Home trends come and go. But it's functionality that wins in the end. Because smart functionality almost always adds some intrinsic value to your home.
That's why these smart home products, especially the ones that make you safer, are some of our favorite home upgrades.
#1 Video Doorbell
WiFi-enabled video doorbells will let you see, hear, and speak to whoever is at your door via a smartphone, even when you're not home.
It's like Facetime but for your house. It alerts your phone and turns on the camera when someone rings the bell or comes near. You can tell the UPS guy to leave the package at the door or say, "Be there in a minute!" — whether you're in the bathroom or thousands of miles away. So much for casing the joint while you're out of town.
Video doorbells can even help catch a thief because you can see them on camera.
They're not expensive — at most, around $200 — and you can install one yourself with some basic tools.
#2 Smart Door Locks
Keys are so 20th century. With a smart lock, you can lock or unlock your door with your smartphone or voice. You can text digital keys to friends, the dog sitter, or the delivery guy, giving them temporary access, which is waaaaaay safer than the old key-under-the-doormat routine.
Plus: Think you forgot to lock the house? You can whip out your smartphone and check. On the stoop with arms full of groceries? Just tell the lock to open.
#3 Home Generators
The number of power outages from bad weather has more than doubled in the last 15 years, so generators are becoming a thing.
But not those noisy, portable, diesel ones. You want a generator that's built into your home. They look like an HVAC unit and run on propane or natural gas, so they don't belch out smelly gases or require refueling every couple of hours. They'll kick on automatically when the power goes off and can even be operated from a smartphone.
It might not be a home investment you'll eagerly Instagram upon installation, but when you're still scrolling and posting during a killer snowstorm, you'll be feeling pretty fancy.
#4 Smart Mirror
Even the ol' looking glass is getting smart. Bathroom mirrors with voice-activated digital assistants can tell you the weather, give you traffic updates, and play your favorite podcasts. You can even tell your mirror to order more moisturizer the moment you realize you're getting low.
Check out Kohler's Verdera Voice Lighted Smart Mirror, an Alexa-enabled smart mirror. It also has motion sensors that turn on the light when you stand in front of it, giving you one less germy thing to touch in the bathroom.
There are prototypes out there for mirrors that advise on your wardrobe, health, and skin care, too; they're just not on the market yet.
Obviously, everything in your home is not about ROI, and a smart mirror is no exception. Will it up your home value? Nah. Is it fun? Yes. Does it make life in one of your home's most hectic rooms easier? Oh yeah.
#5 Indoor Gardens
Houseplants have been having a moment for a while, but edible gardens are coming indoors, too.
More than a third of Millennials are growing herbs indoors, and a gardening industry report predicts the number of people growing plants inside is going to increase about 25% by 2021. It's an especially good idea for homes that have little or no yard space.
We're not talking pots of basil on the windowsill but permanent setups — like a built-in planter that also works as a room divider (mid-century, retro-cool factor included).
Or you can turn a whole wall into a hydroponic, vertical garden with PVC panels. Install a few smart grow lights, and you're good to go.
#6 Smart Blinds
Throw some shade on high cooling and heating costs with WiFi-enabled blinds you can control with your smartphone or voice. They'll even work with Alexa and Siri.
Program them to open or close at certain times of day, or when the room hits a specific temperature. Or if you're reading and you want to open the blinds to let in more light, you don't have to get out of your chair. “Alexa, open the blinds." Done.
You can also pre-schedule your smart blinds to make your home more secure.