Smarthomes are easier to put together than ever. While they’re still not a necessity, what they are useful for is solving annoying problems around your home.
No More House Shouting
Smarthomes don’t always work well in family situations. Automation is particularly hard in homes with families and music integration can lead to account issues. But one area where Smarthomes shine is communication. If you’ve ever asked a child to tell the family there’s dinner, and all they did was yell “dinner” as loud as they can, you’ll appreciate both the Amazon Echo and Google Home’s intercom features.
Intercoms are normally annoying and difficult to install in a home, require wiring and sometimes making holes in the wall. But with an Echo or Home in different rooms, you can use either the Echo’s Announce or Google Home’s Broadcast feature.
The Echo’s announce feature lets you broadcast a one-way message to all the other Echos in your home (assuming they’re on the same Amazon account), but people can’t reply to the announcement. Google Home’s Broadcast feature is two-way, though; people can reply, and you’ll hear it on the Home device from which you broadcast.
Alexa’s does have a drop-in feature that lets you get a two-way conversation going, but it only works between two Echo devices.
Never Leave the Lights on Again
It happens often enough to be truly annoying. You get home from work, and one or more lights are on. Or you walk around your home and see that the children have turned lights on everywhere and never turned them off.
If you aren’t using automation, you should be. If your lights turn themselves off every day after you leave for work, you won’t have to worry about leaving them on by accident. You can also tie your lights into your Nest to turn off when you’re away, which can help when people turn the lights on and forget to turn them back off. Motion sensors can help with this problem as well.
Always Know that the Garage Door Is Closed
Perhaps worse than leaving the lights on is leaving the garage door open. That leaves your garage, and perhaps the rest of your home, vulnerable to bad actors.
If you have a smart garage system, such as MyQ, you can receive alerts when the garage door is opened and remotely control it. Never again will you have to drive all the way back home on the hunch that you might have left the garage door open.
You can even have the garage door automatically close at the end of the day, just in case you forget to when you get home. Many homeowners leave and arrive through the garage, making this point of entry more likely to leave open than a front door.
Be the First to Know When There’s a Leak
Water leaks are easy to miss and quick to cause damage, especially when they happen in an out of the way place in your home or, worse, when you’re away.
A water leak sensor is probably the most overlooked smarthome sensor you can install. If you have a spot in the house that is prone to leaks (a basement that floods, an appliance that leaks, anywhere you have your water heater), you should absolutely be using a water leak sensor. Knowing early is the key to stopping a tragedy in its tracks before the water does massive damage to your home. Without that early warning, you may lose floor, walls, and other materials to mold, grime, and damage.
Never Lose a Remote Again
Somehow the TV remote has a way of getting lost deep in the folds of a couch. Or wandering to another room entirely. And once you’ve settled in for a good movie marathon, you really don’t want to get back up to find it. With a little smarthome magic, you do without your remote—at least in a pinch.
You can control a Fire Tv cube with Alexa, which lessens the need for a voice.
Roku devices used to require a third party app to work with Google Home but recently introduced native integration. It isn’t perfect yet. You can control your Roku, and some integration with channels is starting to happen, but you can’t control most Roku apps—like Netflix, for example—with your voice.
A more powerful route is to set up a Harmony Hub and a voice assistant.
Also be sure to check whether your device has a smartphone or tablet app that operates as a remote control. Most do. You might not want to use it all the time—pressing actual buttons on a remote is more satisfying—but it’s pretty handy in a pinch.
Keep the Thermostat Where You Want It
It never fails. You arrive home to find the house roasting. When you ask Gramma why the heat is set so high, she hasn’t even noticed. That’s when your six-year-old admits he tried to play a prank on Gramma while she was babysitting and turned the heat to 90. (This incredibly specific scenario may or may not be a true life example; I admit nothing.)
Even when children aren’t playing pranks, the people living in the house who aren’t paying the bills don’t always understand what it costs to heat and cool the house those extra few degrees they want.
Enter the smart thermostat, which lets you set schedules (and can even figure out your heating preferences and apply them automatically). They’re a great way to keep your home heated or cooled the way you want it, and even check up on things remotely.
