Admittedly, we have purchased several “smart home” products for their novelty and convenience. But, as we continue to travel (sometimes for over two weeks at a time), we have come to appreciate the peace of mind that these devices provide when we are far, far away. Here are the smart home devices we currently have:
Ring Floodlight Camera
Our newest “smart home” purchase! Ring unveiled their newest gadget at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show, and it went on sale shortly thereafter. The Floodlight Camera is essentially the company’s Ring Doorbell Pro camera with two LED floodlights, additional wide-angle motion sensors, and a 110-decibel siren. Like Ring’s other devices, it has motion alerts, two-way talk, HD video recording, and Live View to your mobile device. Since the Floodlight Camera was replacing a pre-existing motion-activated floodlight by our garage, physical installation was a breeze. Setup through the Ring app was also easy. Like the Ring Doorbell (discussed below), it took a few days of trial and error to properly configure the “Motion Zones” and sensitivity to our liking, but now the Floodlight Camera is working perfectly. Just an added piece of mind when we are away from home.
Nest Learning Thermostat
This was the first smart home item we purchased when we bought our house, and it has worked flawlessly for several years (we still have the first generation). When we are out of town, the thermostat is automatically set to “Away,” saving energy and money, and there’s an added peace of mind being able to check the temperature in our house from anywhere in the world. And, if the Nest were ever switched to “Home” while we are away, that would alert us to the possibility that someone was in the house.
These relatively costly, WiFi-enabled bulbs are a recent addition to our home. Rather than being tethered to a “bridge” like the Phillips HUE bulbs, the LIFX bulbs operate independently. Through the app, we schedule these to come on at dusk and remain lit (except for the bedroom) overnight while we are at home. When we are out of town, these bulbs integrate with the Nest app, and when the Nest is set to away, the bulbs will randomly cycle on and off so as to give the appearance that someone is home. For us, it’s nice to know that the house isn’t completely dark when we are gone.
Ring Video Doorbell
Within a week of installing the Ring Video Doorbell, it caught a delivery driver on video doing something bad right in front of our front door. After we contacted the delivery company, we reached a small settlement with them, which more than made up for the cost of the doorbell. It essentially paid for itself within a week. The Ring Video Doorbell will alert you on your phone or watch when it senses motion (you can define the parameters on the app, which takes some trial and error) or when someone actually rings the doorbell. You can then see, hear, and speak to whoever is at your door through the app. If you pay the $30/year fee, Ring will store all videos in the cloud for easy viewing later. When we are out of town, it is invaluable to know when someone is at the door of our vacant house – and to know that we have video evidence if anything happens.
Chamberlain MyQ Garage Door Opener
Instead of buying a whole new garage door opener, Chamberlain offers this add-on to older garage door openers for around $100. Through the corresponding app, you can open and close your garage door – and check whether it is open or closed at any time (and from anywhere). The app will also notify you when the door is opened and, optionally, if the door remains open past a certain number of minutes. For us, this is just another security measure, as we’ll be notified if and when the garage door opens when we are out of town. Also, if we ever needed to let someone into the house who doesn’t already have a key, we could open the garage door for them on the other side of the world.
Nest Protect Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarm
We’ve had several of these glorified smoke alarms for several years. If smoke or carbon monoxide is detected, you’ll get an alert through the app. Being alerted quickly if there is a fire and being able to contact someone (versus relying on your neighbors to notice the smoke) could make a huge difference. Additionally, Nest Protect interacts with LIFX so if a Protect senses smoke, the LIFX bulbs will provide a visual warning by flashing orange or red, depending upon the type of alert. While not the most interesting and interactive smart home device, the Nest Protect gives us another layer of peace of mind while traveling, especially with the addition of the next product.
Rachio WiFi Smart Sprinkler Control
Our final smart home product is the Rachio sprinkler controller. While virtually every sprinkler controller has the ability to schedule watering times, the Rachio has several other intelligent features, and it integrates into other smart home products, including the Nest Protect. If Nest senses a fire in the house, it will tell the Rachio to run all the sprinklers surrounding the house. This might help marginally for putting the fire in our house out, but it should help the fire from spreading to adjacent houses and properties.
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