Consumer Reports: Running A Home From A Phone

Findings from the latest tests of home automation products including smart appliances, app-enabled locks, musical toilets and more

May 01, 2014, 06:00 ET from Consumer Reports

YONKERS, N.Y., May 1, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The number of home automation products is exploding.  And according to a survey of nearly 2,500 subscribers from Consumer Reports, almost 20 percent of respondents who have a smart phone or tablet already use it to remotely control some aspect of their home, and almost 70 percent of those who don't voiced interest in doing so in the future.

The full report on home automation products can be found in the June 2014 issue of Consumer Reports and online at

"Convenience, control, and peace of mind are the powerful combination that the newest smart products are selling," said Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, Deputy Content Editor of Consumer Reports. "With big name companies such as Amazon, AT&T, Home Depot, Lowe's, Staples, and Verizon introducing smart products and services with large advertising budgets behind them, this might actually be the year that home automation catches on in a big way." 

In its survey, Consumer Reports found that thermostats, security systems, blinds, lighting, and door locks are the home items readers most want to manage remotely.  But before buying into smart products, consumers should consider the potential pitfalls of a connected home such as Wi-Fi vulnerabilities that could compromise security and privacy issues related to the sharing of information by these gadgets.

Smart Products or Dumb Choices?
Internet-enabled products often cost more than their low-tech siblings. To tell whether they're worth it, Consumer Reports tested their "life improving" claims, their primary function and how easy their smart features are to set up and use.  Below are a few of the findings:

  • WORTH BUYING: Generac Mobile Link, $280

This remote monitoring system will e-mail or text the user or servicing dealer of a generator if a problem arises during the unit's periodic self-check.  Service after the first year is $12.50 per month or $100 for the year.  Among stationary generators, the device works with two Consumer Reports recommends: the 7-kW Generac 6237, a CR Best Buy at $2,250, and the 13-kW Generac 6241, $3,500.

  • NEVER MIND: Nest Learning Thermostat, $250

Programming a thermostat can be a pain, so one that programs itself and adapts to the user's schedule sounds great. However, Consumer Reports found that the initial setup wasn't as intuitive as other digital or smart thermostats tested.

  • THE JURY'S OUT: Whirlpool Duet WFL98HEBU, $1,500, and Duet WEL98HEBU, $1,500

This matching washer and dryer pair has an app that let users track their laundry's progress while they're playing with their kids, and even turn the machine on or off. The dryer also has a duct-blockage indicator, which the manufacturers say improves lagging performance and efficiency. But consumers can get great performance for hundreds less by forgoing the smart features and regularly checking the vent.

For additional information on smart features and products, including Ratings of smart locks, check out the June 2014 issue of Consumer Reports and   

MAY 2014
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SOURCE Consumer Reports