Homeowner’s Guide to Smart Refrigerators
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Curious about what a smart fridge is capable of, whether they're worth the extra cash, and what sort of features they have that can streamline our world, we asked experts to weigh in.
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Smart devices have become an everyday part of our lives. We have a palm-sized computer in our pocket at all times, devices that verbally answer our questions and keep grocery lists in real-time, and refrigerators that go above and beyond simply keeping our food cool. But is a smart refrigerator right for you? Read on to find out.
What is a smart refrigerator?
As you might have surmised, a smart fridge is essentially any refrigerator that’s equipped with a WiFi connection.
“At the most basic, a smart anything is something that is connected to the Internet to share information,” says Michael Kaufman, a consumer tech reporter and core contributor at GeekDad. “For instance, a smart refrigerator can share information about itself (the door is left open), a real-time camera that lets users see what’s inside while at the supermarket (really!), or act as a digital command center for the home: connecting calendars, leaving notes, playing music and more.”
Some other things smart fridges are able to do include raising or lowering the temperature at the sound of your voice or with your phone, turning the ice maker on or off, or helping you track the contents of your fridge so you don’t run into a milk shortage emergency.
Doesn’t a smart refrigerator keep your food cold all the same?
Technically, yes. However, smart fridges can be particularly good at keeping that food cold, notes Kaufman.
“For example, it’s easier to adjust the temperature or get notified about a problem if the temperature is lower than it should be because a door is left ajar,” he says. “While smart fridges are still fulfilling the basic function of keeping food cool, it’s doing in a way that’s easier for you to manage.”
This can make a difference in your energy bills, and the quality and lifespan of your food.
Is a smart refrigerator worth the investment?
The answer to this ultimately depends on your needs. If you already have a food organizational system that’s working very well for you, and you’re cool with the way your fridge is handling your food, then a smart fridge may not be worth it. Contrarily, if the smart fridge features mentioned above sound like they’d simplify your life then one could be worth the extra money.
“Many of the features can save you time when you’re rushing to get ready in the morning, or help you adjust your fridge when out of the house with a few taps on your phone screen,” says Kimberly Palmer, a shopping and personal finance expert for NerdWallet. “The people who will benefit most from a smart fridge are probably those who have children who might be using the fridge while parents are at work. It’s another way you can keep tabs on what’s going on at home when you’re not there. However, prices do tend to run higher than traditional fridges.” (Prices range, but you’re looking at close to $4,000 and up for a smart fridge versus under $2,000 for a quality regular fridge.)
If you’re also the type that appreciates the latest and greatest in tech, then having a kitchen showpiece that streamlines your life can also feel like a worthwhile purchase.
Recommended smart refrigerators
The smart fridge sector is still a growing one, but there are some standout options to choose from. One of the most highly recommended is the Samsung Family Hub, which Kaufman says has been “a leader in the development of the smart refrigerators, developing many of the features that other manufacturers integrated later on.” It features an LCD touch screen, built-in cameras on the interior so you can keep tabs on your fridge contents, and a smart assistant named Bixby that you can ask to play music, add groceries, or even order delivery from.
LG also offers a series of smart refrigerators, which are equipped with the brand’s SmartThinQ® app that you can control from your phone. The LG Wi-Fi Enabled InstaView™ Refrigerator does everything the name implies, and also allows you to make simple voice commands via Alexa or Google.