The perfect cordless handheld vacuums of 2021

It’s not unusual for one home to have multiple vacuum cleaners. Traditionally, an upright vacuum is the most commonplace of the many vac options available, netting you a deep clean across all floor types and featuring several attachments for every nook and cranny of your home — but most upright vacs require a corded connection for power, limiting how much cleaning you can do in one area of your home. Then there are robotic vacuums.
Combining intelligent sensors and mapping functions, a bot vacuum can be automated to clean your house on a schedule of your choosing. Additional bot vac features include voice assistant integration for popular A.I. tools like Alexa and Google Assistant, as well as water tanks for mopping jobs. While robot vacs do a good job of tackling the dirt and debris of your residence, they’re not exactly portable and can’t do much when it comes to cobwebs on the ceiling. That’s where a cordless handheld vac comes into play.
Mobile and lightweight enough to carry with one hand, cordless handheld vacs run off of powerful rechargeable batteries that allow you to deep-clean your floors, ceilings, draperies, HVAC vents, and car upholstery. Washable filters and easy-empty dust caps are other standout features you’ll find in today’s leading handheld units.
Whether you want an extra vac to handle the tough-to-reach spots of your home or enjoy the idea of a quick-grab vac for miniature dry spills and pet hair, here are five of the best cordless handheld vacuums you can buy right now.
Black + Decker Dustbuster for Pet Hair

Pet hair gets everywhere, hides well, and quickly reemerges as soon as one heap is vacuumed up. For those looking for an ideal handheld pet vac, Black + Decker’s Dustbuster should be a top consideration. Right off the bat, we’re all about the vac’s main pet hair attachment, a motorized brush head composed of rubber bristles that dig deep into upholstery, getting at pet hair you didn’t even know was there.
Tired of staring down those ceiling-corner cobwebs? Throw on the Dustbuster’s extra-long crevice tool to get extra reach out of your vac. Cobweb won’t budge? Up the suction speed or set the vac to PowerBoost to max out the Dustbuster’s strength. Both the dust cap and filter are easy to clean and empty, and the 20-volt lithium-ion battery will keep you cleaning for long periods of time. When the battery gets low, the built-in indicator will let you know it’s time to recharge.
While the Black + Decker Dustbuster won’t handle any wet messes, it’s still one of our favorite handheld options for pet owners.
Hoover Onepwr Handheld Vac

Lightweight and compact, the Hoover Onepwr is designed to be stowed away and quickly taken out when a mess presents itself. We also love that the battery pack is removable and can be used on all other Onepwr products, even upright models.
The extra-large dust cap and included crevice tool will allow you to go for days without needing to empty the vac while also ensuring that there’s no corner of your home that goes untouched. Some users have noticed a loss of suction power when attaching the crevice tool, but not to a degree where the vac is inefficient.
In terms of battery life, you can expect a full charge to last up to 30 minutes, which is plenty of time to tackle a quick mess in the house or an entire car-cleaning job (if there aren’t too many chip crumbs to suck up). All in all, the Hoover Onepwr Handheld Vac is a great addition to any home, big or small.
Ridgid 18-Volt Handheld Vac

While it’s a bummer that you have to purchase the battery packs and charger separately, this Ridgid handheld vac more than makes up for its lack of must-have accessories with incredible performance.
Designed for industrial use but versatile enough for home usage, too, the Ridgid is easy to carry for long periods of time, comfortable on your hands, and long-lasting. If you’re dreading the step-stool when it comes time to vacuum your HVAC return, you’ll love the included 22-inch extension tube. The vac even comes with a crevice tool for difficult sawdust at the worksite or deep-seated pet hair between couch cushions.
Best of all, those batteries you purchased can be used on other Ridgid hardware, making the Ridgid 18-Volt Handheld Vacuum a solid bet for your next do-it-yourself garage adventure or living room quick-cleaner.
Shark WV201 Handheld Vac

