An increasing number of home appliances now offer automated features.
Not long ago, smart appliances consisted of timed coffee makers and ovens that automatically shut off.
Times have certainly changed. Today, technology is everywhere, and the power to control home appliances remotely rests at your fingertips — literally.
Home automation – which lets you monitor and control connected electronic devices, security systems and appliances from a smartphone or tablet – has made strides in recent years, including in the realm of home appliances.
You can now operate many large appliances, such as the refrigerator and dishwasher, from anywhere using a smartphone. Users typically have the choice to control smart kitchen appliances by downloading an app from the manufacturer, or syncing multiple appliances into one platform.
However, appliance repair pros warn the technology is still relatively new.
"On a whole, smart appliances are an exciting new frontier in the world of home appliances, but I would recommend waiting for first-generation products to improve and drop in price," says Todd Daganaar, president of Nebraska Home Appliance in Omaha, Nebraska.
Here are a few common appliances you can control via smartphone.
1. Smart dishwashers
Ever wonder how much longer until the dishwasher completes its cycle, but don’t feel like leaving the couch or coming back inside to check? Yes, home automation provides this luxury.
Using the GE Kitchen app and a connected dishwasher, you can check the status and cycle time of a load, lock and unlock the dishwasher, check the rinse agent level and determine whether the dishwasher has a clog or leak.
Whirlpool’s Tall Tub dishwasher with 6th Sense Live technology, meanwhile, lets you monitor the dishwasher’s energy use.
2. Smart refrigerators
Refrigerators are now used for more than keeping food and drinks cold. Although some smart fridge models have been on the market since 2000, Samsung recently upped the ante on technology with the Family Hub Refrigerator.
Using a giant touchscreen on the fridge’s door, you can shop for groceries online. Meanwhile, cameras mounted on the inside of the fridge let you check food inventory from the grocery store. You can also control the refrigerator’s thermostat and lights directly from a smartphone, or scan an item’s RFID code. If an item gets close to spoiling, the fridge sends an alert to your smartphone.
GE’s connected refrigerator sends an alert when there’s a power outage or the door gets left open, and reminds you to change the water filter. Various controls on the refrigerator provide the ability to turn the ice maker on and off, adjust the temperature and schedule hot water to be ready for your morning cup of coffee.
3. Smart ovens
Wouldn’t it be great if you could preheat your oven from anywhere? Smart ovens make it easy to get a jump-start on cooking dinner.
Many smart ovens allow you to check cooking status, set timer alerts or control the temperature remotely.
4. Smart washers and dryers
There doesn’t appear to be technology – yet – that actually switches loads, but smart washers and dryers come equipped with several advanced functions.
Whirlpool, for example, lets you download specialty cycles from their app, including everything from washing swimwear to sleeping bags. Or, create your own unique cycle, directly from a smartphone.
You can also start, stop and pause the machine remotely, and track the cycle’s progress and energy usage.
5. HVAC systems
Many of today’s HVAC systems conveniently allow you to use your smartphone or tablet to adjust the temperatures in the whole house, or each individual room.
Repairing smart appliances
Steve Hagan, owner of All Appliance Service in Greenfield, Wisconsin, says while timed appliances have been around since the 1960s, smart appliances are relatively new.
"I haven't been called to fix many of these," he says.
Daganaar adds that some of the unique repairs to smart appliances include network connectivity, inability to connect to Wi-Fi, or built-in TVs not receiving a good cable signal.
"Traditional appliance companies that partner with the manufacturers are the best and often the only way to get these appliances repaired," Daganaar says. "Your neighborhood handyman probably can't resolve many issues on these new models."
Do you own smart appliances? If so, tell us what you like or dislike about them in the comments section below.