Come holiday time, my wife Margaret and I have always engaged in a practice I suspect many homeowners share: in addition to buying gifts for each other, we also buy gifts “for the home.” Over the course of our marriage, these have ranged from practical choices, such as new appliances, to objet d’art found during our frequent visits to antique stores and auctions. A gift I was considering for this holiday was an antique decorative screen that would have been perfect for covering a central air control panel in our dining room, but Margaret is now more fond of modern décor so I agreed to let it go.
After so many years of gifting our home, we’re hard pressed to think of anything more for it, but thinking back, if I had it do over again, I would have invested more in purchasing gifts that would be not only modern, but technologically advanced enough to turn our abode into a “smart home.” I checked around for what I might recommend to others to accomplish this goal.
First I considered temperature control. Of the many options available, the Nest Learning Thermostat has won over many users by putting its sleek digital appearance in service toward ease of use, even for only moderately wired individuals like myself. After a short time tracking the temperature adjustments you make to the Nest, the device will learn your patterns and begin to anticipate them. What’s more, if it doesn’t sense your presence via a motion detector for several hours, it will assume you are not home and will adjust the climate accordingly to save energy.
All well and fine, although I hope that binge-watching Breaking Bad for an afternoon won’t inadvertently cut the heat off.
Lighting was next on my list of exploration, and the choices grew more complicated. Should the bulbs themselves be smart, linked in small groups via a hub or your wireless device? They are the easiest to install, but I will have to overcome decades of habit and remember to not turn off the switches when I leave the room, which will render the smartest bulb inoperable. Smart switches require more expert installation, but allow for more variety of bulbs and fixtures. No matter which system you choose, there is still a learning period where, as one reporter from Forbes recently discovered, the system may decide to turn on all your lights in the wee hours of the morning.
In the area of security, the August Smart Lock seems promising, allowing you to open and close the deadbolt on your door through your smart phone, or send a visiting guest or service person an invitation allowing them access. It sounds like a lifesaver for parents and homeowners who need to be at work all day, but do be certain to use a strong password that resists hacking. In fact, I would personally hold off on this one until the security standards in the smart home industry develop further.
But in the meantime you might go for the Ring, the smart video doorbell. It sends a video image of your visitor to your phone – even alerting you of their approach before they ring the bell – and allows you to converse with them from inside via a speaker. In fact, you can see and speak with the person at your door even if you are not home, while still giving the impression that you are inside.
Are you ready to make your home a smart home? Well, I suppose it depends on your tolerance for technological systems that don’t yet have all the bugs worked out. For example, if you try to install a new app on your phone and get a message saying it can’t be done, do you quickly hop onto Google to see how others solved the problem, or do you call up the “computer person” in your family for yet another favor, as I do? Maybe you do neither, and instead give up on the app altogether while saying, “This is why I hate computers!”
If you are in the third group, or if you don’t have a resident computer genius in your family, you may want to wait a few years for smart home technology to become more standardized. However, if you find that the benefits and excitement of this technology outweighs the occasional hassle of trouble-shooting, then proceed with appropriate caution.
As for me, I will step back for this year and try to talk my wife into some decidedly non-smart décor for our home, possibly from another century, if I can find the room, that is.
Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.