Weighing in at only 1.4 pounds, the Shark WV201 is one of the lightest handheld vacs on the market. In terms of design and comfort, it’s also one of the most minimalist vacs you can get your hands on. The sleek wand makes it easy to get the WV201 into hard-to-reach spots while also making it simple to stow the vac away on its charging dock when not in use.
Speaking of charging docks, we also love that you can store all the vac’s attachments on the base, including the multi-surface pet tool. Shark’s brushless motor and the chassis engineered for optimal airflow means you’ll be getting the most powerful suction, regardless of the surface you’re tackling.
The Shark WV201’s small footprint means a small dust cap, too. While this may be OK for most homeowners, those with frequent or larger messes to tackle may want a handheld vac with a larger dust cap.
Black + Decker Max Handheld Vac

If you’ve been having trouble cleaning the highest shelves of your home, the Black + Decker Max is tailor-made for you. Featuring a 200-degree adjustable nozzle, you’ll be able to position the vac’s main attachment to get at even the hardest-to-reach places. Still can’t get all the dust off those ceiling fan blades? Add on the extendable crevice tool for a little more reach.
The cyclonic action of the vac delivers powerful suction, solid engineering furthered by the 20-volt lithium-ion battery. When you’re finished cleaning, the charging base doubles as a home for the vac and all its attachments, too.
When it comes time to clean your Black + Decker Max, you can easily remove the entire dirt bowl and filter to wash them in your kitchen sink. Just be sure that the filter itself is completely dry before you fire it up again.

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One of the best pet cameras of 2021

Have you ever wondered what your pets are doing while you’re not home? Based on the torn-up furniture of weeks past, the evidence is stockpiling against that new puppy of yours — or should you blame the cat for the destruction?
Whether you want to keep tabs on your closest companions while you’re at work, out running errands, or away on vacation, there are plenty of pet cameras you can purchase that will allow you to monitor and communicate with your animals. Heck, many models even allow you to disburse treats.
As experts on all things smart home, and as lovers of cats and dogs, we’re here to help manage your household and the needs of your pet. For your consideration, here’s our roundup of the best pet cameras you can buy right now.
Petcube Bites 2

When it comes to impressive camera quality and interactive features, the Petcube Bites 2 is one of our top choices. Designed for both dogs and cats, the cam is compatible with both 2.4GHz and 5GHz network bands and can be set up in as little as two minutes (compatible with iOS 11 and Android 7.1.2 or higher).
Once connected to Wi-Fi, the Petcube app is your go-to resource. Want to see what the dog is up to? Call him over using the cam’s two-way chat function and view a live feed of the hound with the Bites’ 1080p HD lens with 160-degrees of rotation. Sun setting? The Bites’ automatic night vision should clear things up for you. If your pets tend to be mischievous while you’re away, your Bites 2 will send you both motion and sound notifications when trouble is detected.
There’s even a 1.5-pound treat dispenser for the good boys and girls of the animal kingdom. Choose between short, medium, or long-distance flings depending on what pet you’re trying to reward. If that’s enough, onboard Alexa integration means your Bites 2 can be used as a smart speaker, letting you play music for your pets, chat live with veterinarians, and order treats on the fly.
While some have argued that treat dispensing can be a bit delayed now and then, we can’t recommend the Petcube Bites 2 enough.
YI Smart Dome Security Camera

One of our favorite features of the Yl Smart Dome is that the camera is intelligent enough to differentiate between humans and animals. This means you’ll only receive the most relevant motion and sound notifications through the Yl companion app. When the Smart Dome captures a recording of a disturbance, the footage can be stored locally (with an external SD card) or in the Yl cloud (subscription required).
We also love the camera’s incredible range of motion, featuring 340-degree rotation and 95-degree tilting. Couple that with the 160-degree wide-angle lens, and you’re looking at optimal coverage of whatever room you place the Smart Dome in. When powered down, the camera lens drops behind the base casing, making it impossible for hackers to tap into a live feed of your home.
With Alexa and Google Assistant integration, as well as two-way chat, you can even speak to your pets on the go. Have an Echo Show in your home office? If you hear a noise downstairs, you can ask Alexa to pull video from the Yl Smart Dome to see what the dog is up to in the kitchen.
Pawbo Life Pet Camera

