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What are the most important trends in housing and home improvement? Good Housekeeping’s annual Home Renovation Awards are here to answer that question — and, in the process, help steer you through your next big project.
From the vast array of this year’s submissions, we know that today’s homeowners remain laser focused on creating beautiful living spaces that reflect their personal style. But other priorities are catching up with aesthetics, including:
✔️ Resiliency: Our homes need to be more durable than ever, to defend against pounding hail, torrential rain, blazing heat and other forms of extreme weather.
✔️ Energy efficiency: Homes must also maximize efficiency across heating and cooling equipment, appliances and more, to counter rising energy costs and the broader impacts of inflation on household budgets.
✔️ Connectivity: To facilitate the realities of remote working, as well as the demands and benefits of our increasingly “connected” lives, technology is an essential part of the home design process.
✔️ Outdoor living: Another by-product of the pandemic, homeowners are looking for new and better ways to expand their usable living space into the open air.
✔️ Low maintenance: With the pace of life in constant overdrive, minimal upkeep is needed to create time for those pursuits that matter most.
Brands throughout the home improvement space have answered the call by launching products and services that check every box for today’s homeowner. In fact, there were so many smart, innovative submissions to the 2023 edition of our Home Reno Awards that we had to extend the testing period by six weeks to give our judges ample time to review them all. It wasn’t easy, but we managed to identify the 64 most award-worthy submissions covering all aspects of home improvement, including kitchens and baths, exteriors, smart home technology, alternative energy, power tools and more.
Whether you’re embarking on a major remodel or just looking to simplify your home’s maintenance, you’ll find plenty of great ideas in our roundup of winners.
Meet the GH Experts
How We Tested
Over a rigorous, four-month testing period, experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute put every submission through its paces, often with multiple forms of assessment.
Hands-on testing started in the Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab, running abrasion tests on paints to measure durability, checking the run time on power tool batteries and more. We also sent products into the homes of consumer testers, who evaluated them under real-world conditions, answering questions like: How easy is this bidet seat to install? or Does this smart home device make your life more convenient? or Is this cordless drill powerful enough for your needs?
For items that were too big or complex to call into the Lab for testing, for example whole-house heating and cooling equipment, our engineers reviewed technical data and any third-party testing provided by manufacturers to verify claims around performance, safety and efficiency. Our home design editors, meanwhile, weighed in on style and aesthetics — like assessing the texture of various lines of decking and the color depth of new countertop materials.
Last, and definitely not least, we brought in our outside judges, a pair of professionals with a combined 60 years of experience under their tool belts. Houston-based homebuilder, developer, and author Fernando Pagés Ruiz, returned for his second year of judging and installed everything from roofing and decking to a steel gazebo, and reviewed many power tools in the process. Boston’s Marc Savatzky, a contractor, real estate developer and host of the podcast Real Estate Addicts, used his special interest in smart technology to test a WiFi-connected lock, faucet, blinds, a whole-house backup power system and more.
Porcelain is an ancient material, but its popularity as a countertop material is fairly recent, making it a good choice for homeowners who are going for a different look in the kitchen. Caesarstone’s version comes in 22 colors, ranging from pearly white to dramatic black. The entire line boasts the exceptional strength and durability that makes porcelain such a high-performing, low-maintenance material, even in outdoor applications. In fact, Caesarstone’s porcelain is rated for exterior use, so it’s the perfect surface for an outdoor kitchen, one that coordinates with your interior finishes.
LAB RESULTS: The nonporous surface did a solid job resisting stains, heat and scratches in our Lab tests, and it also held up well during several weeks of exposure to the elements, including hot sun and lashing rain. The material was a bit more prone to dents and dings, so you’ll want to be careful with cast-iron pots and other heavy objects. As for the aesthetics, Caesarstone is a longtime favorite with our design pros. “The brand offers so many striking yet timeless options,” says Associate Lifestyle Editor Alyssa Gautieri. “With subtle yet intentional veining, these porcelain countertops look as beautiful in an array of light and dark styles.”
FORM launched five years ago with the mission of bringing sleek, modern, European cabinets to the U.S. market for a fraction of the cost of custom units. Its direct-to-consumer model cuts out the middle dealer, working directly with a German manufacturer. All planning and communication happens through the app or online — no in-person meetings with designers or showroom visits (though FORM tells us it will open physical design centers in select cities, including Denver, New York City and San Francisco, later this year). Delivery of the finished units can be within 12 to 14 weeks of the project start date.
LAB RESULTS: Laurie Jennings, general manager of the Good Housekeeping Institute, went with FORM for her recent kitchen renovation, and was wowed by the experience and end result. “One standout was the ultra-talented designer, Bianca, that we got to work with,” she says. “I also loved the exceptionally accurate 3D renderings they made of our space, which helped us choose lighting, countertops, hardware, and more — even if we then had to order them all separately.” While at the time of Jennings’ project, FORM didn’t offer installation, it has since launched a “featured installer” program, with dozens of vendors nationwide.
Smart faucets bring hands-free operation to the kitchen with increasingly sophisticated sensor-based technology, plus an expanding array of styles. Kohler’s Artifacts is a recent entry to the market that drives the innovation forward with a precision sensor built into the spout that responds faster than a blink of the eye. The pull-down sprayhead features three settings: a gentle spray for rinsing hands and food, an aerated stream for filling pots, and a powerful sweeping spray for cleaning.
LAB RESULTS: None of the pain points our experts saw with first-generation smart faucets, including tricky installs and finicky response times, were an issue with the Kohler. “The sensor responds well and immediately,” reported one tester, who also appreciated the hardwired installation, noting that she was often changing the batteries that powered her last smart faucet. As for the design, “this faucet is definitely a jewel piece in the kitchen, bringing a timeless, classic look.” Outside judge and professional contractor Marc Savatsky, who has vast experience with WiFi-connected devices, added, “I love the simplicity of the Kohler touch faucet. It works reliably, and at no time since putting it in have I felt frustration or the need to revert to using the manual handle.”
Bidet seats got a bump from the pandemic, following fears of toilet paper shortages. Our experts like the fixture as an “aging in place” upgrade, since it allows people of all ages and abilities to manage hygiene on their own. The Discovery DLS Bidet Toilet Seat, which replaces your existing toilet seat, is a very high-tech version, with custom controls that let you program precisely how you want to be cleaned. Key features include an adjustable nozzle spray connected to an unlimited supply of warm water, a heated seat, a nightlight and a built-in air dryer.
LAB RESULTS: The three GH staffers who tested the Discovery found it relatively easy to install, though getting the mounting brackets just right took some doing. After several weeks of use, they raved over the adjustable water and seat temperatures (“Can’t wait for the heated seat come winter!”) and the warm air dryer. “I love the self-closing lid,” added Product Analyst Lynn Redmile. “It solves a huge pet peeve in my house full of guys!” The Discovery has a lower profile than other bidet seats we’ve tested, though using it is still an adjustment compared with the perfectly flat profile of a standard toilet seat.
Today’s luxury toilets boast serious intelligence, including high-tech features that provide easier cleaning — for your private areas as well as for the toilet itself. The Kohler Innate Smart Toilet makes the point most elegantly, combining sleek contours with a long list of enhancements, starting with the integrated bidet, precision water pressure and temperature control, and electrolyzed water pre-rinsing of the bowl to minimize stains. The toilet’s intelligence is so innate it can even flush on its own and lift and lower its seat automatically, for start-to-finish hands-free control.
LAB RESULTS: The Innate has all the specs our engineers look for in a top-performing toilet, including a 1.28 gallons-per-flush efficiency rating that qualifies it for the EPA’s WaterSense certification. Its comfort height design makes sitting down and getting up easier, another “aging in place” benefit of smart toilets, along with the hands-free cleaning. Our consumer tester was full of praise for the unit too. “I really appreciate the bidet features — the auto-flush is amazing, it’s nice to look at and it’s much easier to clean than a regular toilet.” The power-saving mode adjusts the heated seat settings to save energy.
