June 5, 2017
Smart Homes by Phil O’Brien
I love tech gadgets. The latest, the greatest, and the more unproven, the better. I also love home renovation and building. When you put that all together, you get a person that buys A LOT of new stuff that may or may not work and may ultimately cause me more headaches with fewer results. This being the exact opposite of what I am trying to achieve with home automation. I do this all in pursuit of the perfect smart home.
But before I jump into this topic, let me first explain the “why” behind I enjoy looking into ways to make my home work with me AND for me, in the simplest way possible. We live day to day life mostly in the realm of muscle memory and habitual behaviors. Most of our brain functions on autopilot allowing us to focus on more important tasks. If you don’t believe me, try taking a different and unfamiliar route to work in the morning. You will find all your side thoughts, day planning during the drive, or even the music you are listening to fades into the background. Or, you are just unable to concentrate. Why? It’s because you are out of your routine and element, and all that brain power is now being redirected to get your butt to work. It’s an inefficient way to live and that’s why as humans, we gravitate to routines. Simply put, the less we have to focus on the little stuff the more energy and time we have to enjoy the bigger picture. Get your house thinking for its self, and you thinking for you.
Now, on to my first topic: two clear and simple ways to get the most out of home automation that is straightforward and cheap (kind of). e.g. If you are starting from scratch, this is where to begin.
1) Home utilities: Buy a smart thermostat. This purchase is the first thing you will want to do. It will not only save you money on your utility bill; my average monthly bill went from $147 to $118 within a few months of owning my first Nest thermostat. It will also make sure your home is comfortable without you running to the thermostat to dial it in day to day. New smart thermostats not only learn your daily habits on preferred temps in the house, but they also can interact with local weather forecasts, be remotely accessed, and determine when you are getting home with tracking your smartphone.
Sidebar: If you are at all worried about big brother and being “on the grid,” then this is not for you. Your house tracks you and your phone through either GPS, wifi, and geofencing, this is how this stuff works plain and simple. If this gives you visions of Skynet and Maximum Overdrive, I would recommend you slowly put your flip phone on the ground and walk away. You will have several options to choose from like Nest, Ecobee, and Honeywell all ranging from $199.00 to $300.00. Now, if you are integrating these into a larger smart house design, each has their strengths and weaknesses to take into consideration. Between monthly cost savings and possible energy provider rebates, they will pay for themselves in no time. Plus, the added benefit of letting the house take care of you and itself, no extra brain power needed.
2) Security: Buy a smart lock. I hate keys, period. You have to keep track of them and haul them around with you. And I don’t know about you, but my skinny jeans just don’t have the room for these boat anchors! Sure, you can link them up on the heavy duty carabiner retractable keychain and carry them around on the ol’ belt loop. But there is only so much cool factor to go around, and I do not want to use it all up on one accessory. The solution, smart lock. I have Schlage Sence. It offers a broad flexibility from direct input passwords all the way to Bluetooth wireless capabilities that will unlock when you are in a certain range. All with the tried and true keyed backup, which would be a great fail safe if I carried a key. Nevertheless, in one year of owning this lock, I have not had one malfunction. This is not your only option. I have also used a Kevo, a great Bluetooth option but still, requires you to have a smartphone or a key fob with you. That kind of defeated the purpose of not carrying extra things around with me. There are also additional options from Kwikset, Schlage, and a company called August. Remember, it has to be a lock first with the convenience features second. All the convenience in the world is not worth anything if you cannot get into your home — or everyone else can — because of cheap parts and systems. The prices will range from $120 to $300+. You get what you pay for and this what keeps your house secure.
If you are spending extra money, security is never a waste.