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Smart home tech that can save you time

From doing the chores for you to keeping your hands free for other tasks, these smart home gadgets are our favorites when it comes to putting time back into your day.

Andrew Gebhart Former senior producer
3 min read
Brian Bennett/CNET

Convenience is a big part of the appeal of smart home tech. That could mean controlling your gadgets remotely or heating your place to the perfect temp when you're on your way home, but it frequently means simple niceties like not needing to get off the couch to lock the door or turn off the lights.

Almost all smart home gadgets will save you some time, but these device categories do the most to take mundane tasks off of your plate or make them easier so that you can focus on other things. 

See also -- check out how the smart home can save you money and keep you safe

The growing crowd of smart speakers is ready for your command

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Why vacuum for yourself when a robot can do the job for you? Competent cleaners like iRobot's Roomba series and Neato Botvacs will roam your halls and keep your floors clean so you don't have to. 

We haven't tested a robot vacuum that can match the power of a full upright, and the whole category of devices is pretty expensive, with prices ranging from $300 for older models to over $1,000. Still, the good ones can spot-clean well enough that you have a legitimate excuse to put off your own pass at the floors for a while longer. 

No need to get off the couch. Smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and the Google Home can hear your voice commands from across the room. Say the word and you can control compatible smart bulbs, ask for an answer to a trivia question, make a shopping list or set a reminder.

Thanks to smart speakers, you can do any of these tasks while keeping your hands free to work on something else and without walking over to a light switch or a pad of paper. Plus, smart speakers are pretty affordable. Both Amazon and Google offer compact versions of their respective speakers for $50 -- the Amazon Echo Dot and the Google Home Mini.

Basically smart speakers with a screen, smart displays like the Google Home Hub and the Amazon Echo Show respond to all of the same voice commands as smart speakers, so they can save you time in the same way smart speakers can. They cost a little more than smart speakers -- the Home Hub is $150 and the Echo Show is $230 -- but the screen is pretty helpful.

Beyond smart speakers, the screen on smart displays can let you check on the feed from your security cam, see the forecast for the week, make a video call or look over the steps of a recipe. I'm a fan of Google's step-by-step recipe guides in particular. They walk you through each part of the process. You can also multitask if you need to add an ingredient to a shopping list or look up a tutorial for a step like "sauteing" without losing your place in the recipe.

Wi-Fi-connected large appliances can save you time in a few ways. You can remotely preheat smart ovens from brands like Whirlpool and GE using an app, so you can get dinner cooking that much faster when you get home. Smart refrigerators like the Samsung Family Hub have interior cameras that you can check with an app. If you're at a grocery store and don't remember whether you need milk, take a look at your fridge and find out.

Smart washers and dryers can let you know as soon as your laundry is done in case you need to grab that clean shirt and run out the door. Smart washers and smart dishwashers can order more detergent for you through Amazon Dash. They even track how much you use and order automatically when appropriate so you never have to worry about running out.

Upgrading your appliances can be expensive, but if you're doing it anyway, most smart appliances cost the same as their dumb counterparts, so it's worth keeping these conveniences in mind as you make your buying decision. 

Almost all smart gadgets help you save time in one way or another. Smart lights and smart locks can be particularly handy if you have a big house. At the end of the day, give a voice command to your smart speaker or use your smartphone to shut off everything and lock all the doors instead of walking through all of your rooms and floors to do the same task. 

Watch this: How GE torture tests its appliances