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How Smart Is Your Home?

By Judi Jacobs December 22, 2021 Lifestyle

A smartphone can be one of the most valuable tools for homeowners. Many household devices can be accessed through apps to help keep your home safe and running efficiently. Creating a “smart home” may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be.

Pick just one or two items to see if it’s something you like and use. Then, it’s easy to add more once you get the hang of things.

Security

Keeping you and your home secure is the most significant benefit that has come out of smart home technology. Most security systems and cameras are now app-based, which means you can monitor your home at any time from anywhere in the world.

You don’t need to invest in a full-blown alarm system if you don’t want to. Instead, you can purchase cost-efficient outdoor or indoor cameras that can be easily installed by you or a handyman. Once set in place, you have a view of the front or back of your home.

Or another efficient option is to use a doorbell camera, such as Ring. Being able to see who is at your door and talk to them even if you aren’t home gives freedom plus security.

Lighting automation like Lutron or Philips Hues, combined with Alexa or Google Home, makes it easy to turn lights on and off or set up a schedule. Using a randomized program to turn lights on and off when you aren’t home adds another security level while traveling.

For example, I use outdoor plugs for lights strung up on an outdoor balcony. I’ve set a schedule for those lights to turn on at sunset and off at 10:30 p.m. They can be turned on at any time using the app that goes with the outlets.

Garage door automation allows you to easily open, close, or check the status of your garage door, alert you when there’s activity, and grant access to guests. No more getting out of bed to double (or triple-check) if the garage is closed.

Smart locks allow you to control and monitor who comes into your house if you are not there. For example, suppose you must allow entry to a plumber, repair person, or someone to attend to an animal during the day. A smart lock takes the stress out of you “needing” to be physically present to let them in. In addition, unique codes can be created and deactivated when no longer needed.

Convenience

The convenience of being able to alarm the house, turn lights on in the middle of the night, or control the sprinklers during a storm is what has really turned me into a smart-home person. We started with lights and outlets. Our son then installed a Nest thermometer for us.

If you have elderly or disabled family members, I highly suggest you consider at least buying a smart plug for a light. A digital assistant like Alexa or Google Home is an excellent way to control this technology because once you download the app and setup the device it can be run using the voice assistant. Teaching someone how to talk to Alexa is more manageable than teaching how to use an app on a smartphone.

We were traveling in Europe once when a neighbor texted me to ask if we were evacuating due to a nearby fire. It was 2:00 a.m. at home, and our then 24-year-old was home watching the dogs. But, of course, he wouldn’t answer his phone because he was sound asleep. So, I used the “drop-in” feature on our Alexa devices to awaken him and alert him to safely evacuate.

Efficiency

In addition to safety, some products help you be more efficient.

If you have a yard, sprinkler automation using a brand that has an app helps reduce water usage and control timing as the weather changes throughout the year. Controlling the timing of lights also helps lower your bills.

Smart thermostats can be controlled on the wall or by using an app. These devices can automatically sense the temperature and adjust to set up an eco-friendly schedule. In addition, they can detect when no one is in the house and adjust the temperature upon your return. Many models can also be voice-controlled via Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant.

Don’t let your technology-phobic family members rule the roost. Many smart home devices allow for manual controls as well as app-based access. This permits those who can’t or won’t use the app to switch on or off as they desire. For those wanting to use all the features, you can add them to the family or group, give various levels of privileges, or allow complete feature control.

Do you have any smart home devices? Which ones have made the most significant impact on your household? Are you considering adding smart home technology to your home? Why or why not?

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The Author

Judi Jacobs is a lawyer-turned-tech nerd and the founder of The Tech Wizard. As a tech coach and consultant, Judi works with adults 50+ and small businesses to help make technology more user-friendly through small group classes and one-on-one training. Learn more at TheTechWizard.com.

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