Isn’t May the best month? I think it wins first place, with September a close second. Those months dance on the edge of seasons and always have the best weather. I had another pickleball lesson with my son today, what a fun time we’re having. Next week we’re playing an official game, and I bought two new skorts from this site to wear at the court.
Things are progressing on the flip house, the kitchen cabinets arrive next month and the bathrooms are in progress. The showers are challenging since we need to move plumbing but it buys me a little extra time to source the perfect tile. I’m hoping they’re finished by the end of May and I can put all my attention on the kitchen installation after that.
Whatever the weather, now is the perfect time to buy one of the best BBQs in 2021. Our guide features 11 top gas and charcoal barbecues, as well as some tried and tested hybrid options that offer the convenience of gas with the smokey flavour of charcoal.
In the hunt for the best BBQ many turn to top brands like Weber and Char-Broil, known for delivering on delicious barbecues even if they can cost a little more than alternatives from Argos and John Lewis and Partners. There are also budget brands like Outback to contend with, as well as seriously premium options from Big Green Egg.
While we have our favourites, the best BBQ for you and your family depends on a number of factors. For one, it should have an adequate grill size for whatever feasts you plan on cooking up. Another key consideration (and not one to be overlooked, even if you dream of owning a mighty gas BBQ) is the size you can spare when your BBQ is in storage once summer is up. Some of the best BBQs in our guide come with as many as six burners, so prepare to dedicate a large portion of the shed to storing them when not in use.
We are doing our best to find in-stock BBQs that you can buy right now, but recent restocks include John Lewis and B&Q, so you can always take a look there for some more options. Ready to find the best BBQ for you? Keep reading for our top picks in 2021.
Best BBQs 2021
1. Char-Broil Gas2Coal Hybrid Grill
Best hybrid gas and charcoal BBQ
Type of BBQ: Gas and charcoal Cooking area: 2831cm² Weight: 47kg
Reasons to buy: • Cooks on both gas and charcoal • Reasonably priced for the cooking area • Easy to switch between gas • Plenty of fun extras such as a bottle opener and in-built thermometer
Reasons to avoid: • The side burner was a little high • Assembly took a while
The Char-Broil Gas2Coal Hybrid Grill is a tried and tested triumph. We put it to the test on both gas and charcoal cooking to see how well it held up, and on every test it delivered food packed with flavour, and even cooking even when not all of the burners were in use.
The Char-Broil Gas2Coal Hybrid Grill comes in two, three and four-burner models, meaning there’s a size for every family. We tested the three-burner Char-Broil Gas2Coal Hybrid Grill, and found that it had plenty of space for the average family and bags of potential for entertaining a crowd.
Assembly did take the best part of 2 hours and we had a few issues with the side burner, which wasn’t well protected from gusts of wind, meaning our peas took longer to boil than if we’d placed them on a regular hob. For the money though, this is a brilliant grill for just about every type of barbecue you could wish to host.
Ideal Home rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
2. Weber One Touch E4710
Best charcoal BBQ on a budget
Type of BBQ: Charcoal Cooking area: 47cm diameter Weight: 15kg
Reasons to buy: • A classic Weber grill • One of the cheapest on the market • Easy cleaning system
Reasons to avoid: • Lacking a sturdy frame
The Weber One Touch E4710 is an iconic charcoal BBQ that delivers big flavour without the high price. When it’s in stock it’s always a fast seller, with shoppers easy to pick up a BBQ with the Weber name that will fit in even small gardens.
Reasons to love include the ash catcher, rust-resistant design and all-weather wheels. The Weber One Touch E4710 also has an in-built thermometer and can be used for smoking thanks to the high lid and heat-resistant handles that will hold up well over time.
The kettle offers a hinged stainless steel lid for easy access to check and turn your food. In real-world use that means a hand free rather than holding the lid while you sort the grill – invaluable stuff. Close that down and you’ve got a thermometer to keep an eye on the cooking heat so you stay in control throughout the process.
3. Outback Omega 250 Gas BBQ
Best value gas BBQ
Type of BBQ: Gas Cooking area: 1800cm² Weight: 19.4kg
Reasons to buy: • Great price • Side burner included • Not too heavy • Foldable sides
Reasons to avoid: • Not the sturdiest frame
Loved by those in the market for a cheap gas grill, there’s a lot to be enthused about with the Outback Omega 250 Gas BBQ. For one, it’s got a side gas burner for working up side dishes and sauces. Another great perk is the side servers, which fold down when not in use. Pair that with the weight of under 20kg and you’ve got a storage-friendly family BBQ that doesn’t cost too much, either.
The Outback Omega 250 Gas BBQ is packed with utensil hooks on either arm and it’s on two wheels for taking out and putting away easily. The two burners include flame tamers that cut back on flare-ups and the nylon front screen is removable.
Ideal Home rating: 4 out of 5 stars
4. John Lewis & Partners 2 Burner Gas BBQ
Best small gas BBQ
Type of BBQ: Gas Cooking area:50 x 41.5cm Weight: 24kg
Reasons to buy: • Perfect size for small families • Reasonably priced • Warming rack • Lid thermometer
Reasons to avoid: • No side burners included
Looking for the best BBQ for a smaller crowd? The John Lewis & Partners 2 Burner Gas BBQ has all the things we love about your standard gas BBQ, but because it’s got a compact frame and only two burners it’s not going to take up too much space in the shed.
The John Lewis & Partners 2 Burner Gas BBQ has some handy features such as a warming rack to toast burger buns or stop veggies burning, and it’s also equipped with a lid thermometer to give you more cooking control. If you want a bit more prep space take advantage of the two side shelves, and fold them down when you’re done to tuck the BBQ away easily. It’s not too heavy, so you could even fit this one in your car boot.
Ideal Home rating: 4 out of 5 stars
5. Weber Master Touch GBS Premium E-5770
Best BBQ for a smoky flavour
Type of BBQ: Charcoal Cooking area: 57cm diameter Weight: 24kg
Reasons to buy: • For that smokey charcoal BBQ taste • Compact and easy to transport • Made to last
Reasons to avoid: • Won’t cater to large crowds • Quite expensive for the cooking area
Weber has shown how it earned the crown, as king of the kettle charcoal barbeques, with the Master-Touch GBS Premium. Essentially it gives you a lot of the control and quality you’d expect from gas, but with all the smokey flavour you’d want from charcoal.
The porcelain enamelled char ring and stainless steel diffuser plate help to distribute the heat efficiently for steady cooking without burning. Add an iGrill accessory and you can monitor internal food temperatures, making it even easier to cook to perfection (from a distance while you socialise) – or at least to have fewer excuses to get it wrong.
That GBS name stands for Gourmet BBQ System which is essentially a selection of cooking grates to suit your food, from the included Sear Grate for steaks to a pizza stone, wok, griddle pan, poultry roaster and more. Even if you never use any of those it’s nice to have the option.
Ideal Home rating: 5 out of 5 stars
6. Weber Genesis II E-410
Best for the BBQ perfectionist
Type of BBQ: Gas Cooking area:86 x 48cm Weight: 86.2kg
Reasons to buy: • A mighty grill designed for entertaining • GBS cooking grates • Insulated lid • Can be used for smoking
Reasons to avoid: • That high price point!
When it comes to barbecues, many perfectionists go for a Weber. This company’s barbecues are made to a very high standard and just work very well. While the company’s kettle charcoal barbecues get the most fame, its gas systems are brilliant too. And especially the Genesis II E-410.
