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5 Cool Things You Can Do with Home Automation
You hear terms like “smart home” and “home automation” thrown around all the time now. But what does any of that actually mean? If you want to build a so-called smart home, what does that look like? What can it do for you?
Well, a lot, actually. Home automation lets you schedule and set scenes for a lot of the stuff you already do manually (like turn on lights, put on music, start your coffee maker), as well as some things you can’t do the old-fashioned way (like lock your door from your phone).
Here are five cool things you can do with home automation that will make your life a little easier.
1. Automate your lights
Smart light bulbs and security lights make it so you never have to touch an old-fashioned switch again. These devices usually work through Wi-Fi, Zigbee, or Bluetooth. You can turn them on and off, adjust the light color and the color temperature, and set schedules, all from your smartphone.
Some smart lights, like the ever-popular Philips Hue bulbs, require an extra hub before you can control them from your phone. But plenty of other options, like the Yeelight Smart LED Bulb, come with built-in Wi-Fi functionality so you can hook it right up to your network.
While the whole mobile app part of the smart light equation is cool, the real prize is automation. You can create schedules and scenes that will execute automatically at certain times of day or under certain circumstances. For example, you can set your lights to slowly turn on, from dim to bright, at 6:00 a.m. each morning to wake you up.
2. Lock your doors remotely
A good deadbolt is the most important part of your home security system. Heck, even if you don’t have a home security system, you should at least have a solid deadbolt. And smart locks make it even easier to make sure your door is always locked and secure.
Smart deadbolts and door locks usually work through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, or Zigbee. They can integrate in with other smart devices, including your entire home security system. Or you can use a smart lock as a standalone device.
Keep in mind that a lot of these babies require a separate bridge to connect the lock to your Wi-Fi network. Options like the August Smart Lock Pro and the Yale Assure Lock SL need a bridge. But you can get models with built-in Wi-Fi, like the Schlage Encode Smart Wi-Fi Deadbolt.
Of course, with a smart lock, you can check on your doors and lock (or unlock) them from anywhere using your smartphone. But you can also set rules. You can have your door automatically lock each night at a certain time or each morning when you leave the house.
Some smart locks also have auto-lock and auto-unlock features, which can track your phone’s location. They use your whereabouts to lock your door when you leave the house and unlock it for you when you get back. Say goodbye to traditional metal keys.
Smart locks let you assign unique access codes to guests, including regulars like babysitters, house cleaners, and dog walkers. You can see a timeline of who went in your house at what time.
And you can usually schedule codes to only work during certain times or for a certain time period (like 24 hours). That’s great if you need to give the A/C maintenance person access but only between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. one day.
3. Reduce your energy use
Smart thermostats and smart wall outlets can help you control your energy usage and lower your utility bills. Smart thermostats let you adjust your home’s temperature from anywhere in the world, and you can get alerts if your teens adjust the knob on the sly.
Smart thermostats like the Nest can also learn when you leave the house every day and when you come home, so it can adjust the temperature before you get home but save energy during the day.
Some smart thermostats, like the Ecobee, also offer temperature sensors you can put in individual rooms. That way, you’re not trying to heat the entire house when all you need is to make sure the nursery is at a certain temp.
4. Control your home from anywhere
All of this smart stuff works with your smartphone to give you remote control over every smart device you own.
Whether you’re at work or on vacation, you can check on things in your house, like the temperature and whether or not your doors are locked. And if you don’t like the status, you can change things. Turn off your A/C, lock your door, and turn your porch lights on and off with just a few taps.
Bring all your smart stuff together
You can also aggregate your smart stuff and make it all work together through services like IFTTT. Some smart stuff is meant to work together through direct integrations. But if you’re using two smart devices that don’t integrate directly, you can still control them together through IFTTT.
IFTTT lets you create “recipes” that make multiple smart functions happen at once. For example, you can set a morning routine where your kitchen lights turn on, your coffee maker starts up, and Amazon Alexa plays NPR.
5. Prevent break-ins
Smart home devices and home security go hand in hand. There are tons of smart home security systems out there that will work with your other smart stuff to protect your house and deter intruders.
Plus, these security systems let you control them from your phone and get alerts about the stuff that matters to you. See the feed from your doorbell camera when a package is delivered, or catch water leaks before they destroy an entire floor, and rest easy knowing every window and door in your house is closed and monitored at night.
Home automation can make your life easier but it doesn't mean you won't do anything manually around your house again, it lets you automate and control certain things so you can spend less time pressing buttons and flipping switches. But home automation isn't all or nothing—you don’t have to install smart everything all at once. Start with a lightbulb here and there or a smart lock on your front door and see what home automation can do for you.
Do you use smart home devices in your house? How do you make them work together? Tell us about your experience in the comments.