are practical takeaways too, like helping with care and maintenance. The following picks show why it's worth spending more on smart appliances.

Though this Wi-Fi-enabled smart washing machine from Samsung won’t do the laundry for you (we wish!), it’s as close as it gets. A 2021 Good Housekeeping Cleaning Awards winner, this appliance is so smart that it can remember your favorite wash cycles and settings. It also comes with an Opti-Wash feature that detects your clothing’s soil levels in real-time to either add more laundry detergent or more time, ensuring your clothes always comes out spotlessly clean. When the cycle is complete, you’ll receive notifications straight to your smartphone, where you can also remotely stop or start the machine as well as set schedules. On top of its smart features, our testers were impressed with how quiet the machine was and found the app easy to use.

The Family Hub raised the bar for smart appliances with its debut in 2016, and thanks to continued advancements, our engineers still consider it the smartest fridge money can buy. First off, it's a massive cooler with ample storage and lots of helpful organization. What really sets the Family Hub apart, however, is the built-in LCD screen that acts as a high-tech command central for any household. Use the digital calendar to keep track of family schedules, post messages, maintain a running shop list and more. The Family Hub also integrates with other smart home devices, so you can do things like answering the front door through your video doorbell or adjusting the temperature through your smart thermostat. You can also play music and stream video content. There are even built-in cameras inside the Family Hub, making it possible to check if you're out of milk from the dairy aisle of the supermarket.

Let's talk basics: This Miele earns the Good Housekeeping Seal because it has all the features we look for in a dishwasher — like energy efficiency, fingerprint-resistant stainless steel and a quick cycle that cleans a load in under one hour.

Then there's the added intelligence. The Miele is unique in that it features a "PowerDisk" of powdered detergent and rinse aid that you place into a special dispenser. That's super convenient, but it also means the machine will automatically dispense the correct amount of detergent into the dishwasher based on the cycle you've selected and the amount of soil on your dishes. Through the Miele app, you can start, stop and monitor this dishwasher wirelessly from your smartphone and get an alert when the Power Disk is running low. There's even an option to order more disks through the app.

Isn't it a pain when recipes tell you to adjust the oven temperature after 30 minutes? With this 30-inch slide-in gas oven (also available in electric), you simply whip out your phone and make the change through the GE Appliances Kitchen app. The WiFi-connected range also works with Alexa and Google so you can make changes by voice command, say when your hands are covered with raw chicken for tonight's dinner. High-tech features aside, the GE range also features a double oven, so you can cook two dishes at different temperatures at the same time.

The best smart small appliances

Small appliances also get better with technology, starting with the ability to control the devices from afar. Our latest tests have even revealed whole new product categories that have emerged out of advancements in cooking and clean-up. Here are a few to consider.

French for “under vacuum,” sous vide is a way to cook meat, fish and other foods in a temperature-controlled bath. Boasting 1100 watts, Joule can reach desired cooking temps in around 15 minutes. It's super convenient when cooking for a crowd since you can prepare steaks, filets and other dishes hours in advance, then flash sear them right before dinner is served. Joule is the device that maintains the pinpoint temperature for the duration of the cooking time. Our testers like its sleek, streamlined design — at 11 inches long, it's compact enough to fit into a kitchen drawer, unlike most other sous vide machines. Instead of clipping to the side of the pot, its magnetic bottom holds it upright in the pot. And there are no buttons or controls on the device, which makes it especially "smart." Instead, everything is done through the intuitive and easy-to-master Joule app that's loaded with recommended cooking times, recipes and pictures to illustrate anticipated results.

Sure, part of the beauty of a slow cooker is that you don't have to constantly check in on it. But there are times when remote control comes in handy, like when you need to adjust the temperature on a meal part way through the cooking time. That's why our testers like Instant Pot's WiFi-connected version, which was one of the first of its kind. As with the basic Instant Pot, it's multiple appliances in one, including a slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker and yogurt maker. The app makes it easy to search hundreds of pre-programmed recipes, then monitor the progress and receive notifications when your meal is ready.