Shower combo kits with multiple showerheads bring a spa-like experience to the bathroom. Kohler’s Purist 2-in-1 Showerhead is a gorgeous example that combines form and function as well as any system on the market. The design features a rotating rail that allows you to arrange the showerheads in myriad positions, including horizontal, for a penetrating back massage. The showerhead and handheld spray offer three spray settings (full coverage, pulsating, and rinsing) for even more customization. There’s also a pause feature to save water while you shave or shampoo.
LAB RESULTS: Kohler’s Purist Collection, which includes fixtures for both the bathroom and the kitchen, has earned consistently high marks with our engineers and testers. The 2-in-1 showerhead does it again with its quality construction and durable finishes. The user experience, meanwhile, lives up to the spa comparison. “The two showerheads are a dream come true!” one gushed. “The magnetic detachable showerhead is so easy to handle and I appreciate the strong water pressure these showerheads provide.”
The one drawback to automated bidet seats is that they need to be plugged into an outlet, which not all bathrooms have conveniently located next to the toilet. Manual bidet seats, like the Tushy, spare the trouble and expense, while still delivering a pleasant and effective cleansing experience. The nozzle even rinses itself before and after each use for maximum hygiene. If you’re bidet-curious, but don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on the upgrade (not counting the potential added cost of adding an outlet), the non-electric Tushy is one to consider.
LAB RESULTS: Our experts liked the whole laid-back vibe of Tushy — the title of the product user manual, for example, is “How to Put This Sh*t Together.” Installation was as easy as advertised, taking testers less than 10 minutes. The bidet was very easy to operate, and while the overall experience was not the same as with an electric bidet (no warm water settings and customizable controls), Tushy’s knobs make it easy to go from a gentle spritz to a powerful wash that ultimately gets the job done.
Wood flooring is a no-no in bathrooms, since moisture and humidity can cause the boards to warp and crack. Rigid core flooring is a wood-alternative material that resembles the real thing but without any of the performance issues, thanks to its multilayer construction, including a solid core that adds durability and a thick wear layer that resists scratching and staining. The Armstrong Flooring Lutea comes in 20 colors, including pale Scandinavian-inspired patterns and dark, rich shades.
LAB RESULTS: The Armstrong Flooring Lutea flooring proved extra durable in our performance tests, withstanding staining, scratching, fading, and denting. We also sent a batch of the flooring out to a consumer tester. “The product was easy to assemble even for someone with little to no experience,” he said, though he added that, as with most flooring projects, some specialty tools were required, which added to the project cost. He also had trouble sourcing a threshold that matched the material exactly. First-time DIYers might want to consider professional installation, if it’s in the budget.
You start and end every day at the bathroom faucet. Despite its diminutive size, the fixture is also a focal point in most bathrooms, part of the jewelry of the space. Throw in the fact that there are so many options to choose from, and this is one tough remodeling decision. Kohler’s Occasion Bathroom Faucet Collection streamlines the process with its elegant selection of styles and configurations that are timeless enough to suit just about any bathroom. The ability to mix and match the spout, handles, and finishes leaves room for personalization without the sense of paralysis that often strikes on a bathroom remodel.
LAB RESULTS: Testers loved everything about the faucet collection. “The shape and height make washing my face an enjoyable experience,” one reported. “No leaning over excessively, and water is not splashing everywhere.” As for aesthetics, she added, “It elevates the look of the bathroom with its substantial, quality design.” The one quibble is that the vibrant “brushed moderne” brass finish she chose shows fingerprints. If that’s a concern, our experts suggest going with the smudge-resistant matte black.
Applying a fresh coat of paint is the easiest way to transform the look and feel of a space, which is why painting is the most common DIY project. Some paints deliver better results than others, especially in high-touch areas like the bathroom. Behr has been a top brand in our tests for many years now, combining value and performance as well as any name in the paint aisle. Boasting more than 1,000 colors, its Marquee line is the best of the best, and the Home Depot-exclusive is also easy to get your hands on.
LAB RESULTS: We put the Marquee paint in a satin finish through a battery of tough tests and it aced them all. Our testers were particularly impressed by its smooth, even finish and fast drying time. It’s also highly stain resistant and can handle abrasions — whether from scuffs or a scouring pad — with the best of them. It fended off a litany of stains, including oil, tomato sauce and crayon. And the built-in primer reduces the need for a second coat. Start with it in the kitchen and bathroom, we say, then carry on with the rest of the house!
If you’ve been living with a wimpy showerhead, this simple bathroom upgrade can really improve your life. Who wants to start every day trying to rinse down with a weak sprinkle? Speakman has long been a favorite brand in the category with our experts, and its latest refinements to the Icon Anystream showerhead give them even more to sing (in the shower) about. New and improved spray plungers inside the showerhead deliver impressive spray, the solid brass construction adds durability to the design, and the expanded line of finishes helps the fixture coordinate with its surroundings.
LAB RESULTS: For all its simplicity, the Icon showerhead has always elicited strong responses from our testers — and this time was no different. “This may be the best showerhead I have ever used, and I have sampled/used over a dozen top-quality ones in the last three years alone,” reported one tester. “The showerhead is amazing,” wrote another, adding that “the pressure is perfect.” While the invigorating spray earned the most praise, our experts also liked the ease of installation, plus the fact that it’s very easy to adjust between different spray patterns.
Vadara’s Sakura countertop, from its 2023 Natural Innovation Collection, brings together two key trends in kitchen design: the emergence of more blues and grays throughout the space and an enduring preference for low-maintenance materials. Inspired by Ijen Blue quartzite, a rare, pricey natural stone from Brazil, Sakura features a warm, off-white background with dominant blue-gray veining and subtle rust-colored accents. The polished, nonporous surface is impervious to staining and it never needs to be sealed; a soft cloth and plain soap and water are all you’ll need to maintain the countertop’s beauty and shine over decades of service.
LAB RESULTS: Through the last couple of decades of countertop testing at the Institute, quartz has emerged as the no-fuss leader, since it never needs to be sealed (unlike the natural stones whose design it often imitates). The Sakura countertop continues that tradition, showing exceptional resistance to stains, scratches, and dents in our tests. Home Design Director Monique Valeris praises the unique grain patterns. “The quality feels quite elevated,” she adds, calling Sakura “a fitting material for those who aren’t afraid to make a statement in their kitchen.”
Engineered wood flooring has many advantages over real wood flooring, including durability and water resistance. When it comes to aesthetics, though, natural wood usually comes out on top. This BelleLuxe Waterproof Wood seriously closes the beauty gap, with an authenticity achieved through 64 layers of textured detail and over 1,000 color variations. Whether you’re going for the look of a light and airy oak or a deep, dark hardwood, BelleLuxe delivers with flooring that’s indistinguishable from the real thing without any of the maintenance.
LAB RESULTS: Let’s start with the aesthetics. “Both wood grain pattern and color look very beautiful and exude a timeless aesthetic,” says Gautieri. “The material feels incredibly smooth.” Despite that smoothness, it was also impervious to scratches, dents and stains in our performance tests. The Waterproof Wood lived up to its name in our tough water resistance tests, in which we pour two cups of water on an assembled floor and let the puddle sit there for one hour, then check for signs of seepage.
For more than four decades, Hardie’s fiber cement siding products have offered a durable, attractive and low-maintenance solution for homes of all types and locales. Given the uptick in extreme weather, with its wind, hail, wildfires and blazing heat, the product is more valuable than ever. The brand’s expanded Hardie Architectural Collection continues to diversify its range of contemporary and traditional siding styles, all using the same ingredients list of top-quality, sustainable materials.
