Smart homes are easier to build than ever. While they are still not a necessity, they are useful for tackling annoying problems in your home.
The house no longer screams
Smart homes don’t always work well in family situations. Automation is especially difficult in families with families, and integrating music can lead to account issues. But one area where Smarthomes shines is communication. If you’ve ever asked a child to tell a family they’re having lunch and all they did was yell «dinner» as loud as they could, you’ll appreciate the Amazon Echo and Google Home intercom features.
Intercoms tend to be annoying and difficult to install at home, require wiring and sometimes make holes in the wall. But with Echo or Home in different rooms, you can use Echo’s Announce feature or Google Home Broadcast.
The Echo Announcement feature allows you to send one-way messages to all the other echoes in your home (assuming they’re on the same Amazon account), but people can’t reply to the announcement. The broadcast feature in Google Home is two-way; people can reply and you will hear it on the home device you are broadcasting from.
Alexa has a built-in feature that allows two-way conversations, but only works between two Echo devices.
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Never leave the lights on again
This happens often enough to be really annoying. You are returning home from work and one or more lights are on. Or you walk around the house and see that the children everywhere turned on the light and never turned it off.
If you are not using automation, you should be . If your lights turn off every day after you leave for work, you won’t have to worry about leaving them on by accident. You can also tie your lights to your socket to turn them off when you’re away from home, which can help when people turn on their lights and forget to turn them off. Motion sensors can also help with this problem.
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Always know that the garage door is closed
Perhaps worse than leaving the lights on is leaving the garage door open. This leaves your garage, and possibly the rest of your home, vulnerable to bad actors.
If you have a smart garage system like MyQ, you can be notified when your garage door is open and control it remotely. Never again will you have to drive home with a premonition that you might have left your garage door open.
You can even automatically close your garage door at the end of the day, just in case you forget when you get home. Many homeowners leave and arrive through the garage, making this entry point more open than the front door.
Be the first to know when there’s a leak
Water leaks are easy to miss and cause damage quickly, especially when they occur in a hard-to-reach spot in your home, or worse, when you’re not around.
The Water Leak Sensor is arguably the most overlooked SmartHome sensor you can install. If you have a place in your home that is prone to leaks (a basement that is flooding, an appliance that is leaking, anywhere you have a water heater), you should definitely use a water leak detector. Knowing early on is the key to stopping the tragedy before the water does massive damage to your home. Without this early warning, you could lose floors, walls, and other materials to mold, dirt, and damage.
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Never lose your remote again
Somehow the TV remote has a way of getting lost deep in the folds of the sofa. Or wander into another room entirely. And after you’ve landed a good movie marathon, you really don’t want to come back to find it. With a little smart home magic, you get by without a remote – at least in a pinch.
You can control the Fire Tv cube with Alexa, which reduces the need for voice.
Roku devices used to require a third-party app to work with Google Home, but have recently introduced native integration. It’s not perfect yet. You can control your Roku, and some channel integration is starting to happen, but you can’t control most Roku apps — like Netflix — with your voice.
The more powerful route is to install the Harmony Hub and voice assistant.
Also, don’t forget to check if your device has a smartphone or tablet app that works as a remote control. Most do. You might not want to use it all the time — pressing the actual buttons on the remote is more satisfying — but it’s pretty handy in a pinch.
Keep your thermostat where you want it
It never fails. You arrive home to find the house roasted. When you ask Gramma why the heat is set so high, she doesn’t even notice. That’s when your six-year-old confesses that he tried to prank Gramma while she was babysitting and turned the heat up to 90. (This incredibly specific scenario may or may not be a real life example; I’m not admitting anything.)
Even when the kids aren’t playing pranks, the people who live in the house who don’t pay the bills don’t always understand how much it costs to heat and cool the house to the extra few degrees they want.
Enter a smart thermostat that lets you set schedules (and can even figure out your heating preferences and apply them automatically). It’s a great way to keep your home warm or cool the way you want it, and even check everything from a distance.
