In so many sci-fi, futuristic movies, the main character – let’s call her Jane — gets home from work, walks in the door, says “I’m home!” and the house responds. Lights come up, the thermostat adjusts, and a disembodied voice says, “Welcome home, Jane. The garage door is closed. The security system is now on. The eggs in the refrigerator have expired. And per your request, the latest episode of “Scandal” has been recorded.”
Very soon, that scenario won’t seem so far-fetched. Smart Home technologies are rolling out right and left, all of them ready to customize your home environment to your exact specifications. Collectively, these systems are known as the “Internet of Things” and will someday have your electronics speaking to, adjusting, and overriding each other, all in the interest of keeping you and your family safe, comfortable, and energy efficient.
Google: Nest, Brillo and Weave
Nest (later acquired by Google) jumped into the SmartHome arena in 2011 with the Nest Learning Thermostat, a device that “learns” what temperature you like at different times of the day. The third generation Nest LearningThermostat is out now, and it’s learned to do a lot more. The larger, sleeker display lights up when you walk in the room, telling you temperature and time in big, easy-to-read numbers. If you break your routine – leave early or work late – the thermostat can adjust. The Nest app even gives you a daily “Energy History” on your smartphone about how much power you’re using, and suggests tips on how to use less. You can get the new third generation model for no cost when you sign up for the Comfort & Control plan from Direct Energy. That’s $249 you’ll save, and likely much more on your future energy costs.
A great part of jumping into the thoughtful home with Nest is you don’t need to buy a separate hub. You can start with one Nest product you probably needed to buy anyways- whether it is a thermostat, smoke and carbon monoxide detector, or camera, and simply add additional works with Nest products based on your personal need. These could be smart light bulbs, locks and switches, or even washers, dryers and water heaters. If the products you purchase work with Nest, after you connect them together once they will learn from each other, and give you useful information on your home energy usage.
Two products that work with Nest are Philips hue light bulbs, and Whirlpool. When you are away from home, you can set your lights to turn on and off as if you were home. Another way the Philips hue light bulbs work with Nest is to flash red if your Nest Protect senses smoke or carbon monoxide- a great way to tell if something is wrong if you are listening to loud music, or are hard of hearing. With Whirlpool, if you’re signed up for Rush Hour Rewards with a participating energy provider, Nest can let Whirlpool know when an energy rush hour is about to happen, and your washer or dryer will delay the start of the cycle until the rush hour is over. You can see how many of the most popular home brands work with Nest at nest.com/works-with-nest.
If you have an Apple-centric life, with iPads, iPhones, and a good relationship with Siri, then the Apple HomeKit could be the choice for you. Once installed and linked to all your devices, HomeKit gives you wireless and electronic control of your homelife — lights, appliances, and the HVAC.
Two devices that currently link to the HomeKit are the EcoBee Thermostat and GE’s Align LED lightbulbs. Engineered to work with the body’s natural circadian rhythms, the Align AM bulb mimics daylight, thus suppressing the production of melatonin, the “sleepy” hormone. Conversely, the PM bulb gives off an amber light, like candlelight, that doesn’t disrupt your natural sleep cycle.
If you’re not ready to turn your home over to the robots just yet, you can start with something simpler, like WallyHome. For $299, this system could save you up to $2,500 – the average cost to repair water damage. WallyHome turns your electrical wiring into a water antenna of sorts. Just place one of the Wally wireless sensors next to any potential trouble spots – water heater, washer hookups – and WallyHome will alert you when it detects a problem. WallyHome also works with Nest.