Why Go Automated?
What’s the point of all of this in the first place? Can’t I just pull the string to open my blinds? Use the included remote to power on the AV equipment? And manually flick a light switch or crank my thermostat up or down a few degrees?
Perhaps the biggest misconception about the smart home is that it’s about being “cool,” impressing friends, and keeping up with the Joneses. Whichever path to automation you take, the benefits go far beyond that.
Nest says a programmable thermostat like its Learning Thermostat can actually cut up to 20% off your utility bills each month, both because it can learn your habits and automatically adjust accordingly, and because you can remotely control it.
The same goes for lighting: being able to remotely turn off lights you forgot to power down before leaving for the day or a weekend can mean significant savings.
Remote access & alerts/avoiding damages:
Being able to access devices like your thermostat remotely can be a lifesaver. I had diligently (or so I thought) dropped the thermostat down to 18°C before we left for CES in January – coincidentally right when Toronto went into a deep freeze, hitting temperatures as low as -35°C. With an automated thermostat, which we did not yet have at that time, I could have remotely bumped the temperature up a few degrees. Instead, we arrived home to frozen pipes. Had the pipes burst, it would have cost far more than the $250 price tag of a Nest thermostat to fix.
Gear like security cameras and remote sensors can also help prevent damage, sending alerts for everything from potential water leaks, to intruders, or raccoons devouring your garden. This way, you can take preventative or actionable measures. D-Link Canada, for example, has a Wi-Fi Water Sensor that will alert you via smartphone or tablet and the home app if it detects water. Naturally, you’d place it nearby a source of potential leaks, like by a washing machine, sump pump, or sink.
A security camera can provide peace-of- mind while you’re away. It can also help you keep track of the kids, ensuring they arrive home from school on time, or that pets aren’t sleeping on the furniture or rummaging through the garbage while you’re at work.
As if calling for material for this article, I experienced an unfortunate car break-in that our security system caught on camera. I was able to scan the night’s worth of footage to locate the incident, convert and save the file to a flash drive, and hand it over to the police.
Friends and family marvel at how, with the push of a button, we can fill the kitchen with tunes, or push music out to the back deck. With an automated system, you can easily toggle among sources, whether it’s music from a streaming service like Spotify, an iTunes library stored on a hard drive, or even cable TV if you want to enjoy fun in the sun but still keep track of audio from the big game.
Technology integration can be made to fit in with, and even enhance, a room’s decor. An in-ceiling or rock speaker, for example, means you aren’t using up valuable space – that’s particularly important for smaller homes or condos where square footage is at a minimum.
With a device like the Belkin WeMo Crockpot, you can set food to slow-cook in the morning, then adjust the temperature based on your anticipated dinner time. If my husband was running late, for example, I could turn down the heat to draw cooking out a bit longer.
Let’s face it – we all live busy lives, so any technology that can automate monotonous tasks is appreciated. Instead of having to spend a weekend vacuuming, you can set an automatic cleaner to have the carpeting and floors in pristine condition by the time you get home from work on Friday night, then use your weekend for family and friends activities. Rather than drive back home because you forgot to turn the basement lights off, or can’t remember if you locked the garage door, you can do it remotely. You save not only the time it would take to turn the car around, but also on gas.
When we were away for a weekend, I was able to turn the porch light on each night to make it appear as though someone was there even though the house was empty. Any time I need reassurance that all is good, I just tap into the security cameras to get a clear view of the porch, driveway, backyard, and back door.