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Start 2021 by Making Your Home Smarter!

The freeze is here and you're cocooning. We've got a few tips on making your home more comfortable and convenient. Time to install the gadgetry you acquired over the holidays!

One way to build out a smart home is to buy components with sensors, smart plugs, bulbs, security cameras, speakers, and connect them all to a hub that helps them communicate with each other and with you, via your smartphone. It can involve spending a lot of money and investing a good chunk of your time if you aren't tech savvy. However, if your wants and needs are simpler, just a few relatively inexpensive products will deliver most of the conveniences a high-end smart home can deliver, on a much more modest budget.


When you (or your friendly neighborhood contractor 😜) make sure those smart home products are compatible with each other, you’ll have built a solid foundation you can expand over time. The key is knowing which smart home products don’t depend on a smart home hub to operate. While hubs offer advantages like having a single user interface to control everything - they’re not always essential. However, when upgrading a home one thing you must have, is a wireless router that can reach all corners of your home. Below you'll find the most common types of items our clients are asking to be installed and a few of our favs.

 

Smart Smoke, Carbon Monoxide and Radon Detectors


Conventional smoke, carbon monoxide and radon detectors are inherently "dumb". Their alarms might be loud, but if no one’s around to hear them - what good do they accomplish? A smart smoke detector will sound a local alarm, too, but will send an alert to your smartphone and to anyone else you want to notify when danger is detected (or that you should order-in because hubby just burned your beautifully planned dinner).


Some smart alarms like the Nest Protect can be programmed to incorporate emergency lights to help find your way out of a smoke-filled home. Others, like the First Alert Onelink include features like an integrated smart speaker. If money is an issue there are less expensive alternatives like Roost's smart battery that can make your existing smoke detector more intelligent.


Radon kills over 3000 Canadians each year, and is the second leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers - and it does without a doubt exist in your home. To find out whether your home has high enough radon levels to put your family at risk you could install a smart radon monitor from Airthings. We do recommend using only approved devices installed by nationally certified professionals (like us!). This monitor tracks levels in real-time over longer periods with more accuracy than traditional methods and can provide 4 day, 1 week, 1 month or 1 year at-a-glance graphs through an app on your smart phone. No analytical tests needed from a laboratory!


If you're thinking about adding smart alarms or have more questions about radon, don't hesitate to reach out for some advice.

 

Home Security Cameras


Homeowners and renters in small towns, cities, and especially those in rural areas find smart security devices to be a highly valuable add-on to their smart home systems. They enable you to keep a watchful eye on your home whether you are running errands, if your kids may be home alone, or while you are working away.


Indoor models can help you monitor your children and pets, while outdoor models can catch porch prowlers in the act! The popular Ring doorbell provides 24/7 video surveillance and motion detection of your front porch to prevent break-ins, watch for package deliveries, and allows you to even communicate with friends and family if they stop by while you’re away.

Whenever the doorbell is rung or motion is detected, the connected device will alert your smart home system app no matter where you are. These doorbells are installed just like any ordinary doorbell and can be switched out with your existing doorbell in minutes.


For increased security, you might also consider adding compatible indoor or outdoor cameras. The heralded Blink cameras provides motion detection and live-streaming in addition to voice control with your connected devices. If you do choose to install any video security system, be sure to choose a device with good quality sound and video capability. Some of these systems may be installed for free from your local internet or home security provider, but also come with monthly fees and tiered rates depending on the level of security and smart features you want.

 

Smart Thermostats


Few smart home devices can match a smart thermostat's ability to deliver both comfort and cost/energy savings.

Smart thermostats like the ones offered by Nest or Ecobee give you the opportunity to not only control your heating and cooling - but to do so remotely. They keep an account of several different factors, such as when you leave and come home from work, what areas of the house you spend your time in, and what temperature you like to keep the house depending on the time of day. Not only can you switch your furnace or AC on before heading home from work, you can now also program it to turn on and off based on your schedule, the current weather, and even when a certain number of people are in your home.

In addition to allowing for high levels of customization, smart thermostats also provide key details into your energy usage patterns, revealing just how much energy it takes to keep your home cozy in the winter and cool in the summer. Some of these devices even compare your AC and heater use to the average household for your neighborhood with helpful updates that show how much more energy you’re saving (or spending) and a gentle reminder to try to conserve energy.