How about a decent serving of fun and games for your furry friend? In addition to treat dispensing, the Pawbo Life has a built-in laser pointer that you can set up for automatic pointing or manual controls using the Pawbo companion app (for iOS and Android devices). There’s nothing like watching your cat bounce off the walls when you’re away from home.
The camera itself sports a 130-degree wide-angle lens that records and stores footage to the Pawbo app. While you’re only getting 720p HD, the image quality is sharp and balanced. Like many other mentions on this list, the Pawbo Life also features two-way chat for speaking with your pets when you log into the camera. Unfortunately, there’s no smart assistant integration to speak of with this model.
For big families that all want to get in on the surveillance action, the Pawbo app allows up to eight consecutive users to be logged in, monitoring and communicating at one time. There’s even instant social sharing, letting you grab a snapshot of your pet and then posting it to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram on the fly.
While the sticker price is a bit on the high side, the Pawbo Life Pet Camera delivers top performance, great features, and one of the most robust social media experiences we’ve found in a pet camera.
Furbo Dog Camera

While many cameras on our list feature bark detection, the Furbo goes a step further by allowing you to adjust barking sensitivity. The company claims that this function has saved the lives of hundreds of dogs that are stuck at home during an emergency.
The 160-degree lens delivers 1080p footage with the option of 4x digital zooming for zeroing in on your pooch from afar. If it’s dark out, night vision will kick on to ensure you can still see your pets come sunset. Two-way chatting and Alexa commands keep you connected to your animal, letting you do things like programming the Furbo to shoot out a treat every two hours.
Additionally, you can enroll in a Furbo subscription for cloud recording, smart alerts that ping you when your dog is being unruly, and a feature called Dog Diary that compiles your dog’s entire day into 60 seconds of footage.
The Alexa-ready Furbo Dog Camera is packed with plenty of dog-monitoring features, but you can also use it to check in on your cats, too.
Petcube Play 2

Like the Bites 2, Petcube’s Play 2 delivers all the best performance features we expect from a solid pet cam, but with a few bonuses thrown in. The Play 2 may be our favorite design of any pet cam we’ve spotlighted in this roundup. Tall cameras with rounded bases for treat dispensers are a common sight when shopping for pet cams, which is why the Play 2’s cubed design truly stands out amongst the competition. That being said, if you want treat dispensing, we suggest the Bites 2 instead.
In terms of visuals, you’re getting full 1080p HD, both day and night, and a 160-degree lens with 4x digital zoom. The two-way chatting and motion/sound notifications of the Bites 2 are built into the Play 2 as well, along with a laser pointer that you can set for automatic or manual controls.
For those that want more out of their Petcube Play 2, you can sign up for Petcube Care, a membership that will grant you 90 days of cloud-based event storage, automatic video recording, and bark/meow notifications.

Editors’ Recommendations

Find out how to use the Google House app in your PC

When it comes to running your smart home, Google makes it easy, thanks to the company’s suite of web-connected products and services. With Google Assistant as the brains of the smart operation, all of your Google-powered devices are housed under one roof for controls and customization — the Google Home app.
Available exclusively for iOS and Android devices, you won’t find a dedicated desktop app for running your Google smart home on your Mac or PC. That being said, there are a few workarounds you can implement, allowing you to add Google Home’s intuitive features to your computer of choice. Read on to learn how.
Use Google Home through your Chromebook
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends
While your run-of-the-mill desktop doesn’t feature onboard support for the Google Home app, those using a Chromebook can download and use the application as they would on a regular mobile device — and it’s all possible via the Google Play Store.
To get started, go into the Settings menu of your Chromebook. Click Apps, find the Google Play Store tab, then click Turn On. Now all you have to do is head into the Google Play Store on your Chromebook, download the Google Home app, and launch it.
Because the building blocks of Chrome OS and Android are pretty close in nature, you’ll be able to use the Google Home app to do everything you normally do on your mobile device — including device controls, routine building, and casting — but through your Chromebook.
Put Google Chrome to the test
If you’re already using Google Chrome as the default web browser for your PC or Mac and are looking to add Google Home functionality to your desktop, you’ll be glad to know that you can use Google Chrome to unlock the casting and streaming features that are built into the Home application.
To do so, you’ll first want to ensure that your desktop is running the latest version of the Chrome browser. Next, with the Chrome browser launched, you can either click the More icon (three vertical dots) or right-click a blank section of your webpage. Then, click Cast, followed by your device of choice.
While you won’t be able to use Google Chrome for Google Assistant or any kind of device customization for the hardware on your network, the casting function will allow you to send audio and video from your desktop to certain Google Home devices on your network.
Try an Android emulator

