Guest Post by Alicia Betancourt No one wants to come home from a long vacation to a stolen TV or flooded basement. Let’s face it: you need eyes on your home while you’re away. But if you don’t have family or friends to come by and check up on your house, you’re out of luck — unless you have smart home tech. Smart home tech can do everything from alerting you if someone rings your doorbell to turning on your sprinklers during the day. Here are eight ways you can protect your home from theft, flood, and damage while you’re vacationing away from home: Schedule lights to turn on while you’re away Set up a security system Use a smart doorbell to answer the door Program your smart thermostat Close your drapes and blinds Use smart sensors to watch for flooding Equip your smart home with environmental sensors Unplug everything 1. Schedule lights to turn on while you’re away Keeping the lights on while you’re away from your home may make it appear like you’re still in your routine, but it also eats up your electric bill. Instead of manually changing the settings, you can schedule smart bulbs to turn on and off at scheduled times, such as when you normally come home from work. The best part is, you don’t have to let it interrupt your schedule. By setting your lights up on timers, you don’t have to change the lights mid-ski or swim session. Burglars look for interruptions in regular schedules to know when a home is vacant. By making it appear as though you’re home, would-be thieves may be deterred from breaking and entering. 2. Set up a security system A security system is vital to a smart home; it serves as the central hub from which you can attach motion detectors, sirens, and more. A live feed allows you to check on your home at any hour of the day, meanwhile motion detectors and alarms ward off potential burglars. Plus, if you connect your security system with your smart home, it can turn on lights once motion detectors go off and you can speak through your smart doorbell as you would if you were home. Even the presence alone of an alarm system is said to deter thieves. And if the alarm system goes off when you’re away from home, police can be notified to come over to secure your home for you. 3. Use a smart doorbell to answer the door Having a smart doorbell helps you see who’s going in and out of your house. If you’re out of town and someone knocks on the door, you can still answer. Answering the door through your smart doorbell will make it appear as if you’re home — and it’ll help you know why someone is on your doorstep in the first place. 4. Program your smart thermostat Many people lower their thermostats when they go out of town to save on their electric bill. If you’re not home, why turn the heat on, right? Wrong! Certain items in your home can get damaged if they get too cold. Also, you eat up a lot of energy in cranking your power from its normal setting to a drastically lower setting. A smart thermostat can help you save money and reduce power thanks to a little something we call eco mode. Eco mode uses weather maps from the internet to inform itself on the ideal temperature. Using smart tech isn’t just about keeping your stuff safe from thieves — it’s about keeping your stuff safe from the elements too. Protect the inside of your home just as much as you’d reinforce the exterior. 5. Close your drapes and blinds As a general rule of thumb you should close your blinds and drapes before you leave to go out of town. The same way you would take precautions to lock all the doors and windows, you should stow away important or pricey items and keep them out of sight. Plus, when criminals are able to see into your home, they’ll become more familiarized with it which increases the chance that they’ll break in. 6. Use smart sensors to watch for flooding Don’t ruin two weeks of relaxing on the beach by coming home to a flood in your basement. Put up floor sensors on walls or floors that are prone to flooding (like your basement). If it detects water, it’ll ping your phone and alert you of a leak. Plus, if you have a smart door lock, you can let neighbors or friends in without needing to hand out a copy of your key. Or, if someone can’t come over to let a maintenance worker in your pad, you can use your smart door to grant them access into your home and your security system to keep an eye on them while they’re working in your home. 7. Equip your smart home with environmental sensors Just as flood sensors help you detect an excess of water, environmental sensors can detect carbon monoxide and smoke. Traditional smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors alert you of a fire or gas leak while you’re in the home, but smart smoke detectors and smart carbon monoxide detectors alert you even when you’re away. If you receive an alert while you’re kicking back on vacation, you can alert local authorities to go inspect the scene before you arrive home. Or if there’s a fire, you’ll know what’s going on, and you can alert the fire department before a fire ravages your home. 8. Unplug everything Protect your home from electrical surges and fires (and your wallet from sky-high electric bills) by unplugging electronics before you go out of