To start, you have a hefty four gas burner setup using the company’s GS4 Grilling System. This is enhanced by porcelain-enamelled cast iron GBS cooking grates and flavouriser bars. These do as the name suggests. There’s also a double-walled air insulated porcelain-enamelled lid. This makes smoking and cooking at speed both options too.
This isn’t a small barbecue so be ready to offer it a chunk of your home’s space to live. But with extras like a Grease Management System to make cleaning a doddle, you’ll be glad you welcomed this new edition.
Ideal Home rating: 5 out of 5 stars
7. Char-Broil All-Star
Best BBQ for small gardens
Image credit: Char-Broil
Type of BBQ: Gas Cooking area: 60cm diameter Weight: 25kg
Reasons to buy: • The advantages of gas without the space demands • Classic BBQ look • Can be taken out of its frame
Reasons to avoid: • It’s only got one burner
The Char-Broil All-Star is immensely portable thanks to its fold-down arms and modest grill size. It’s still a powerhouse though, with a rust-proof, circular 46cm cast iron grate which resembles a classic kettle barbecue. This gas BBQ ignites easily and the heat can be adjusted using the large dial on the front of the machine. You can wheel the All-Star around on its four casters, which lock when it’s in place to keep it secure.
Something even more versatile is that the Char-Broil All-Star can be taken out of its stand and placed on a tabletop, meaning it’s suitable for day trips and camping excursions where you may not need its frame. The lid is cast aluminium and contains a thermometer to allow you to preheat the oven and prevent heat from escaping as you grill. There’s also a warming grate, which will allow you to cook for a crowd despite the lack of multiple burners.
Ideal Home rating: 4 out of 5 stars
8. Weber Smokey Joe Premium Barbecue
Best portable BBQ
Type of BBQ: Charcoal Cooking area: 42 x 37cm Weight: 1kg
Reasons to buy: • Perfect for taking on the go • Fire-resistant lid handle • Decent cooking area
Reasons to avoid: • Not ideal for at-home use
If you want a barbecue that isn’t consigned to your garden alone then the Weber Smokey Joe Premium could be just the one for you. This combines quality craftsmanship and cooking ability with portability that lets you turn any park, field or beach into a bbq party.
The 37cm cooking area of the Smokey Joe is a nice balance between portability and space which is enough for around three people. But if you want to do more just crack open another bag and coals and keep cooking. The porcelain-enamelled and rust-resistant lid and bowl mean even being out in the elements is no issue for this bbq.
Ideal Home rating: 4 out of 5 stars
9. Weber Pulse 1000
Best electric BBQ
Type of BBQ: Electric Cooking area: 31 x 41cm Weight: 33kg
Reasons to buy: • A modern take on classic BBQs • Environmentally friendly option • Looks great • Smart compatibility
Reasons to avoid: • Designed for flat living so not ideal for those with large gardens
If you live in a city where charcoal or even gas grilling isn’t really the done thing, then a more modern approach could be for you. Enter the Weber Pulse 1000, a totally electric barbeque. This not only avoids excess fumes but also dodges the use of fossil fuels, making it a far more environmentally friendly way to cook out.
This is all about accuracy with that 1.8 kW of power in this large but attractive grill. It comes with an internal probe meaning you can monitor the internal temperature of your food. This is done via the Weber app so you can actually keep an eye on your food from the comfort of indoors, while this grill does all the work out on the balcony. Yup, it’s marketed towards those in flats, since it means no smoke annoying the neighbours.
In case this all sounds too much like cheating and not real grilling, Weber uses porcelain enameled cast iron plates which actually manage to give the food a barbecue taste unlike you’d get cooking indoors. That means a steak will taste more like one you buy out at a restaurant rather than something you’ve cooked on a pan in the kitchen. In case this relatively new tech seems worrying to you, there’s a five year limited warranty to set your mind at ease, too.
Ideal Home rating: 4 out of 5 stars
10. Very 6-Burner Gas BBQ with Side Burner
Best cheap BBQ
Type of BBQ: Gas Cooking area: 60 x 35.5cm Weight: 45kg
Reasons to buy: • A great value option • Six burners total • Side burner for cooking extras • Easy to transport
Reasons to avoid: • Lacking an in-built temperature gauge • The frame is less sturdy than other options
Available at Very and Littlewoods, the 6-Burner Gas BBQ with Side Burner packs in a lot of BBQ for the money. It’s got a sturdy lid and porcelain steel wire cooking grill. There’s also a side burner for preparing all sorts of side dishes, which is something you’ll typically only find on much more expensive barbecues.
The frame is lightweight and there’s a total cooking space of 60 x 35.5cm of cooking space, meaning you’ll be able to cook up a real feast with this gas BBQ. What’s more, it’s on wheels for easy transportation and an absolute bargain.
Ideal Home rating: 4 out of 5 stars
11. Big Green Egg Large
Best BBQ for professional-level cooks
Type of BBQ: Charcoal Cooking area: 46cm diameter Weight: 86kg
Reasons to buy: • Incredibly stylish • Designed to last • Great for smoking or charcoal cooking • Easy to clean
Reasons to avoid: • So expensive • Only one fuel option
This is one very stylish yet practical way to cook thanks to the Big Green Egg’s ceramic build which maintains a steady heat for even and predictable cooking results. It also looks brilliant.
The air-flow tech will have this up to temperature in no time and will allow you to easily keep it within a few degrees throughout cooking. Once finished, the leftover fats and oils are cooked down by the heat of the egg meaning all that’s left is an easily swept away ash, leaving you ready to cook again the next time. It’s deep though so you may want to roll your sleeves up before diving into the ash pile.
The fact it grills, bakes, sears and stays hot for up to 10 hours is just a bonus and is probably why this is the grill of choice for many professionals. One of the most forgiving barbeques out there right now, with a price to reflect that.
Ideal Home rating: 4 out of 5 stars
How to buy the best bbq for you
Image credit: Weber
The most major priority is price, so start out with a rough idea of what you want to spend. Once you know this, it’s easier to narrow down the rest and fit in what you need with what you can afford. Next up is fuel.
This subject is an area of debate. Some claim that charcoals offer the very best flavour, while others claim gas gives the same result. Then, to make it more complicated, there are gas barbecues that use gas flames to heat charcoals.
Essentially it boils down to this – if you’re cooking meat, it’s the juices hitting the coals which create a smoke which adds flavour to the meat. Lose the coals and you lose this extra flavour.
So if you want authentic flavour, coals can be the best way to cook. Then there are the smokers which take this idea to the next level and offer slow cooking which not only packs in the smokey flavour but also allows you to give the perfect tenderness to joints of meat.
The problem with gas and charcoal is that you need to buy the fuels, which can be a hassle. That’s where electric barbecues come in. They’re a great way ta grill without worrying about anything aside from plugging in the barbecue. Of course, many will argue this is akin to cooking indoors. But with a lid for trapping in flavour you’re still going to get a great experience.
If you want to enjoy alfresco dining properly during the summer then a barbecue is a must. Sure you could slave away in the kitchen, but if you’re having guests over, it’s nice to all be together outside for the experience, right?
Portable barbecues are more varied than ever, so taking the grilling with you is also an option. It will certainly turn a picnic into a proper event.
For those that love that smokey barbecue flavour, or just enjoy cooking outside, a barbecue is a year-round option that’s only really limited by the rain. But with a bit of cover and a jacket to keep warm there’s nothing stopping you enjoying bbq flavours all year round.
This is the question that’s a tough one to nail down since the range of prices is so broad. You can spend very little on a portable barbecue, or you can stretch to a professional level beast with multiple functions and heat sources priced in the thousands.
