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Imagine it: You’re headed home and, with a few taps on your smartphone, you preheat the oven, tweak the thermostat, turn on the porch light and start a load of laundry. Sound futuristic? It’s not. If you went to amazon.com right now, you’d find over 2,000 home-automation products featuring these and other wireless conveniences. And there’s no need to retrofit your whole house. Most of the items don’t require hardwiring, and many take just one weekend to install — some take less than an hour.
Despite promises of saving you time and money, though, these products can still have a high up-front cost and may not be a snap to use. And security is a concern: As with all things Internet, you have to safeguard your Wi-Fi network and use strong passwords.
So which innovations make the most sense for your life? A lot depends on your needs, but the engineers in the Good Housekeeping Research Institute tested 22 products in the home-automation category to pick the devices that there are most worthwhile.