10 Awesome Tech Upgrades for Apartment Dwellers

By on June 22, 2015

One of the biggest detractors to living in an apartment over your own home is a lack of freedom when it comes to upgrading your apartment’s technology, specifically when it requires changes that are forbidden by the landlord. We’ve compiled a list of 10 tech upgrades that will make your life easier while still keeping your property manager happy.

Concerned about your safety and belongings in your apartment?

Interested in home security, but you aren’t allowed to run wires through the walls in your apartment? Check out Canary, a wireless home security alarm solution. The device is placed at a central location in your apartment and connects to your home’s Wi-Fi network. Using a learning algorithm, the device learns when you are typically home versus when you are not. If the Canary senses motion at an abnormal time, the owner receives a smartphone notification and recorded HD video of the event.

canary-security-device

The owner can also tune in live at any time, sound a siren or contact the authorities if there’s any trouble. On top of that, it keeps records of when people come and go to the home as well as use cloud storage to save video / audio over the last 90 days. As an added bonus, the device also tracks air quality, temperature and humidity in the home for health benefits.

Pricing: The Canary is a relatively new product that hasn’t seen much of a price reduction yet. The retail cost is $249 and the device is available at Amazon, Best Buy, Home Depot and Verizon stores. If you purchase it directly from the company, it comes with a 60-day money back guarantee if you decide it’s not the right gadget for you.

Are bulky chargers making your furniture stick out?

Want all the benefits of USB charging without swapping out outlet hardware or setting up a USB charging station? Take a look at the SnapPower USB Charger, a simple outlet covering that adds a single USB charging station with just a turn of a screwdriver. The unique design of the outlet plate draws power from the screws on the side of the existing outlet. It’s also completely flat to the fall, ideal for small apartments that have limited space for furniture.

snappower-usb-outlet

The SnapPower USB Charger comes in two designs and three colors, based off the type of outlets in your apartment. To install, you basically just remove the existing outlet cover and screw on the new cover. When you are ready to move to a new apartment or home, it’s easy to retrieve the hardware and replace it with the old plates. This will keep your landlord happy and give you USB charging without the bulky charger.

Pricing:  At the moment, you can only purchase the SnapPower outlet cover from the company that’s making it: LINK. Preorder pricing is based on the volume of your order. Purchasing a single cover will cost $20 while purchasing 5 covers brings the cost down to $16 each. The outlet covers are expected to ship during September 2015.

Does your apartment lack outlets?

Obviously, it’s easy to expand the number those outlets you have by purchasing a power strip. However, it’s not easy to hide a large power strip in an apartment or fit multiple, bulky chargers on a single strip. Enter the Pivot Power strip, a flexible strip that can be transformed into a variety of shapes.

pivot-power

For instance, you could wrap the power strip around a leg of an end table, effectively hiding the strip from guests. The strip also offers surge protection as well as four feet of cord to reach your nearest outlet.

Pricing:  The Pivot Power retails for $20, however you should be able to find it on sale consistently between $13 and $15 at Amazon. It comes in a variety of colors as well, ideal for anyone that’s decorated their apartment recently.

Love cooking, but hate your apartment’s unreliable appliances?

Arriving in Fall 2015, the Meld Knob is a high-tech automated cooking solution that replaces an existing burner knob on your stove. The knob automatically turns the burner to lower and raise temperature based off temperature readings being received from the Meld Clip. The clip attaches to existing cookware that you already own and measures temperature within 1 degree of the food’s actual temperature.

meld-knob

Utilizing the included mobile app, the user can browse through existing recipes as well as upload their own recipes. Communicating with the mobile device, the knob knows exactly how long to cook your meal as well as the appropriate time to stop cooking completely.

Pricing: The knob was fully funded on Kickstarter this year at a $99 preorder price and is expected to retail for $149 later this year, likely available on Amazon and other Web retailers.

Looking to add an extra A/C window unit in your apartment?

As summer temps are climbing, the need to reliable air conditioning is a must. Take a look at Quirky’s Aros, a smart window air conditioner that was developed in partnership with GE. Learning from your living habits similar to the Nest thermostat, the Aros uses your smartphone’s GPS to determine the best time to fire up before you arrive home.

quirky-aros

It also uses a predictive algorithm to determine the temperatures you will like at different times of day. Using a mobile application, an Aros user can track an estimate of how much you have spent on cooling each day and compare that against the national average.

Pricing: The device currently retails for $249.99 and is found at Amazon and Walmart. While sales will be scarce during the summer months, look for the best price at the end of summer. Last September, the price on the Aros dipped down as low as $180 as summer came to a close and inventory was still high.

Do you have horrible central air / heat in your apartment?

