6 Easy Upgrades to Turn Your Old Fridge into a Smart RefrigeratorSeptember 7, 2016
The first generation of smart fridges is starting to pop up around Omaha, and our own Todd Daganaar, president of Nebraska Home Appliance, was recently interviewed by Angie’s List to get the perspective of a seasoned service professional. Todd’s final take on smart appliances:
At this point, only buy smart appliances if you have disposable income, can see yourself enjoying the benefits of some really cool features, and want to strongly cast your vote to see more of these appliances in the future. Otherwise, we recommend waiting a year or two for these products to drop in price and mature.
But what if you’re torn? What if you want to wait for smart appliances to drop in price, but you also can’t wait for the features that are already available?
We hear you.
We found the most feature-rich Smart Fridge currently on the market—the Samsung Family Hub™ Refrigerator, a $6,000 tech behemoth—and then thought up DIY solutions to turn any run-of-the-mill refrigerator into as functional a fridge as the Family Hub.
1. Tablet Functionality
Smart Tech: The Samsung Family Hub™ Refrigerator has a built-in Wifi enabled touchscreen that uses the same operating system as any Samsung phone or tablet. Basically, your fridge door is an enormous tablet.
Normal Tech Workaround: Mount an iPad or Android tablet on your fridge using one of the many tablet fridge mounts available, such as the Aduro U-Grip Adjustable Universal Fridge Mount for Tablets ($19.99). (Don’t worry, because tablets use solid-state hard drives, magnets won’t damage your tablet.) If your refrigerator is stainless steel, you will need adhesive strips to keep the mount up.
As for the tablet, you’ll want as large a screen as you can get, to make it easier to read and use, which means either a 12.9-inch iPad Pro ($799.99) or the mammoth 18.4-inch Samsung Galaxy View ($499.99). This is a suggestion though; feel free to use a tablet you already own.
Since its home will be the kitchen, the tablet should be tricked out to help cook, shop for groceries, and organize your family’s life. Luckily, there’s an app for literally everything:
- Family Calendar and Organizer: Cozi (free). Intuitive calendar to manage the schedule of your whole family—events, appointments, deadlines, chores, etc. 3-time Mom’s Choice Award Winner.
- Recipe Manager: Paprika ($4.99). Save and organize recipes from anywhere on the web. Recipes are interactive, so you can cross off ingredients, highlight current steps, and set timers. Also, Paprika allows you to create weekly or monthly meal plans and automatically generate easy-to-use grocery lists.
- Coupons / Rebates: ibotta (free). Find rebates before you shop, buy featured products at your favorite stores and retailers, then verify your purchases with a photo of your receipt to get cash back.
The added benefit of the “dumb” tech solution? You can take the tablet off the fridge if you want to sit down and research recipes or add finishing touches to your grocery list. The downside? Charging it. We’d recommend charging it during the middle of the day so that’s it’s fully juiced for both dinner and breakfast. Power could be routed to the tablet via the hinge as well, but those wires would be tough to hide.
2. Kitchen Entertainment System
Smart Tech: The Samsung Family Hub™ Refrigerator has built-in speakers which sync with Pandora and TuneIn Radio. The touchscreen can also mirror compatible Samsung TVs, so you can leave your living room to put a casserole in the oven without having to pause your show.
Normal Tech Workaround: Use the mounted tablet to play music from your own library or whatever streaming service your heart desires—Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Prime Music, among others. You can also use it to stream shows and movies from Netflix, Hulu, or, if you don’t want to pay for a streaming TV/movie service, Crackle, which is another reason to splurge for a larger tablet (so you don’t have to squint).
To enhance your listening and viewing experience, sync the tablet up with magnetized Bluetooth speakers from Jackco ($35.99) to turn your kitchen into a second entertainment room.
3. In-Fridge Cameras
Smart Tech: The Samsung Family Hub™ Refrigerator has three internal cameras so you can take pictures of what you have stocked. You can check the contents of your fridge from the store to see if you really are out of eggs, and you can check before opening the door to see if there really is anything you want to eat inside.
