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Pros and Cons of Smart Appliances in Your Home

From coffee pots that start brewing automatically to refrigerators that alert you when you’re running low on milk, smart appliances offer comfort and convenience. They also reduce energy consumption and save money.

However, many consumers aren’t aware that connected devices can impose privacy issues. This is why Consumer Reports is pushing for more transparency and clearer labeling of connected appliances.

1. They Can Be Expensive

The added technology in smart appliances comes with a higher price tag than simpler appliance models. They also require a stable internet connection and may pose data/privacy concerns since they collect a lot of information.

Smart home appliances can save homeowners money through energy efficiency features. For example, smart washers and dryers can monitor electricity rates and wait until costs are lower to run a cycle.

They can also send notifications — like when the laundry cycle is complete or an oven is ready — to users’ smartphones, smartwatches or other compatible LG ThinQ devices. This can make a homeowner’s life much easier and eliminate the need to remember things, like whether or not they turned off the fridge. Many of these smart appliances are also designed to store diagnostics data that technicians can access during a service visit, reducing the number of visits needed to fix issues.

2. They Can Be Unreliable

The smart home system that you have installed relies on a stable internet connection to function. This can leave you vulnerable during an outage, although most systems have backup capabilities.

Another drawback of smart appliances is that manufacturers often release firmware updates only several years after you purchase a particular model. This can lead to integration problems and security risks, as hackers can gain access to devices that aren’t updated frequently.

Some manufacturers are trying to address this problem by allowing service technicians to download diagnostic data from their smart refrigerators and other appliances. This can cut down on repeated visits from tech support and help homeowners save money by avoiding the need for repairs. However, this feature isn’t available for all smart appliances and can be difficult to use for those who aren’t tech-savvy.

3. They Can Be Disruptive

Many homeowners want to be first in line when new technology hits the market, but smart appliances require more commitment than just a plug-and-play installation. To use them effectively, the devices need to connect to the internet and sync with a digital assistant.

Some manufacturers also collect data on appliance usage and may share it with third parties — a potential privacy issue that consumers should be aware of. McKinsey explains that smart devices could be much more valuable to customers if manufacturers designed them in a more user-centric way to give consumers control over what information they share, and how that data can be combined with other device, home and external data.

Additionally, if the products are not kept up-to-date with firmware updates, they can become less reliable over time. This can leave the appliances susceptible to hackers and make them less compatible with other smart home technologies.

4. They Can Be Time-Sucking

While smart appliances offer convenience and functionality, they may require a bit more work to manage than their nonconnected counterparts. Smart appliances are tethered to a central hub or voice assistant that users can control via smartphone apps or voice commands. These systems also collect data and analyze usage patterns to maximize energy efficiency.

More advanced systems use artificial intelligence to make suggestions for reducing energy consumption. For example, a refrigerator might recommend raising the temperature by a few degrees overnight to save on electricity.

Homeowners must regularly update their smart devices to ensure that they are using the latest software and features. If an appliance isn’t updated in a timely manner, it can become less efficient and even susceptible to security risks.

5. They Can Be Confusing

Even if you’re interested in smart appliances, it can be hard to tell the difference between a regular appliance and one with added connectivity. You might need to scan control panels for tiny WiFi buttons or look for a special label to find out how smart a washer, oven or other device is.

And there’s always the risk that smart technology will become confusing or frustrating to use over time. From an overreliance on the internet (you’re not going to be happy if your Wi-Fi goes down and you can’t control your lights) to weekends spent troubleshooting why a smart speaker suddenly won’t understand a command it was fine with last week, the experience of owning smart gadgets can be disorienting.