Consumer Reports: Making your home smarter

Smart doorbells, smart locks, smart thermostats, smart security cameras ... need an education on how to "smarten up" your home? Consumer Reports experts offer a crash course in how to buy and connect these high-tech devices.

Consumer Reports' Dan Wroclawski doesn't just write about smart home products, he uses them in his home, too. His one must-have smart device? A smart speaker.

"Smart speakers make it very easy to connect all of these different products," said Consumer Reports Home Editor Dan Wroclawski.

To use a smart speaker as a hub, or control center of sorts, you'll find three main options - Amazon's Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple's Siri - available on the Apple Homepod.

As for those other smart products, Consumer Reports puts them through its rigorous testing. For example, smart locks still have to pass the same break in tests as traditional door locks.

"You want to get a lock that is smart but also strong," said Wroclawski.

The recommended $230 Schlage Sense Smart Lock stood up to kick in, picking and drilling tests and connects with any of the three smart speaker assistants.

Another option for your doors is video doorbells. You can see who is at your door, and some models even work with smart locks to remotely open the door through an app.

Need even more smarts? You might want to add smart cameras inside and out. They can record a break in.

One thing to keep in mind: You'll need to pay a fee for video storage for most smart security cameras which can be as much as $200 a year.

"When these cameras take video, they store it on their company's server," Wroclawski said. "By doing this it makes it really easy for you to access that footage but it can also cost you over the long term."

The $120 Amazon Cloud Cam is a Consumer Reports Best Buy. And if you want surveillance both inside and outside your home consider the Netgear Arlo Pro 2 Smart Camera for about $220.

One smart home product Consumer Reports says could be smarter: smoke detectors. That's because the smart smoke detectors currently available only detect one type of fire. Consumer Reports recommends the - "not smart" but still safe dual sensor smoke alarms which can detect both smoldering and flash fires. Consider the First Alert or Kidde dual sensor smoke alarms for $30. Both earned the top ratings in Consumer Reports' tests.

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