Most people find somewhere in the middle suits. So spending just over a hundred or a few hundred will generally get you a barbecue fit for most purposes.
Take a look at fuel costs, too, as gas and coal varies. You’ll want to factor this in, especially if you’re planning to use the barbecue a lot.
What other key questions do I need to ask about BBQs?
Image credit: Colin Poole
Size is an issue for areas of limited space, so a smaller barbecue can often be easier for storage. That said, if you’re having parties with lots of people, a larger cooking area is always a welcome addition.
Splashing out a bit more on a cover is another factor to consider if you plan to keep your barbecue outside. Especially in countries where it’s cold and wet in the winter months, it’s a necessity if you can’t find an indoor storage location.
The best robot vacuums aren’t perfectly suited to every home, but flat dwellers and those with lots of cleaning to keep on top of will find them a Godsend. Prepare to send your handheld into early retirement! Many of the best robot vacuum cleaners will come from brands you may recognise. This includes iRobot’s Roomba, as well as Dyson and Ecovacs. But for the unfamiliar, it can be hard to wade through the fleets of robot vacs on the market and pick the best one for you. Some come as robot vacuum and mop combinations; perfect for mucky floors and hardwood, whereas others specialise in remote access and mapping out even a complex floorplan to calculate the most efficient cleaning route.
Being able to vacuum while you’re out at work is one of the best uses for smart home technology we’ve come across. Early robotic cleaners were pretty stupid, feeling their way around by bumping into things. But as with everything smart home-related, things have improved beyond all recognition. Now the latest cleaners come with supremely complex navigation sensors, lasers and cameras. These map out your room, learn where objects are and plot the most efficient cleaning route possible.
Should I buy a robot vacuum?
Anyone who has ever paid for a cleaner will know the joy of returning home to a spotless house. Even the most hi-tech of robotic vacuums can’t yet compete with that just-polished smell. But they can keep on top of the daily once-around. And all without you lifting a finger. Sure, we all know people who manage to vacuum virtually every day. But if you’re busy working and hate the idea of losing free time to chores, a robotic vacuum could be for you. Especially if you have pets.
We’re not suggesting they’re perfect by any means. A shoe lace, lump of Lego, or even rug can bring your robot underling to a premature stop. They work best on large open-plan houses on one level (like the typical American home). Therefore they may not be right for your small higgledy cottage. What we do know is, whatever makes the cleaning easier is well worth testing!
Best robot vacuums 2021
1. iRobot Roomba 980
Best robot vacuum for total performance
iRobot, the company behind Roomba, actually started out making bomb disposal robots for the American military. The company has been selling robotic vacuums in the US for decades. The Roomba 980 is their top-of-the-range Wi-Fi connected design that costs less than the Dyson. In our opinion, it outperforms it.
The 350dia x H91mm lozenge can sneak under all but the lowest sofa, detects when it moves from hard floors to rugs and carpet. It boosts the motor speed for better cleaning results. It has a clever twin rubber brush bar. This is easy to clean and untangle and seriously good at picking up pet hair. The brush bars don’t extend right to the edge of the vacuum. However, the two spinning brushes sweep dust into the bars, so it can clean right up to the skirting boards.
It comes with two battery powered digital fencing devices that prevent the Roomba going where it shouldn’t. Away from a tangle of wires, or outside onto the decking for instance. But we’ve not found much of a need for them. It’s excellent across all sorts of terrain. It can climb onto thick piled rugs and hasn’t fallen down stairs once.
While not as simple to empty as the Dyson, the 980 has a HEPA filter to reduce allergens escaping back into the room. The consistency of the cleaning is the best we’ve come across. That’s both in terms of the amount of dust it picks up, and how well it navigates around the room. We rarely come home to find it tangled or trapped, just docked and recharging.
One word on the docking system though. Irritatingly, it can only be plugged in from one side, which limits where you can position it. We resorted to using Blu-Tack to keep it in the right position. It was a struggle to rest it flush against a wall.
Ideal Home rating: 5 out of 5 stars
2. Dyson 360 Heurist
Best robot vacuum for reliability
Instantly recognisable as a Dyson product, the Dyson 360 Heurist is gorgeous. Well made, it has the same feeling of dependability (and usability) as their other vacuum cleaners. It might only measure 240 x 230mm, but it boasts of having ‘twice the suction of any other robot vacuum’. It also has the ability to look 360° around a room. And it has a high-quality carbon fibre brush bar (like the one found on the excellent Dyson V8 Handheld).
With one simple button – and a comprehensive smartphone app – it’s a breeze to use. Easy to set timers, it’ll even draw you a map to show how much cleaning it does while you’re at work. It isn’t the simplest device to link to your Wi-Fi, requiring long passwords and a fair amount of faffing. The transparent dust collector is easy to empty without creating a mess. The filters can be rinsed under the tap and the docking station sits flush with the wall.
The cord can be plugged in either on the right or left hand, depending on the nearest socket is. Watching the 360 Eye work is slow going but give it time – you’re at work after all. The excellent mapping cameras and sensors will cover the open ground with ease. The short 45min battery life and slow recharge rate mean it took over three hours to cover a large living room.
The small size means it can get through chair legs more easily than the rest. At 12cm tall it might struggle under very low sofas, but we didn’t have an issue. The first time we used it, we were embarrassed by how much dust and dirt it collected.
It was hugely impressive, with the living room looking and feeling cleaner. Over time though, we did get frustrated by its tendency to get stuck on the fireplace hearth (The Roomba or Miele had no issues with this). It became a bit of a joke as to where Dyson would be when we got home.
Ideal Home rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
3. Ecovacs Deebot N79S
Best budget-friendly robot vacuum
An Amazon favourite due to the low cost and easy use, we were impressed by just how powerful the Ecovacs Deebot N79S is on both hardwood and carpet. It’s got a Wide Reach bristle on either side of the front of the vacuum, both of which do an excellent job of sweeping debris in the path of the vacuum as it goes around the room. Its battery holds true to the 100-minute battery life promised by Ecovacs, but we did find that after about six months of use this had depleted to around 45 minutes. Still, that’s above average for many robot vacuums.
Not everyone will be drawn to a robot vacuum that requires lots of complicated controls and syncing to a phone, and one of the best things about the Ecovacs Deebot N79S is that you can simply press a button on the top of the machine and off it goes in Auto mode. Unlike some smarter vacuums such as the Roborock S6 it does move around more randomly instead of mapping a clear path around the room, but keep in mind that it does so for only a fraction of the price. Other modes include spot cleaning and edge mode, that targets skirting boards and corners very well.
Suction is powerful and the bin is large. The issues we encountered weren’t unique to the Ecovacs Deebot N79S. For example, the side bristles can get tangled easily if (well, when) they encounter long hair. When it comes to the top of the stairs it does detect an imminent drop, but we found that we needed to rescue it from the cliff before it would continue cleaning, despite the claim that it does this automatically.
Ideal Home rating: 4 out of 5 stars
4. Roborock S6
Best robot vacuum and mop combo
While it’s designed to be one of the best robot vacuums, the Roborock S6 has an optional mop attachment that works simply by filling up the water container. It’s great on hardwood floors and leaves a relatively dry trail while still picking up superficial dirt. It’s no stand-in for an actual mop because there’s no suds or antibacterial cleaning solution involved, but for a tougher clean on laminate and tile we found it did a perfectly good job.
