Smart Devices for Teaching an Old House New Tricks


You can teach an old house new tricks. Add convenience and energy-saving perspective to your home with these intelligent gadgets.

Intellithings RoomMe

It may look like a smoke detector, but the RoomMe is really a human detector. The sensor-laden fixture can tell I just walked into the room (by sniffing my smartphone over Bluetooth) and will command connected thermostats, lights, and speakers to calibrate the environment to match my preferences. Here’s the clever bit: One person gets to be the “Room Master” of each sensor, and their desires override everyone else’s—no matter who was in the room first.


Dwight Eschliman

Eve Energy Strip

With this three-outlet, Wi-Fi-connected surge protector, you can introduce any lamp, fan, or appliance to the internet by simply plugging it in. In the accompanying app, users can program devices to go on or off by time of day or when Siri or some other smart device in the home pings them. Don’t worry, such traffic is all end-to-end encrypted. The strip also collects power consumption data and plots it in easy-to-grok graphs.


Dwight Eschliman


Any smart thermostat lets us set the temperature with an app, but this one has voice control: Ask its built-in Alexa to make it warmer or cooler, or to broadcast the latest news on your smart speaker. The wall-mounted unit comes bundled with a ­Zippo-sized Room Sensor; what’s great about this is you can place it near where you hang out the most, like the sofa, so the thermostat can take accurate readings from that microclimate and not the one over by the wall.


Dwight Eschliman

iRobot Roomba i7+

Onboard sensors help this robovac learn the layout of one’s home. We can then look at the resulting floor plan in the app and create automated cleaning schedules—like, say, the kitchen every day and the hallway every other day. Our favorite new thing? Between sweep sessions, the Roomba empties its own dustbin into a bag in the charging station. The only thing we have to do is replace the bag after 30 cleanings.


Dwight Eschliman

C by GE C-Start Smart Switch

This dimmer switch lets you control any light bulb, smart or not, with a touch, a tap in its app, or a voice command through Alexa or Google Assistant. Install multiple switches and control the lights in every room from any single switch. It’s motion-­sensitive too, but a Do Not Disturb mode will keep Poppy—my 10-year-old tortie—from running up my electric bill at night.


This article appears in the April issue. Subscribe now.

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