Some apartments are notorious for having terrible air flow in different rooms, either the room is too hot or it’s too cold. Ideal for apartment roommates that can’t agree on the temperature, the Keen Smart Vent is a replacement vent for existing air flow vents in most apartments. Powered by four AA batteries, the vent connects to the home’s Wi-Fi network and automatically opens or closes the vent based off the existing temperature in the room.

keen-smart-vent-inside

Similar to other learning devices, the vent will tech itself the best pattern for the person using the room. It can also be controlled manually from a mobile device, but it’s specifically designed to work autonomously.

Pricing: The vents are expected to start shipping in Summer 2015 and can be preordered for a price of $145 for two vents (MSRP: $180). Similar to the SnapPower outlet cover, the price per vent will fall based on the volume of your order.

Do you have a windowless bedroom in your apartment?

Are you subleasing a “bedroom” (probably a closet) in an expensive city like New York or Los Angeles? Does your bedroom simply lack a window? You need the Philips Wake-up Light, an alarm clock that simulates sunlight pouring into your room at the start of each morning. It can also be used as a bedside lamp at night at a variety of different intensities.

philips-wake-up-light

Ideally, you should place the clock a couple feet from your head on a bedside table and allow it to slowly wake you up with light. Of course, the alarm clock also includes a standard alarm, FM radio as well as simulated birds chirping to go along with the light.

Pricing: Philips sells multiple models of this design for prices between $69.99 and $99.99. Look for discounts up to 25 to 30 percent off the original MSRP frequently at retailers like Amazon and Walgreens. The device can also be purchased from Philips directly.

Hate fumbling for your keys at your apartment’s front door?

Assuming you have a landlord that’s willing to let you swap out your front door deadbolt, check out the Kwikset Kevo. While there are multiple types of smart locks that interact with your smartphone, this is one of the only models that provides a physical key for the landlord to carry as well as look similar to existing hardware in an apartment complex.

Kwikset-Kevo

Using Bluetooth connectivity with your mobile device, all you have to do is tap the lock when you arrive home and it will unlock due to the proximity of your smartphone. You can also provide access to guests by supplying a guest eKey that expires after 24 hours. Basically, you can let someone into your apartment without having to be physically at the location. Of course, if your smartphone dies, you always have a physical key as a backup to unlock the door.

Pricing: Retailing for $219 at stores such as Amazon, Home Depot, Lowes, Best Buy and Newegg, you can often find the Kevo on sale at the $199 price point. Amazon occasionally drops the price to $180, but the lowest recorded price to date was $150 at Sears during April.

Want whole-home audio without running wires through walls?

Easily one of the most popular wireless solutions for whole-home audio, the Sonos Play:1 speakers are a compact audio solution that lets you stream music simultaneously to all Wi-Fi connected Sonos speakers. The music you are listening to in your kitchen can carry over to the living room, bedroom and any other room in your apartment.

Sonos-Play-1

There are also more robust speakers in the Sonos line, if you need a more expansive sound across a larger space. Music can be controlled from a Wi-Fi connected mobile device, either playing from a personal collection or all the streaming music services available today.

Pricing: The bad news is that wireless comes at a price. A single Sonos Play:1 speaker runs $199 and the more robust speakers run between $299 and $399. However, you can find deals on a set of two Sonos Play:1 speakers at a $349 price point at retailers such as Amazon, Crutchfield, Best Buy and World Wide Stereo. During Christmas sales, you will also find discounts on a single Sonos Play:1 speaker as low as $160.

Hate setting off your apartment’s obnoxious smoke detectors?

Many apartments have smoke detectors placed near the kitchen with a sensitivity that alerts the entire apartment to some slightly burnt toast. Enter the Nest Protect, a combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector that allows you to simply wave off the alarm rather than seek out your step stool to reach the ceiling.

nest-protect

Connecting to your mobile devices over Wi-Fi, the advanced hardware sends messages when the batteries are running low as well as constantly runs a test nightly to make sure everything is working. It also uses a human voice alert to specifically identify the problem as well as the area of the home that set off the alarm.

Pricing: At a $99 MSRP, you can find the 2nd generation Nest Protect coming soon to retailers such as Best Buy, Home DepotAmazon and the company site. Sales on the device are extremely infrequent, rarely dropping below $90. However, the device originally debuted at a $129 price point, thus the reduced MSRP could be considered a deal for people that aren’t early adopters.

Have some great ideas for apartment tech that aren’t listed above? Let us know in the comments below!

About Mike Flacy

By day, I'm the Editor-in-Chief for The CheckOut in addition to being the content manager for Steve's Digicams and High-Def Digest. During my free time, I love to write about pop culture, home theater, digital photography, social media, mobile technology and cool gadgets!

One Comment

  1. Johanna

    May 2, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    I am the Executive Director for an Apartment Association and would like to run your article on Top 10 Awesome tech upgrades.

    Please let me know your process to reprint. Our magazine is the Official California Apartment Journal in Long Beach, CA. We have 3,000 members and more online as well.

    Article would be in the June edition. Cut off is next week.

    Thank you

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