With the Nest thermostat, you can even go further by setting a pin code to lock the controls. If you’re feeling generous, you can set a minimum and maximum temperature that people can set before the pin is needed. Your wallet will thank you.
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Reduce Energy Vampires
Many electrical devices continue to consume a small amount of power even when they are turned off. Modern consoles like Xbox One and PlayStation 4 won’t turn off at all! They go into hibernation mode similar to laptops so they can download and install updates in the background. While this is handy if you use your consoles frequently, it does require power. Throw in your TV, stereo, and other devices in the room and it will suddenly result in a lot of power consumption (relatively speaking) when nothing is being directly used by you.
Sometimes it makes sense to leave these devices to do their thing. For example, if you turn off the power of the TV completely when you are not using it, you will not be able to turn it on using the remote control. For other devices, this is not so important.
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One option is to plug the devices into a regular power strip and plug it into a smart jack. When you’re at work and no one is watching TV or playing games, you can turn off the smart plug (or even schedule it to turn off automatically) to keep all of those devices from getting power. When you get home (or scheduled), turn on the plug. There are even smart power strips with multiple outlets that act as independent smart plugs.
You can even set a timer to turn these devices off at night, which gives you the benefit of turning off energy vampires but puts you to sleep when you kill nighttime gaming sessions.
Make things harder for porch thieves
Unfortunately, porch theft is on the rise. The more Amazon and other companies sell and deliver to your home, the more tempting it becomes to walk up, grab a bag, and run. But a video doorbell can help.
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Both Amazon and Google offer great video intercom options. One of the main differences is whether you can support a wired doorbell or not (if you can’t, you need to go the Amazon way). But video doorbells are key to stopping entryway thieves.
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There are two reasons for this. First, you can get notified when someone walks to the door. You don’t have to wait for them to press the doorbell. And many doorbells have speakers so you can talk to the person on the porch (whether you’re at home or not). Even if they start picking up the package, you can tell them that you can see what they are doing and let them know that you are planning to call the police.
The second reason is that thieves are becoming more and more aware that video doorbells are a thing. No, having a video doorbell will not stop all porch thieves, but it may convince some to choose a different home for the purpose. And videos of thieves who spotted the video doorbell and changed their minds all over the place,
As an alternative to video doorbells, you can use a security camera. But they come with their own problems.
Easily reset your router when you need to
Routers are strange devices. They act, slow down, or simply stop working for no apparent reason. You can spend a lot of time troubleshooting your router. But you should probably just reboot your device. This, surprisingly to this day, remains the right solution, which is likely to solve the problem.
Knowing this, you can go the super geek route to automatically reboot your router, but it’s much easier to just automate this with a smart jack. When using this method, the smart plug not only allows you to plan your power cycle, but also initiate the process from your phone so you don’t have to get up from the couch when it happens.
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However, one important thing should be noted. This can be helpful when your network is buggy, but probably useless when your network is down at all. After all, you will need a Wi-Fi signal to activate this smart plug.
Stop handing out house keys
You started with two keys. Then you made a third. And now it’s gone because you lent it to someone and never saw it again.
You can’t revoke physical keys, but with a smart lock, you can create codes to share with friends or family. You can then manage these codes, monitor their usage, and revoke them when people no longer need access to your home. In a pinch, you can even remotely unlock the door for a visitor, someone who came to work at your home, or just a spouse who forgot the code. Just keep in mind that each additional code is another vulnerable point, so you want to cull unused codes from time to time.
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Installing a smart lock isn’t much more difficult than installing a standard door lock, so it’s well suited for do-it-yourself work. And you may find that once you move into a smart lock, you no longer feel the need to carry your house key. It is a great blessing not to dig in your pockets for a key while there are plenty of products in your hands. You can even control some locks with your voice assistant.
Smart homes can solve many annoying problems, from small to big ones. The most important thing is to determine what problems you are facing, as no two houses are the same. Once you’ve made this list, perhaps start with the easiest or least expensive options to get your feet wet.