Turn Your Home Into a Smart Home – This Weekend!
Nothing is hotter in the world of home improvements than smart home technology – sales for these products are up 50% year over year and we don’t anticipate that steady growth to slow anytime soon. What were once “cool to have” items in your home are quickly becoming “must-haves.” Most people would love to live in a “smart home,” but few know how easy it is to make a few quick changes that will turn your home into a smart home overnight!
In preparation of our baby Brooks’ birth last spring, we decided to make some upgrades to make our lives safer – and easier! Below are a few of the products we recently installed in our home – and some we considered but wouldn’t work in our historic 1820’s house. We’re now wondering how we lived without them…
MAKE YOUR APPS TALK TO EACH OTHER!
Before I go too far into some of the amazing products that can simplify your life, I highly recommend making your apps talk to each other – and talking to your apps! Consider using Google Home and Amazon Echo/Alexa to control your devices with your voice. If you go this route, you can also consider plug-ins for your non-smart TV’s like Chromecast (Google) or Alexa Firestick (Amazon) to make your TV smart too. We use the Alexa Firestick all of the time and also use it to order items from Amazon with our voices – a must with a new baby.
You can also utilize apps like WinkHub that allow you to link all of your devices to one app where you can control everything. Another option is to automate platforms using an “If This Than That (IFTTT)” protocol, which enables you to set conditions for certain things to happen. If those triggers occur, then it will set up the next task. For example, if your alarm goes off, it triggers your coffee maker to turn on if you have your alarm clock and coffee maker linked. Even better news? IFTTT is free. Pretty cool!
What’s not to love about the Nest line of products? Simple, easy to install and use, relatively inexpensive products — all of which provide peace of mind.
This was the first thing we installed. The Nest’s thermostat adjusts itself when you’re away, helping you save on your home’s energy costs. With the app, you can change your home’s temperature from your phone, laptop, or smartwatch. It also learns your behaviors and adjusts the temperature based on those cues. For example, if we go out of town, it notices and adjusts the settings to save money and energy. On our way back into town, we just adjust the temp on our phone. We’re definitely seeing some savings! The basic model sells for $169, plus it’s so easy to do. It took less than 30 minutes!
Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Next up, smoke detectors! This was a big priority to me as a neighboring home caught fire only a few months before my baby was born, so this kept me up at night. The Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide sensor is very high quality and is reported to last up to ten years. You can turn off the alarms from your phone without any additional hardware, so when I cook, I no longer have to wave a towel and open the windows… clearly, I am not a great cook!
Even better in my eyes is the Nest’s Nightly Promise. This device emits a warm green glow every night, indicating that all of your Nest Protects products have tested themselves, the batteries are good, (in other words, no annoying middle of the night chirping due to low batteries) and everything is in order. You can buy a single Nest Protect alarm for $199 or in packages of three ($329) or six ($614). We installed one in every bedroom, at the top of the stairs and on each level of the home per the current code. Again, it took less than 30 minutes. Be sure to check if you are buying the hardwired or battery version.
Not only do Nest cameras allow you to keep an eye on your house with 24/7 live streaming, but you can watch your pup (or in our case baby) all day too. The system sends helpful notifications to your phone if activity is detected in a room where a camera is installed. You can also watch the footage back. This is easy to use, but since it uses Wifi, it can be a little spotty. We only have one camera but it also was a breeze to set up.The basic model costs $199, while the more deluxe models are $300-$350.
Gone are the days of rushing home to turn off a security system or wondering if you turned the lights off! You can arm and disarm your Nest Secure home alarm from anywhere with the Nest app. You can also choose the length of time you have to leave the house (no more rushing out the door to beat the system!). Do you have a dog walker or housekeeper regularly coming to your home? You can give them a Nest Tag for easy access. The Nest Secure starter set is priced at about $500.
Smart doorbells allow you to see who is at your door and even re-watch footage later. If you aren’t home, with many systems you can even speak to the person at the door through your speaker system on the doorbell. Have a package delivery? Let them know to leave it around back even if you are at work! There are a lot of options out there – and NEST is coming out with a version in 2018. Until then, one we like is the SkyBell HD.
No more leaving a key under the mat or copying multiple keys! This is a system we wanted to install, but unfortunately our older door and door jam in our 1820’s Old Town home made it problematic. However, if we move, this will be among the first things we do.
We like the August smart lock because it is not a big bulky system you install on the front of the door. Instead, it is a sleek system you place over your existing deadbolt on the inside of your home. It provides secure, keyless entry to your home so you can control and monitor your door from anywhere. It allows you to give your family, friends and contractors access to your home with a specific code that you can turn on and off from your phone and operates on Siri voice commands or with Google Home. The lock operates with Bluetooth, so you do need to be within range (around 40 feet) to unlock the door with your phone, but you can provide codes to others to unlock it when you are away from the house. The most popular August system sells for $199.
SMART LIGHTS, SWITCHES & PLUGS
Forget about smart light bulbs, go right for the smart light switch! Check out The TP-Link Smart Switch and the accompanying Kasa App. With it, you can control virtually any feature, such as your lights or ceiling fan, remotely. It also pairs with Amazon Echo and Google Home, allowing you to use voice control to manage it. We use a smart switch to turn our front porch light on and off at set times so it’s always on when we get home from work, but never on for too long overnight. This product is easy to install and use. Priced at about $40, it’s a relatively small investment toward making your home “smart.”
Not into the switch? Smart bulbs are cool too. TP-Link and Phillips Hue are the main smart bulb companies; we use these in many of our lamps at home as well. You can also use a smart plug to plug in regular devices like a fan, night light or kitchen appliance for the same effect.
Wally sensors detect water leaks, fluctuations in temperature and humidity in your home. It also monitors for mold growth at your property. Just place the sensor in problem areas and Wally sends alerts to your phone or email if there’s an issue. Priced at about $35, a Wally sensor is a smart investment if your home is prone to water issues like many Alexandria homes.
The Bottom Line
It doesn’t take a lot of time to turn your home into a smart home. This weekend, go to the hardware store – or order from Amazon – to get some of these products and give it a try. Start small if you like and build from there. I promise, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner!
If you have any questions about the above suggestions on how to turn your home into a smart home or if you need recommendations for other ways of adding value to your home, please contact us. We are always happy to help when it comes to any home improvement plans. Our mission is to help you love where you live – and we take it seriously!
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