A Google search for “life hack” returns, oh, just 403 million results. These tips and tricks exist to make life simpler or help you do something new. They go viral for a reason. We’re all looking for ways to make life easier, right?
You’re reading this article on a phone, tablet or PC right now. Wouldn’t it be great to get even more out of your everyday tech? Tap or click here for 10 new iPhone tricks. On a Windows PC? Kim’s recent column includes five new Windows tips you should know.
Sometimes, life hacks come via a cool new piece of tech that simplifies an annoying process and does the work for us. Here are 11 smart home gadgets you’ll wonder how you got along without before.
1. Get smart (plugs)
Smart plugs are a no-brainer. If there’s one piece of smart home tech you buy, this should be it. They’re affordable and versatile, and they’re a helping hand when you don’t want to get up to switch off a light or the fan.
The weather-resistant Kasa Smart Outdoor Smart Plug KP400 has two outlets and works from up to 300 feet away. Use Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa to control your sprinklers, schedule your outdoor lighting to turn on or off, and more.
Another option, the Kasa Smart Plug HS103P2, works inside your home to control humidifiers, holiday lights, fans and whatever else you plug in. As with the KP400, you can use Google Assistant or Alexa to switch your devices on and off or schedule them to work at your whim. You can also group tasks together.
2. Close the garage from anywhere
Ever leave the house and wonder if you locked the door? How about closing the garage? The MyQ Chamberlain Smart Garage Door Opener will let you know when your garage door is opening, closing or left open. You can control and monitor your garage door from anywhere via your smartphone. You can also give access to your garage for up to three guests.
The MyQ works with all major brands of garage door openers manufactured after 1993 that have standard safety sensors. You can also add a sensor to control two garage doors with one hub.
3. An affordable smart assistant
This is another no-brainer if you want your tech to help you out. With a smart assistant, you can control your smart home or ask Alexa to give you the weather, news or a joke. You can even make a hands-free phone call. There’s actually a ton you can do with these little devices. Tap or click for 20 new uses for an Amazon Echo.
Amazon’s small smart speaker now sports a clock. The fourth-generation Echo Dot has an LED display showing the time, alarms and timers. Tap the top if you want to snooze.
4. Stay comfy all year long
Stay warm or frosty (and save money) with a smart thermostat. The Google Nest Thermostat can turn itself down when you’re not home so you’re not throwing away money. Anybody in the home can control the temperature from their phone or tablet.
Install the Google Home app on your Android or iPhone to create a schedule so you’re not always getting up to adjust the AC or heat. The built-in Savings Finder makes suggestions that can lower your monthly bill even more. Tap or click here to smarten up your HVAC system.
5. Who’s at the door?
The new Ring Video Doorbell is wired using your existing doorbell for continuous power. Monitor your front door in 1080p HD video so you don’t miss a thing. You can get notifications on your phone or tablet when someone is at the door and speak to them through the built-in speaker. Adjustable motion detection and night vision keep you alert of movement by your front door.
Hey, it’s no butler, but it does do a lot. You can also connect to Alexa to hear alerts on any Echo device or view them onscreen.
6. Let something else do the vacuuming
This smart home cleaner doesn’t just vacuum — it mops, too! No more scrubbing on your hands and knees. Kick up your feet and let this gadget do the work.
The Eufy RoboVac G30 Hybrid uses reusable, disposable mop cloths and plans its routes to clearn every inch of your floors as efficiently as possible. When the job is finished, use the app to check out what the RoboVac did. It can also give you reminders and status updates.
You can control this smart vacuum with Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant.
7. Light it up
A smart light switch is a good first step toward a smart home. Control your lights using your voice or your smartphone. Use these Treatlife smart switches to create a schedule, monitor your lights, share devices and take control of a group of lights.
This is one of the most satisfying parts of a smart home: Adjusting the lights exactly how you want them, with just a few words. Even better, smart switches can save you money, too, and this four-pack is super affordable.
8. Never lose your stuff again
Let’s face it — we all misplace things. It may be temporary (you put your keys in the fridge!) or permanent (your phone really is gone), but it’s always annoying. The Tile Sticker makes it easy to locate your stuff. These little trackers work great with headphones, remote controls, car keys, sunglasses and wallets.
Just attach one using the adhesive back. If you lose something, open the free iOS or Android app to see where it’s hiding.
The locator works up to 150 feet. If your stuff has gone beyond the Bluetooth range, you can see its last known location and use the Tile Network to find it. You can find your phone even if it’s on silent!
9. The best smart bulbs around
You can ditch the switch and go right for the bulb. Sengled smart lightbulbs are super simple to use. Just screw them in, pair them with your smart home hub and you’re good to go.
Use Alexa to turn the light on and off, dim or brighten, and set up routines and schedules.
10. Take it outside
Some of the things on this list essentially pay for themselves. That’s true for this one. Old-school sprinkler systems have two modes: On and off. You could be wasting a ton of water on your lawn when it just doesn’t need it.
The Rachio 3e Smart Sprinkler Controller waters your lawn and plants according to the weather. If rain is coming, it won’t activate. It also keeps track of the seasons and temperature and adjusts accordingly. So cool.
Run, pause or stop your sprinkler system using the free app on your smart device, and set watering schedules.
Smart home integration doesn’t just make life easier. It can keep you safe, too. SimpliSafe, a sponsor of Kim’s national radio show, is a solid option if you want peace of mind around the clock. SimpliSafe’s award-winning system has an arsenal of sensors and cameras that protect every inch of your home.
You order everything you need online, then set it up yourself in about 30 minutes. You don’t even need a drill. That means no salesperson or installation crew bugging you.
Then, SimpliSafe’s security specialists take over, monitoring your home, ready to send emergency help the moment there’s an alarm. You can monitor it all from the easy-to-use app.