Onto the vacuuming, which really is the star of the show, the Roborock S6 is incredibly smart. It automatically maps out your space and figures out the smartest way to clean, meaning it tracks more of a zig-zag across your room than a random dodgem route; something we found with less smart robot vacuums. The vacuum also scans the room using the LiDAR navigation on top of the machine. Other features we enjoyed included automatic recharging and the rubber bristles that aren’t prone to tangling and can accurately detect barriers and move dirt into the path of the vacuum.
If you’re looking for the best robot vacuum and mop combination it’s a smart pick, and not the most expensive option in our guide.
Ideal Home rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
5. Proscenic M7 Pro
Best self-emptying robot vacuum
Let’s get the disappointment out of the way first, because the Proscenic M7 Pro doesn’t have its intelligent dust collector included. You’ll need to buy it separately, but it is nice to have the option of not emptying by hand after every use. In testing we enjoyed how easy it was to empty the Proscenic M7 Pro by hand and how easy it was to control on the app. You can set zones and customise cleaning between each one. There’s also the option of scheduled cleaning, which is ideal for those who are out of the house a lot and like to come home to a squeaky clean space.
There’s a brush on each side of the Proscenic M7 Pro which can sweep the surrounding area as it works. There are a total of 24 sensors included, meaning it won’t drop down the stairs or bump into fragile items while on its cleaning route. In particular, it did an excellent job of picking up pet hair thanks to the powerful suction.
Smart options are lacking but it can be paired to a smart speaker and instructed to start and stop cleaning as and when you desire. Not the most high-tech of options, but it covers the basics well. For the price, it’s the best robot vacuum with the option of self-emptying
Ideal Home rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
6. Miele Scout RX1
Best robot vacuum for big houses
With battery life that’s nearly three times as long as the Dyson, Miele’s first robot vacuum can clean a huge area (as much as 150sqm) before charging. Plus it looks good and has a furniture-friendly 8cm height. With two sweeping brushes and a 17cm brush bar it should be able to gobble up dust like the best of them. But in practice, we were disappointed by how much dust was left after a full clean, especially along the skirting boards.
It is older and cheaper than the Roomba, Dyson and Samsung models. But we expected better from Miele, especially given how much we rate their full-sized vacuum cleaners. It does a good job on rugs and carpets but seemed to just push dust around on my hard floors. The docking station is great though, with room inside for unwanted cable. It comes with a magnetic strip for laying across a doorway to prevent it from entering.
There’s no carry handle, which is irritating when you want to take it upstairs. You can set the timer to come on when you’re at work. It doesn’t offer anywhere near the same amount of customization as the latest app-controlled models. But it does come with a remote control, which is fun to use, especially if you want to scare the cat!
Ideal Home rating: 4 out of 5 stars
7. iRobot Braava Jet
Best robot vacuum for kitchens and bathrooms
OK, so this mini (H8.4cm x W17.8cm x D17cm) little robot isn’t strictly a vacuum, but it’s every bit as useful if you have a house full of hard floors. Instead of sucking up debris it will systematically wet mop, damp mop and dry sweep hard floors. The smart floor cleaner has a small water tank and spray nozzle built in.
When you attach a cleaning pad it automatically knows if you want to wet mop, damp mop or sweep. There are three different types to choose from, in both washable and disposable formats, and it comes with two of each. It’s very methodical in its cleaning and can tackle a floor up to 25m2. If you watch it for a few minutes you might not think it’s working especially hard. However, the vibrating mop head is surprisingly effective, especially on tiled floors and Lino.
We experimented with each of the three cleaning modes and found the wet sweeping pad the most effective. The floor doesn’t get soaked and you don’t need any chemical cleaner. Also, the floor is almost dry once the robot has finished. The damp mop is a gentler but faster clean. The dry sweep simply scoots around collecting up dust and pet hair.
The pad does manage to cling onto most sweepings, but it’s not as effective as a vacuum, or as quick as a dust pan. The Braava Jet won’t clean as well as you can, but then neither will any of our robotic vacuums. What it is great for though is a quick and surprisingly thorough clean at your convenience. Being such a small, square unit, you can store it easily alongside the household cleaning products.
Basic robotic cleaners generally clean in straight lines, running until they bump into something. They turn around and head back the way they came. Some work by spinning in a spiral from the middle of the room until the hit the edges. However, the latest designs boast NASA style sensor. This helps them map out any room and prevent them toppling down the stairs.
All robot vacuums have drop sensors to avoid falling, and most have bump sensor in case the do run into things. A combination of cameras and even lasers help guide the top of the range designs. These robots track what has been cleaned and what is left to clean until they’ve finished that particular section of your home. It might look like they work randomly, but trust us, it’s anything but!
Some can also tell if they change surfaces – from carpet to hard floor for instance. They can decrease motor power in that instance. Some can even sense if there’s more dirt and pass over the area more frequently.
2. How much should I spend on a robot vacuum cleaner?
A good robot vacuum isn’t cheap, and you should budget around £500. Anything less and you’re looking at more of an automated floor sweeper than intelligent appliance. Our best buys cost around £700 which is a lot, especially given you’ll still need to occasionally run around with a regular cleaner, but if you’re a pet owner sick of hair balls blowing across the room, the daily clean of a robotic vacuum will be worth every penny.
3. How well does a robot vacuum really clean?
We were horrified by how much dust, dirt and pet hair was collected by the robot vacuums. Remember to pick obstacles off the floor before leaving the house. This way you will come back to a much cleaner floors. And the beauty is, it will clean every day, without complaining. Admittedly the quality of cleaning is dependent on the vacuum’s ability to clean unobstructed.
If you have stuff everywhere you should expect it to get stuck from time to time. Also, it can’t get right into the corners, no matter what the blurb on the box says. It also can’t climb stairs. So if you want to clean bedrooms or bathrooms you’ll need to take it up and turn it on. If you ask us, it’s still better than doing it yourself.
What features should I look for when choosing a robot vacuum cleaner?
Image credit: Braava
Timers: An absolute must, there’s little point having a robot cleaner if it can’t do the housework while you’re not there. The easiest to program are the connected app-controlled models, but even basic design will have digital clock style timers.
App control: If your robot vacuum comes with a smartphone app you’ll be able to control it remotely. Turn on from work for instance if you’ve got an unexpected visit from the in-laws. Plus, you can now track your vacuum’s progress and see how much of the room it has cleaned. This is useful to see if there’s areas the robot can’t access.
Filters: The vast majority of cleaners have built-in air filters to trap unwanted particles and stop them being pumped back into the room. Look for washable designs for longevity, although all brands sell replacements.
Docking station: All vacuums need recharging at some stage and being able to take themselves home for a refuel is a huge bonus. However, battery life isn’t that significant assuming you’re in no rush to get the floors cleaned. If you’re out at work, you can let the cleaner work all day – charging up as it goes. Positioning the dock however can be an issue, so check if you have a well-located spot against a wall, in close proximity to a plug.
When Brooke Spreckman first toured Hannah Godwin and Dylan Barbour’s San Diego living room via FaceTime, she saw a blank box with a broken ceiling fan and a random mantel on the wall directing them where to put the TV. “We wanted the space to feel neutral and airy; no fuss and very calming,” says Spreckman, who runs her practice, Design Hutch, out of Los Angeles and did all the planning for the project remotely. The laid-back vibe they were going for translated to an all-white color palette—but creamy, soft, and subdued is easier said than done. “I thought, Okay, what do I need to do so not everything is super-flat?” recalls the designer.