LAB RESULTS: As a Good Housekeeping Seal holder, products by James Hardie are subject to rigorous review by our engineers and experts. “All those from the Hardie Architectural Collection meet tough industry standards for protection against freezing temperatures, strong winds, fire, moisture, pests and more,” says Chief Technologist & Executive Technical Director Rachel Rothman. Our style pros love the growing range of styles, from traditional lap siding to the more recent Hardie Architectural Panels, which feature panels in myriad textures that offer a more contemporary look and feel.
When it comes to providing shelter from the elements, there’s nothing more important than the roof over your head — and shingles are the first line of defense. GAF’s Timberline UHDZ asphalt shingles deliver top-level protection against Mother Nature’s harshest assaults — hard-driven rain, snow, sleet and hail, as well as the record-busting heat that has become increasingly common in many parts of the country. The premium shingles are also fortified with a time-release algae-fighting technology that will help extend their life in damp, humid climates.
LAB RESULTS: Our engineers verified Timberline UHDZ’s claims around resistance to weather, heat and algae as part of the GH Seal approval process. Lab tests reaffirmed durability and ease of installation, including the extra-wide strike zone for fast, efficient nailing. Outside judge Fernando Pages then went the distance and installed the shingles on a project in Houston. “Timberline’s UHDZ shingles represent a missing middle between common-variety composition shingles that protect from rain and the more durable, yet ultra-high-cost roofing selections, such as concrete tile and metal,” he says. Watch Pages’s YouTube video for his full review.
Once exclusive to decks on minimalist oceanfront homes, cable rail systems are now popular in all regions. Not only have they migrated inland, but also indoors, where they’re a common feature on staircases and upper-floor balconies, providing the uninterrupted sight lines that are their main selling point. The only downside: They’re a pain to install. Enter the RDI Elevation Rail from Barrette Outdoor Living, a preassembled DIY-friendly kit that saves time on installation and maintenance by eliminating the tedious task of tensioning each cable individually.
LAB RESULTS: Our experts got hands-on with a six-foot section of the cable rail system in our Labs. The powder-coated aluminum posts and stainless steel cables were top-quality design and construction. “Not having to thread each cable is a massive time saver,” says GH Test Engineer Alec Scherma, who handled the assembly. “And when any tightening is needed, it’s as simple as popping off the top rail and turning a few bolts.” The top rail and side posts are available only in matte black, but RDI says more colors are on the way as the rollout continues.
Last year’s Home Reno Awards winners included TimberTech’s Advanced PVC decking, a wood-look material that does a masterful job of combining beauty and durability. Now the brand has added Advanced PVC Cladding to its product line, and it boasts all the same attributes, including minimal maintenance (no sealing required), backed by a 50-year fade and stain warranty. The siding also scores points for sustainability, since it’s made in the USA from approximately 60% recycled materials, including plastic bottles and construction scrap like old vinyl siding and PVC pipe.
LAB RESULTS: The same high performance our experts found with the Advanced PVC decking was evident with the cladding. “Excellent dent and scratch resistance, so you won’t have to worry about hail, tree branches, or other hard objects marring the surface,” says Scherma. Our style experts like the curated color palette, which is transitional enough to work with all kinds of architecture. “It’s nice with siding not to be overwhelmed with too many choices,” says GH Home Design Director Monique Valeris. “There are just enough color options to find the right one to blend with your home style.”
Choosing a cheap paint on an interior project won’t get you the best-looking, most durable finish, but it also won’t ruin your home. The stakes are higher with exterior paint, since it provides a layer of protection against the elements. Benjamin Moore routinely lands at or near the top of our rankings of top-quality paints, and its Element Guard Exterior Paint is another winner, thanks to its superb adhesion and resistance to stains and scratches, plus the fact that it can be applied in temperatures down to 35°F, extending the exterior painting season.
LAB RESULTS: The paint fared extremely well in our tough performance tests. It shrugged off stains, including oil and dirt, and proved exceptionally hard-wearing in our durability test, in which an abrasion machine applies 750 passes with fine-grit sandpaper to simulate years of scrubbing and scratching. As for color selection, Benjamin Moore gets top marks with our design pros. “I’ve long been impressed with Benjamin Moore’s range of exterior paint colors, including their warm whites and earthy naturals, which have an enduring appeal,” says Valeris. “The brand is a designer favorite for good reason.”
One of the knocks against wood-look composite decking is that its heft and hardness makes it tough to install, especially for less-experienced DIYers who don’t have a workshop full of specialized power tools. The Deckorators Mineral-Based Composite Decking uses a fiber-like structure to maintain exceptional strength while being about a third lighter than the competition. Available in multiple colors and widths for custom designs, the decking also boasts exceptional stain and slip resistance, important qualities for any high-traffic outdoor living area.
LAB RESULTS: Pages, our outside judge, used Voyage at a 1,000-square-foot deck in Houston, documenting the project on his YouTube channel. He confirmed that the Deckorators decking is “lighter than most PVC and composite materials.” He also reported virtually no expansion and contraction, which makes for an easier, more forgiving installation. And he liked that the material can be installed directly on the ground or in water without voiding the warranty — good for coastal applications, or even for building directly on a lawn.
Anyone who still doubts that composite decking can resemble real wood needs to hold a few samples of Trex’s Transcend Lineage Decking in their hands —or better yet, walk across a new deck made with it. Subtle graining gives the boards a remarkable authenticity, while heat-mitigating technology keeps them cooler than other like-colored composite options. Made from 95% recycled content, Transcend Lineage is engineered to resist fading, staining, scratching and mold. An occasional soap-and-water cleaning is the extent of the upkeep.
LAB RESULTS: Let’s start with the looks: “Love it!” enthuses Valeris. “The color options feel sophisticated, especially the brown shades, which are so rich. The pattern of the grain seems natural as well.” Results from our performance tests were no less positive, with the capped composite decking proving extremely scratch and stain resistant. Trex backs its promise that the material won’t rot, warp, crack, or splinter with a 50-year limited warranty.
Vinyl has been the most common siding material used on newly built homes in the U.S. for the last 25 years, thanks to its relatively low cost and minimal upkeep. It’s not always the best-looking siding on the block, though, and it can be prone to cracking, rattling, and melting. That’s what makes the CERTAplank such a game changer. Its wide, flat face and convincing grain pattern gives the look of real wood, while its extra-thick panel and reinforced foam backer provides exceptional durability for a product that’s still lightweight and easy to install.
LAB RESULTS: The reinforced siding stood up to our tough impact tests, which simulate hail and other hard-driven objects. The material also fended off stains and scratches in our tests, so it should live up to its low-maintenance claims. As for its appearance, GH Associate Lifestyle Editor Alyssa Gautieri likes the “beautiful and timeless color options,” adding that “even the blue and green shades feel neutral and versatile, so you won’t tire of seeing these shades every day.” A nifty visualizer tool on the Certainteed website helps you figure out which of the 10 available colors will look best on your home.
PVC decking is a fast-growing category in the market, and with good reason. The synthetic material is extremely durable, resisting stains, scratches and rot, without the need for annual sealing or staining. Zuri Premium Decking has all those attributes, plus it’s one of the most attractive decking products to pass through our Labs in recent years. The rock-hard PVC base is capped with a supremely photo-realistic wood-grain print in a range of colors, including chestnut, pecan and weathered gray.
LAB RESULTS: The decking fended off stains and scratches in our tests, and it also excelled in our impact-resistant tests, which simulate hail and other hard, falling objects. Pages, who has installed countless decks over the decades, raves about the appearance. “Zuri offers some of the best-looking design features,” he says, “including tasteful and interesting border patterns, dramatic inlays, and an end cap yielding a true two-inch edge for steps and rims.” He, along with our experts, also likes that the brand stands behind the product with a 25-year Color Fastness Warranty.