Did you know that you can mimic your phone or tablet’s Android operating system to your desktop? With programs like Bluestacks, you can enjoy the look, feel, and functionality of your phone’s Android OS right from your home computer. While there are a handful of emulators to choose from, Bluestacks is known for its reliability, easy layout, and customization options.
To get started, download Bluestacks for your PC or Mac, then launch the program. During setup, you’ll be prompted to enter Google Play Store credentials for downloading apps. After entering this info, go into the Play Store, search for Google Home, and click Install.
When you launch the Google Home app, you’ll be prompted to enter your Google account info, at which point the rest of your installation will mirror that of Google Home on a mobile device. Once you’ve locked down your location preferences and a few other tweaks, you’re ready to use the app.
The nice thing about Bluestacks (minus the ads) is that Google Home will perform exactly the same way it does on the mobile gear the app is designed for.

Editors’ Recommendations

Learn how to use Amazon Echo as a doorbell chime

Your Amazon Echo is packed with smart features that can vary based on the other smart devices you are using around your home. One capability that users may not know about is using the Echo as a doorbell chime, so whenever your doorbell is activated, your Echo will chime too, allowing you to hear it as long you’re near the smart speaker. Interested in setting that up? Here’s what you need to do.
 Step 1: Install a compatible doorbell

Amazon’s Echo — and Alexa working with it — need a compatible smart doorbell to make a connection. Without the right doorbell, none of this is possible. Amazon has a whole list of various doorbells that are compatible with Alexa, but for this particular example, we’re going to choose a Ring Video Doorbell. Ring’s doorbells are some of the best video doorbells on the market, and they work very well with Alexa, so they make for an excellent demonstration. We also have a complete guide on how to install your Ring Doorbell.
Mount your video doorbell, make sure it’s turned on, and use the video doorbell app to set it up, connect it to your Wi-Fi, and get everything in working order. Once you are satisfied, it’s time to work with your Echo.
Step 2: Enable the corresponding skill on the Alexa app

Open up your Alexa app, select the More button in the lower-right corner, and then select Skills & Games from the new list.

Now you will want to search for the corresponding Alexa Skill for your smart device. Select the Magnifying Glass in the upper-right corner, and type in “Ring,” then select the Ring skill when it appears in the results.
Note: You can also say something like, “Alexa, search for new smart devices,” to get started, but this can be a little clunky if Alexa struggles to recognize the Ring Video Doorbell at first. It’s a good idea to use the app if voice commands aren’t working as well.
Step 3: Link the two devices

Select Enable to Use on the Ring Skill. Alexa will now walk you through the steps to link your Ring Video Doorbell to your Echo, starting with having you log in to the Ring app with your Ring account information (have this handy). Follow all the prompts, and give Alexa permission to access your Ring data when asked.
When you are finished, you should see a notification that the Ring Doorbell is now linked with Alexa. However, this doesn’t always mean that your Echo is fully connected yet. Wait for about a minute, then head to the Alexa app again, select Devices, and select All Devices. Look for your Ring Video Doorbell’s name to make sure the Ring Doorbell is found and connected. If it isn’t, select the Plus Sign in the upper-right so Alexa can locate it and connect properly.
Step 4: Visit your doorbell page on the Alexa App

Since you’re already in Devices, this next step won’t take long! Select your Ring Doorbell, and examine the settings. You will see two separate sections, one for Doorbell Announcement and one for Motion Announcement. You can enable both of them if you want, but for a true doorbell chime, you will want to make sure that at least Doorbell Announcement is enabled.
Now select the option that says Doorbell Sound. Here, you can pick from a variety of different chimes that your Echo will make when the doorbell is activated. Pick your preferred option here.
Note: If you have an Echo Show model, you can also command it to show a livestream of the Ring Video Doorbell’s feed whenever you get an alert. This saves some time if you are busy around your home and don’t have your phone handy to bring up a feed there.
Step 5: Check that your Echo is ready to chime

Your Echo should be ready to act as a doorbell chime now, but there’s one last step you should take. Head back to your Alexa app home screen and select Devices again, and then select All Devices and find the Echo that you want to chime. Select Communications from the Echo menu.