First up, Spreckman switched up the floor plan, removing the ugly TV mantel so the couple could place the screen on a smaller wall near the kitchen peninsula, and traded in the fan for a light fixture. (There are large bifold doors leading out to the backyard, so it’s easy to find in a breeze when needed.) Then she moved on to finding key pieces—a grounding rug, a cloudlike sectional—that would make the room feel less like a blank canvas and more lived-in. After all, it’s the first house the newly engaged couple, who met on ABC’s Bachelor in Paradise in 2019, has owned together. “For me, moving from Alabama to California felt so uprooting, so it’s nice to have a place to feel at home,” says Godwin.Ahead, tour the pair’s just-finished space and learn all the dos and don’ts of decorating with white.
Create Texture From Scratch
“When you’re working in a monochromatic scheme, you want to pay attention to what layered looks you can add, in order to make everything interesting on its own,” explains Spreckman. Layer number one? Floor-to-ceiling curtains that extend beyond the windows (peep how they ripple across the wall, too). “It gives the space a cozy hotel lobby vibe,” she says. The fabric is mounted on simple tracks that made measuring a total breeze. “Sometimes when you’re doing a standard rod over the window, you never know where to place it or how long to make the fabric,” adds the designer. In this case Spreckman simply gave the company the exact distance measurement from the floor to the ceiling and the widths of the two exterior-facing walls.
Having an eye for tones and textures is also crucial. All the main players in the space vary in hue and upholstery: The sofa is Performance Linen, the ivory armchairs are nubby bouclé, and the grayish rug is a wool-knit mix. Spreckman took full advantage of the color spectrum by hanging two off-white abstract artworks commissioned by Kari Kroll.
Switch Up Your Silhouettes
While the sofa cushions on the 9-by-9-foot sectional are cushy and cloudlike, the piece features straight, modern arms. Providing a point of contrast was important to achieving a dynamic look, so the designer opted for two curvy swivel armchairs.
Soothe the Soul With Wood
Spreckman took a similar approach to the wood accents and furniture in the room, prioritizing a variety of species and stains. The leather-clad Saffron + Poe barstools feature teak legs, while the credenza and coffee table are both oak (the former dark, the latter light).
Don’t Rely on Brass
It’s true that brass is one of the best metals you can bring into a space to warm it up, but Spreckman steered clear of the obvious choice on this project. Too many golden tones would read as trendy, not timeless. “I wanted the materials to be incorporated a bit more seamlessly,” she says. So she did the unexpected: She added morewhite. The crisp pendant lamp over the coffee table and the two cone ones over the peninsula bring the palette full circle.
Wine drinkers need not worry: Both Spreckman and Godwin have low-key hacks for keeping white furniture white. For the designer, removable covers that can be handed off to the dry cleaner is crucial. For Godwin, tons of throw blankets help ease the fear of drips, spills, or marks. “I will say, I fall asleep multiple times a week on our couch,” says Godwin. With a few backup plans in place, she and Barbour can focus on actually relaxing—that is when they’re not busy wedding planning.
For me, shifting toward living a more sustainable life started, as most things do, small. A few years ago I began stashing Baggu bags in my purse in case I decided to pop by the grocery store while I was out running errands. Then I got curious about solid shampoos and conditioners. But the true opening of the floodgates came with my recon on the best paper towel alternatives—living with a toddler will make you keenly aware of how many you use per day.
In truth, each one of these shifts required conscientious habit breaking. There were forgetful or rushed moments where I instinctively grabbed for a paper towel when a reusable cloth would have sufficed. But slowly my new ways became ingrained, and what followed is my current obsession: Identify any remaining eco-unfriendly patterns and find a planet-pleasing solution.
Disclaimer: I am a mom of a 19-month-old living through a pandemic. I am also a design editor and stylist who has dedicated my life’s work to finding and creating beauty. So beyond wanting to minimize my contribution to Mother Nature’s demise, any new products I bring into my routine need to be effective and easy to use (there’s no time for learning curves with a toddler on the loose)—and they have to be pleasing to the senses. Here are the items that passed the test.
Why it’s great: I finally stopped my extensive search for a reusable paper towel substitute once these 12-inch-square, unbleached organic cotton cloths came into my life. They are the ideal combination of absorbent and quick drying (e.g., keep mold and bacteria at bay), extremely durable—and they can replace disposable paper towels completely.
How to use them: For kitchen spills, food-covered toddler faces and hands, wiping down a table post-meal. Afterward, just throw them in the washing machine.
Bonus points: Because these cloths are infinitely reusable, they’ll put you one step closer to having a zero-waste home.
Why it’s great: This sponge is a truly natural take on the ubiquitous (generally made with micro plastics) style I grew up using. Other “eco-friendly” versions I’ve tried are either not as sustainable as they seem or they feel like a compromise. This one—which is completely compostable and biodegradable—gets super-sudsy, and the scrubber side (made from a luffa plant) does the trick.
How to use it: Dishes, pots, pans, countertops—any way you’d use a standard-issue kitchen sponge.
Bonus points: Even the packaging is plastic-free.
Runner-up: If you don’t mind using a separate scrubber, Trader Joe’s Pop-Up Sponges (made from vegetable cellulose) are compostable and come in a pack of 12 for just $8.
Why it’s great: The greatest hits of scrubbers, this set includes a bottle brush, a pan scrubber, and a handled dish brush (plus a replacement head), all made from beechwood, natural fibers, and a little bit of metal—no planet-polluting plastics here. I’m a sucker for beautifully simple utilitarian items, and as far as dish-washing accessories go, it doesn’t get much prettier than this.
When to use it: You’ll reach for this set when your pots and pans need a tougher scrub and a standard sponge just won’t cut it.
Bonus points: It’s handmade in Germany at a family-owned factory that has been in business for 90 years.
Why it’s great: I have to admit, I was skeptical of a solid dish soap at first (I thought it would make an already bothersome chore unnecessarily complicated), but now I am a total convert. Beyond the fact that this soap washes dishes wonderfully, it smells incredible—with notes of lavender, cedarwood, and eucalyptus—is made with earth-friendly ingredients like coconut oil, essential oils, and kaolin clay; and unlike most liquid dish soaps, its packaging is compostable. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say I actually enjoy doing dishes thanks to this soap.
How to use it: Run a wet sponge or scrub brush across the top of the bar to create a lather, then clean away.
Bonus points: You can also use it to hand-wash your delicate clothing, a feature I’ve taken advantage of much more often than expected.
Runners-up: If you’re partial to citrus scents, Ardent Good’s Solid Dish Soap is equally awesome and comes in a refillable ceramic container. If you’re sensitive to scents or prefer no fragrance, No Tox Life and Faded Plains make unscented versions that are both great.
Why it’s great: Unlike most dishwasher pods on the market, these fragrance-free tablets are not coated in a layer of plastic (to later be disposed of in our waterways—gasp!). In fact, they’re plastic-free in every sense—including the packaging and even the shipping materials. Plus I’ve noticed that my glassware comes out of the washer clearer and my silverware brighter, so win-win!
Bonus points: The starter kit comes with a refillable steel tin where you can conveniently stash your stock of tablets, and it’s labeled so guests will know what they’re reaching for, too.
Why it’s great: With this trifecta, there’s no laundry problem you can’t solve (I’m talking turmeric-stained white sweater realness here). Each can be used on its own, but with their powers combined, stains don’t stand a chance and my laundry comes out brighter. From a sustainability standpoint, powders and solids have a lower environmental impact than liquids (which are heavier to ship and generally come in single-use plastic bottles), and these three products have reusable and/or recyclable packaging and are made from eco-friendly ingredients.