The battery-powered revolution that’s been buzzing through the outdoor power equipment category for the last decade has reached the chain saw aisle. Exhibit A: this 40-volt, 20-inch chain saw, which Ryobi claims can tackle logs up to 36 inches in diameter. Besides its impressive power, the product eliminates much of the maintenance required with a gas chain saw. The kit includes a rapid charger, which allows the 8Ah battery to reach full power in 80 minutes.
LAB RESULTS: While we didn’t fell any 3-foot-across oaks, our testers put the chain saw through a bunch of yard-care tasks that a typical homeowner might face. “It was easy to trim trees around the yard without the need for a lot of added pressure on the saw,” reported one consumer tester, adding that the size and weight of the tool was well suited to her 5’1″ frame. The toughest task she tackled was a 25-inch-diameter log, which the Ryobi managed, though it took a few minutes. A gas chain saw probably would have ripped through the wood faster, but for basic yard care, this Ryobi is a clear-cut winner.
Power tool combo kits often package together two or more flimsy tools from a brand, usually with an eye toward bargain-hunting holiday shoppers. This cordless duo from Ridgid is an exception, combining an equally powerful hammer drill and impact driver that together can complete a wide range of tasks around the house or even on construction sites. The kit also includes a pair of 18-volt batteries, plus a charger and hard-shelled carrying case.
LAB RESULTS: Ridgid, one of Home Depot’s exclusive power tool brands, is known to our experts as offering pro-grade tools at DIY prices. That’s the case with this combo kit. “One stop shop when it comes to a drill/driver combo set,” said one consumer tester, adding, “I’m used to ‘prosumer’ products and this duo is far beyond that.” With a maximum speed of 2,000 RPMs (revolutions per minute), the hammer drill could easily bore into metal, brick, and concrete, while the 3-speed impact driver had no trouble driving screws into a mix of hard lumber. We also like Ridgid’s Lifetime Service Agreement, which covers any registered tool that breaks due to normal wear and tear.
A pressure washer can help you power through so many home-maintenance chores, from cleaning mildew-covered decks to blasting oil stains from the driveway. Our experts generally find that electric pressure washers hit the sweet spot between value and performance, and that goes for this 2,000-PSI (pounds per square inch) unit from Stihl. Besides packing plenty of power for any surface, it has the features we look for, including a large onboard detergent tank and an ample 23-foot-long hose to extend the reach of your washing around the house.
LAB RESULTS: The Stihl proved extremely easy to assemble, with its simple design and clear manual. “The hose on the unit stores easily on the wheel, unlike other models I’ve used that are prone to tangling and kinking,” said Lexie Sachs, an executive lab director at the GH Institute. Weighing nearly 50 pounds, the unit is one of the heaviest models from our extended pressure washer tests, but wheels and a handle make it easy to maneuver. The brushless motor should ensure years of service by putting less wear and tear on the mechanics.
A reciprocating saw shouldn’t be your first power tool, but once your DIY skills reach a certain level, you’ll want one of these rugged multitaskers for everything from demo work to removing grout to pruning trees. This battery-powered Bosch is one to reach for, providing fast, efficient cutting across wood, metal and other materials. It’s part of Bosch’s ProFactor line, so when you’re ready to up your game again, the same battery pack can power other tools, including circular saws, grinders, and impact wrenches.
LAB RESULTS: We put the reciprocating saw into the hands of several professionals, all of whom raved about the performance. “I tested this saw making cuts through an assortment of materials and was very satisfied with its performance,” one told us. Outside judge Fernando Pagés even gave the saw to his crew to try. They balked at first, being used to brawnier corded-electric saws. “But when the battery lasted that day and into the next, they did not want to give it up,” he says. “I had to pry it out of their hands to get it back.” That’s a pretty strong endorsement in our book!
A framing nailer is another power tool for more advanced DIYers. As the name implies, it’s designed for framing work, say building a stud wall or creating an opening for a new window or door. But once you get the hang of Ryobi’s 21° Framing Nailer, you’ll find plenty of other uses, from building decks and fences to fastening molding and other trim work. Unlike pneumatic nail guns, which are tethered to an air hose that connects to a compressor, the battery-powered Ryobi runs on an 18-volt 4Ah battery, for enhanced speed and convenience.
LAB RESULTS: The professionals who put this framing nailer through its paces were unanimous in their praise. “As a contractor, I would definitely purchase and recommend the Ryobi,” one told us. “The battery life was longer than expected and it had plenty of power to drive framing nails into thick studs.” Another added that the tool is “very effective and greatly increases productivity over driving nails with a hammer.” Though the nearly 10-pound tool is a lot to lug around, he called that “a fair tradeoff for not having to deal with the nuisance of an air hose.”
A freestanding fire pit is a great way to extend the season of your outdoor living space. Unfortunately, fire pits also lead to thousands of emergency room visits every year. Solo Stove’s Fire Pit Surround reduces the risk by creating a 360º protective barrier around the pit’s open flames and hot surfaces. Made of perforated, powder-coated steel, the surround minimizes heat transfer to the point where it can safely double as a tabletop for drinks, s’mores fixings, and the like.
LAB RESULTS: The Solo Stove itself is a favorite with our experts, thanks to its smoke-free, efficient combustion. The only knock is how hot the unit gets, which the new Surround takes care of. GH Chief Food Director Kate Merker — who is, naturally, an avid outdoor entertainer — tested the Surround in her home’s backyard. “Love the high quality materials,” she reported back. “Everything from the fabric panels to the metal frame to the fire pit itself feels well-made and trustworthy.” Referring to the unit’s 42-inch outer diameter, she adds, “It has a rather large footprint for a small fire, but knowing the kids and pets are safe is totally worth it.”
Our market experts have watched the demand for gazebos and pergolas surge as homeowners look to expand the footprint and functionality of their outdoor living spaces. Backyard Discovery has responded with a handsome array of offerings, none better than the Rockport XL Steel Grill Gazebo. Featuring a rust-resistant steel frame and two 16-inch galvanized steel countertops, the approximately 11′ x 5.5′ structure is the perfect setting for an outdoor kitchen or an open-air seating area on the back patio.
LAB RESULTS: We sent gazebos to both of our outside builders for assessment. Fernando Pagés reviewed the Rockport, while Marc Savatzky put up the 12′ by 9.5′ Stonebridge Gazebo. High-quality, attractive, and well-designed,” said Pagés. “Great addition to any backyard,” said Savatzky. “Industrial chic aesthetic and sturdy enough to hang hammocks and other accessories.” One note: As you can see from Pagés’ YouTube review, assembly is quite involved, so you might want to consider paying extra for Backyard Discover’s assembly service.
Even if your home isn’t the regular target of package thieves (a.k.a. “porch pirates”), chances are you’ve had packages go missing, or seen them damaged by bad weather. That’s created a market for delivery boxes — receptacles that live near your front door and create a safe, secure home for packages of all shapes and sizes. Measuring 49 x 25.25 x 19.9 inches, the Lakewood Package Delivery Box features double-wall resin construction and an internal spring-loaded baffle with panels that allows packages to be delivered to a secure compartment accessible by two included keys.
LAB RESULTS: Assembly of the delivery box was simple and straightforward for our testers. “It was ready for service in about 45 minutes, including weighting the box down with sand for added security,” one tester said. Another said, “The box works quite well and has definitely saved us from having packages stolen.” He added that the plastic design lacks the refinement of some metal receptacles, but for the price, our experts say the Lakewood is a worthy contender in the increasingly competitive market for drop boxes.
With summer heat waves running longer and hotter in many parts of the country, homeowners are looking for more ways to keep cool in the open air. Misting fans, like this battery-powered version from Craftsman, answer the call by adding a fine mist to the cool breeze of a traditional fan. The device can be connected to a garden hose for continuous cooling in the backyard or mounted to the 5-gallon bucket that’s included with the kit, ideal for cooling down at campsites, the beach or other remote locations.