Normal Tech Workaround: Install Oco Wireless Wi-Fi 720P Indoor HD Security Cameras in your fridge (three at $79 a pop equals $237 total). They’re small enough to not take up much space, have night-vision, and can be streamed live on any device. As long as you don’t keep the fridge at too cold a temperature, they’ll do fine.
It’ll probably remain faster to just open the door to see what’s inside, as opposed to opening the security footage app and waiting for it to load, but if you do want to keep food fresher for longer, you can also save images from the security footage to the cloud and view them on your mounted tablet.
Bonus tip: if your significant other is trying to cut down on their snacking, you can help by setting up alerts to receive notifications when movement is detected in the fridge. But that’s sort of an ethical grey-area.
4. Quick and Easy Grocery Ordering
Smart Tech: The Samsung Family Hub™ Refrigerator integrates with Groceries by Mastercard to allow you to connect with Fresh Direct or Shop Rite, create grocery lists, and have your grocery delivered straight to your door.
Normal Tech Workaround: If you live in one of the lucky metro areas that AmazonFresh currently services (sorry Omaha, not us as of yet), meet Amazon Dash. Amazon Dash allows you to quickly create grocery lists by either scanning barcodes or naming products out loud. Amazon Dash then syncs with your AmazonFresh account, submitting the grocery list for delivery to your door.
For us Omahans, we can turn to Hy-Vee’s Aisles Online program, which, while not as supremely convenient, allows you to shop online and have groceries either delivered to your door ($4.95 delivery fee, waived with minimum purchase) or available for store pick-up ($2.95 pick-up fee, waived with minimum purchase).
But seriously, Amazon, we are a major metropolitan area! Give us the goods too!
5. Notes and Doodling
Smart Tech: The Samsung Family Hub™ Refrigerator allows families to scribble notes to each other or doodle for decoration.
Normal Tech Workaround: Let’s keep it real simple: a magnetic dry-erase board with magnetic markers ($24.99). Phew, that one was tough.
While this may seem superfluous, the refrigerator has long served as a hub for family communication and rotating art gallery. So why not give it the capability to do more of the same?
You might also wonder, why not an app for the tablet? Well, we don’t want to completely lose touch with our analog lives; there are certain things in life that will remain easier and more efficient compared to their digital counterparts. Jotting a quick note to your husband to empty the dishwasher is faster, and he is far less likely to miss it, if you write it out by hand. Also, the moment you (try to) use one of those plastic styluses on a touchscreen (or, God forbid, your finger), is the exact moment you wish you had a real writing utensil and writing surface.
6. Prolonged Freshness
Smart Tech: The Samsung Family Hub™ Refrigerator features a Triple Cooling System so your food stays fresher, longer.
Normal Tech Workaround: Throw in a few OXO Crisper Filters ($9.99) to filter out the ethylene gas produced by ripening fruit, which, if you didn’t know, is what causes fruits and veggies to spoil. Or, if you have the room in your fridge, you can upgrade to OXO’s Produce Keeper ($15), which includes the filter and allows you to adjust the vent for optimum humidity.
You will need to replace the filters every 90 days, but the money you save on spoiled produce should more than make up for the money you’re spending. And just think: no more reaching into your crisper only to pull out slimy greens and squishy fruits. Yech.
You might also consider using an app like Pantry Manager to keep track of expiration dates on your food. Though, since expiration dates do not actually indicate when food goes bad and contribute to America’s food waste problem, we’d recommend not getting hung up on those little Use Bys and Best Befores.
Turns out it is possible to trick out a regular, old fridge to create your very own Smart Appliance, though the end result may more closely resemble Frankenstein’s monster than the shining advance of modern technology. And yet, having gone through this little exercise, we are very excited to try out some of the above in our own kitchens.
“Yeah, but what’ll it cost to do the whole shebang?” Anywhere from $1000 to $1500 (including replacement filters and weekly grocery deliveries), which, compared to the $6000 price tag of the Samsung Family Hub™ Refrigerator, seems fairly reasonable. Still, piecemeal may be the way to go for the time being for those of us without monstrous refrigerator budgets.