How to use it: I use the laundry soda plus oxygen brightener for any standard wash, and I pretreat stains with the Wow Stick Stain Remover. But if you need to combat a really tough stain, follow the stain stick application with the oxygen brightener and water soak before laundering. I’m blown away by how effective they are.
Bonus points: The oxygen brightener can even be used as a spot remover for carpets.
Why they’re great: These 100 percent wool balls—done in an unexpectedly stylish color palette—reduce drying time (which equals less energy consumption and a happier planet), help combat static and lint, soften fabrics, smooth wrinkles, and eliminate the need for fabric softeners and dryer sheets. Every time I forget to throw them in, I have to run my machine a little longer to completely dry that load.
How to use them: Simply add them to the dryer with your clean, wet clothes, and reuse them for up to 1,000 loads. Put a few drops of an essential oil on them if you’d like to give your laundry a subtle, natural scent.
Bonus points: These are bigger than your average dryer ball (3.5 inches in diameter), meaning they absorb more water.
Why they’re great: If, like me, you’re aiming to cut back on the number of single-use plastics in your life, this set is a really good step in the right direction. It includes three itty-bitty glass bottles of nontoxic cleaning concentrate—an all-purpose cleaner, a glass cleaner, and a tub and tile cleaner—that are made without harsh ingredients and designed to be mixed in the brand’s reusable glass spray bottles. They smell great, look pretty (go ahead and leave them out on your counter), reduce the amount you’ll be adding to landfills, and get the job done.
How to use them: Combine the concentrate with 15 ounces of water—each in a separate spray bottle—give them a shake, then get your clean on. Be sure to recycle the glass concentrate bottles when you’re done (but they also make for lovely little bud vases after removing the labels).
Bonus points: Each reusable spray bottle comes with a silicone sleeve that prevents slipping and breakage. They’re available in six colors, so you can assign a color to each cleaning product for easy identification. And because the concentrate bottles are so small, it’s easy to store backups, even if you don’t have tons of storage space.
Mother’s Day is less than two weeks away, so now is the time to start thinking about all the moms in your life! A bouquet of fresh flowers is always lovely and a no fail gift. I’ve gathered up a few different ideas to gift plants or flowers beyond an arrangement in a vase.
I was visiting a local farmer’s market over the weekend and snapped a picture of these beautiful living wreaths. I love the idea of gifting plants or flowers in a creative way, which prompted today’s roundup of ideas.
Use a grapevine wreath as a base for a succulent arrangement.
Create a centerpiece with a rectangular box and fill it with a variety of succulents, add curly willow, moss, and stones for texture.
Living comfortably in a space under 30 square metres requires a bit of creative thinking, and this pair of studio designs have space saving ideas that are guaranteed to inspire. Each of these two unique small home interiors incorporates game changing custom made furniture that allows the floor layout to be used in an entirely new way. Home design number one features a bespoke cube of lounge and bedroom furniture in one–without a conventional sofa bed in sight–and storage space is copious but unseen. Our second home design brings a plethora of cabinets in which a whole bathroom is concealed, and a built-in bookcase hems in a multi-level bedroom with a unique home workspace.
Our first featured home is a 29 square metre studio apartment that belongs to a young designer, located in Pruszkow, Poland. Despite its compact proportions, the minimalist living room is clearly zoned with the implementation of cubed volumes and contrasting colour.
The lounge “cube” is a custom built piece of furniture. The design amalgamates a bespoke L-shaped sofa with copious amounts of concealed storage space around it and underneath, plus a bookcase inside one end.
A modern coffee table completes the square lounge layout. Part of the sofa has been fashioned with the same steel frame supports to create custom cohesivity.
The storage drawer underneath the couch conceals a surprise trundle bed. The bed extends within convenient reach of the bookcase, making it super easy to make a selection for bedtime reading.
Thanks to its plug-in design, this multifunctional light can be unhooked from the ceiling of the kitchen diner area to become a floor reading lamp by the bed.
When in its kitchen diner location, the unique lamp is suspended from a ceiling rack to light up the dining peninsula.
A modern chair drops a black accent at either side of the wood effect dining bench.
Large windows fill the small living room with bright natural light. A home workspace is set up next to the glass.
An all white kitchen design is fitted with a coordinated white integrated oven to complete the streamlined aesthetic. Wrapping the small dining table in a contrasting finish helps to clearly split the open concept.
The dining peninsula is actually a moveable module that can become a freestanding table/island. As seen here, the module can also be joined with the desk to make a much larger table that will seat up to eight people for dinner.
In this square configuration, the dining table and desk make a collaborative double workspace.
A solid wood entryway bench adds a textural rustic touch to a smooth white hallway.
A wall of entryway storage is concealed behind unassuming handle-free cabinet fronts.
The storage wall includes a sliding volume, which houses cleaning equipment and shoes.
Another panel pulls down to reveal an ironing board.
The last door off the home entryway leads to the bathroom.
Atmospheric lighting accentuates a textured dark grey wall treatment and a coordinating integrated bathroom sink.
A shower area stands at the end of the narrow linear space.
Slatted ceiling panels exaggerate the room’s lengthy appearance. Narrow storage nooks in the end of the vanity unit stow away a face towel and WC supplies.
Our second home interior is a studio apartment with a special semi-circular balcony design.
The balcony forms the main attraction of the tiny living space. The bowed perimeter and open skylight pulls in joyful treetop views and boundless daylight.
Indoor plants thrive in the abundant sunlight, sprouting from the shelves of a custom bookcase and from plant stands around the floor.
The large built-in bookcase forms a partition between the main living area and the bedroom. The open sided shelves serve both zones, and share the natural illumination.
On the other side of the triangular living space, a one wall kitchen is stacked up to the ceiling line in order to make maximum use of vertical storage space. A ladder facilitates easy access.
Wood frame doors seal off the balcony. More indoor plants bring the leafy outdoor views into the embrace of the unique sunroom.
An orb lamp makes the space cosy as the sun sets.
White coated mesh screens filter the panorama, whilst pure sunshine pours in from above.
The cool concrete floor becomes clad with grey, green and sunny yellow tiles as we come to the home entryway, which is also the access point to the bedroom domain.
The bed itself is elevated above the height of base storage cabinets, which gives it an all around view of the apartment via the upper open shelving volume. Objects of interest line the shelves to provide quirky decor on both sides.
The multi-level small bedroom arrangement features a comfortable workspace across the midway point, which benefits from the appealing view.
The raised floor gives the effect of going upstairs to bed, despite the apartment being only one floor. The open shelving partition is invaluable in preventing feelings of claustrophobia in the narrow space, and to facilitate airflow.
A round coffee table takes up little space in the compact home, and is light enough to be moved onto the balcony when needed.
A dining table tucks away into the kitchen cabinets, hidden until needed. The table is just big enough to accommodate the two homeowners, so as not to eat up any unnecessary space.
One of the other full height kitchen cabinet doors is actually a secretive door to the bathroom. Inside, sturdy storage shelves can also be used like a ladder, to enable the couple to quickly access bathroom supplies stowed way up top.
The apartment floor plan reveals that the bathroom sink is tucked away inside the kitchen cabinet volume too, which saves valuable space in the tiny shower room.
“Time is round, and it rolls quickly.” ― Nikos Kazantzakis _________________________________ I’m sitting here watching The Home Edit (have you seen it?) and developing a pretty intense labeling and acrylic container obsession. Ha! On this particular episode, the hosts are helping Reese Witherspoon organize her “movie clothes” closet and I was tickled to see she…
Rumours of the death of doorbells have been greatly exaggerated, and instead the old standard chimes have been replaced with smart video doorbells that allow you to do so much more.