LAB RESULTS: The clever cooler was a big hit with our consumer testers, who put it to good use during the hottest days of the year. “I was a little skeptical, but it really made a pleasant, positive change at the outdoor event we hosted,” one said. Other testers appreciated the compact design, good for easy storage, and the three fan speed and misting settings, which make it easy to calibrate the cooling power based on outdoor heat and humidity levels. The same 1.5Ah battery can be used across Craftsman’s 20-volt power tool platform.
You don’t have to buy all new cushions or rugs to add a fresh splash of color to your outdoor space. Glidden’s new exterior fabric paint can be sprayed onto vinyl, canvas, leather and other exterior-grade materials. The fast-drying paint also provides extra protection from harsh sunlight to prevent fading. The 12-ounce container comes in eight colors, including black and white and more vibrant hues like Romantic Isle (teal) and Rum Punch (red).
LAB RESULTS: Glidden is a top performer in our interior paint tests, so our experts were eager to test out the Max Flex. They applied it to various outdoor fabrics, including polyester cushion covers and rugs made out of propylene. “Like any spray paint, it was easy to apply, though the fumes were very intense, so you definitely need to work with it outdoors or in some well-ventilated area,” one tester noted. The paint dried quickly with an impressive depth of color that held up well over several weeks of heavy sun and heat exposure.
Lighting is one of the trickiest items to source on a remodel. That’s doubly so for recessed canister lights, given the many specs to choose from and the fact that they’re often only available through specialty distributors. Cync has made the process so much easier with the launch of its Smart Downlights, sold online and at Lowe’s. Available in 4-inch and 6-inch profiles, the all-in-one WiFi-enabled fixtures are faster to install than standard can lights, since no trim kit is required. And the LEDs can generate millions of colors, including tunable white, all programmed through the Cync app.
LAB RESULTS: “Easy to install and hook up, thanks to clear directions,” reported our consumer tester, though he added that the Cync product has some design differences from other can lights he’s installed, so that meant a slight learning curve. Our experts have had positive experiences with the Cync app on other lighting products and found it similarly intuitive this time around, including with the programming of lighting schedules and “scenes.”
As homes get bigger and more connected, the result is more dead zones where a weak signal means long loading times and dropped calls. A robust Wi-Fi router is the best defense against these Internet snafus, especially one equipped with additional satellites that deliver top speeds to every corner of the house. That’s the promise of the Orbi system from Netgear, which delivers up to 10.8 gigabits per second (Gps) Internet speed over a 9,000-square-foot coverage area. Plus, the Orbi supports Wi-Fi 6E devices, including many of the latest high-end laptops and TVs, so there’s no risk of it becoming obsolete anytime soon.
LAB RESULTS: The Orbi impressed our testers right out of the box with its straightforward setup. “The app allowed for easy parental control configuration, device management, Internet speed testing, and traffic reports,” says GH Lab Assistant Nikolas Greenwald, who oversaw the test. The system clocked exceptional download and upload times and it’s the best router we’ve ever seen at running 4K videos on multiple devices at the same time — good for large households that do a lot of streaming and gaming.
In a typical year, 350,000 home fires across the U.S. cause some 2,500 deaths and another 11,000 injuries. Electrical failures caused by arcing faults and defective appliances are behind tens of thousands of the blazes — which is what makes Ting such an essential safety addition in today’s homes. The simple plug-in device plus companion app uses advanced sensor technology to alert homeowners to dangers in the system, including grid equipment faults that can result in dangerous power being sent into the home. Since its launch, Ting is now in 350,000 homes and has recorded 5,000 “saves” (a.k.a. averted fires) in that time.
LAB RESULTS: This is Ting’s second Home Reno Award, which means we’ve been testing it now for nearly 18 months. The device continues to provide reliable hazard detection in our test homes. Our product experts like Ting’s reduced price ($99), plus the fact that more insurance providers are giving it to customers for free. The software that powers Ting has benefited from several AI-enhanced upgrades, and we like that the device now has a low-temperature warning, good to prevent pipes from freezing caused by winter blasts.
Also known as portable power stations, solar generators are a safe and simple way to provide backup power for your home during an outage, or to power up devices on a camping trip or job site. The HomePower Two Pro is a robust, 2,200-watt generator that runs on lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery, the latest technology in backup batteries. Not only does the unit boast fast charge times and the ability to hold the charge for long stretches, its 3,000-cycle life span is up with the best in the industry.
LAB RESULTS: In our rigorous tests, the generator needed less than two hours to reach a full charge using an AC wall outlet, or four hours using solar panels. Weighing 61.3 pounds, without wheels, it’s best suited to home use, where its three AC outlets can power appliances, power tools, CPAP machines and the like. “Unlike gas-powered backup generators, which produce dangerous carbon monoxide, solar generators like the HomePower can be safely operated indoors,” says Scherma. It also features two USB-A and two USB-C outlets for your small electronics. The LED display is intuitive and easy to read, and the built-in LED light is helpful when working in the dark.
Smart locks are high on our list of most useful Wi-Fi-connected products. They not only let you ditch your keys, but also can grant temporary access to your home for approved users, like a dog walker or a cleaning person. The technology is so helpful that legacy lock maker Schlage saw applications for it beyond the front door, to places like garages, side doors, home offices and guest rooms. Hence the Schlage Encode Smart WiFi Lever, which is designed to work on single-bore doors, making it one of the most versatile smart locks available today.
LAB RESULTS: Schlage’s Encode line of smart locks is a consistent top performer in our tests, and the Lever is no different, with its straightforward installation and setup. Testers especially liked the Apple Home Key compatibility, which allowed them to open the lock with a simple tap of their iPhone or Apple watch. “The built-in Wi-Fi is another nice feature, since it eliminates the need for a separate hub,” one tester added. The Schlage Home app is among the easiest to set up and control.
With many of us still working from home at least part of the time, versatile work stations have become an essential home office feature. Standing desks are at the core of this concept, a movable surface that lets you stretch your legs throughout the day without interrupting your workflow. The Flexispot Pro Plus Standing Desk combines this functionality with a sleek design, durable construction, and a host of useful features, including wireless device charging, USB ports and a programmable sit/stand reminder system in the LED display.
LAB RESULTS: FlexiSpot is a respected brand in the standing desk space with our experts, and their experience with the E7 did not disappoint. Though its heavy-duty steel frame and robust motor make for a hefty table, it was very easy to assemble, thanks to the smart packaging and intuitive design. Testers liked the expansive height range (25″ to 50.6″) and the fact that the stable table can handle up to 440 pounds. Our experts also tested several accessories, including an under-desk drawer and a monitor stand, and were equally impressed by their quality.
Backup power for the home used to be strictly fossil fuel–based, either a gas-powered portable generator or a standby unit that ran on propane or natural gas. But the electrification trend has hit the category, as is clear from EcoFlow’s new Whole-home Backup Power Solution. The battery-based solution can generate up to 7,200 watts of clean, quiet, emissions-free electricity, enough to power most major equipment in the home. It can even be integrated into rooftop solar panels to harness the sun’s energy to charge up, instead of paying the utility company.
LAB RESULTS: Boston-based contractor Marc Savatsky installed the system on a recent project. “The Ecoflow is a simple and elegant solution for homes prone to power outages,” he said, though he does recommend hiring an electrician for the installation, since it needs to be tied into the home’s circuitry. The features and accessories impressed, including wheels and a telescoping handle for easy transport, and the weather-resistant bags, which will come in handy when he takes one of the batteries to the job site or on family holidays.
