Like many Americans—especially those my age who live in large coastal cities—I do not own my home. I rent a sweet live/work loft space in an artsy neighborhood in Los Angeles, and I love it. But being a renter does prevent me from climbing completely aboard the smart home bandwagon, because so many smart home products are made with homeowners and tinkerers in mind.
My leasing company is pretty laid back, but that doesn't mean the folks there are open to me replacing my apartment's locks or tearing out its built-in thermostat for a Nest.
But as the smart home market grows, more and more plug-and-play gadgets are appearing that renters can use—without losing their security deposits. Here are 10 of the newest smart home gadgets that renters (or lazy, installation-averse homeowners) will jump at.
1. EZVIZ Mini
The EZVIZ Mini is the perfect drop-in security camera for renters. It's small and lightweight, and a magnetic plate on the bottom makes it easy to place just about anywhere. It's also very affordable—you can buy it on Amazon now for about $88. This Wi-Fi–enabled camera has a 110-degree wide-angle lens and streams 720p video constantly to your smartphone. It carries a built-in microphone for audio recording, and offers extra features such as night vision (to distances of up to 30 feet in the dark) and motion detection. Though it's a streaming cam, it can also record and send video to the cloud (via EZVIZ's extra-cost cloud storage service) or to a microSD card.
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Smart remotes like the Logitech Harmony Elite can totally revamp your home theater experience by enabling you to control infrared devices and smart home gadgets with a single remote. But you do still need a remote—and those things are notoriously easy to lose, no matter how few you have. The Kickstarter-funded Klikr takes a different approach: This small, Bluetooth-enabled infrared "sticker" reworks infrared remote-controlled devices (such as TVs, air conditioners, speakers, and projectors) so you can control them from your smartphone. Each Klikr (you'll need one per device) costs $22; the device will ship by the end of January.
The Drop is a smart kitchen scale that makes whipping up complicated dishes stupid-easy. Drop works with a companion app—the silicone-covered scale has no physical weight readout, so you have to use the app to see how much your stuff weighs. The Drop Recipes app has over 300 recipes that work with the scale. Add ingredients to your mixing bowl, and the Drop will let you know when you've added the perfect amount (you can easily scale recipes up or down, too). At the moment, the Drop seems a bit limited, but I think it has a lot of potential, especially for people who like to track calories via apps like MyFitnessPal. The Drop is available now and costs $100.
4. LG Hom-Bot Turbo+
Robot vacuum cleaners are already pretty awesome—seriously, what's better than a vacuum cleaner that works autonomously?—but LG's new Hom-Bot Turbo+ is even cooler than the average Roomba. The reason? This vacuum has a built-in live-streaming video camera so you can roll around your house remotely and check out what's up. Okay, it's not like a remote-control car, but you'll be able to see what your vacuum sees while it's cleaning. The Hom-Bot Turbo+ also has a Home-Guard feature that, when turned on, will snap photos when it detects motion in your house. So get ready to see a lot of photos of your curious dog. There's no price on the Hom-Bot Turbo+ just yet, but don't be surprised if it costs closer to $1000 than to $500.
5. Sengled Pulse Flex
When you're renting, it's difficult to install a multiroom speaker system, especially if you want the speakers to be wired and discreetly situated. But Sengled's Pulse Flex solves all (well, at least two) of your problems at once. This indoor/outdoor smart light bulb features a built-in speaker, and you can link it to other bulbs for a full surround-sound (and light) experience. And because the $90 Pulse Flex's JBL speaker is Wi-Fi- (not Bluetooth-) enabled, you'll be able to stream high-quality audio from your smartphone or directly from services such as Spotify.
6. Hydrao Smart Showerhead
Replacing your showerhead is an easy way to spruce up your rental, and the Hydrao smart showerhead is the perfect combination of eco-, drought-, and kid-friendly. This showerhead lights up in fun colors (kids and adults who like pretty lights will love this) to indicate how much water you've used so far. There are three customizable thresholds (for, say, 7 gallons, 10 gallons, and 12 gallons), each with a different color—when you hit that third color, you know you've been in the shower too long. The lights run on a tiny, water-powered turbine built into the showerhead, so you don't even have to worry about changing a battery. The Hydrao will start shipping in March for $99.
7. Perfect Blend
Like the Drop, the Perfect Blend is a smart, wireless kitchen scale designed to help you get the perfect recipe every time—except that it's designed exclusively for smoothies. The Perfect Blend works with a companion app that displays the scale's readout and stores more than 200 smoothie recipes. As with the Drop, all you have to do is pick a recipe and then start filling up your carafe with ingredients—the Perfect Blend measures how much you've put in and tells you when to stop. Although the Perfect Blend and the Drop are practically the same product, the Perfect Blend for some reason makes even more sense: You're usually in a hurry when you're making a smoothie, so not having to measure the ingredients yourself is a big plus. The Perfect Blend will cost $100 and should start shipping this spring.
8. Honeywell Lyric Wi-Fi Water Leak and Freeze Detector
Honeywell's $80 Lyric Wi-Fi Water Leak and Freeze Detector is particularly useful for renters who are worried about protecting their possessions against water damage. This small, battery-powered detector attaches to a special cable that you place in potentially leaky areas, such as behind your washer, under your sink, or around the bathtub. If the cable detects any moisture, it sends an alarm to your smartphone so you can fix the situation post-haste. You can attach additional cable sensors to extend the cable's length to up to 500 feet. The detector also has a built-in temperature sensor to alert you if the temperature drops below a predefined threshold.
9. Holi Bonjour
You might think your smartphone's alarm feature is pretty darn smart, but it's not as smart as the Holi Bonjour alarm clock. This smart alarm clock does all the things you'd expect—like update you on the weather, traffic, and any new Facebook notifications you may have, the second you wake up—plus it's voice-activated and can connect to smart home gadgets you already have in your house. But its coolest (though perhaps most annoying) feature is that it will wake you up earlier if it detects a traffic jam on your morning commute route, so you won't be late. It's just looking out for you! Holi is launching a Kickstarter campaign for the Bonjour in March; the clock will cost somewhere between $100 and $150.
10. Smarter Fridge Cam
I'm still pretty skeptical of Smarter's Fridge Cam, a small Wi-Fi–connected camera that goes … in your refrigerator. Er, yeah. But since you, as a renter, can't exactly replace your unit's fridge with Samsung's fancy new touchscreen fridge, this may be the closest you can get to a "smart" fridge. Anyway. The Fridge Cam sits inside your fridge and keeps tabs on your groceries. But it doesn't livestream your stuff (after all, the light does turn off when you close the door); it just snaps a photo of your fridge's contents whenever someone opens the door. You can then access these photos from your phone, so I guess it's good for figuring out if your kids drank all the milk in the 10 minutes it took you to drive to the grocery store. The Fridge Cam will sell for around $100.