With a Nest thermostat, you can even go a step further by setting a pin code to lock out the controls. If you’re feeling generous, you can set a minimum and maximum temperature that people can set before the pin is required. Your wallet will thank you.
Cut Back on Energy Vampires
Many electrical devices continue to draw small amounts of power even when they’re turned off. Modern consoles, like the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 don’t truly turn off at all! They go into a hibernation mode, similar to laptops, so they can download and install updates in the background. While this is convenient if you use your consoles a lot, it does take power. Add in your TV, your stereo, and other devices in the room and suddenly its a lot of power used (relatively speaking) when nothing is in use directly by you.
Sometimes, it makes sense to leave these devices to do their thing. If you totally cut power to your TV when you’re not using it, for example, you won’t be able to turn it on with the remote. For other devices, it’s not so important.
One option is to plug your devices into their usual power strip and plug that power strip into a smart plug. When you’re at work, and no one is watching TV or playing games, you can turn the smart plug off (or even schedule it to turn off automatically), preventing all these devices from drawing power. When you get home (or on a schedule), turn the plug on. There are even smart power strips with multiple outlets that act like independent smart plugs.
You can even set up a timer to turn these devices off over night, giving you both the benefit of cutting off the energy vampires but forcing you to bed as you kill the late night gaming sessions.
Make Things Harder for Porch Thieves
Unfortunately, porch theft is on the rise. The more Amazon and other companies sell and deliver to your home, the more it becomes tempting to walk up, grab a package, and run. But a Video Doorbell can help.
Both Amazon and Google offer excellent video doorbell options. One of the main differentiators is simply whether or not you can support a wired doorbell (If you can’t, you will need to go the Amazon path). But video doorbells are highlight effective at helping to stop porch thieves.
There are two reasons for this. First, you can get a notification as someone is walking towards the door. You don’t have to wait for them to press the doorbell. And many doorbells feature speakers so you can talk to the person at the porch (whether you’re home or not). Even if they start to pick up the package, you can tell them you can see what they are doing and let them know you are planning to call the police.
The second reason is that thieves are becoming more aware that video doorbells are a thing. No, having a video doorbell won’t stop all porch thieves, but it just might convince some to pick a different home to target. And videos of thieves who have spotted a video doorbell and changed their minds are everywhere,
Alternatively to video doorbells, you could use an security camera. But they come with their own challenges.
Easily Reset Your Router When You Need To
Routers are strange devices. They act up, slow down, or just stop working altogether with no obvious reason. You can spend a lot of time troubleshooting a router. But you probably should just reboot the thing. This is, amazingly to this day, still a valid solution that is most likely going to solve the problem.
Knowing this you could go a super geeky route to automatically reboot the router, but it’s a lot easier to just automate this with a smart plug. With this method, not only will the smart plug let you schedule a power cycle, but you can initiate the process from your phone so you don’t have to get up from the couch when it happens.
There is one important thing to note, though. This can be useful for when your network is glitchy, but probably not useful when your network is down altogether. After all, you’ll need a Wi-Fi signal to trigger that smart plug.
Stop Handing Out Keys to Your Home
You started with two keys. Then, you made a third. And now that one is gone because you lent it to someone and never saw it again.
You can’t revoke physical keys, but with a smart lock, you can create codes to share with friends or family. You can then manage those codes, watch their use, and revoke them when people no longer need access to your home. In a pinch, you can even remotely unlock a door for a visitor, someone who’s come to work on your house, or just a spouse that forgot the code. Just keep in mind that each additional code is another point of vulnerability so you do want to cull unused codes every so often.
RELATED: The Best Smart Locks For Every Need
Installing a smart lock isn’t that much more difficult than installing a standard door lock, so this falls well into DIY territory. And you might find that once you’ve moved to a smart lock, you no longer feel the need to carry a house key. It’s a great boon to not have to dig in your pockets for a key while your hands are full of groceries. You can even control some locks by voice assistant.
Smarthomes can solve many annoying problems, from the small to the great. The biggest thing is determining what problems you are facing, as no two homes are alike. Once you have made that list, perhaps start with the easiest or least expensive options to get your feet wet.