Your Essential Smart Home Device Guide for the Holidays 2021

“Smartifying” your home can not only make your home more eco-friendly, it can also help save you money and make your life easier at the same time. So how exactly do you go about this “smartify” metamorphosis? All you have to do is read on…we’ve done the research for you. Pick which of the technologies described below belong on your 2021 holiday gift list and add them to it!

Smart Speakers

Most homes begin their “smartify” journey with a smart speaker. We’re sure you’ve heard of “Alexa.” Yes, that’s the name of a smart speaker virtual assistant. A “smart speaker” goes beyond being just a speaker to play music in your home. It has a voice command component that senses “hot words” to complete various functionalities…from looking up something for you on the internet (thanks to a bluetooth and WiFi connection) to dimming and brightening room lights, controlling room climate and controlling home appliances. Here are a few popular smart speakers you may want to consider:


  • Amazon Echo Studio
“Alexa” belongs to the Amazon Echo smart speaker.  The newest evolution in Amazon’s Echo series is the Amazon Echo Studio. The Studio doesn’t only do hi-res audio: it also supports so-called 3D audio. Currently, it can play Dolby Atmos (great for use with the Amazon FireStick for watching movies) and Sony 360 Reality Audio, which can be both music and video soundtracks. Retail cost: $199.99.


  • Google Nest Mini
    “Alexa” belongs to the Amazon Echo smart speaker.  The newest evolution in Amazon’s Echo series is the Amazon Echo Studio. The Studio doesn’t only do hi-res audio: it also supports so-called 3D audio. Currently, it can play Dolby Atmos (great for use with the Amazon FireStick for watching movies) and Sony 360 Reality Audio, which can be both music and video soundtracks. Retail cost: $199.99.


  • Sonos One
    Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant are built right into the Sonos One smart speaker. On the top you’ll find a touch-sensitive surface. Swiping right or left skips forward and backwards through your current playlist, while tapping in the center of the surface plays and pauses your music. Finally, tapping the left and right halves of the panel raises and lower the volume. 
    It also has an app for remote controls. The physical controls are nice when you want to quickly skip a track, but you’re unlikely to use them much, especially now that voice control is also an option. Sonos is designed to integrate well into a multi-room speaker system and the speakers even go into stereo mode if two are put in the same room. Retail cost: $219.


Smart Thermostat

Smart thermostats are WiFi thermostats that can be used with home automation and are responsible for controlling a home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Installing a smart thermostat can help your home become more eco-friendly and can help you save money on your energy bills.
Smart thermostats also record internal/external temperatures, the time the HVAC system has been running, and can even notify you if your air filter needs to be replaced. Here are some of the top sellers:


  • Ecobee Lite
    Ecobee thermostats work seamlessly with the ”Apple HomeKit” app on all iOS devices including Apple Watch, and leading smart home ecosystems including the Google Assistant. The Ecobee Lite is Energy Star approved, pre-cools your home during times when energy is less expensive, and learns your routine, recommending changes to your thermostat for better energy efficiency. Retail cost: $179.99.


  • Honeywell Home T5 Smart Thermostat
    Although it can’t sense your presence or automatically determine a schedule, its built-in geofencing feature works very well and allows for useful interactions with other smart-home devices, such as triggering lights when you arrive home or leave. The T5 is compatible with Apple HomeKit and Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa. Retail cost: $125.


  • Google Nest Learning Thermostat
    The 3rd generation Learning Thermostat from Nest adapts to your heating and cooling preferences within a week of installation and can automatically create schedules. This thermostat features built-in WiFi connectivity and can be conveniently controlled via the “Nest” app for Android and iOS smart devices. It has a 2.1-in. display with a 480 x 480 resolution that can automatically sense when you’re in the room. When your presence is detected, it automatically lights up to display the current time and temperature. With Auto-Away technology, the thermostat can turn itself down when no one is home, conserving energy in the process. It’s compatible with a wide variety of heating and cooling systems and features a built-in rechargeable battery. Retail cost: $179.