The best smart home technology simplifies your home while also making it more secure. Google’s newest Nest Cam checks both those boxes as well as any Wi-Fi-connected camera on the market. The weather-resistant camera not only notifies you on your phone when it detects possible trespassers, but also shines two bright LED lights on the area, so you can check on the situation from anywhere. That not only wards off would-be intruders, but also lights the way when you’re coming home after dark.
LAB RESULTS: The Nest Cam earned top marks with our testers for its excellent 1080p video quality and crystal-clear two-way audio communication. “I like that the optional $6 per month subscription offers facial recognition to avoid unnecessary alerts for family or friends,” says GH Media & Tech Reviews Analyst Olivia Lipski, who has evaluated dozens of connected cameras in the last two years. In terms of quality, the camera is solidly built, as evidenced by its 3.45-pound weight, which is several times heavier than most security cameras. Note that between its heft and the fact that it must be hardwired, professional installation might be required.
As a leader in the streaming space for more than two decades, Roku’s entrance into home security is welcome news, since it makes it possible to keep tabs on your home from any screen, be it the phone in your pocket or the family room TV. Roku’s Home Monitoring System SE, which includes two entry sensors, a motion sensor, a wire-free keypad and a hub with a built-in siren, integrates with any Roku player or Roku TV, so it can send alerts while you’re watching your favorite show if a sensor is triggered. Despite its innovative design, the Roku is one of the more affordable home security solutions we’ve seen, starting at $99.
LAB RESULTS: GH’s Rachel Rothman ran the Roku through extensive home tests. Having reviewed dozens of security systems in recent years, she was impressed by the overall value of the seven-piece kit. She also praised the easy setup, thanks to Roku’s clear step-by-step in-app instructions and prompts. A nice perk was the ability to view the camera feed on any Roku device, including the Roku-enabled smart TV in her bedroom. “It’s convenient and comforting to be able to monitor the house without climbing out of bed,” she says.
An air purifier on its own can’t give your home perfect air quality, but it is an important part of the overall strategy, along with steps like vacuuming regularly and removing shoes indoors. Our experts are adamant about choosing models with true HEPA filtration, since they do the best job capturing contaminants of all sizes. This GermGuardian adds an activated carbon filter to neutralize odor and a UV-C light that Lasko says can target viruses and bacteria.
LAB RESULTS: A close review of the technical data by our engineers found that the GermGuardian’s advanced filtration is designed to capture particles down to .1 micron, in line with the smallest of all tested air purifiers. (We are not able to verify the claims related to UV-C light.) Home testing took place during a time when New York City’s air quality was severely impacted by Canadian wildfires. “We turned the air purifier on for an hour and the room felt normal and livable again,” one tester observed. Another noted that the device is a bit noisy on its highest fan speed, but ultimately decided this is a good thing because the air purifier now “serves as a white noise machine too!”
The garage is the primary entry point for tens of millions of Americans — no surprise given that the space is attached to the home in so many cases. So it was only a matter of time before we started seeing video keypads for the space, akin to the video doorbells that have become ubiquitous at front doors in the last decade. Enter the myQ Smart Garage Video Keypad from Chamberlain Group, an innovative smart home device that allows you to see who’s coming and going and create personal PIN codes for family, friends, and temporary visitors, like the dog walker or service provider.
LAB RESULTS: Rothman installed the myQ on the garage of her home on Long Island, NY. “Setup was straightforward, though we had to put in a Wi-Fi extender near the garage to ensure a strong enough signal to the camera” she says. The myQ app’s live-streaming feature and two-way audio communication were helpful with deliveries. We also like that if you pair the myQ Video Keypad with a myQ Connected Garage Door Opener (like the Chamberlain Secure View that won a 2022 Home Reno Award) you can let visitors in by opening the garage door remotely through the myQ app.
The best smart home products provide a seamless experience. For some homeowners, that includes keeping the technology as invisible as possible. In the smart lock category, the Level Lock+ is one of the most discreet models on the market, with all the technology baked into the lock itself. It’s particularly suited to Apple users, since the Apple home keys integration means you can lock and unlock the door by simply tapping the Level Lock+ with a compatible iPhone or Apple Watch. The lock comes in four finishes: matte black, satin nickel, satin chrome, and polished brass.
LAB RESULTS: We did a complete in-Lab assessment of the Level Lock and also sent one to our outside judge and smart home expert Marc Savatsky for review. “This is a fantastic smart lock,” Savatsky reported, echoing the view of our experts, who found the app to be particularly intuitive. “It’s high quality and the instructions are clear and easy to execute for the DIYer.” We also like that the lock meets the highest industry standard (BHMA AAA) for safety and durability.
When you have a lot of yard to prune, including thick branches and tough weeds, manual primers and shears can quickly lead to hand and wrist fatigue, no matter how sharp their edges. Stihl’s battery-powered garden pruner is a unique solution that can handle an array of landscaping tasks behind the strength of its mini chainsaw with a 4-inch guide bar for precision cutting and pruning. The set includes the tool, battery, charger, maintenance oil and a canvas carrying case.
LAB RESULTS: Testers put the power pruner to work across a slew of tough yard tasks, including cutting through 2-inch-thick tree branches and pruning a thorny rose bush with hard-to-reach stems. “The lightweight pruner is very easy to handle, with a comfortable grip and very little vibration,” one tester observed. The run time on the 10.8-volt battery is only around 20 minutes, but since the tool isn’t in continuous use, that allowed for hundreds of cuts per charge in our tests. Safety features, like the retractable chain guard and trigger switch lockout, reduce the risk of injury.
Americans have long taken pride in their lawns. Toro’s Max Stripe Mower is for homeowners who want to bump that devotion to the next level by giving their lawn the manicured look of a big-league baseball park. The secret is the 3/4-inch-diameter steel roller at the rear of the mower that leaves perfect stripes in the lawn as you mow. The emissions-free electric mower runs on a 7.5 Ah battery with a claimed 65-minute run time, making it a good fit for lawns up to ½-acre in size. The mower folds up for easy vertical storage
LAB RESULTS: The effect of the Stripe was unmistakable in our tests. Noted one tester: “The stripes are very defined when mowing the lawn, so it’s crucial to really keep things straight and symmetrical when mowing.” The mower delivered the even cutting performance and smooth handling that our experts expect from Toro, based on years of lawn mower reviews. Though because of the striping, it moves at a more leisurely pace than other self-propelled mowers we tested, especially when cutting taller grass.
If you do a lot of gardening, chanced are you dig a lot of holes. Craftsman wants you to put down the trowel or shovel and pick up this battery-powered multiuse garden tool. The handheld device can dig up to 25 holes per minute — think garden beds full of flowering annuals or vegetable gardens with tons of tubers. A single charge on the 20-volt battery can provide enough power for up to 165 holes.
LAB RESULTS: Most of our testers were unfamiliar with multiuse garden tools, but they quickly caught on. “Great tool that I never knew I needed,” one noted. “It cuts labor time in the garden in half.” The auxiliary handle can be positioned for left- or right-handed users. Outside judge and homebuilder Fernando Pagés Ruiz (who has an impressive garden at his Houston home) waxed poetic, writing that the Crafstman has “enough power to drill through tough hard-pack soil and cut through the garden bed like a steak knife through soft butter.” His wife loves it, too, since it means less time digging holes under the hot Texas sun.
A weed-free landscape doesn’t have to mean blasting every square inch with harsh chemicals. That’s the promise of Earth’s Ally Weed & Grass Killer, a sea salt-based herbicide that’s formulated to vanquish common weeds like crabgrass, ivy and chickweed. The powdered formula dissolves in water, so besides being safe for people and pets, it uses 97% less plastic in the packaging process, though it is best applied with a gallon pump sprayer, so that needs to be factored into the total cost.