Pairing video security with smart home convenience, the best video doorbells give you the power to keep an eye on the area around you house, speak with delivery men if you’re unable to answer the front door (even if you’re out and about!) and incorporate them into any smart home set-up you already have.
Ever heard a knock at the door right when you’ve started the washing up? Or had a guest arrive while you’re still at the shops? Video doorbells solve these problems and more, and also serve a vital security purpose.
Many video doorbells give you the option to store footage from certain incidents, which can be extremely useful should someone attempt to break in. You can also hook some of them up to a smart display, allowing you to see who’s on the porch without even opening your phone.
Of course video doorbells cost a good chunk more than a classic doorbell chime. So is it worth making the jump and which is best for you? Read on to find out everything you need to know.
The best video doorbells 2021
1. Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus
Best Ring video doorbell
Video: 1080p HD Audio: Two-way audio with noise cancellation Power: Rechargeable Quick-Release Battery Pack Reasons to buy: Night vision, lots of accessories Reasons to avoid: Can’t see past recordings without a subscription
The Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus is one of the best models out there from the company that started it all, several generations ago. As such it has managed to perfect the offering while driving down the price at the top-end. The result is a video doorbell that runs on battery, for super easy installation which took us under an hour, and lasts for half a year before you need to charge it – which is done easily via a phone charger.
This looks quite similar to previous models but that’s not a bad thing as these not only look decent but are also recognisable and work as a deterrent for burglars.
Video quality is high at Full HD 1080p while audio is clear in both directions. What’s improved in this model is dual band Wi-Fi connectivity which means you get features like Pre-roll. This, as the name suggests, gives you a few seconds of video to show the person approaching the doorbell before they press, allowing you to see who’s coming ahead of time.
Sounds pretty standard but the app works so well it’ll actually pop up in your phone’s notifications before you even enter the app itself.
Or just pair this with Alexa and you’ll be told through your speaker, for example, that someone’s at the door – a feature we found very useful in the kitchen away from the door chime. Go for the Chime Pro and it acts as a Wi-Fi booster too, although we had issues with this, which Ring says was our Wi-Fi.
Thanks to smart sensors and the ability to designate zones which the camera responds to, notifications aren’t too annoying even when you have a busy road in front of your home. The Ring Protect plan is affordable at £2.50 per month and gets you lots of smart features like longer term video recording, making this a fully fledged home security solution complete with night vision.
Ideal Home rating: 5 out of 5 stars
2. Arlo Video Doorbell
Best security doorbell
Video: 1080p HD Audio: Two-way audio Power: Rechargeable battery Reasons to buy: Built-in siren; 180-degree field of view; wireless Reasons to avoid: Expensive; advanced features require subscription
If you’re looking for the best video doorbell to offer security for your home, then the wireless Arlo Video Doorbell could be the answer. With a high-end price, you can be sure to get your money’s worth with a built-in siren, direct video calling and more.
The siren is perhaps the most notable feature, which offers an extra layer of protection by ensuring that intruders are quickly identified and dealt with. You can set this to sound automatically when motion is detected, or manually from the app if you see something you don’t like.
The doorbell also calls you directly, rather than making you rely on your internet connection or push notifications.
A lot of thought has also gone into the view from the doorbell’s camera, which is square rather than rectangular – allowing you to get a complete view of who’s at the door as well as any packages that they may have left on the doorstep.
Video: HDR video Audio: High-quality speaker and microphone Power: 12 V AC – 24 V AC; requires an 8 VA transformer and wired doorbell Reasons to buy: Crisp, clear images, easy installation Reasons to avoid: Requires a wired doorbell and chime
Google bought Nest so it now features as part of the company’s line-up for smart home products. So if you own a Thermostat, Home or Nest Wi-Fi then this is a great addition to that ecosystem which is all run through the one app. That means Google Assistant integration for door alerts on your Google Home speaker but it also means Google smarts.
As such this doorbell is clever enough to recognise faces. That means you can have it alert you only when you want to know for a certain person, say when your child gets home late. This is clear to see thanks to the HD video with HDR which we found meant you got a clear image even when sunlight was in the background or when in night vision mode.
The look is super minimal and the easy installation process goes along with that. But it’s backed by a robust 128-bit encryption so you don’t need to worry about security. You can also rest easy on recharging as this only comes in a hardwired version. That can make installation tough if you don’t already have a doorbell wired in. But it means you can get the video to record constantly for you to scroll back through, for up to three hours at a time, without worrying about battery life. But, of course, you’ll have to pay if you want to store video for the longer term.
Ideal Home rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
4. Ring Doorbell Pro
Best wired video doorbell
Video: 1080 HD video Audio: Two-way audio Power: Hardwire to existing doorbell kit or via Plug-In Adapter Reasons to buy: Slim design, interchangeable plates Reasons to avoid: Requires professional installation and an existing doorbell
Yes it’s a Ring doorbell appearing again early on in this list. That’s because Ring specialises in what it does and it does it well. But there are different models to suit different needs and in this case it’s for those that don’t want to faff with a battery and would like a lot of options.
One thing we found in testing video doorbells is that they’re only as good as their notifications. Yes, you could use it at its most basic, only responding to the doorbell press, but if you want to be secure too then motion detection is important. That’s why this model excels as it uses smart sensors and an app that lets you set zones in order to only be alerted when you need to be.
The design is also of appeal here with a super slim finish and long single black glass central unit to give a more premium look to the front of the house. There are interchangeable plates too so you can pick the look that fits. Even wiring this in is easy with an adapter included and all the tools and instructions to get you up and running quickly.
The price is the only downside here, although we did find audio quality could vary with it less clear sometimes but that was likely our Wi-Fi in those cases.
Ideal Home rating: 4 out of 5 stars
5. Eufy Video Doorbell 2K Battery
Best security doorbell
Video: HD 2k resolution Audio: Two-way audio Power: Rechargeable Lithium ion battery Reasons to buy: 180 day battery life, no subscription fee needed Reasons to avoid: Video quality doesn’t shine through on a smartphone
Eufy is growing fast in the digital smart home world with robot vacuums and security cameras leading the way. Its doorbell is a standout model as it, unlike most of the competition, offers an eye-melting 2K video quality on its feed thanks to a Sony sensor.
This is a pro grade lens, which goes some way to explaining the price of this video doorbell. The quality is great but, to be honest, isn’t that noticeable on a small smartphone screen when compared to a 1080p video.
What is a really appealing feature here is the inclusion of free cloud storage. This means you keep access to all your video, but without having to store it locally. Another pro feature is the customisation for motion sensitivity with a selection of activity zones, motion sensing and human detection.
All that amounts to notifications only when relevant – something our smartphone battery certainly benefited from. This also makes no compromises with power, allowing you to wire it in or go for battery. Using it on battery should last for half a year which seemed accurate in testing but of course it depends on how active your notification settings are.
The use of an included base station helps to keep battery use low and Wi-Fi worries less of an issue, which we struggled with on other models.
Ideal Home rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
6. Ezviz DB1 Video Doorbell
Best high-res affordable video doorbell
Video: 3 MP resolution camera Audio: Two-way audio Power: Reasons to buy: Alexa and Google compatible, heat detector Reasons to avoid: Camera resolution not as sharp as the competition
Ezviz might not be a big brand name but it’s quietly been working away at home security for years, offering decent specs for a low price. This wired model fits that description perfectly, undercutting the competition while still offering high-resolution video and a minimal design.
