Smart homes have been around for 20 years, but recent developments in technology have greatly improved them. Remote devices now control more than lights and thermostats. Now it’s easy to watch and control smart devices on your smartphone or tablet. That means you’re in charge even when you’re away from the house — which comes in handy when you’re on vacation!
In this “smart” age, you can find a dizzying array of devices on the market. Yes, it can be confusing, but it’s well worth the time and effort when you’re leaving your home alone. Here are some essentials to consider to safeguard your home when you’re chillin’ elsewhere.
Lights have come a long way since the day of on-and-off timers to make an intruder think someone’s at home. Many of these work with your smartphone via WiFi or Bluetooth. Some can be operated independently and others need a “hub” for smart devices. To use WiFi, most systems require a hub, which adds expense but can control more devices. An alternative is a “smart plug.” You plug these in between the wall socket and whatever electrical appliance — lamp, iron, coffee pot, whatever — you want to control. Once in place, you can then control them via WiFi through programs such as Amazon’s Alexa. With “dumb” devices, that control is limited to on and off. But knowing you can make sure the coffee pot isn’t cooking all day has value.
Nothing new, but their popularity has taken off recently. A Texas inventor and entrepreneur led the craze with the Ring doorbell cameras, but others have cashed in on the opportunity. A remote-accessible security camera system is a should-havewhen you’re planning to be away. You can buy a simple one-camera setup for $100 or less!
Tip: Full-blown outdoor security camera systems can get expensive, but cheaper indoor cameras (nanny cams) strategically placed at windows can give you peace of mind.
Who hasn’t left home only to worry they left the stove on or a faucet was still running? Smart technology can now put your mind at ease. Manufacturers offer sensors that can detect changes in moisture and temperature. These are also available individually or as a package and some can cost $100 or less. These come in handy if a pipe breaks while you’re away. You can use your remote lock to let the repairman inside. The old security staples — motion detectors — have also gone smart!
The repairman isn’t the only one who may need access to your home. Make sure the lawn is well kept or check the sprinkler system while you’re away so everything looks great when you return home. (An unmowed lawn is a sure sign no one’s home!) A smart lock allows you to either unlock the door remotely or share the code. You can always change the code when the work is complete.
You could just turn the thermostat off while you’re away, but the house would be uncomfortably hot when you get home and take hours to get comfy. And turning the air (or heat) off is unthinkable if you leave pets behind. Yes, some thermostats can be controlled by phone.
If you really want to take smartness to the extreme, you can even operate your robo vacuum cleaner remotely. Talk about the pampered life!
Be aware that some of the smart device and program vendors charge a monthly fee (usually modest) to take advantage of all their features. For a sense of well-being while you’re away, assess your security needs and shop wisely. If you feel a little high-tech impaired, just ask a teenager for help.
Tony Steine is a garden and landscaping writer. Tony prides himself on finding the easiest way to do anything he can, you can bet he’s made his entire garden self-watering. Of course, he isn’t just about convenience, adding a unique design flair to everything he does.