LAB RESULTS: Earth’s Ally is a Good Housekeeping Seal Holder, so our experts have done close analyses of the brand’s ingredients list to confirm that the formulas meet the federal definition of a “minimum risk” pesticide. For their latest performance review, testers applied Earth’s Ally to a variety of broad-leaved weeds and were amazed by its ability to kill them down to the roots. “Small to midsize weeds went brown within a few hours,” one tester noted. “Some of the biggest, toughest weeds needed two or three applications, but that can be true even with harsh, chemical-based pesticides.”
U.S. homeowners use almost 8 million gallons of water every day watering their lawns and yards. What’s more, nearly half of that water is wasted due to evaporation, runoff, and inefficient irrigation systems. Moen’s Smart Sprinkler Controller tackles the problem with the use of WiFi-enabled soil sensors that ensure your lawn only gets water when it needs it. The system retrofits to existing irrigation equipment, where it can reduce water use by 30%, saving the average household some 15,000 gallons over the course of the year.
LAB RESULTS: A GH Institute staffer installed the Moen system at her home on Long Island, New York, in a town with strict lawn irrigation regulations. “The controller was very easy to set up, as was placement of the soil sensors throughout the yard,” she says. After one full growing season, her landscape looks healthier than ever and water use is down significantly, compared with the clock-based controller that her irrigation system ran on in the past.
Also known as “scenic doors,” multi-panel doors are movable glass wall systems that blur the line between inside and out, while flooding interiors with fresh air and natural light. Milgard’s Moving Glass Walls come in sliding, pocket and bifold configurations; the entire system can be as tall as 10 feet and up to 20-feet wide. Strong aluminum frames allow for narrow stiles and rails, maximizing sight lines. The doors come in four colors: clear anodized, dark bronze anodized, white and tan.
LAB RESULTS: GH’s style team loves the impact these scenic doors will have on any home. “More and more homeowners crave spaces that showcase the beauty of indoor-outdoor living, and this system achieves the effect in a seamless way,” says Valeris. “Milgard’s door styles feel design-forward and there’s nothing like the abundance of natural light they pour into a space.” Our engineers like that the system uses dual-pane insulated glass with a variety of low-e (short for “low emissivity”) options, improving energy efficiency in all climates. Note, however, that the glass is not impact-rated, so the doors aren’t meant for hurricane country.
Window shades are an important design element in any room, adding color and texture. They also improve energy efficiency by adding a layer of insulation in front of windows. Hunter Douglas’s Duette Honeycomb Shades, the original cellular shade, provide the insulating quality with fabrics that also allow light to filter into the room. The latest versions layer in all kinds of smart technology as well that make the shades even more energy efficient and easier to operate.
LAB RESULTS: One of our home experts had the shades installed at his home. “This is a fully custom service, so while you’re paying a premium, the shades are an exact fit for each opening, and the professional installation and setup is flawless,” he says. Control of the shades through the Hunter Douglas app was also seamless, and there’s a wall-mounted remote control for manual operation. Another nice feature is the top-down/bottom-up feature, which maximizes privacy as well as the flow of natural light into the room.
More connected technology is being baked into the structure of the home, rather than existing as stand-alone gadgets. The M-Pwr Smart Door is an award-worthy example. It’s the first residential front door to feature integrated welcome lights, video doorbell and smart lock. The hardwired fiberglass door is always on, with built-in battery backup in the event of a power outage. It also excels at its primary job of protecting your home from intruders and harsh weather by excelling at impact resistance, air/water infiltration and security.
LAB RESULTS: While we couldn’t perform an actual installation of the M-Pwr, we have tested many of its smart components, including the Ring Video Doorbell and Yale Smart Lock, both top picks with our experts. Our engineers reviewed the technical data to verify claims around performance and efficiency. And our style experts chimed in on the rich array of design options, including various styles and finishes. “I like the full-lite with pearl glass configuration,” says Gautieri. “Not only does it look modern, but it’s a great way to bring a little natural light into your home without giving up privacy.”
Andersen is one of the biggest and most reliable names in patio doors, with a track record dating back to 1903 (right around the time the Good Housekeeping Institute launched!). The brand’s A-Series doors is a legacy line that expanded this year to include more contemporary options. That includes modern accessories and narrower sight lines, to meet the consumer demand for light-flooded interiors and strong visual connections to the outdoors.
LAB RESULTS: Our engineers evaluated all the component parts of the A-Series patio doors in the Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab. We like the expansive range of high-performance glass options to suit a variety of climates, including triple-pane glass for maximum energy efficiency and impact-resistant glass to meet the strictest building codes in hurricane-prone areas. The color options, both exterior and interior, include darker finishes that are a further compliment to the contemporary styling of the doors. Our market experts like Andersen’s wide distribution network, including local showrooms and at the Home Depot.
The entry door is like the smile of the home, which is why replacing a worn-out door does so much for curb appeal. Our experts are big fans of fiberglass doors, because they combine durability with the look of authentic wood. Window World’s line of smooth fiberglass doors showcase that excellence and come in hundreds of styles, from full-glass to double doors, to suit every type of architecture. Add-on features include sidelites, internal blinds, and more.
LAB RESULTS: As a GH Seal holder, Window Worlds Fiberglass Entry Doors have been through extensive in-Lab performance evaluations by our team of engineers. The doors proved resistant to cold and heat for exceptional energy efficiency, delivering up to four times the insulating value of wood. They’re more durable than steel doors, and our experts like the fact that they can be painted and stained, or you can choose from the extensive selection of factory finishes. As a full-service exterior remodeler, Window World provides design consultations, installation, and ongoing service support via its limited life warranty.
A welcome trend is the rise of digital renovation companies that serve as a one-stop shop for homeowners embarking on a major project. Block Renovation, which launched in 2018, is a leader in the space, with a streamlined solution that matches homeowners with vetted contractors and offers renovation resources and tools. Block Renovation has completed more than 1,000 projects in its current metro markets — New York, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Washington, D.C.
LAB RESULTS: We were impressed by Block’s platform, which is at once sophisticated and user-friendly. To get deeper insight into the experience, GH Senior Chemist Sabina Wizemann went through the design process on a bathroom renovation in her Brooklyn, NY, home.After having her space scanned on-site and an the initial consultation, she was presented with a proposed layout of her bathroom, 3-D renders, and suggested materials. “Working with the in-house designers was great,” says Wizemann. “They listened to our needs and shifted things accordingly.” Wizemann appreciated the peace of mind that comes from Block’s accurate estimates and all-in-one platform, making it easy to plan her remodel.
Installing rooftop solar panels is a great way to lower your energy costs. But as the upgrade gets more popular, so does the number of solar scams, or companies that mean well but don’t have the knowledge and experience to do the job right. EnergySage is a solar marketplace that makes it easy for homeowners to shop around for the best solar system, getting multiple high-quality quotes from vetted installers. For those who are on the fence about solar, the website also features tools to help them sort through upfront costs and long-term savings.
LAB RESULTS: GH staffers from three separate regions went through the EnergySage process. One didn’t receive any quotes because her roof was blocked by too many shade trees. “Disappointing, but I think a less scrupulous service would have tried to sell us on a system anyways,” she said. Others received multiple quotes with detailed information, including the total power output of the proposed system and the length of its warranty. “A lot of solar marketplaces we’ve used felt very scammy,” one tester told us. “They collected our info and shared it with other companies who contacted us nonstop. This platform was different. We got the quotes without any spam.” Our experts also reviewed a rooftop solar study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which found that EnergySage shoppers save up to 20% compared with homeowners who work directly with a single installer.
The construction trades aren’t always known for innovation, so our experts are on constant lookout for companies that find ways to better serve consumers. Gunner Roofing is a great example. In early 2023, the company launched a digital platform that makes it easy for homeowners to shop for, purchase, and schedule the installation of a new roof in a transparent manner, knowing the work will be done by certified installers using only industry-best materials. The service takes the guesswork out of one of the more confusing home improvement projects, and also one that you need to get right given the importance of a solid roof over your head.