town. Anything non-essential such as a toaster or coffeemaker can be turned off. Make sure to turn extension cords and multi-power sockets off too. Of course, if you have smart lights, be sure to keep the bulbs in and the lamp plugged too. That way, you’ll dupe burglars and make them think you’re home by scheduling your lights to turn on at times you’d normally be home. Above all, play it safe As a general rule of thumb, don’t leave personal belongings in plain sight. The same way you wouldn’t leave your laptop in the driver's seat of your car overnight, don’t leave your blinds open for people to see your TV, artwork, or other valuables. Before you jet off, save your local police department's ten-digit phone number in your phone. That way, if you’re strapped for time and need to call emergency services, you can do it instantly. Also, be wary of what you post online while you’re travelling. If your social media settings are set to public, wait until after you’re back from your trip to update your feed. Sharing vacation photos and other information while you’re away from home can tip strangers off and increase your chance of burglary. Depending on how close you are to your neighbors (and how neighborly they are), ask them to pull your trash to the curb each week and grab your mail for you every day. Piles of newspapers are a telltale sign someone went out of town, and if a criminal is really casing your house, they’ll notice if your trash isn’t on the curb come pickup day. If you’re gone for more than two weeks, sign up online to have USPS hold your mail for free for up to 30 days. Don’t let potential dangers like theft, fire, or property damage distract you from enjoying your travels. Smart tech gear can give you peace of mind knowing what’s going on inside and outside of your humble abode. Alicia Betancourt is a tech lifestyle writer specializing in smart home tech and security. Lucky enough to live in this modern era, she’s continually fascinated with how smart tech can make our ordinary life a bit more extraordinary.
One of the first devices to jump into the smart home generation is the natural evolution of some of the first technology ever used in the home. The light bulb has been an essential part of so many people's homes for the last century and even longer in some places, but thanks to companies like Philips, there are light bulbs fit for this century, and a few years hence. The smart light bulb is not a new thing by any means, but they are worth talking about again when someone does something really inspiring and genius with them. In the case of CNET's smart home--a property specifically designed to test out smart home technology in a real-life situation--a the lighting system was designed to help children during the night who need to see their way to the bathroom without a parent's help. A parent's concerns often revolve around sleep, getting little and timing everything around when their children sleep and nap. Having a lighting system that helps children find their own way to the bathroom without needing help from a parent is one way to help those parents get more of the sleep they need to be effective parents and workers after that wake up alarm inevitably goes off the next morning. By combining door sensors, dim, colored lighting, the CNET model smart home was able to simulate a situation where a child opening their door after bedtime meant the home would light their way without disturbing anyone else. There are sensors in the door to the bathroom as well to complete the ensemble and simplify the process. Such automation is what smart homes were designed to help with.
One of the most common and necessary bits of technology in a home, smart or otherwise, is the old smoke detector. To protect families and property in the case of fire, smoke detectors are some of the first pioneers of smart home technology. Many have begun to replace their smoke detectors with newer, smarter versions, but that isn't the only option anymore. Roost has found a way to turn older smoke detectors into smarter ones without replacing them. Most smoke detectors run on batteries, usually nine volts, so they can really deliver the full extent of that shill, piercing beep you hopefully only hear during tests and not from shower steam or an overzealous toaster. For those smoke detectors that do use a 9-volt battery, the Roost solution is available. For around fifteen dollars, you can pick up a smart battery. The new Roost battery upgrades the smoke detector into a modern smart device. The Roost Retrofit 9-volt is designed to keep track of the draw on the battery's power reserves to know when something important is going on. When properly synced, the battery will tell your phone, tablet, or however it is connected, that the detector is sensing smoke. You can even link the battery to Philips Hue LED lightbulbs, so they will flash red when there is an emergency. As a matter of self-upkeep, the battery will also let you know when it needs to be replaced. Using the new interface, you can turn the detector off from a distance in the case of a false alarm. If your detector is over-sensitive, then this feature would make the bigger-investment battery more worth your while.