The High-Tech Bathroom Makeover

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Your bathroom should be a place where you can relax and refresh, but that can be almost impossible when you’re surrounded by aging fixtures and tired plumbing. If your bathroom feels more like a room you’d like to escape than a sanctuary, you’re not alone. Consumer Reports says that only kitchens rank higher than bathrooms on the average American homeowner’s makeover wish list.

Those who undertake a bathroom makeover may be surprised to find that a high-tech transformation is under way when it comes to bathroom products, especially toilets, showers and bathtubs.

When you think about smart devices, your bathroom probably doesn’t come to mind, but with today’s newest bathroom technology, you can enjoy a digital spa experience in your own home.

According to a study conducted by interior design website Houzz, one-third of toilet upgrades in 2017 included high-tech features. There are toilets that can clean and deodorize themselves, protect themselves from overflowing or flush themselves when you walk away. Bidet functions, long popular in Europe, were provided in 8 percent of new toilets in the U.S. in 2017. Other popular features include a lid that opens automatically, heated seating and built-in lighting.

Kohler’s Numi multifunctional toilet created a buzz at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show with its Alexa connectivity that lets you raise the seat, operate the bidet or play some mood music from your playlist using the toilet’s built-in speakers. Ambient lighting in eight colors further enhances your experience. Numi also features a heated seat as well as a foot warmer. You can control it all with a touch-screen-equipped remote control. These digital features don’t come cheap, with the Numi listed at $7,500.

Houzz reports that one in eight new showers boasted high-tech elements in 2017. Mood lighting and built-in sound are two of the most popular features in modern showers, followed by digital controls that let you set water temperature, adjust lighting, preset your shower time and track your water usage. Showerheads that include LED lights and speakers are also trending. Eleven percent of new bathtubs also had some of these high-tech features.

Chromatherapy, the use of colored LED lights to create a specific mood, is available in many showers, tubs and saunas. It can be especially soothing when combined with hydrotherapy jets. The Valencia Steam Shower Bathtub is an example of a luxury bath and shower combo with high-tech features. The tempered glass shower enclosure includes whirlpool massage jets, aromatherapy, a foot massage, steam sauna and a rainfall ceiling shower. A built-in MP3 player and LCD television provide entertainment while a hands-free phone helps you stay in touch. All features are controlled by an LCD display. The Valencia Steam Shower retails for $7,995.

Even if you don’t install a Valencia shower, there are other new options for placing a television in the bathroom, including Ocea Smart Touch Bathroom TV, designed to be mounted over a bathtub or inside a shower and controlled with a waterproof touch screen. You’ll also find water-resistant LED sets that are built into bathroom mirrors. Speaking of bathroom mirrors, they’ve received a digital makeover via smart technology that accepts voice commands to adjust the mirror’s lights. The glass in your bathroom windows, partitions and shower enclosures can also get a smart makeover with high-tech privacy glass; it transitions between opaque and clear at the flick of a switch thanks to electro-chromatic technology that responds to voltage changes.

Your bathroom sink can also have a tech makeover with Delta’s touch technology faucets, which can be turned on by a touch anywhere on the faucet handle or spout or by placing your hands near the faucet. The faucet is activated when its capacitance field is broken, rather than depending on a traditional infrared sensor, which frequently seems to fail. You can still use the faucet handle manually, but it’s nice to have a hands-free option. Delta also makes soap dispensers with the same touch technology. You may have seen these in public restrooms; now the technology improves your home.

Of all these innovations, many tech experts believe that the introduction of voice recognition will have the biggest impact. An example is Kohler Konnect, from the company best known for faucets. This voice-activated system connects to several of the brand’s toilets, bathtubs, showers, faucets and mirrors and allows you to control a variety of actions with voice commands, from warming the toilet seat to adjusting the lights over the mirror. With the Konnect mobile app, you can set and save preferences for several different users.

Before too long, asking Alexa to draw your bath while you finish cleaning up the kitchen or having your Echo remind you to take your pills could seem like the most routine thing in the world. ■

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