I don’t know about you, but I was instantly captured by the way that Tony Stark was able to effortlessly control all of the technology around him, including much of his home simply by talking to it! Of course, we aren’t all genius, billionaires with enormous villas built on cliffs overlooking the ocean, but we can experience of the home automation control we observe in these fan favorite flicks. And, there are some practical benefits that go beyond the fun of controlling your home with a few simple words. Here are a couple tips I’ve learned along the way.
Tip #1: Start with the practical
The ability to control elements of your home-lights, appliances, outlets, switches, vacuum cleaners, etc. can be a whole lot of fun, but I found it best to gain entry into this space by targeting the more practical devices first. For me, this meant a new smart thermostat for my home.
Smart thermostats have all kinds of benefits, including convenience, control, and energy savings. Because smart thermostats are connected to the WiFi you have the convenience to control these devices from anywhere at any time. When I travel out of town I can set the device to maintain a minimum home temperature so that the system doesn’t run while I’m away. Sure, this can be done on any old thermostat. The benefit of a smart thermostat is the ability to access its controls from the airport and turn up the temperature in the home so that it will be back to comfortable level by the time I walk through the door.
In addition, you can create a schedule for what temperature you want your home at what times of the day. Many of these devices even have the ability to learn your particular heating and cooling system so that over time it knows how long it will take for your home to reach the desired temperature. This, along with other learning features of the device, provide real energy savings in your home over time, enough to earn the ENERY STAR certification. All of this can be controlled right from your smartphone or smart speaker.
Tip #2: Look for the deals
Smart home devices can cost a pretty penny if you don’t take advantage of the special offers. Smart utility devices such as outlets, switches, and bulbs can cost anywhere from $15-$40 a piece! More expensive smart home devices, like smart speakers, doorbell cameras, or appliances can cost hundreds. However, there are many easy ways to save huge costs by taking advantage of bundle offers during big sale days like Amazon’s Prime Day, Black Friday, or Cyber Monday. Often times retailers will bundle smart speakers with smart light bulbs, or sell packages of smart outlets and switches, at a fraction of the typical retail costs. Over the past 5 years I have purchased 4 smart speakers, 9 smart bulbs, 2 smart outlets, a smart vacuum cleaner, a smart thermostat, a smart window A/C unit, and a smart garage door opener. Each purchase was done through special offer on one of the previously mentioned sale days and has saved me over 50% of the cost of purchasing the devices individually.
Another way to save on bigger ticket items is to look for rebates on devices that will save on energy costs. Efficiency Vermont often offers significant rebates on specific energy rated devices, such as hot water heaters, A/C units, and thermostats. You can find a list of qualifying products on their website: https://www.efficiencyvermont.com/rebates. I was able to save hundreds by purchasing qualified smart window A/C units and thermostats for my home!
Tip #3: Take advantage of home automation apps
One of the best benefits of having smart devices in the home is the ability to automate their activities. This can be done through scheduling activities or creating routines. One of the best apps that I have found to do this is called IFTTT (If This Then That). The app is available for both Apple devices and Android devices.
This app employs the concept of the Internet of Things, wherein these smart devices have the ability to communicate (over the web) with one another and perform actions depending on each other’s behaviors. For example, in my home I have a routine set up so that when my Roomba (smart vacuum cleaner) begins the task of vacuuming the house by living room and dining room lights turn on. When the Roomba completes its task the living room and dining room lights turn off. And this all happens at 9AM every day. This sort of home automation allows devices to perform tasks efficiently, without any monitoring from you. It can also save on energy usage by making sure lights are turned off every night by a certain time, or home heat is turned on only when I’m home.
You can find one of my how-to tutorials on setting up routines (also called Applets) using the IFTTT application called IFTTT: A Step by Step Guide to Home Automation.
Tip#4: Take your time
Nobody said you have to buy everything at once! As I mentioned before, all of the smart home devices that I have acquired has been done over the course of 5 years (so far). Many of the best deals only happen on holidays or special annual shopping days. I also found it useful to only purchase devices when I needed them. For example, I didn’t just go out and purchase a smart A/C unit for my window until the old one died. And I only purchased my smart light bulbs when I replaced old, dead bulbs or light fixtures. Spreading the costs out over time and taking advantage of discounts and bundles really helps the wallet.
Smart home technology (or smart technology in general) is not everyone’s cup of tea, fair enough. But I find that there are many benefits to be found in integrating such devices in the home:
- Anywhere, anytime control
- Automated tasks
- Energy cost savings
The only real downside, in my experience, is the up-front cost of such devices. However, if purchased strategically and over a period of time (as laid out in this post) I think the costs are well worth the many benefits, especially when investing in the most practical devices first. Additionally, the cost for such devices continues to fall as demand grows and the technology and manufacturing continues to improve. And sometimes it just feels really good to be able to occasionally relate to a superhero!
Devices I Own
- Nest Learning Thermostat, 3rd Generation
- iRobot Roomba 690
- LG WiFi A/C window unit (LW1517IVSM)
- Philips Hue A19 dimmable smart bulbs
- Teckin WiFi Outlets
- Amazon Echo Plus and Echo dots
- MyQ Smart Garage Door Opener
Let me know what your tips and tricks are to purchase and outfit your home with smart technology. Also, leave a comment on what your favorite devices are and where to find the best deals!