The best part is that you don’t have to program an exhaustive, custom schedule to get the energy-saving benefits of a smart thermostat! Since many of these Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats learn your habits and preferences over time, you can just let your new thermostat develop a schedule for you over the course of a couple of weeks, and if it’s too cold or hot, open the app, and tweak the settings to your comfortable levels to help it learn.

 

Smart Receptacles, Lighting, and Switches


If you’re just getting started with smart home technology, or looking for easy add-ons to further improve your smart life, smart receptacles (plugs), lighting and switches are definitely some of the simplest and most impactful choices.


Receptacles (Plugs)


Smart plugs make it possible to use your smart home system or hub device to turn not so smart devices on and off and automate them according to your schedule. Check out the Amazon Smart Plug or the Eco4life store for indoor electronics and the iHome ISP100 receptacle for outdoor electronics like Christmas lights and patio entertainment.


Simply insert the smart plug into your electrical outlet and plug in any lamp, fan, TV, stereo, exercise equipment, or other electronic you’d like to control and connect the device through Bluetooth, or an application that works with your hub or smart home system.


Lighting


For most people interested in living in a smart home, lighting is the entry point. Many smart lighting systems work perfectly well without a central hub and are still capable of interacting with other smart home elements.


Bulbs from most manufacturers communicate over Wi-Fi, while some others, like the newest Hue bulbs from Phillips, communicate via the Bluetooth radio in your smartphone giving you the ability to program lighting schemes based on your lifestyle. Feel like programming lights to work with your stereo for a midnight showing of Jaws? Maybe you work out of town? Smart lighting allows you to illuminate critical areas where security may be a concern to augment your outdoor camera installation.

Switches


Maybe you'd like to make your lights smart using switches instead of bulbs? Having smart lights at home is one of those little luxuries that makes life a little easier. Making them smart allows automations like turning on the porch light at sunset, or dimming the bathroom lights at bedtime automatically.


You could make your lights smart is by replacing the bulbs individually, using a system like IKEA Tradfri lights, and while smart bulbs are a simple way to get started, they can be cost prohibitive in larger rooms, and difficult to manage with traditional switches connected to multiple bulbs, and you have to leave the wall switches on.


Some homes may have a large living rooms filled with 16 'CFL' style downlights, which could cost hundreds of dollars to replace, but there's an alternative: replacing the "dumb" switches with smart ones. Doing this allows the user control of multiple lights at the same time, and significantly lowers the price of a smart home transformation.


You could start by adding cost effective reliable choices like the Caseta line of products from Lutron. For homes with or without a neutral wire, Caseta is a fantastic smart switch upgrade. Not only does it only take a short amount of time to install, they're cost effective for a switch and wireless remote, which can also be used in a multi-pole setup, but does require a hub to operate. Its compatible with all the things you'd hope: Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and a variety of other manufacturers.

If you're looking for something a little more fancy, Brilliant could be the "ultimate" smart switch. Not only does it replace your existing switches and allow direct control, it works with other smart gadgets allowing you to control them from a single device that doesn't have to be your phone. It's incredibly well designed and allows both automation of any smart gadgets you already have, as well as the devices directly wired to it. That means it integrates with your smart home system so you don't need added smart speakers if you want voice control.

With Brilliant systems, you could automate the porch lights so that they turn on at the beginning of the night, and off once you're all in bed. It's also one of the few switches that integrates directly with the druel-worthy Sonos audio systems that allow direct control of each speaker, and showing the currently playing track when you're not using it. The company has even included an 'ambient' mode that can show a slideshow of your favorite photos, along with the time and what music is playing. Brilliant is definitely not for the frugal, and their switches do require a neutral wire to function and multi-pole setups making it less available to older home owners.

 

These are some common examples how the modern technology helps people enjoy new trends while living more comfortably and conveniently in their home. If you have any questions on how to implement smart technology into your home or business, leave a comment, book a consultation on Facebook, or send an email to grainandcurrent@gmail.com for a response. Thanks again!


Our Family. Serving Yours.

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