Toilets of Tomorrow
Japanese manufacturers often lead the way when it comes to technological innovation, so it's no surprise that they've been hard at work upgrading the space that gets the most use: the bathroom. Finally, the high-tech toilets—and their luxurious features—already popular in Japan are taking up residence in this hemisphere. Perhaps there's one already installed in your neighbor's home! With extras like heated seats, dual-flush systems, built-in air deodorizers, motion-detecting lids, and even self-cleaning bowls, these new models aim to make this utilitarian fixture less of a bore and chore.
Finishes That Redefine Tile
Today's tile designs offer an abundant variety of finishes that may be bringing tile out of the shadows and into the spotlight. Advancements in manufacturing technologies have led to a wider range of finishes—including sturdy facsimiles of expensive or less durable materials—at the affordable price point of tile. Now, for example, homeowners who love hardwood can bring its rich wood-grain appearance into even high-moisture or high-traffic areas of the home. Other available finishes include the classic look of marble (with thinner seams), brick (without rough mortar), reclaimed barn wood (without splinters), and even river rock.
Space-Enhancing (and Secure) Wall Systems
Sophisticatedly engineered wall systems can seamlessly connect your indoor and outdoor spaces, giving you a way to both visually and functionally expand your indoor living spaces to include your patio, deck, or balcony. This option is particularly great for homeowners who practically live on the patio in the warmer months. Gone are the days of cheaply made, burglar-friendly sliding glass doors. New airy entrances boast stronger tempered glass, folding doors that open wide and stack at either side, and impressive noise insulation that lets you enjoy the view of a well-manicured lawn without having to hear the mower.
The Instant Gratification of Induction Cooktops
Kitchens have always been at the forefront of cutting-edge tech, with the constant introduction of new gadgets and appliances designed to solve everyday problems. One such noteworthy advancement is the evolution of the stovetop. While homeowners once twiddled their thumbs waiting for a gas or electric stovetop to boil water for a pasta dinner, new induction cooking can bring pasta water to a boil in a fraction of the time. Rather than employing conventional “burners,” induction appliances use electromagnets that transfer energy to cookware, heating the food within. The result: No hot surfaces to burn yourself on, more-precise temperature settings, and nearly twice the energy efficiency of a gas or electric system.
A Built-In Household Cleaner
Did someone say efficiency? Central vacuum systems certainly cut back on energy consumption—your own!—while helping you tidy your whole home in record time. The suctioning motors for these whole-house systems are often installed in basements or the garage, so the noise and the mess stay there. Meanwhile, a 30-foot transferable hose connects to any convenient in-wall outlet (typically one in every room), so that hoovering up messes around a multistory home no longer requires lugging a bulky canister or upright from room to room or replacing dust-spewing bags. Best of all, the motors in central vacuum systems pack more muscle than portable vacuums do for a better and faster job of ditching the dirt and debris.
A Smarter Way to Warm Up
Some of the smartest innovations in the modern home are ones that are seamlessly incorporated into the abode's aesthetics. In-floor radiant heating is a perfect example of an improvement that goes unseen but not unnoticed. Via electric or water lines built into floor panels, this technology quickly provides even, comfortable heat—minus any noise. In addition to its silent operation, the system heats from the floor up, so it won't circulate allergens or dry out indoor air, as might happen with older systems that blast forced air through ductwork.
While the basic technology has been around for some time, the numerous advantages of its latest incarnation make radiant heat a must-do installation. Some radiant heating options, such as those offered by industry-leader Warmboard, also allow you to separate your home into zones to cater to individual preferences. That means visiting grandparents can keep their bedroom toasty while you turn down the heat where the kids are cavorting. So, you'll be able to save money by targeting energy only toward certain zones. And, as radiant heat uses less energy overall than a standard hydronic heating system, you'll save even more, leaving you free to put the money you've saved on your energy bill toward something more enjoyable. Hello, vacation fund!
Money-saving, time-saving—and yes, sometimes even life-saving—the latest and greatest smart home technologies span from self-programming thermostats to voice-activated TV controls to video doorbells and beyond. Raise your home's IQ!