Make sure that Communications itself is enabled and that Announcements are enabled. Now you should be good to go!
Step 6: Add other Alexa skills as preferred
You don’t need to do anything else to receive doorbell chimes from your Echo, but if you want to experiment, you can check out skills like Door Chimes to add new sounds to your doorbell.

Editors’ Recommendations

The most effective automations for sensible lights

Smart lighting is better than it’s ever been: There’s a myriad of smart lights and smart bulbs for every possible location or socket, all of them equipped with extra features that can be controlled with an app on your mobile device. But what exactly are you supposed to do with them?
We’re answering that question with this useful guide on the best automation options for your smart lighting, and pointers about how to set them up. Take a look to get some ideas!
Set up a “good night” routine
If you have a voice assistant, you have the ability to set up smart home routines, or a collection of smart device actions that will all trigger together with a single voice command. For Alexa, for example, you can literally set up an “Alexa, good night” routine that will easily turn off all the smart lights in your home, or set a particular bulb to a dim setting to serve as a nightlight or other function. For more information on creating Alexa routines, check out our guide here.

Routines aren’t limited to saying good night to the house, of course, but we’ve found this is one of the most useful ways to tie in smart lighting to a routine. You can also arrange morning routines that will turn on specific lights as you get ready for your day — this may be an effective way to encourage your kids to wake up, too!
Setting up daily schedules
Using your smart lighting app, it’s easy to schedule your lights to turn on at specific times during the day and turn off again — every smart app should have this capability. That’s useful if you want to save a little bit of time turning on and off every light in your house (especially if you have a predictable schedule), but homeowners may particularly enjoy this option when they are away on vacation. The scheduled light activity makes it look like the house is still occupied even if everyone is gone.
Ian Bell/Digital Trends
Connecting lights to a motion sensor
This is a common tactic in offices across the world, but you can enjoy the benefits at home as well thanks to products like the Philips Hue Indoor Motion Sensor for Smart Lights. This allows you to put a motion sensor at a key spot in your house and connect it to a smart bulb so the bulb automatically turns on when someone approaches.
This is a very handy setup for areas where it’s difficult to fumble for the light switch, when it’s very dark, or when your hands are frequently full. Think about basement stairways, cupboards and pantries, garages, and other locations. You can also use this method on your porch if you don’t already have a smart security cam, as it will alert you when anyone approaches.
Mood lighting setups
Smart lighting also makes great accent lighting, and this allows you to try out another trick as well — changing shades to find the right mood lighting. One of the great things about smart lights is that many of them can be adjusted to very specific hues (some span millions of potential colors) so you can get just the shade you are looking for. From game rooms and playrooms to behind-the-TV background lighting, there are dozens of innovative ways to use smart lights like this.
Remember how we talked about setting up a good night routine? It’s also easy to create a “romantic night” routine that will automatically dim those accent lights and turn them to a sexier shade while starting a timely song playlist in the background. If your evening looks less like romance and more like corralling the kids to bed, think about setting up a color switch routine that announces it’s time to start cleaning — and that changes again when bedtime becomes mandatory.

Light alerts when alarms sound
There are many ways to set up this kind of connection, but IFTTT is one of the best examples. Let’s say you have a Nest Protect, which can detect smoke and carbon monoxide, then sound an alarm. The Nest Protect is compatible with IFTTT (If This, Then That), a platform that allows you to link smart devices and tie them to specific actions or responses. That means you can use IFTTT to connect your Nest Protect’s actions to your smart lights — when a smoke alarm sounds, you can have your lights flash, or turn red, or make some other sign that something is wrong.
Like the idea of light alerts? You can set them up for lots of other things too, such as creating blinking lights when a baby monitor detects noise in the baby’s room.
Slow illumination or fades
Many smart lights, including Philips Hue and Lifx lights, have dimming options so you can control the brightness (usually on a scale of 1 to 100). Their apps will allow you to add dimming options to your scheduling. One of the most popular ways to use this programmed brightening and dimming is to simulate the rising and setting of the sun throughout your house, something that your circadian rhythms may appreciate (it also looks cool). Or you could create a brightening timer that acts as a visual alarm when you want to take a nap.

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