How Smart is your Home?

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Smart Home Technology

Smart Homes are all the rage these days, and a trend I’ve dived into myself.

There are no bounds to their usefulness and the cool factor lingers for a long time. Below are some of my favourite smart systems you can easily install yourself and get working to make your life a little more easy and comfortable right away.

1. Nest Thermostat – One of the original smart systems, and something you’ll see often these days (see featured pictured). The Nest system controls the heat in your home via an app and the actual device, allowing you to change it while you’re not at home and monitor your energy usage. The coolest part about the system is that it learns your schedule, so after a few weeks of tinkering with the heat levels, it becomes “smart” enough to ensure your home is always warm without being on any longer than necessary.

This thermostat works with just about any home, though you’ll want to research it’s compatibility for older wiring. You’ll need one Nest for each existing thermostat in your home (so those with electric baseboard heating in each room will need many) but if you have hot water heating you’ll likely only need one device. It’s an easy install, and something you can take with you when you move, assuming you kept your old thermostat.

Nest also offers security cameras and CO Monitors.

2. WiFi Lights and Switches – WiFi enables lighting was something I was really excited to get after seeing it in a clients home earlier this year. It makes lighting your home so easy and quick (one touch!) which is great for these dreary winter months or when you’re facing North. There are three ways you can go about WiFi lights, and a lot of it depends on the existing lighting set up in your home.

A. WiFi Bulbs – I have WiFi bulbs and I love them. I put them on a schedule to turn on and off at a certain time each day, and to also turn on when I get home if they were previously off (so when I walk in the door my home is bright and welcoming). I can control the brightness and the warmth level, and colour if you get particular bulbs. These are great if you have a lot of plug in lamps, or if your ceiling lights can fit a larger bulb (the WiFi functionality means the light bulb isn’t tiny). These won’t work for certain light fixtures, so keep that in mind when you’re considering the system. You can do really fun things like have colluded bulbs flash blue and green if the Canucks score, or turn off your bedroom lights once you’ve tucked yourself into bed. You can buy as many light bulbs as you need, and you can easily take them with you when you move. I use LIFX myself, though Phillips offers a good system as well.

B. WiFi Outlets – Another option for those with more plug in lamps than ceiling lights is WiFi Outlets. This is a product that plugs into your existing outlet, allowing you to plug your lamps into the WiFi enabled socket. This allows you to control the lights from afar, and potentially other items like fans, heaters or electronics. WeMo has one of the best products available.

C. Smart Switches – Smart Switches are generally the most expensive option, and the most confusing install (though still very do-able if you’re technologically inclined or willing to chat with a representative) though they give you the most flexibility since they’ll work with just about any type of lighting, and can be programmed in a variety of different ways. You can buy one switch, or as many switches as you need, you just need a “hub” to control the system (every company has their own hub system). This is the best system to use if you have ceiling light that won’t fit speciality bulbs. Lutron is the best product out there, but there are a few brands to choose from.

3. Smart Alarms – For those looking for extra security, smart alarms are a fun option to be able to monitor what’s happening at home through your phone. Every system is different with regards to what they offer and whether or not it needs to be monitored, so review your options. I have the ISmartAlarm which offers window and door alarms, and a camera. The system doesn’t need to be professionally monitored though I’ll get notifications if something seems amiss.

4. Home Assistants – Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Apple HomePod.. all of these systems are personal assistants to help you connect to other smart home systems and to give you useful information when needed using voice control. You can have both hands busy cooking a meal, and still ask the system how cups is equivalent to a litre when you’re reading the recipe, or you can be lying in bed and ask what the weather is like, or you can have a certain playlist start when you ask. These systems can seem over the top, but you’ll be surprised at how much you use them once you get going!

There are so many other great systems to use, and they really do make life fun and interesting thanks to the never ending possibilities!