Smart Door Locks

While a regular door lock works just fine, picture this: your arms are full of groceries…and as you approach the front door, instead of having to sit down grocery bags and dig out your keys…the door lock recognizes a signal from your smartphone and automatically unlocks. Or maybe you’re out of town and your friend is stopping by to water your plants. You can just text them a code to open the door instead of handing them a physical key they may lose.
Once installed and paired via Bluetooth with your smartphone, a smart lock can be locked and unlocked without a key. Depending on the make and model and its feature set, a smart lock can be opened by waving or turning your smartphone in front of the lock, touching the lock with your finger, tapping a control in an app, approaching your door, or even talking to your lock. Some locks can also be programmed to automatically bolt behind you as you leave. Smart locks offer one or a combination of these keyless lock/unlock options. Smart locks are the next level of home safety combined with practicality. Here are some of 2021’s best sellers:


  • August Wi-Fi Smart Lock
    The August Wi-Fi Smart Lock includes a retrofit August lock and a DoorSense open-close sensor to upgrade your existing lock. WiFi is built into this smart door lock model, so you won’t need to pay extra to buy a Connect module to enable remote access. WiFi also enables remote access to lock and unlock your door from your Android or iOS devices when you’re not home. Retail cost: $200.


  • Yale Assure Lock SL Key Free Touchscreen Deadbolt
    With the Yale Assure Lock SL Key Free Touchscreen Deadbolt, you can lock and unlock your door by asking Siri or with the Apple home app, when you’re at home. You can also set daily schedules to ensure your door is locked at the same time each day. The Yale Assure features a backlit touchscreen keypad that requires a four-to-eight digit pin code to unlock. You can create unique pin codes for friends and family within the Yale secure app. The lock fits on standard doors 1 ⅜-in. to 2 ¼-in. thick with a 2 ⅛-in. face bore hole. Retail cost: $228.


  • Schlage Encode Smart Wi-Fi Deadbolt with Camelot Trim in Aged Bronze
    Smart Lock with Built-in Wi-Fi allows you to lock/unlock from anywhere — no additional accessories required. Pair with the Schlage home app or Key by Amazon app to create and manage up to 100 access codes for trusted friends and family for recurring, temporary or permanent access
    The Schlage Encode also works with Alexa to check the status of your lock and lock/unlock your door. In addition, Alexa will let you know when your battery is running low or can set up smart reorders through Amazon Dash Replenishment so you always have replacement batteries when needed. It also has optional voice control for hands-free convenience when using voice-enabled products. Retail cost: $249.


Video Doorbells

The video doorbell is the ultimate way to maximize the security of your home. Video doorbells are an integrated surveillance system that offers security. Having a video doorbell allows you to watch for potential package theft while also maintaining a record of who is coming on and off of your property. They often feature live video viewing and two-way communication capabilities so you can speak to someone through the doorbell remotely.
When deciding which video doorbell to purchase, there are different types to consider. There are hard-wired versions that need to tap into your doorbell power system to work, and there are those with rechargeable batteries that are useful for rental properties. There are those that operate in a closed system that post video to their own app for viewing and require no further purchase other than the hardware itself. There are also those that require an ongoing monthly fee for using their cloud storage to save videos. Here are a few of the most recommended:


  • XTU Wireless Doorbell Camera with Chime
    The XTU Wireless Doorbell Camera uses rechargeable batteries and works on a home’s WiFi internet. It can be installed using double-sided sticky tape for easy removability or with screws. The XTU features 1920×1080-pixel resolution in both day and night vision. It has motion detection and also allows for live video viewing and two-way communication. It uses a free downloadable app for video and photo storage and does not require an ongoing subscription. Retail cost: $69.99.


  • Arlo Essential Wire-Free Doorbell
    Arlo Essential Video Doorbell can be powered by a rechargeable battery or hardwired. It uses a home’s WiFi for easy setup. When motion is detected, you receive notifications and can view live video from your phone. It also allows you to speak to visitors through two-way audio communication, but this one has a pre-recorded messages option. Purchase includes a trial of its Arlo Secure cloud storage subscription. Arlo also has an Arlo Theft Replacement program where it will replace your camera if stolen. Retail cost: $79.99.


  • Ring Video Doorbell
    The Ring Video Doorbell is a hard-wired video doorbell option that allows connectivity to your Amazon Echo Smart Speaker. It features 1080-pixel day and night vision and uses WiFi connectivity. It features motion detection, live video viewing and allows you to talk to someone at the front door by saying to your Echo, “Alexa, talk to the front door.” The Ring Video Doorbell does require a monthly subscription to its “Ring Protect Plan” for video storage. Retail cost: $41.99-$249.99, depending on the version and purchased accessories.
So add one or all of these technologies to your 2021 holiday gift list. Let your friends and family help you start saving on energy costs, and help make your home a safer place to live!  Some of these smartifying gifts can even help increase your home’s resale value.  And if you have any questions about the current state of the real estate market or how to go about buying or selling your home, Varma Realty Group would love to answer them. Please feel free to reach out at varun@varmarealtygroup.com or at 513-307-3599.
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