Homes are becoming smarter. About 45 percent of Americans either have connected or so-called smart-home products or plan to purchase them in 2016, according to a January 2016 Coldwell Banker Real Estate survey.
However, kitchens generally lag behind the curve. Coldwell Banker further reports that smart appliances are among the least popular types of smart-home products.
Chelsey Lindstrom of appliance manufacturer Whirlpool says millennials are more interested in buying connected appliances, and Toni Sabatino, who owns Toni Sabatino Style, which is a kitchen-design company, generally agrees. Some people might ask, “Why do I need to operate my oven from my iPhone?” Sabatino says. You don’t, of course, but she can see a, well, connection. “Someone who is using technology to organize their life and multitask is someone who is going to want their appliances integrated into their technology to further multitask,” she says.
That said, Jill Notini of Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) says it’s up to manufacturers to deliver products that “really create value.”
Denis Gracanin, who is an associate professor at Virginia Tech and who is involved with the school’s Lumenhaus project that’s aimed at integrating architecture and technology, agrees. He says manufacturers today are adding only one or two “smart” features to individual appliances.
“It’s almost like an isolated effort,” Gracanin says. Consequently, although many who work in the industry insist that smart technology is the future of home appliances, Gracanin believes that mass adoption by consumers that are in the United States won’t take place until about 2025.
SMART INNOVATION. Wi-Fi-connected cooking appliances have flickered on and off the market over the past few years. Manufacturers still are testing Wi-Fi capabilities in small doses and revising their offerings, Notini says.
We found four brands that provide smart cooking appliances, and two more plan to join the ranks soon. As of press time, Whirlpool was expected to bring smart gas and electric ranges to the market in 2016.
Meanwhile, LG, which discontinued its smart range in 2014 after it pioneered the smart appliance, is “actively working to develop its next-generation Wi-Fi-enabled cooking appliance,” David VanderWaal of LG says. As of press time, LG won’t say why its smart range was discontinued, when the new range is expected to arrive or how it will be different.
Smart appliances aren’t the most expensive appliances, but they also aren’t priced for everyone. Wi-Fi-connected wall ovens start at $2,100, and Wi-Fi-connected ranges start at $1,500. Based on our research, Wi-Fi adds at least $400 to the price of otherwise comparable ranges and wall ovens.
Two years ago, we saw a smart wall oven and a smart range that you could turn on and off through a mobile app that was on your smartphone. The connectivity also allowed you to receive an alert when the oven was preheated or after a timer went off.
Today’s smart cooking appliances are somewhat smarter than they used to be. GE armed 10 gas and electric ranges with Bluetooth connectivity, so they can communicate with companion GE over-the-range microwave ovens. Consequently, the vent fan and lights that are in the over-the-range microwave turn on automatically when the range is turned on. Also, when you adjust the time on the range, say, after a power outage, it syncs up the clock that’s on the other appliance. These ranges start at $1,050.
GE also added IFTTT functionality in 2015 to all of its Wi-Fi-connected cooking appliances. IFTTT is a web-based service that allows consumers to set up connected tasks through “if this, then that” statements. GE set up a few of these so-called recipes in its connected ranges, so, for example, the oven turns off automatically after 11 p.m. Consumers can create their own “recipes” as well.
Whirlpool’s new connected ranges, the WEE995H0FS (black) and WEG995H0FS (white) ($2,000), will be able to communicate with a Nest Learning Thermostat. When the thermostat is set to “away,” Whirlpool will send an alert to your smartphone or tablet computer if the oven still is on.