Tech Talk: 4 Smart Home Upgrades You Can Make in a Weekend
Interested in smart home technology, but don’t want to spend a lot of time and energy setting it up? These quick smart home upgrades provide the benefits of a smart home—such as comfort, convenience, and security—without taking up your resources. Here’s a look at four smart home devices you easily can install in one weekend.
1 . Upgrade the Front Door
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Add a smart door lock and a video doorbell, and in less than an hour you can lock and unlock your door from anywhere, and see and talk to anyone who arrives at your home.
From letting in friends or family members when you aren’t home to locking the door from the comfort of your bed, a smart lock is one of those small upgrades that once you’ve experienced, you won’t want to be without.
Most smart locks replace the whole lock, but the August Smart Lock replaces just the deadbolt, taking less than 10 minutes to install. It uses your phone’s Bluetooth to recognize you and unlock when you arrive—plus you can still use your keys (not the case with all smart locks). An option to access it remotely using Wi-Fi allows control from anywhere.
2. Answer the Door From Anywhere
Video doorbells can be either hardwired or battery powered, but hardwiring means no need to recharge. The Ring video doorbell sends an alert to your phone when someone is at the door, letting you see, hear and talk to them or playback missed rings—think of it as visual voicemail for your front door. Beyond convenience, a video doorbell adds security: even if the doorbell isn’t pressed, you’ll receive an alert when there’s motion at your door or in the front yard.
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3. Get Smart About Lighting
Smart lighting provides convenience and security, turns all the lights off with a voice command, remotely illuminate your home using an app, or brighten up the living room when you walk in. Set timers and schedules to simulate occupancy for security, plus get instant, dimmable lighting without installing new switches. One excellent benefit to smart lighting is an ability to fine tune it to enhance and complement your home’s decor.
There are two types of smart lighting: smart bulbs (such as Philips Hue bulbs) and smart light switches (such as Ecobee’s Switch+). You get more control with smart bulbs, as you can operate each independently, and they’re easier to install than switches (just screw in a lightbulb!). They also offer color and hue changing capabilities.
Philips Hue is the original smart light bulb, and is still one of the best. Offering 16 million colors, it allows you to choose "scenes" in the app to energize you, help you read, concentrate, relax, and even wake up "naturally." Or have some fun by syncing the bulbs to music, games, and movies for an immersive experience.
With a smart switch, the existing light switch needs to be replaced, requiring some wiring. The benefit is that you can cover a larger area, connecting all lights on a circuit in one step, and you can still operate them the old-fashioned way (not the case with bulbs). Ecobee’s switch adds Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa, so you can ask it to set timers, play a podcast, or turn the light on. It can only replace lights on a single switch, however, and it doesn’t dim, but it will turn on and off automatically based on presence—helping you save energy.
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4. Tie it All Together With a Smart Speaker
Connecting your home’s lights, locks, and doorbells to the internet offers lots of benefits, but for a really smart home, these devices need to work together.
A smart speaker—such as Amazon’s Alexa/Echo line, Google’s Home speakers and Apple’s HomePod—can help you do this. Use these smart voice assistants to set up routines, so that more than one device responds to your commands. A phrase like "Siri, I’m home" can unlock the front door, turn the lights on, and close your garage door. "Alexa, start my day" can turn on lights, adjust the thermostat, and give you a traffic report. Apple’s HomePod speaker also works as a hub for its HomeKit system, which can run automations without voice command, instead using time of day, when you arrive or leave, or when you use a device as its trigger.
Starting with smart lighting, video doorbells, and connected door locks is an easy way to dip your toe into the home automation revolution and see if it might work for you. If it does, it’s simple to build on your burgeoning smart home with more connected devices that can make your home run more smoothly and be a safer place to live.