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Smart Houses no Longer a Fantasy

  • Posted: 03.22.2019
image of a smart cord
Photo: Safe Electricity

A 1999 movie, Smart House—which featured a fully-automated dream home run by a computer named Pat—seemed futuristic and farfetched. Fast forward to today, and we are aided by voice-assisted devices we can talk to and ask to control anything from the television to lights to our mood (okay, it can’t literally change our mood but we could ask our devices to tell jokes or play upbeat music).

Today’s Smart Houses
Using smart home devices doesn’t mean that homes will have a higher IQ, but it does mean they could have a leaner energy budget. “Smart homes” are houses that have interconnected devices and home appliances that perform certain actions or functions. Many of the devices are designed to save money, time and energy.

Here are some smart home devices—in no particular order—that may or may not be interconnected and that may save you energy and money.

  • Energy monitoring devices, which give real-time feedback on energy consumption and track energy stats (kind of like a Fitbit for your home); these typically cost between $200 and $300 but can make a real difference in your energy bills if you make adjustments based on feedback.
  • The SmartThings Hub; think of it as the brains of your smart home. With it (and compatible items), you can open your garage door, turn on music or start the coffee maker. When you leave home, it can lock the doors, turn off the lights, adjust your smart thermostat and activate a security camera.
  • A smart lighting outdoor module, such as GE Z-Wave, which works with Alexa. This allows you to control all your outdoor lighting and appliances, including seasonal and landscape lighting. Schedule or turn outdoor lights on or off from anywhere.
  • Smart bulbs, which are internet-capable LED bulbs allow lighting to be controlled remotely. Many of them can even change color; some can play music, and specialty smart bulbs may help you sleep better by emitting colors designed to help regulate natural melatonin production or provide soothing light that doesn’t disrupt circadian rhythm.
  • Smart sprinkler systems that water your garden only when plants need it. They take local weather forecasts into account and will delay watering if rain is headed your way.
  • Water leak detectors and shut-off systems (some are SmartThings compatible but can be operated independently). The simplest versions sit on the floor and alert you when they get wet. More elaborate versions continually monitor the flow of your water system, informing you if water pressure changes and allowing you to shut off the water supply if a leak is detected.

Ala carte options
If you don’t have a smart home command center (or SmartThings hub), consider these ala carte options that can operate on their own:

  • A smart thermostat — they learn your habits to keep your home comfortable and then do so in the most efficient way possible.
  • A moderately-priced smart plug (around $40; Belkin is one company that makes them) that turns your electronics on or off from anywhere using your phone or tablet.
  • Smart garage door openers—prevent thieves (and hot or cold air) from coming in your home if you forget to close your garage door. You can check it and close it from your smartphone with the companion app.
  • Wireless light switch and dimmers with remote control and scheduling. Some offer smart-home integration options so that you can hook them up to Alexa, Google Assistant, Nest and so on.
  • Motion sensors that shut off lights when there’s inactivity in a room.
  • A smart power strip that monitors and turns off power to plugged-in items when not in use.

Smart appliances and devices save money because in many cases they allow you to use less energy. They’re also convenient, fun to use and can give you peace of mind. In short, they may be worth it in the long run, but only if the initial outlay fits your budget.

Source: Safe Electricity