Robot vacuums do the dirty work for you — literally. Okay, they're not quite as powerful as a full-size upright or canister vacuum, but sucking power continues to improve with the machines. That's certainly true with the iRobot Roomba S9+, which delivers solid daily cleaning on carpets and bare floors while you're doing other stuff. Thanks to the WiFi connectivity, you can also control the Roomba through the iRobot app or voice-enabled devices like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant — nice if you have company coming around last minute and want to give the place a quick sweep while you run to the grocery store. In tests conducted by our Cleaning Lab, this model excelled on hard floors and picked up 99% of debris. We were impressed by the accuracy of its smart mapping as well as its automatic dirt disposal system.

Versatility sets this countertop cooker apart from other smart ovens on the market. June claims a dozen cooking modes in all, though in fairness that includes a lot of stuff any toaster oven can do, like toasting, roasting and reheating. Where June goes to the next level is with modes like air frying, dehydrating and indoor grilling. If you're a little unsure in the kitchen, the June app's assisted cooking feature provides step-by-step video guidance through more complicated recipes, like the oven risotto or malted chocolate pie. Our testers found the touchpad controls to be highly intuitive and responsive. In fact, the entire design package is very well thought out, plus June is constantly tweaking and improving its software, so the experience promises to only get better.

Gardyn is a fully-automated indoor system that lets you grow crops of fruits and veggies year-round. After assembling the Gardyn frame, simply pop in the pods for the plants of your choice — assorted greens, herbs, fruits and flowers. Built-in cameras monitor plant growth and prompt you with any suggestions. For example, during our testing cycle, Gardyn noticed that some of our pods weren't getting enough sunlight, so it had us try a new location. It also did a good job monitoring water levels and irrigating plants automatically.

The best smart climate control

Most of your energy dollars go towards climate control. Through machine learning and other forms of artificial intelligence, smart home technology is able to keep heating and cooling costs in check, while also maintaining just the right temperature and humidity levels throughout the year.

Smart thermostats are nice for central cooling, but what if you rely on window units and you want to smarten up your climate control? That's the magic of LG's Smart Air Conditioner window unit, which enables you to control the temperature, scheduling mode and fan speed adjustment all from the LG SmartThinQ app. This AC is also compatible with both Alexa and Google Home for easy voice control when you're within earshot. With thousands of five-star reviews on Home Depot, many users like that this model comes with a handheld remote too.

This sleek, transparent humidifier from Levoit lets you adjust your room’s humidity as well as set schedules and timers without using your hands — all you have to do is ask Alexa or Google Assistant or go into the VeSync app. Our experts love its large 6-liter capacity and how it’s suitable for large rooms up to 505 square feet. According to the brand, the humidifier can run for 60 hours at its lowest mist level without needing to be refilled. Though refilling is easy when the tank is empty thanks to an innovative top-fill design. There’s also a handy sleep mode and optional nightlight to help you sleep comfortably.

This Dyson does its primary job exceedingly well, using a HEPA filter to capture up to 99.97% of airborne pollutants, odors and toxins. It then adds in a ton of family-friendly extras. For example, the purifier has no accessible blades, unlike other fans, so it's safer for small hands. There's a nighttime mode and a sleep timer as part of its 10-speed program control. Our testers also like that you can use the Dyson app to receive real-time air quality reports that include temperature and humidity.

The best smart home outdoors

Some of the best-connected technology makes life easier in the yard, garage, car and other places outside the home. The standouts from our tests take the guesswork out of lawn care, keep tabs on the property when you're away from home, and control various systems like your home's lighting and climate from the driver's seat of your car.

Have you ever had to turn the car around miles from home because you couldn't be sure you closed the garage door on your way out? A smart garage door opener means peace of mind. A longtime leader in the garage door opener category, Chamberlain's smart control solution is our experts' favorite pick. Testers found the MyQ to be plug-and-play easy, so you’ll be able to open and close your garage door within minutes through the intuitive app. You can also set daily schedules and even share access to your garage with up to three guests. Eligible Amazon Prime members can also arrange to have packages dropped safely inside the garage.

