To say I'm a fan of smart homes is an understatement. Being a renter I'm limited somewhat as to what I can have in my apartment, but that hasn't stopped me from integrating as many smart devices into my environment as humanly possible.
One thing I've discovered a long the way -- not only have I saved a lot of effort (regular light switches are for plebs, you guys), but I've saved time, money and kilowatts on my energy bill. Here's my top recommendations for doing the same at your place.
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Lighting Is Fun, You Guys
One of the quickest and easiest smart home device you can install to save you time, money and energy is lighting. Having tested a few brands myself, the Philips Hue is by far the simplest and most efficient.
With top-notch app connectivity, you can set timers, dim certain areas of the home, create colour schemes, and use recipes from If This Then That (IFTTT - more on that later) to trigger specific lighting "scenes" at certain times of the day or during certain events -- like at sunset, or when you turn on the TV.
Turning 'Dumb' Devices Smart
The Belkin WeMo Switch can transform any regular dumb appliance into a smart one. It acts as an intermediate between your appliance and the wall socket. It's computerised, Wi-Fi-enabled and has the ability monitor your energy use, allow you to turn the switch on and off remotely, set a timer or use IFTTT for even further customisation.
It can turn off your air-con or heater after a certain amount of time, turn on the sprinklers once water restrictions have ended (or the temperate drops below plant-scorching levels) or turn off an appliance after it's cost you a certain amount per day to run.
Cleaning That Doubles As Security
Robot vacuum cleaners have been around for a while now. But the latest generation have a whole bunch of features that are guaranteed to save you even more time. Here's one I wish I had my hands on -- LG's HOM-BOT Turbo+. It lets you take a photo of your home, and tap the area you want the vacuum to clean remotely, using the power of augmented reality.
But that's not all -- it can also sense movement when you're away from home, sending you photos of what's going on inside. That's right, your robot vacuum is your new security guard. Pretty cool, huh?
Obviously the easiest way to save money is to protect your assets from being taken, right? Smart locks are usually out of the question for renters like myself, but I've stumbled upon the August Smart Lock HomeKit, which fits over your existing deadlock.
Using your phone as a "key" you can not only control who accesses your home, but you'll know who has been in and out with a handy activity log. A good one for problem landlords, too!
Smart Fridges Are Pretty Cool, Excuse The Pun
I'm sure we all collectively groaned at the idea of a smart fridge. But in terms of saving you time, money and energy Samsung's Family Hub refrigerator ticks all the boxes, particularly when it comes to food wastage.
So yes, it's got a Wi-Fi enabled touchscreen but it's actually good -- you can manage your groceries, for example. There are cameras on the inside so you can see what you have from your phone at any time, then you can order what you need via apps straight from the screen. You even get a notification if something you have is about to expire.
Then there's all the organisation tools -- connected calendars, notes, photos -- it's a legit time saver for a busy family.
Avoid Water Wastage Disasters
A burst or leaking pipe can be one of the most expensive things to happen to your home. Wally is a gadget that uses the wiring in your home to create a sensor network, and the ability to alert you (and any other nominated contacts) if there are any water leaks by detecting any unusual moisture levels.
You'll get a detailed alert when there's an issue, describing what it is and where it is located. Since it doesn't use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, the sensors last over 10 years without battery changes.
If This, Then That
Possibly one of the most important elements of your smart home is the way your gadgets can interact with each other and your environment. That's where IFTTT comes in -- it's an automation enthusiast's dream, allowing you to craft "recipes" for almost any scenario you can imagine.
Set up through IFTTT requires you to set up "triggers" for certain gadgets (like the Echo, or your Philips Hue bulbs) to recognise. For a while there I had my lights setup to turn blue when the International Space Station was overhead (turns out, it's a lot). But there are far more practical time, money and energy saving recipes available.
You can automatically have the lights turn off when you leave the house, turn devices off after set periods of time or even brew yourself a cup of coffee while you're still in bed -- eliminating the temptation to spend cash on a takeaway.
One Hub To Rule Them All
Okay, so it's a bit of effort to get it here and set up for local use, but I honestly don't know what I did without my Amazon Echo. Alexa serves as the central hub to my home, connecting all of my smart devices in one friendly, fun and conversational gadget. I honestly thought the novelty would have worn off by now, but the amount of time and effort she saves me is astounding.
I simply chat with her to adjust my lighting, turn on my TV, set a timer for cooking, play a Pandora radio station, start a workout, check the weather or traffic and to check my trivia facts. She works with my Belkin Switch, my Philips Hue Lights and my IFTTT recipes.
What's your favourite smart home gadget? Let us know in the comments below!