12 Smart Home Ideas You Don't Want to Miss Out On
Smart homes are the way of the future and implementing smarter devices in your life today can be both a great way to learn about technology. Smart devices aren't just toys, though, they can make common repetitive tasks easier and can even take care of it for you in some cases. Most will agree that smart homes are cool, but many will be hesitant to transform their homes while others may not know where to start. Here are 12 smart home ideas that you can use for inspiration!
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Smart homes are a great idea, but you can't do much with one on its own. That's why smart devices exist to give the smart home controller something to manage. The more devices you have, the more connected the home becomes, which leads to a truly smart home.
When most people think of a "smart home", they think of a futuristic house where simply speaking your requests out loud will make them a reality. The truth is that this technology is already here to a certain degree with voice assistants that are connected to your smart home. They use their connection with the home controller to perform actions such as changing the temperature, turning the lights on, or locking the door. Make no mistake, voice assistant technology has come a long way. Still, it is nowhere near the level of being able to hold a conversation or accurately detecting when you are addressing them.
Today's voice assistants are a competent alternative interface for controlling your home instead of using your phone or a remote control. You can use Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, or even Cortana! These are the big players, and there are other options, but they are much more difficult to use. A drawback with all of the listed technologies is that they currently require an active internet connection to work. If your internet has a tendency to go out or if you are concerned about your privacy, there is at least one other option. Check out my post on setting up the offline voice assistant Mycroft here!
Water leak detection
Most people don't realize how destructive even a tiny water leak can be. As someone who has experienced first hand what a small leak did to my home, I can assure you that the damage is unimaginable. That's why its crucial to have some sort of detection mechanism in your home. Luckily, there is a smart device for that which can easily be obtained relatively inexpensively. It has a probe that sits in a location which is susceptible to water leaks and will trigger an alert should it ever detect water. Simply place them in locations where water is likely to leak such as under sinks or next to toilets, and they will let you know if something starts leaking.
If your home uses a sump pump (a pump located in the basement used to remove excess water from around a building), placing one of these near the sump pit could help prevent serious damage should the pit overflow. You could even use a smart water valve in conjunction with the leak detection to cut off the water if a pipe starts leaking. Keep in mind these things are prone to false positives or negatives which could either shut down the water for no reason or do nothing during a leak. As a result, you should never completely rely on such a system, and you should instead use it as a second layer of protection on top of your natural diligence.
The Govee WiFi water sensor is an example of the type of water leak sensor we are talking about. This one has an alarm built-in which allows it to function as a standalone unit. It also uses WiFi to alert you via a mobile app when a leak is detected, and you aren't home - though it uses the internet to do so. Even if the internet or WiFi is down the alarm will still sound alerting anyone nearby of the problem. Check ou the Govee WiFi Water Sensor on Amazon!
Wouldn't it be awesome to be able to lock the door while you aren't home? I can't tell you how many times I've left the house only to wonder whether I left the door unlocked. Smart locks make checking and fixing this possible by using a small motor to operate the mechanism normally triggered by a key. Many products offer benefits such as individual profiles for each person who should unlock the door, which is useful if you need to restrict entry to a specific schedule. Such a feature is also useful if one day you need to revoke access as disabling or removing the profile in question will restrict access without changing all of the locks or using a new password.
Another useful feature is that some of these will automatically lock the door once it has been opened, making the situation where you forget to lock up less likely. There are also the usual features such as triggering alerts when the door is opened or remotely locking/unlocking the door. A key difference between a normal lock and a smart one is that smart locks use internal batteries to power themselves. As with any battery-powered device, the battery will eventually run out of charge which could leave you in a bad spot if you didn't bring the spare key with you. For that reason, it is important to always carry the override key!
Garage door opener
While not everyone has a garage, those that do will immediately see the value in having a smart garage door opener. It is admittedly pretty cool that you can close the door remotely if you ever forget (which I have done many times...), but it's even better that the door can close itself when it shouldn't be open. Consider an example where the door was left open at night when everyone is sleeping, the automation will detect that the door has been open for a long time at night and will close it automatically. Keep in mind that you need to be very careful with this sort of thing! Make sure your door's presence detection is working properly such that if something (or someone) is under the door, it will not close. Even without automations, it can still be interesting to have data about the door's state at all times.
The kitchen is an important part of any home as this is where food will be prepared and also enjoyed. There are quite a few ways to use smart technology to make your kitchen work for you.
Boiling water is important for many different things in a kitchen, but one of the biggest uses of a kettle is to make tea (depending on where you are from). As with coffee, many people wish they could wake up to a fresh cup right as they walk down the stairs. This is quite possible and is quite a bit easier than making a coffee machine smart as you can fill the kettle's tank with a lot of water to be used multiple times. You could buy such a smart kettle, but you could also do it your self quite inexpensively. It is surprisingly easy to convert a regular kettle into a smart one using only a smart plug and some clever automations. The plug does need to have power monitoring capabilities, but otherwise, it really is as easy as it sounds. Check out my post on making a regular kettle smart here!
While this one's practicality is not immediately obvious, a smart dishwasher offers quite a few interesting features. One of them is to remotely monitor the progress of a wash cycle, which can help reduce the time between washes if you have a lot of dishes to do. You can be doing anything else, and when the cycle is done, you will receive an alert allowing you to then go and empty it. Another useful feature is remote cycle starting which can be used to schedule a wash or start one remotely. The most interesting use for such a feature is that you could fill the dishwasher at any time and it would only start washing in offpeak hours to save on electricity costs. Note that this only works on tiered utility billing but anyone who can take advantage of this definitely should!
