Smart houses might sound like science fiction, but smart-home technology is advancing further and further every year. You can do everything from control your thermostat to turn on your light and even open your garage door. One smart home user even programmed his home to respond to the songs from Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time—played on a real ocarina.
With all these advances in smart home technology to choose from, which ones are worth investing in, and which ones are just whimsical toys?
1. Smart Thermostats
Our HVAC systems are among the biggest energy wasters in our homes, especially if we forget to turn off the A/C or heat when we’re at work or away from home for extended periods of time. Smart thermostats can be one of the best tools for saving energy on your home’s heating and cooling costs.
These thermostats are compatible with a variety of HVAC systems and can tie into your home’s wifi. From there, you can use your computer or smartphone to keep track of your home’s temperature, change the thermostat settings, and even track your home’s energy usage.
If you need to upgrade your thermostat, consider investing in a smart thermostat. Not only does it make it easier to keep track of your home’s temperature, but you can also save anywhere from 10 to 23 percent on your annual energy costs.
2. Medical Alert Systems
Medical alert systems aren’t necessary for everyone, but for those who need them, they can be literal lifesavers. Smart medical alert systems are designed to sync with your home’s smart systems to provide real-time monitoring and location alerts that notify first responders in an emergency.
These devices also put you in direct contact with the monitoring service that can handle a variety of situations, even if the situation doesn’t necessitate calling emergency services. These devices become necessary as the elderly population continues to grow. One in every four adults falls every year, and the risk increases with each subsequent fall. Getting help within an hour of their fall, though, improves their chances of being able to return home after their recovery.
3. Automatic Door Locks
There’s nothing worse than getting to work and realizing you forgot to lock your door—or walking up to your front door, your arms loaded down with groceries, only to realize your keys are still in your pocket or purse. Smart locks can help make your life a little bit easier—and a lot more secure—with nothing more than a smartphone and a wifi connection.
Smart door locks work in several ways. You can program them to lock or unlock with your cell phone, even over distances. You can also have them unlock and even open your door for you when you get within a certain proximity—again, using your cell phone.
Some locks are designed to fit over existing hardware, while others necessitate replacing the entire deadbolt and/or handle assembly. You can still use a key in your smart lock, which is necessary if the power goes out or you lose internet connectivity, but with the convenience a smart lock provides, you may never want to use your key again.
4. Smart Power
How much power do you use in your home daily, weekly, or monthly? It can be hard to tell. Sure, you can peek at your power bill to see how many kilowatt hours you’re paying for, but that doesn’t really tell you which appliances are costing you the most money.
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Smart power strips can help you keep track of which appliances are using the most power, both during use and during their sleep cycles. This does require purchasing some additional hardware—specifically, smart power strips you can connect to your wifi—but it can enable you to keep track of your energy expenditures in your home or business.
Many models even let you shut off specific appliances remotely. Now, if you’re going to be away from home and forgot to turn the coffeepot off, you can cut off power to the appliance with a tap of an app, instead of worrying about whether that forgotten pot of coffee is going to burn your house down.
While you may never want to control your home with a musical instrument like the guy we mentioned in the beginning of this piece, having a smart home is a great way to improve things like energy usage, while providing a bit of extra convenience and security.
Anything you’d add to this list? Which, if any, of these technologies do you use?