The Making of a Smart Home

Warning: this is a geeky post. No secret I am a tech and gadget enthusiast. In recent years, a new category of tech has been emerging, dubbed the “internet of things”. Think smart devices in the home that can keep you connected.

Started out, these things were pretty few and far between, and what was there could not talk to each other in order to make a truly compatible “smart home”. Apple has taken some steps to integrate various devices in their HomeKit. Imagine just being able to tell your iPhone or Apple Watch something like “Hey Siri, goodnight” which results in your doors locking, garage door closing, lights turning off, and air turning down.IMG_0218

I have a few examples in my home. My first device was a Nest thermostat. It boats abilities such as sensing when you are away and home, which you can set different air temps for, but also making an automatic schedule based on your activity. And of course, you can control it from anywhere. Using Nest has greatly increased my energy efficiency. I used levelized billing and found a $10 decrease in the months after installing. That’s pretty significant.

IMG_0216My next purchase was a video doorbell called Ring. It’s wired in just like a regular doorbell. But now I can see and hear activity outside the front of my house. It will activate on motion based on zones I set up, and also I can answer the door from anywhere with video and audio. So I can see when my frequent Amazon packages are delivered and ward off those pesky solicitors. I even answered the door while I was in California last fall!


Now I’ve connected up some smart light bulbs called Hue lights. They are led bulbs, lightstrips, and lamps all connected by a hub on your wifi network. Using an app on your phone, you can set all sorts of colorful scenes. I got a starter kit and one light strip just for fun. Installed the bulbs in my living room ceiling fan and the lightstrip behind my TV. IMG_0161Then one more bulb for my bedroom lamp. The goal was to be able to turn lights on if I wouldn’t be home until after dark. But beyond that, I’ve made some pretty fun scenes like sunrise and sunset for a gentle way to start and end the day, superhero for when I’m watching one of my favorite comic book shows, and Dallas Stars victory green for when I’m watching the game. I even have the lights blink when we score a goal! (Albeit it didn’t turn out near as fun because there is a good 3-4 minute delay.)

IMG_0209With the Hue lights, I can speak to my watch or phone and say “Living Room On” or “Set Sunset” and bam. Or “Set goodnight” to turn off the living room and turn on my lamp. Completely unnecessary but definitely fun. (One morning I tried to use the app to turn on my bedroom, before realizing only the lamp was a Hue bulb. So I had to get out of bed to turn on the lights with the wall switch like an animal.)

There’s an app called IFTTT–which stands for If This Then That–that tries to integrate these products that can’t, for now, talk to each other themselves. So for instance, I can make a recipe that says “If the Dallas Stars score a goal [monitored by my ESPN account], then blink my Hue lights”.  Or “If motion is detected on my Ring Doorbell, then turn my light blue.” Or even “If there is a tornado warning, flash my lights red (Star Trek style)”.

Many other things exist, like smart outlets that can be turned on and off remotely. WeMo is the most popular and reputable brand in that category. There’s smart door locks that can detect when you are nearby and unlock, but I’m not quite there yet on trusting something like that. Maybe a couple more generations. I’d really like a smart garage door opener that can detect when I’m close and open, then automatically check that it’s closed at a certain time. But I’m waiting for Apple HomeKit compatibility; there’s none yet.

All that to say, ever the climb when one’s hobby is tech, I’m looking to make a couple upgrades. I’d like to change to a different company for my thermostat. Not because there is anything wrong with Nest, but in order to integrate more tightly through Apple’s ecosystem. Nests are $250 new. I’ll part with mine for $125. Yes I’m now hocking my wares on my blog. I can help you install. And I promise it will end up paying for itself. Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with my unit.

Likewise, I know a lot of people are interested in my video doorbell. Sound like something you’d like to try out? Well, I’ve been in contact with the company and am going to be helping them test in-development units, so I now have mine to sell. They are $200 new; I’ll sell mine for $100. And again, help you install. (The recording subscription is $30/year.) Can’t tell you the peace of mind this adds to my home’s security.

What a revolutionary time to live! It’s the early days for this to be sure, and many products aren’t without their early adoption risks. But that’s part of the fun to me, really! Helping to mature products like Nest and Ring. If you’d be interested in adding the Nest and/or Ring to your home, hit me up with any questions.

The Making of a Smart Home