Consumer Reports weighs in on smart technology for your home

CR photo

Smart doorbells, smart locks, smart thermostats, smart security cameras. If you need an education on how to “smarten up” your home, here's a crash course on these high-tech devices.

Smart speakers make it very easy to connect different products and have them talk to each other. To use a smart speaker as a hub, or control center of sorts— you’ll find three main options: Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri, available on the Apple HomePod.

Consumer Reports experts found the HomePod to be the easiest smart speaker to connect with other devices. But HomePod is not compatible with as many other smart devices as Amazon and Google speakers.

As for those other smart products, Consumer Reports (CR) puts them through rigorous testing. For example, smart locks still have to pass the same break-in tests as traditional door locks. A lot of smart locks don’t hold up in forced-entry tests, so you’ll want to get one that’s smart, but also strong. The recommended $230 Schlage Sense Smart Lock stood up to kick-in, picking, and drilling tests, and connects with any of the three smart speaker assistants.

Another option for your doors is video doorbells. You can see who is at your door, and some models even work with smart locks to remotely open the door through an app.

Need even more smarts? You might want to add smart cameras inside and out. Security cameras are a great way to keep a virtual eye on your home no matter where you are.

One thing to keep in mind: You’ll need to pay a fee for video storage for most smart security cameras that can be as much as $200 a year. When these cameras take video they store it on their company’s server, somewhere far off, instead of on the camera itself. Doing this makes it really easy for you to access that footage, but it can also cost you over the long term.

The $120 Amazon Cloud Cam is a CR Best Buy. And if you want surveillance both inside and outside your home, consider the Netgear Arlo Pro 2 Smart Camera for about $220.

One smart home product CR says could be smarter is smoke detectors. The smart smoke detectors currently available detect only one type of fire. CR recommends dual sensor smoke alarms, which can detect both smoldering and flash fires.

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