Traditional sprinkler systems can waste a ton of water, and they often don't irrigate when and where your yard needs it the most. Our testers like the Rachio 3 Controller, which leverages artificial intelligence and advanced sensor technology to solve both shortcomings. Not only does it work seamlessly with your in-ground sprinkler system, but it can also be tied into other smart home products, including any Alexa-enabled device, Apple HomeKit or Google Assistant.

User reviews are equally enthusiastic, with thousands of five-star ratings on Amazon. Many agree with our testers that it makes sense for sprinkler zones to be individually controlled, so an area of lawn that's in all-sun can be watered more frequently than shady patches. The Rachio 3 even coordinates watering with local weather reports, cutting back on irrigation when rain is forecast, which is a feature that helped it earn a badge from EPA’s WaterSense program.

Outdoor cameras are often installed near outdoor lighting fixtures, but why not combine the two? That's the space-saving beauty of the Netatmo which replaces any outdoor light fixture in your home with a home security camera. Installation is relatively easy, though you might want to hire an electrician, especially if it's being mounted high on a wall. Our engineers like the device's advanced camera technology which can distinguish between people, cars and animals. But unlike other cameras and video doorbells, there are no subscription fees to store and save captured videos.

More and more, the smart home starts in the car, with the ability to control devices in the home from the driver's seat — turn on the AC, preheat the oven, or open the front door for an early-arriving visitor. With its built-in Alexa and Android integration, the Chrysler Pacifica delivers that next-level connectivity and the experience works both ways, allowing you to start the engine from home, a nice convenience on cold winter mornings. The expansive infotainment stack on the spacious, family-friendly minivan also features SiriusXM with 360L, providing access to more than 200 channels, as well as personalized content. All the latest high-tech safety features are evident as well, including blind-spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking for pedestrians.

How to find the best smart home tech

Before you go all-in on the smart home experience, there are a bunch of factors to consider. You'll have to keep the following criteria in mind before buying:

  • Lifestyle: A home product is only smart if it works for you. Look for devices that will genuinely enhance the way you live — smart light bulbs if you travel often, smart locks if you have kids or frequent house guests and smart appliances if you’re remodeling the kitchen and looking for the latest cooking innovations.

  • Installation: Most of the best “starter” smart home products (like bulbs, plugs and doorbells) are inexpensive and DIY-friendly. Others may require professional installation, including some smart locks and thermostats that call for extra wiring. Make sure you consider the cost of hiring a pro when building your budget.

  • Controls: Think about how you want to control your smart home. Most devices come with apps that you control from your phone. That’s convenient, but the apps on your phone can add up fast; using a smart home hub can streamline everything onto a single app, plus most hubs also allow you to control smart devices by voice command.

  • Compatibility: Many smart home products work nicely together. For example, you can program lights to turn on when the doorbell rings. But to create those scenarios, you need to make sure the devices run on the same wireless network. This is another reason to go with a smart home hub — it makes finding compatible products easy.

How we test smart home devices

At the Good Housekeeping Institute, our experts, engineers and analysts across labs have been testing smart home devices since their onset. We’ve tried everything from smart thermostats, smart light bulbs, smart fridges, smart toilets to smart locks in our homes as well as in comprehensive tests at our labs. When evaluating smart home devices we test each product for ease of use and performance, including elements like set-up, pairing, compatibility with various smart home products and ecosystems, intuitiveness of app and other interactions, feature sets and more.

Why trust Good Housekeeping?

The Good Housekeeping Media & Tech and Home Improvement Lab provide expert reviews and advice on all things smart home-related, from building up a smart ecosystem to installing the best video doorbell, smart thermostats, smart speakers and more. In his role as Director of the Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab, Dan DiClerico brings more than 20 years of experience to the Institute, having reviewed thousands of products for Good Housekeeping, as well as brands like This Old House and Consumer Reports. For this smart home devices guide, Dan worked closely with Rachel Rothman, Chief Technologist & Director of Engineering at the Institute. For more than 15 years, Rachel has put her training in mechanical engineering and applied mathematics to work by researching, writing about products in the tech space and leading tests across a number of categories — including electronics, smart home, automotive, toys, parenting, fitness, tech, startups and more. She's a sought-after speaker at large-scale conferences such as CES and is regularly called upon as a guest expert for leading media outlets.

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