Lets explore the more familiar types of smart device for the home: thermostats and light bulbs. Smartening these should help you save energy while automating your home enjoyment.
Smart thermostats allow you to control the temperature of your home remotely with your smartphone and set a schedule for heating and cooling. Many use weather data based on your zip code to better anticipate how long it will take to heat or cool to a certain level and some detect if youre away from home and switch automatically to more energy efficient temperatures. It does this by using location tracking on your phone. Nest, for example, allows multiple user accounts. As it learns how you adjust the temperature when various people come and go, you may never have to touch the thermostat again.
You may have heard of Nest but there are several other options out there. Ecobee, Honeywell, Emerson, and Lux, among other companies, are making smart thermostats. Depending on whom you ask, either Nest or Ecobee seems to be the best rated brand. CNET rates the Ecobee 4 as their best overall smart thermostat for its remote sensor system which allows it to monitor the temperature in multiple rooms and respond accordingly, as well as for its easy integration with other apps and with Amazons Alexa. The Ecobee 4 is itself actually an Amazon speaker. On the other hand, The Wirecutter prefers the third generation Nest for its learning algorithm and overall ease of use.
The best choice may depend on what youre looking for. If your house has rooms that tend to stay at very different temperatures, the Ecobee 4 may work best because the remote sensors allow it to monitor all those zones; it comes with 1 sensor and you can add up to 32 more. However, you have to either select one of its pre-set programs or input the temperature schedule you want manually. On the other hand, if your home tends to be more uniform in temperature and youd simply like to install your thermostat, change the temperature a few times and leave it alone, the Nest may be the best fit. It can only sense the temperature in the room in which its installed, but it has a learning algorithm so you never need to manually program it beyond adjusting the current temperature as needed; it will continuously take these adjustments along with weather conditions and build its own heating and cooling schedule.
Another way to smarten-up your home is with smart light bulbs. Smart bulbs, which can be either white or color, allow you to control your lights from an app on your phone or tablet, set timers, adjust color, and in some cases can be controlled with your voice using Amazons Alexa, Apples HomeKit, or Google Assistant. (You can still turn these bulbs on or off using normal switches.) The more basic bulbs can dim or brighten; the more sophisticated color bulbs let you select scenes designed to help you relax, be energized, and so on or to imitate settings like a tropical sunset or an arctic aurora. You can even set a timed sunrise and/or sunset designed to mimic the light profile or the rising or setting sun to help you wake up or fall asleep better.
Many can also be integrated with your smart thermostat, security cameras, and other devices. Some use geofencing, which sets a fence of a certain radius away from your home, and will automatically turn your lights on or off when you leave or enter the fences radius. Some bulbs can just use your wifi or bluetooth to connect to your devices, while others require a hub as a bridge between your device and the bulb. Depending on the connection type and features the cost per bulb can range from around $15 to $100. There are numerous brands and types of smart bulbs. PCmag just posted a review of many of the different options, including a chart outlining key features.
Smart features aren’t just for early-adopter techies – smart technology is changing lives for folks with accessibility challenges as this excellent blog from review.com points out.
Join us next week as we move into the home security arena and check out some of the smart locks, cameras, and other devices you can use to beef up the safety of your home.