This story is part of an ongoing DIY smart home series. Be sure to check out the latest installments to follow the renovation process from start to finish.
Do I need a refrigerator that talks to me?
My parents are renovating their home, and I’ve kicked off a multi-part, DIY smart home series to document the process. One of the first decisions they had to make was what appliances would fill the space, and if those appliances should be “smart.”
Over the last few years, more and more of the best refrigerators, best electric ranges and best dishwashers have been built with smart features, which lets you control them from your phone or with a smart assistant like Alexa or Google Assistant. We’re guaranteed to see even more debut this week at KBIS, the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show. Already, you can look up recipes on your refrigerator’s display, plan a menu for the week, and then send preheating instructions to your smart oven.
As I read the early press releases related to KBIS, which officially kicks off February 9, I wondered if it’s worth investing in smart appliances similar to those being showcased. Are we just a few years away from everyone having a tablet-operated fridge that pumps out spherical ice cubes? More importantly, will owning an app-controlled oven improve the quality of life in our condo?
Since my dad is handling most of the contracting work, appliances are the biggest consolidated expense of the project. Our ballpark budget is $5,000, which sadly puts the $4,445 LG Instaview with Craft Ice (opens in new tab) out of range. Some of Samsung’s Family Hubs (opens in new tab) are more affordable, but I’m not sold on fridges that require software updates. For bustling households with varying schedules and dietary needs, an appliance that reminds you of carpool pickup and recommends grocery lists might make sense. But my parents are essentially empty-nesters who barbecue outside as long as the temperature is above 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Smart appliances will have their time, but their time in the Kozuch household isn’t coming soon. According to a smart appliances analyst via Statista (opens in new tab), “customers as a first step purchase lower-priced smart appliances such as smart coffee machines or vacuum robots, whereas people who already own products from other segments are more likely to purchase large, higher-priced [smart] appliances like fridges.”
Despite my experience with smart home devices, my own family home is currently dumb as can be. I think my parents need to familiarize themselves with the smart locks and smart switches we’ll be installing soon before leveling up to any refrigerator with cameras inside. I also think smart appliances need a few more years to become more budget-friendly as smaller smart home devices have. That could happen sooner rather than later: Samsung now has a Wi-Fi and voice-controlled range that starts at $999.
So maybe one day we'll want and can afford something like GE's new Monogram Range (opens in new tab), a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled, brass-capped beauty that starts at $13,500. The configurable cooktop benefits from a precision-cooking TrueTemp burner that maintains a specific temperature over an extended period of time via companion app.
I could also see the benefit to LG’s latest InstaView fridge (opens in new tab), which can open its doors via voice command. In addition to a mic, the fridge has a speaker, plus a A UV light in the water dispenser that LG says can kill up to 99.99% of bacteria. The company hasn’t announced pricing yet, but we don’t expect it to be cheap.
After visiting every P.C. Richard and Son, Lowes and Home Depot on Long Island, we landed on a 30-inch Whirlpool model with french doors (opens in new tab), a freezer drawer, water dispenser and ice maker. It’s not smart, but it costs a reasonable $2,000. As for the range, microwave and dishwasher, Frigidaire has a suite that looks great on the showroom floors and keeps us in budget.
You might be asking, “Kate, isn’t this a DIY smart home series?” Yes, I know it doesn’t seem Jetsons-certified yet, but we’ll get there soon, I promise. Besides, I’m not leaving smarts out of the first step of the renovation process entirely. This $300 Moen Motion-Controlled Faucet (opens in new tab) is the perfect training wheels for the rest of the automation arriving in our home in the coming weeks. As I mentioned, we love to barbecue, so keeping the sink as clean as possible from being contaminated by uncooked meats is key. A simple wave of the hand will turn the water on and off — I think Jane had something like this in her kitchen, no?
Have any DIY smart home questions? E-mail me at email@example.com or leave a comment below with anything you’d like to see me cover, whether it’s a how-to or buying decision you’re struggling to make. Be sure to check out my guides to the best smart home devices (and best cheap smart home devices), too.