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  • By Lisa Jevens

Smart Appliances Clue You in at a Cost

Smart appliances are regular appliances, such as washers, dryers, etc., which are connected to the Internet via your home’s Wifi network. They allow you to control them, or receive messages from them, via a smartphone app. A smart washer can alert you when the cycle has finished, and a smart refrigerator can show you photos of what’s inside. A smart vacuum can be told to have the floor clean before you get home. Many smart appliances also have energy-saving features such as letting you know when a door is left open or water is leaking, or a filter needs replacing. Some also provide data on energy use. Here are some examples of smart appliances you might want to try. But be aware, this new technology comes at a cost.

1. Neato Botvac

Connect This robot vacuum has the distinction of being the highest rated by consumer electronics review site CNET. Think of it as a more expensive, more functional version of the original Roomba-style vacuum. It has many slick features that allow it to clean better and smarter. For example, it is square on one side to get into corners, and comes with separate boundary markers you can drop on the floor to keep the vacuum out of certain areas. It maps the room with laser technology before cleaning instead of wasting power bumping around. It also returns to its base for charging on its own if the power gets low, then later finishes the job. You can program your Botvac Connect with the Neato app, or use the app to direct it around the room like a remote control car. Start, stop or set your vacuum settings from anywhere. The Neato Botvac Connect retails for $700 at home stores and appliance stores.

2. Mr. Coffee Smart Optimal Brew 10-Cup Programmable Coffee Maker with WeMo

Too lazy to get out of bed in the morning to start the coffee maker? Don’t want to disrupt your dinner party when it’s time for coffee? Simply tap your smartphone and this 21st century Mr. Coffee will put the coffee on, and keep it warm in a thermal carafe. You can also program the coffee maker via the WeMo smartphone app, and receive reminders that the basket needs emptying and the water refilled. The manufacturer claims that this coffee maker brews 20 percent faster than regular drip coffee makers and also heats the coffee to 205 degrees. The Mr. Coffee Smart Optimal Brew 10-cup Programmable Coffee Maker with WeMo retails for $149.99 but you can buy it on for $58.39 with free shipping.

3. GE Washer and Dryer with Wifi Connect

GE makes washers and dryer sets that go together and connect with you and each other. The GE 5.1 Cu. Ft. Capacity Washer with SmartDispense Technology allows you to check the wash load’s progress with an app. It will alert you when it’s done, if clothes haven’t been removed, or if the detergent in the tank is running low. Its companion, the GE 7.8 Cu. Ft. Capacity Dryer with Stainless Steel Drum and Steam also lets you monitor progress, extend tumbling time, and receive alerts. It also receives messages from the washer suggesting preferred drying settings for the load that was just washed. The steam setting allows you to refresh and unwrinkle lightly-worn clothing without washing. The washer retails for $1,199, and the dryer retails for $1,299 for gas and $1,199 for electric.

4. Samsung Family Hub refrigerator

The king of all smart appliances may very well be the popular Samsung Family Hub. This is a blending of a 21.5-inch touchscreen interface on the front of a refrigerator that not only controls the fridge but many other functions of family life. For example, the fridge takes photos of its contents each time the door shuts. This allows you to see what you’re low on so you can order groceries or view the photos from the store. There is a calendar, a whiteboard, photos, music streaming, a recipe app, and even TV mirroring that works with the latest Samsung TVs. The four-door fridge is highly customizable, with a lower quadrant that can be either a refrigerator or freezer. A Family Hub version 2.0 with expanded and improved capabilities is expected later in 2017. The Family Hub 1.0 version retails for $5,599 for the 28-cubic-foot model and $5,799 for the 22-cubic-foot model at appliance stores.

Originally published in the Chicago Tribune Prime Time senior living section on March 17, 2017.

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