To say this year has been challenging is a serious understatement. Thriving in (and after) 2020 is about gaining back some small sense of control over our lives, and that starts at home. A sanitizing vacuum helps kick pathogens out the door, a beast of an air treatment machine works to fix poor indoor air quality, and burly roof shingles ensure you’ll stay dry regardless of how hard the wind blows. No matter where they fit into our homes, the year’s top products help us create a clean, comfortable place to regroup, relax, and recharge.
Grand Award Winner: LayerLock roofing shingle technology by GAF
Extreme weather can lead to hefty repair costs if high winds send too many shingles flying and expose the roof to the elements. Just one loose edge can start the whole thing waving “goodbye,” and after a record number of named storms formed over the Atlantic this year, that risk may be higher than ever. Fortunately, there’s no gust on planet Earth that could blow GAF’s latest generation of industry-leading shingles away.
The key is securing the point where the rows overlap—what contractors call the “common bond.” Instead of relying on only nails and adhesive, the company’s LayerLock technology strengthens the shingles from the get-go. Each one consists of two layers of asphalt, which the company fuses together with a proprietary method during manufacturing, making each piece remarkably resilient to gusts. On top of that, GAF’s DuraGrip sealant melts in the sun between rows of shingles, fusing the asphalt faces together and keeping everything stuck tight. GAF’s Timberline HDZ shingles—the first offering to feature the LayerLock system—held fast even when a research facility blasted them with winds as fast as 153 mph, or the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane.
The perfect water temp every time
Without a thermometer on hand, getting spot-on tap water for your kitchen adventures—110 degrees to bloom yeast, or 65 to water a particularly picky potted herb, for example—is a game of guesswork. Powered by either Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, the U by Moen faucet responds to voice commands to deliver specific quantities and temps of the wet stuff. When you make a request, a turbine in an undersink control box measures out liquid from the water lines, while a device called a thermistor regulates heat. You can also control the faucet from an app, with a motion detector on the front of the spout, or by lifting the handle as you would with any old sink.
The first invisible smart lock
Smart locks have long existed as bulky hunks of metal and plastic that transform the look of your door—and not in a good way. The Level Bolt won’t look noticeably different from a standard deadbolt you’d buy at the hardware store. One trick is how the company handled the crucial wireless antenna: To keep everything out of sight, it had to fit within the motor housing, but, because signals don’t pass through metal well, they linked the antenna to the housing to ensure the system can get commands unimpeded. Once the fixture is in place, the Level app allows the access of any other smart lock: open and close the bolt, share digital keys with friends and family, and get notifications when people arrive.
No more messy soap bottles
For a job that makes things cleaner, washing dishes can be a mess. Soap dribbles down squeeze bottles, and sink-side trays quickly grow funky. By combining a detergent pump with a ventilated sponge holder, OXO presents a tidier way to tidy up. Press your sponge down on the grate-like plastic top, and the dispenser will inject it full of suds. When you’re done, put the scrubber back on the angled lid and any leftover water will run into the catch basin below—never into the soap.
The virus-zapping vacuum
In addition to grabbing dust and dirt off upholstery and carpets like any average muck-sucker, the 3.8-pound, cordless, Omni Air UV+ neutralizes a large number of bacteria and viruses. An ultraviolet light in the head generates a blue glow that kills or inactivates microbes, according to the company’s lab-based studies. Meanwhile, a built-in HEPA filter also captures any allergens. Because it’s so lightweight and has a 45-inch reach, you can easily freshen up car seats or spots under the couch or bed.
Dyson Pure Humidify+Cool Cryptomic by Dyson
An all-in-one air treatment machine
You could easily have three gizmos whirring away to keep the air in your home fresh, clean, and breezy. Dyson’s newest tower fan does it all: purify, humidify, and cool. To inject clean moisture into a dry room, it hits water with disinfecting UV light before evaporating it into droplets too teeny to carry any remaining pathogens. All the while, a turbine pushes a breeze through a vent in the 3-foot-tall device’s ovular head—but not before it passes through a gunk-catching duo of HEPA and charcoal filters. The setup also breaks down the asthma-inducing formaldehyde that seeps out of some building materials and cleaning products.
The fastest wall decor in the west
Feeling a whim to display a decorative plant you got on Etsy, a mirror to take in all your splendor, or a massive portrait of yourself? The CLAW hangers from 3M let you create or revise your decor in seconds. Just mark the spot on your wall and push, and a pair of hardened steel fangs will dig securely into drywall. Differing sizes can hold up to 15, 25, or 45 pounds. If you change your mind (again), just pull the hanger straight out—you shouldn’t have much of a blemish to deal with.
A quick-starting, heat-holding portable cooker
Starting a charcoal grill can be a hassle. If it doesn’t get enough air, the fuel can take forever to get hot—if it ignites at all. Solo Stove’s 22-inch-wide cooker draws air in through a ring of 70 holes around its base, so it travels below smoldering coals, heats up, rises, and circulates to cook your burgers and corn. Some air also moves into the gadget’s hollow walls, eliminating cold spots. The circulation scheme uses only about 60 percent of the charcoal required by similar-sized grills, and it’ll stay around 500 degrees for 45 minutes without any briquettes or vents to fiddle with.