What’s on your holiday wish list? According to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), a record-setting 116 million Americans–almost half the U.S. adult population–plan to purchase tech or tech accessories during Black Friday Week, with TVs, laptop computers, smartphones, videogame consoles, tablet computers, headphones, tech accessories, DVD or Blu-ray Disc players, digital cameras, and wearables topping their shopping lists this year. Drones, virtual reality devices, and digital assistant devices, such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home will also be big sellers, says CTA.
Although these items will be hot this holiday season, there are plenty of other high-tech options to consider, so the editors of Electronic House magazine and sister publication CEPro magazine decided to put together their own wish lists of products they’d love to see under the Christmas tree this year.
Lisa Montgomery, Editor, Electronic House magazine
Roomba or some other robot vac
Combine a big dog with a big house, and you’ve got a recipe for a ridiculous amount of vacuuming. It’s a daily chore that happens at my house, so I’ve always dreamed of owning a Roomba vac to suck up all the dog hair, dirt, and debris. I’ve asked for it for Christmas for a few years now, and I’m hoping that this is the year that it finally ends up under the tree. Besides keeping the floors clean, it would also be a fun “toy” to play with from an app on my smartphone—creating cleaning schedules and kick-starting on a whim as I’m working in my home office.
Sonos System + Lutron Caseta
My son likes alternative rock, my daughter hip-hop, my husband is into country music, and me, I’m stuck in the ‘80s. The only thing we all have in common is that we listen to our music on headphones or scramble to grab the one portable Bluetooth speaker that serves our entire family. That coveted speaker, unfortunately, is hardly ever in my hot little hands. A Sonos system (with speakers in every room) would be an absolute blessing to our domestic bliss. We’d all have access to the music we like and be able to play it wherever we like … and order up our preferences via the smartphones that have become a common fixture in our pockets. And now that Sonos can integrate with a Lutron lighting system, it’s even better. From one remote, I’d be able to set the music and the lights to create the perfect atmosphere for entertaining guests.
Michigan is notorious its cold, snowing winters, but that has never stopped me from craving an outdoor TV. Models from SunBrite, Seura, and Peerless-AV have been designed to withstand extreme temperatures and weather conditions, and with the cost of these hardy models dropping each year, I think it’s about time to add one to the backyard. We entertain a lot outdoors … yes, even when it’s cold, so having a TV that’s bright enough to enjoy a football game in the afternoon would be a huge party-pleaser.
Jason Knott, Editor, CEPro magazine
Google Home Hub
Ever since Amazon Echo came on the scene and started integrating with various home automation devices, voice control has become all the rage. We use Alexa to run several Lutron Caseta wireless lights (with geo-fencing hooked to our mobile phones), create a shopping list, act as a cooking timer, and listen to my obscure Surf Rock Radio station (my wife would say incessantly). Strangely, Alexa has trouble responding to my eight-year-old daughter’s high-pitched voice. But now the new $130 Google Home hub is out and promises to take voice control to a new level by harnessing Google’s deep search engine for more conversational and practical speech recognition.
Lutron Serena Shades
We have a 141-year-old house that is a converted barn. The floor joists are logs, the windows are original rope and sash, and the entire interior walls are wood boards butted against each other … not even tongue and groove. So, while it looks really neat, it creaks and leaks air, and inside it is very dark. We’ve added skylights, lots of ceiling can lights, and transom windows to brighten the interior. For privacy, we have thick wooden blinds on the windows that complement the interior walls. But it makes for quite a daily task to open the blinds (especially on the south-facing side of the home) to let solar heat warm the home. So, Lutron Serena shades are on my Christmas Wish List. I am just not sure the battery power will be able to drive our heavy wooden blinds.
Smart Thermostat or Ecovent
Our old home has a three-zone HVAC system with old, old thermostats. We walk around wearing hoodies all winter inside the house. We really want something smarter and have been looking at Nest and others. My wife is a daily Amazon shopper and devoted to the online reviews, so she is hesitant to pull the trigger on Nest because it does have a lot of negative feedback. But one way or the other, we will be pulling the trigger on three smart network-connected thermostats this year. However, we might alternatively hire a professional to install an Ecovent system that turns the regular old HVAC registers into “smart” registers.
Julie Jacobson, Founding Editor, CEPro magazine
I’ve always thought motorized shades were a killer app. Our last house had a bank of windows so monstrous it would have been challenging to have a system installed. Now we’re in a much more manageable space, so it’s time! Our loft-style master bedroom will never get dark without them.
White Noise Machine
Both my husband and I are so used to sleeping with a fan on, it’s hard to sleep without it. When it’s too cold, we simply face the fan away from the bed. When we travel, we toss and turn all night. So I’m intrigued by the Nightingale, a “smart home sleep system” from the acoustics experts at Cambridge Sound. Plug two units into opposite walls and they will calibrate the system to envelop the space with your choice of ambient noise. It beats local noise machines that typically blast white noise in one direction. Nightingale is still in Kickstarter mode.
If I didn’t already have these things, I’d definitely want them as gifts: Dish’s HopperGo, Amazon Echo, Amazon Dot, Google Home, ALLie 360-degree camera from IC Real Tech, a video doorbell, and automated door locks.
Chelsea Cafiero, Senior Web Editor, CEPro magazine
Honeywell Lyric Thermostat
The Lyric does a lot of the same things that Nest does, but instead of using a motion detector, Lyric uses geofencing to see where you are in your home, or if you’re out. I really like that if you’re on the way home, Lyric will know it and respond by turning on your appliances. For example, it could kick on the air conditioner so that your house perfectly cooled down and ready for when you get home.
I like Nest too, but Lyric supposedly has better HVAC control than Nest because it takes into account the weather outside and even the humidity as it cools down or heats up your home.
Tado Smart AC Control Thermostat
The German-engineered Tado is also a pretty cool thermostat/AC option. Tado adjusts the temperature according to your activities so you don’t have to do it yourself and promises to help decrease your electric bill with energy-saving regulations.
Anything to save money on electricity, and it helps to be a little more green and less harmful to the planet, too.
Robert Archer, Senior Editor, CEPro magazine
I have separate zones of heating in my home and I would like to control my secondary zone with Nest. I’ve read a lot of good things about Nest, and I like the idea of its learning capabilities to really facilitate energy efficiency in my home.
I am still researching Ring, but my home has always had issues with doorbells, and I think the Ring product could be a nice solution to help me overcome those issues, and add a layer of security that traditional doorbells don’t provide.
I already have a basic Caseta system and it is great. I would love to add another zone of Caseta lighting to update my kids’ playroom with an easy-to-use, and install Caseta dimmer.
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