I used to test smart home devices full time, and these are the 6 products I still use every day

4 weeks ago 31
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Philips Hue Lightstrips and Light Bulbs can shine in a huge amount of colors, including basic light. Jenny McGrath/Insider

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  • I was a smart home reviewer for years, testing everything from smart bulbs to door locks to cameras.
  • Even though I don’t review smart home products anymore, there are some I still use every day.

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I tested and reviewed smart home products for over five years, so my apartment was always stuffed with the latest tech. I had smart locks on my doors, cameras all over the place, and connected pet feeders. 

When I moved on to writing about other topics, I ditched a lot of these gadgets. Some, like the smart pet feeder, became useless when their companies shut down. 

But there are still a few smart home gadgets that continue to make my life easier. Nothing is fully automated or works without a hitch, but these are the products that have lasted for years and still earn a spot in my smart-ish home, making them easy to recommend.

Learn more about why you can trust our tech team to recommend the best products.

Here are the 6 smart home products that I still use regularly:

A camera for making sure my cats aren’t causing chaos

A Google Nest Indoor Camera sits on a kitchen countertop.

Jenny McGrath/Insider

Google Nest Indoor Camera, $120 at Amazon

Indoor security cameras make me anxious, but I love being able to check on my cats when I'm not home. For that purpose, Nest's camera is perfect. I set it up to record in their usual haunts, namely the cat tree and food bowls. When they saunter into frame, I get an alert. 

To use the Nest as a proper security camera, you need the $6-per-month Nest Aware subscription. But for occasional use and peace of mind, the Nest camera is a helpful stand-in for a weekend kitty-sitter. 

Smart and sophisticated light switches

A white Lutron Caséta Wireless Light Switch is mounted on a gray wall near a door frame.

Jenny McGrath/Insider

Lutron Caséta Wireless Switch Starter Kit, $99.95 at Amazon

My home's original light switches were dingy little nubs I had to rock up and down to operate. When I was replacing them, I wanted something sleeker. Lutron's Caséta line of wireless switches look amazing. They work with dimmer bulbs, and you can control them with a voice assistant or included remote. You'll also need a starter kit, which includes a puck-like bridge that connects to your router, to operate them. While they're expensive, the Lutron switches are the most reliable smart home equipment in my home. 

A smart thermostat I don’t have to think about

A nest learning thermostat is glowing orange displaying 70 degrees.

Jenny McGrath/Insider

Mysa Smart Thermostat, $139 at Amazon

Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd generation), $249 at Best Buy

My 1960s space requires two types of thermostats. The Mysa was the only smart thermostat I could find for electric baseboard heaters. Nest says its Learning Thermostat works with 95% of 24V systems. Neither is perfect — the Nest has kicked on unintentionally, and the Mysa has lost connection before — but I like their controls and insights.

You can use an app or voice assistant to control either, but both devices are intuitive enough to control directly. That's ideal for when in-laws are visiting who want control over the thermostat. 

A voice assistant so I don’t burn my pizza

A JBL smart display sits on a kitchen counter displaying a colorful canyon.

Jenny McGrath/Insider

Google Nest Hub, $64.99 at Best Buy

While my smart home is a bit of a hodgepodge of brands, Google definitely runs things. I have a smart display in my kitchen that I use to set timers, listen to podcasts, and perform other tasks. The display is helpful because it can show the timer (or three of them) counting down and while playing videos or displaying recipes. You can't find my JBL display anymore, but the Google Nest Hub runs the same system and is one of our picks for best smart display

Jenny McGrath is the Home Editor for Insider Reviews, overseeing coverage of robot vacuums, mattresses, cleaning products, and more. Jenny has over six years of experience covering smart-home technology and home appliances.  She's tested and reviewed almost any home product you can describe as smart, from thermostats to light bulbs to ovens to locks. Her home is filled with smart speakers, connected light switches, and smart appliances.  Prior to joining Business Insider, Jenny was a senior writer and home editor for Digital Trends. She launched the site's home section as its first home editor in 2014, before Amazon released the first Echo and the same year Google bought Nest. At trade shows including CES, KBIS, and IFA, she's watched smart-home and home appliance trends evolve.  She lives in Seattle and always has podcast recommendations. See below for some of her work: The best Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, and other sparkling wines for any budget 17 best planners for staying organized in 2021, including tips and tricks from experts Learn more about how our team of experts tests and reviews products at Insider here. Learn more about how we test kitchen products.

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Disclosure: Written and researched by the Insider Reviews team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our partners. We may receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at reviews@insider.com.

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