LAB RESULTS: Our experts went through the process of ordering a new roof through the Gunner platform. The VR-generated mockup of our house helped us visualize the project and the portal provided a clear cost estimate and timeline for completion. We like that Gunner is a certified GAF Master Elite Residential Roofing Contractor (GAF is a Good Housekeeping Seal holder and fellow Home Reno Award winner, so its reputation for quality is unblemished). Though Gunner currently serves only New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, the company plans to expand into other regions. Our judges also made it a Home Reno Award winner with the hope that other trades will follow its model of transparency and digital innovation.
Founded in 2018 by interior designer Nicole Gibbons, Clare is a mover and shaker in the paint industry, offering a direct-to-consumer online shopping experience that gets the inevitable comparison to Warby Parker glasses and Casper mattresses. Clare’s model is built around the Color Genius, an online tool that helps you find the perfect hue (out of 75 total) for the project by asking questions about the space, natural light, personal style and more. The zero-VOC formula comes in eggshell and semigloss finishes, in quart or gallon containers.
LAB RESULTS: Starting with performance, Clare provided excellent coverage and a smooth, durable finish in our tests. It’s also GREENGUARD Gold certified, so it meets rigorous emissions standards. Some of the biggest praise came from our style experts. “I’m a huge fan of Clare,” says GH Home Design Director Monique Valeris. “Instead of being forced to evaluate an endless amount of paint colors, Clare offers a well-curated selection, including a thoughtful array of trendy picks as well as classic shades for just about any room.” Our experts also like Clare’s peel-and-stick swatches, which are much cleaner and more user-friendly than sample jars.
Dwellify, headquartered in Salt Lake City, is another start-to-finish renovation company that serves homeowners nationwide, including suburban markets. It offers a wide range of services, from design guidance to orders and delivery to the actual construction, all under a streamlined timeline that can be as fast as six weeks. Homeowners can track the project and make payments through the app or website. A “home transformation specialist” is assigned to each project and essentially serves as the general contractor, working with vendors and subcontractors to ensure everything stays on track.
LAB RESULTS: We spoke with several homeowners who completed a remodel with Dwellify, and had one consumer tester experience the service up through the design phase. Customers appreciated the simplicity of the process, which starts with an online quiz that helps the homeowner determine their design style (mid-century modern, traditional, farmhouse, etc.). “We didn’t have the time, or the eye, to visit showrooms and pick out a bunch of fixtures,” said one customer, who used the service for a whole-house remodel. “Based on the online style quiz and a few visits from their design team, we were presented with a curated selection of materials and finishes that met our needs perfectly.”
Heat pump technology is one of the biggest innovations in residential heating and cooling. The systems have so many advantages over traditional equipment, including increased efficiency, improved indoor air quality, quiet operation, and easier “ductless” installation. No wonder 4 million heat pumps were installed last year. York, an industry leader for more than a century, adds versatility to the category with its YH2F line of 1- and 2-stage heat pumps, which can replace the home’s entire heating and cooling system, or be paired with an existing gas furnace for a dual-fuel comfort system.
LAB RESULTS: York is a longtime holder of the Good Housekeeping Seal, so our engineers have done extensive reviews of its equipment, including the YH2F heat pumps. Durable design and construction promise reliable performance over the long haul, and the SEER2 (short for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) will deliver significant energy and money savings, especially if you’re replacing decades-old heating and cooling equipment. “Thanks to various sound containment technologies, York’s YH2F heat pumps are also exceptionally quiet,” says GH Test Engineer Alec Scherma.
Heating and cooling accounts for roughly half of the average American home’s total energy cost. In homes with forced-air systems, much of those energy dollars are wasted by sending hot or cold air to rooms that don’t need it. Flair Smart Vent helps solve the problem by allowing you to design individually controlled heating and cooling systems for each room. The vents can also be paired with occupancy sensors so that a room is only heated or cooled if someone is in there.
LAB RESULTS: Our engineers evaluated Flair in our Labs, pairing the smart vent with a compatible smart thermostat. Setup was easy and intuitive, and the companion Flair app made the system simple to program. The wide range of available sizes, from 4×10 inches to 12 x12 inches, should accommodate the existing vent openings in most homes, allowing for an easy retrofit. While we weren’t able to install the smart vents across an actual home and record energy savings, we reviewed several independent studies that showed how occupancy-based room-level zoning of centralized HVAC systems, like Flair, can lower energy costs by as much as 30%.
Our home experts are so excited about heat pump technology that they handed out a second award in the category, to Trane for its innovative XV20i Variable Speed Heat Pump with Trane Link. The genius of the system is its variable speed compressor, which adjusts based on outside temperatures and other ambient factors. That makes for quiet operation and exceptional energy efficiency (its 20.5 SEER2 rating is up there with the best). Then there’s the Trane Link, an app-based technology that lets you control and monitor the system remotely. You can also give technicians access so that they can perform remote diagnostics, saving time on repairs and catching small glitches before they turn into expensive repairs.
LAB RESULTS: GH Chief Technologist & Executive Technical Director Rachel Rothman was up for a new unit for her home’s forced-air heating and cooling system, so she went with the Trane heat pump. The professional retrofit was seamless, and she noticed an immediate decrease in energy costs, as well as quieter operation, even with the central air running at full-tilt. “Remote control through the Trane home app is a nice convenience,” she adds, “for example enabling us to get the home at the optimal temperature before returning from a weekend away.”
The many benefits of heat pump technology, starting with top-level efficiency, can be applied to your water heater too. Given that water heating accounts for nearly 20% of the average U.S. home’s energy use, the savings can add up quickly. A.O. Smith Signature 900 Series, available in 50-gallon, 66-gallon, and 80-gallon models, boasts industry-leading efficiency ratings, as well as integrated leak detection, so you’ll receive an alert on your phone if the heater springs a leak.
LAB RESULTS: A thorough review of the specs and technical data by our engineers confirms that this is one of the most efficient water heaters on the market; its Uniform Energy Factor (UEF) of 4.02 is plenty good enough for Energy Star certification. “Its 45 dBa sound rating also makes it one of the quietest water heaters we’ve reviewed,” says Scherma. “That’s important if the unit will be installed near a living space.” Besides adding convenience and peace of mind, the unit’s Wi-Fi connectivity lets you implement “time of use” scheduling to prioritize heating when utility rates are most affordable.
If you live in a four-season climate, you could probably benefit from a portable AC during the summer months and a space heater come winter. The EcoFlow Wave 2 is an ingenious device that combines cooling and heating capabilities in a single machine. It also adds in a battery pack that can be charged at an AC outlet, DC car charger, or solar panel, so it can deliver up to eight hours of off-the-grid comfort, say on a camping trip or during a power outage.
LAB RESULTS: Our engineers were impressed by the innovative mechanics of the two-in-one unit, though they noted that its 5,100 BTU cooling capacity is on the lower end of the spectrum for portable ACs; the output translates into a relatively small 107-square-foot cooling area. GH Commerce Editor Jacqueline Saguin tested the multitasker in cooling mode in her Brooklyn, NY, home. Setup was straightforward, the controls were intuitive, and “right after installation, it immediately went to work quickly and effectively cooling down my space,” she says. One other caveat: The dual-hose design (one for intake, one for exhaust) took up extra space in her small studio apartment.
Home Improvement & Outdoor Director
Having written thousands of product reviews and how-to articles on all aspects of home ownership, from routine maintenance to major renovations, Dan (he/him) brings more than 20 years of industry experience to his role as the director of the Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute. A one-time roofer and a serial remodeler, Dan can often be found keeping house at his restored Brooklyn brownstone, where he lives with his wife and kids.