All the usual features are here with night vision, two-way chat, dual band Wi-Fi, IP65 weather proofing and app support. What it also offers, that’s better than some of the competition, is a full 180-degree field of view, ideal for smaller spaces, heat based motion detection, and local storage on MicroSD cards.
The heat detection was a little overly sensitive at first but this can be easily adjusted to avoid too many notifications. Settings range from 5 to 3 to 1.5 metres allowing you to perfect this so you only get notified when someone is actually near your door. Or, as we did, just turn it off and let them press the bell.
Since this records everything, you can always check back should there be an incident worth your attention. Despite the price, this even works with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant for smart alerts on your home devices.
Ideal Home rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
7. Byron Wi-Fi Video Doorbell
Best video doorbell for free video storage
Video: 720p HD video Audio: Two-way audio Power: Rechargeable battery pack Reasons to buy: 160 degree viewing range, long-lasting battery Reasons to avoid: Video quality not as high as the competition
Byron is a long-time doorbell specialist that has made the jump to smart video doorbells and has landed on its feet. The result is a video doorbell that, unlike many brands, will give you free local video storage.
As you’d expect from the brand, there is motion detection which can input through to your phone using the app. While basic, similar to the design of this unit, the app works well and does what’s needed when it comes to the simpler functionality like two-way video talk.
Unlike the video storage, which is local, meaning you can store longer term without paying a subscription for cloud video.
While this model is battery powered, with a six-month life, you can also get a wired version for those that already have a doorbell wired in and want to make a relatively easy swap.
Byron also sells electric door openers, meaning you could theoretically see who’s at the door and open it for them without moving from where you are in the back garden. Perhaps more realistically, this works with a gate opener making it perfect for deliveries where you want them dropped off in your locked back garden.
Video doorbells come in plenty of different shapes and sizes. But what’s important is that they also come with a wide variety of features. There are a few stand out specs you’ll want to make sure you take into consideration before you buy.
Wired or wireless: some are wired into power, like a classic doorbell, while others can use battery allowing them to attach easily, anywhere Ecosystem: some brands work with a wider ecosystem of gadgets, via one app, making your life simpler if you’ve already got some of this kit Home security: some are built for this, with motion alerts, while others simply respond to the button press Ongoing costs: some charge for storage of video in the cloud, while others allow you cheap or free local storage options Quality: the better the quality the more you can see, which is important if you want this for home security too Audio quality: can vary so if you plan to do a lot of two-way chat this is a feature to look closer at
Why do I need a video doorbell?
Image credit: Swann
If it isn’t clear already, there are two main reasons to go video with your doorbell. To see and interact with who’s at your front door, and to offer video surveillance of your home’s main point of entrance. It’s also great for rental owners, especially Airbnb operators, who aren’t always at the property.
Of course these two also break down into more details, like being able to see potential guests at your door even when you’re at the bottom of the garden, thanks to that Wi-Fi connection and phone app. Or the ability to use that camera as a deterrent to would be burglars that now recognise these doorbells as recording devices.
Some video doorbells even use facial recognition to intelligently alert you to a guest, when you need to know. This helps avoid too many notifications. On that same subject, you can more easily silence your doorbell making these ideal for those people with young children whose nap time almost inevitably coincides with the delivery man’s arrival.
How much should I spend on a video doorbell?
Video doorbell prices are pretty varied, with older models for under £100 and newer, more feature packed units coming in at over £400. Usually you can quite easily decide which works for you based on what you need. The problems arise when you need a particular feature that’s reserved only for the higher end models.
Thankfully these have been around long enough now that competition is growing. As such everyone is trying to cram in the best features at a lower price. That means you should now be able to get what you want without paying for the top end.
Of course, as is often the case, if you do want the best working video doorbell you’ll need to pay more for it. Another advantage to paying more is that often these higher ends models look better too, enhancing your front door’s finish.
What other key questions do I need to ask?
Image credit: Ring
Power can be an issue. If you’re going for a battery unit, make sure it’s made to last at least six months or you’ll be annoyed at having to remember to charge the battery. Ease of battery access in these models can also be important to help make life simpler. In the case of mains power units, be sure they work with your current doorbell wiring or at least come with the adapter to work using that setup.
How you want to view your callers is another factor. Some devices work with third-party video units, like Ring working with Amazon Echo Show, so you can see who’s at your door without even taking your phone out.
Other units also work with electronic door locks, although this is still in its infancy with mainly US based products. But it’s something worth keeping in mind for the long term.
For many of the best features, like voice controls, or stored video, you’ll likely have to pay for a cloud subscription to the service provider. So taking that cost into consideration for the longer term is also worth keeping in mind.
Field of view could be a factor if the doorbell is going in a tight space. Essentially, the wider the field of view, the more you will see.
A thrifty mum has given her neglected back yard a blue garden makeover complete with an upcycled fire pit for just £45 thanks to Facebook Marketplace bargains. Formerly a cluttered space she never used, it’s now warm, welcoming and full of functional outdoor living room ideas.
Sarah Takhtash was determined to make a lovely space to enjoy with her family. It took a lot of Facebook scrolling and driving to pick up hidden treasures. But it now feels like they have a whole new room in their home.
‘Over the years I have never done anything to my backyard, and I absolutely hated it,’ Sarah says. ‘I wouldn’t even hang the washing out in it!
She follows lots of DIY groups on Facebook and was always in awe of their garden makeovers. Seeing other people’s creative garden ideas come to life, she was inspired her to embark on her own project.
Blue garden makeover with fire pit
Image credit: Sarah Takhtash
‘I know I couldn’t afford to do it professionally, so I decided to do it myself – especially as I’m a big believer in reusing and upcycling furniture.’
It took around two months to collect everything she needed, so she cleared out the space while she waited. ‘The hardest part was driving out to collect items, as some people were a bit further out than where I lived.’
She used two tubs of outdoor floor paint for the walls and fence, which she managed to procure for £10. Sarah also nabbed a colour-coordinated green table and chairs. ‘They happened to be painted in mint green and matched my walls and floor!’ she said.
Image credit: Sarah Takhtash
She also found a large piece of astroturf to cover most of the flooring, plus some rugs, floor cushions and the best garden storage box she could find.
‘Someone kindly gifted me a large parasol, which I attached the light chain to. The last thing I collected was another table and chairs set – one was not enough as we are a family of six.’
Image credit: Sarah Takhtash
Most people see a broken washing machine as a headache, but Sarah saw it as a potential fire pit idea. ‘My washing machine broke in February and I remembered how people had posted on Facebook about using the drum as a fire pit.
‘It was hard work taking it to pieces,’ she admitted, but the labour paid off. After searching through Facebook listings and finding a barbeque, plus some wood and bricks to place under the fire pit, her work was complete.
Image credit: Sarah Takhtash
Sarah is thrilled with the result. ‘Honestly, I didn’t think it would all turn out so lovely. I love it and enjoy sitting out. It’s like I have gained an extra room.’ If you’re feeling inspired and want to mix up your home office set up, read our expert tips on creating a workspace in your garden.
Tom Church, co-founder of LatestDeals says, ‘It’s great that she managed to get most of her supplies from Facebook – there are so many hidden treasures that can easily be repurposed.’
He highlights the importance of removing all of the plastic when you’re taking the machine apart, as it can be toxic when it burns. ‘If your drum comes with a spindle, push it into the ground if your garden has a grassy area and you’ll reduce the risk of it tipping over,’ he says.