Smart washing machine
Several washing machines are being sold today that feature integrated smart functionality, allowing you to check on the current wash cycle, start a new one, or even stop the machine remotely! These appliances will usually come with an app that lets you perform all the desired actions from anywhere, which is pretty cool. Despite how useful these fancy models are, at the end of the day, they are still appliances that are extremely expensive and not worth replacing for such a small benefit. As a result, no need to fear if you don't have such a machine as many of these features can be implemented using a few smart sensors and a button pusher along with automations.
Detecting that the cycle is done can be accomplished using a vibration sensor while detecting that the lid was opened can be done with a door contact sensor. You can also use a device like the SwitchBot to control the machine by pressing buttons on the front panel. Using a DIY approach, we can avoid paying the premium often associated with smart appliances. If you would like to make your washing machine smart, be sure to check out my post on using contact sensors for this purpose here!
This section is dedicated to tasks that everyone has to do and are often quite mundane. Things like cleaning, cutting the grass, and other routine tasks that often get ignored due to busy lives.
Easier cleaning: robot vacuum
These have been around for quite a while but have traditionally been too expensive for widespread adoption. The times have changed, and now a robot vacuum can be obtained for well under 1000$ without compromising quality. One of the biggest complaints with robot vacuums is that they can't clean everything and could get stuck. Others say that these robots will make some messes worse then they were to start with! Many of these issues actually were serious problems with the industry in the past, but now most of these problems have been resolved by advancements in technology. Despite that, the biggest problem still remains: they can't clean everything.
While it's true that a robot will have some trouble cleaning between her ailings or in though corners, the reality is that the robot will always clean when it's supposed to. That's in comparison to most people that will put off the task for varying amounts of time due to being too busy or simply not feeling like doing it. Since the robot has constantly been cleaning, the work you need to do manually will be significantly reduced, and there will be areas that won't need any extra cleaning at all. The obstacle and path detection of modern robots is also much better than it once was with most robots accurately detecting the likes of stairs or furniture.
Robot lawn care
While this technology is certainly in its infancy and lacks the vacuum cleaners' maturity, a robotic lawn mower can still be a useful tool if you have grass. They will usually come with a boundary marker used to define the area where grass should be cut. This prevents it from falling into ditches or other difficult terrains and ensures it doesn't drive into a flower bed. Some people might say that a robotic lawn mower is a step too far, but you will be the one laughing when your lawn remains in top shape despite barely lifting a finger. You will certainly still need to do the occasional manual yard work, but the amount of work will be lower, and you won't have to do it as often. There are of course limitations - I wouldn't use one in an area where strangers can have access, such as the front of a house.
Lighting is at the core of any smart home, likely as a result of its early development. As light is quite simple to control, smart lighting products such as smart bulbs and smart switches have been around for a long time. This is one reason many people will have their first smart home experience with a lighting product.
Lights off when no one there
Personally, I'm pretty bad at remembering to turn off the lights in a room when I leave for extended periods of time. The reason is always that I will be back quickly and well, that usually isn't the case. Before that might have resulted in the lights being on for a potentially long time, all of that can be fixed with smart lighting. Using only smart lights, we can program the lights in locations that are typically not visited for extended periods of time to turn off automatically after a while. An example could be to turn off the light in the bathroom after an hour or to turn off the light in the closet after 15 minutes.
This works because we know that no one will actually be in those rooms for that amount of time, usually. We can't use the same technique for places like the kitchen, living room, or other areas that people hang out in. For those, we have another technique that uses a motion sensor to determine whether it is likely anyone is still there. If no one is there, we can start a timer and turn off the lights after that time has elapsed. The delay helps prevent false triggers caused by someone sitting still for a while as they would have to stay completely still for the entire delay to cause problems.
Many people dread waking up in the morning, which is probably tied to the fact that most of us wake up to a loud noise emitted by an alarm clock. For most of human existence, there was no such sudden loud noise to wake you up in the morning and instead, people relied on other means. This was most commonly done with the sun as the light would become bright and wake anyone who was sleeping up. Unless you are going to sleep in a room with a lot of uncovered windows, you are likely waking up in total darkness which can contribute to difficultly waking up. Smart lighting can help us with this problem by slowly dimming the lights in a room to full brightness at the time of an alarm.
There are quite a few commercial systems that do this out of the box, but it is also possible to build yourself using off-the-shelf products. Check out my post on building a gentle wake up system yourself here.
A lot of people have pets, and most of those people love them very much. Despite the joy a pet may bring you, there are times when they do make life more difficult. Let's see how home automation can help that!
Automatic pet feeder
Those who have a pet will relate to the problem of needing to go on a trip or even just spend a few days away for work and not having a good way to care for your pet while you are away. Smart pet feeders can automatically feed your pet several times per day at a set interval while also keeping the main food source safe to prevent it from being eaten all at once. There are also devices that will dispense water every so often to keep a constant supply for your pet while you are away. Such a device can be really convenient if you need to leave even for a few days as they will keep things running smoothly while you are away.
Some even include fun features such as a camera to see your little friend while they eat or speakers that allow you to interact with the pet while they eat. These products can even be beneficial while you are at home as they will track when your pet is eating and make the job of feeding them a lot easier.