Thinking Smartly About Homes

As I have previously mentioned this last year we purchased a new home and as such there have been certain upgrades we’ve done, wanted to do, and were done out of necessity. With such projects, there always is an opportunity to evaluate what could be done “smarter” or made more “smart” by adding technology. 

Smart Homes are all the buzz right now with so many definitions of a Smart Home and related appliances. There are assistants, plugs, thermostats, locks, motorized blinds, light switches, garage door openers, etc. One could easily get caught up in having everything done electronically even where it doesn’t make sense.

While we have been evaluating our needs there have been a couple areas where we have focused that are within a reasonable budget, and truly do things smarter than the traditional way of doing things.

As mentioned in my article, Upgrading the Wi-Fi, the very first thing I needed to do was to solve the Wi-Fi issues of having a longer, ranch style home. By creating a mesh network we now have coverage in our entire house, including the garage. Since these devices are IoT an Internet connection is a must.

With the Wi-Fi upgraded, one of the first things we turned to was the dumb thermostat. At our previous house, the thermostat was centered deep in a hallway with hardly any air flow so the “comfort” readings there were entirely meaningless. It would read 74 but in the main living area it would be 6 degrees different. We adapted, like most people, to setting the thermostat to a level where it was most comfortable where we were the most. We scheduled the thermostat to come on in the morning, etc etc. But there were times when we would go on vacation and forget to turn it down.

Ecobee App
Ecobee App

To solve this in our new house we ended up purchasing an Ecobee 3 Thermostat (the 3 has been replaced by the 4 at the time of this writing) which allows us remote connectivity, motion detectors, and remote sensors. I plan on writing a review later but in short, it is exactly what we wanted. We have also seen a decrease in our electric and gas bills as a result. Plus who can deny the fun in tuning the thermostat from the couch? For us, the sweetener also came with the fact that Energy Trust of Oregon offered a rebate for a Smart Thermostat which helped offset the initial cost ($200).

The next area I looked at was our outdoor sprinkler system. Initially, it was so I could control the sprinkler system from my phone while I was troubleshooting issues with various sprinkler heads and zones. Then I looked at how it could end up saving me money and watering smarter.  Again I will write up a review later, but we chose a Rachio Sprinkler Controller which provided the best of cost, usability, and ease of installation. 

We have evaluated other areas where introducing Smart functionality makes sense and ruled out areas for us where it doesn’t. There is something about having a switch on the wall and knowing exactly what it will turn on, as well as knowing my key will open the lock to the door. 

Choosing how smart you make your home is ultimately a personal decision and there is no right or wrong way to do it. It is all about your comfort level, both with the technology itself, and using it.

Chris

I have been a System Administrator for 10 years now. I have been an avid Microsoft fan for over 20. From my first 486 with Windows 3.0 to my latest custom rig with Windows 10. I have gone from tinkering, to programming, to managing servers, and virtualization.

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