11/27/2014

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Consumer

Run your home by phone? There's an app for that

Run your home by phone? There's an app for that

Is the future here? More and more products are available to control your home's lights, locks, and appliances from an app on your smart phone or tablet. Consumer Reports has been testing Wi-Fi-connected devices, including lighting systems, electronic door locks, smart thermostats, generators, and smart ranges and wall ovens.

What really gets your attention with those products is their cool features. So Consumer Reports tests those features to make sure each works at its basic functions. That was a problem with the electronic door locks. Yes, you can use your smart phone or tablet to lock and unlock doors remotely. But none stood up to all of Consumer Reports' break-in tests. Far stronger, the "old school" Medeco Maxum deadbolt lock for $170.

Nest's Learning Thermostat has plenty of innovative features, but it costs $250 and it's harder to set up than others. With the $170 Venstar Color Touch Series, set up is a breeze. For an additional $65, you can add a Wi-Fi-connection key.

As for lighting systems, the $200 Hue system from Philips lets you dim and even change the color of its bulbs. For far less, the $50 Connected by TCP is easier to set up. It doesn't change colors, but you can dim the bulbs from your cell phone.

And with some Generac generators you can add Mobile Link for $280. It notifies you if your generator stops working and automatically calls for repairs. After the first year, it costs $100 per year.

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