Science fiction has long depicted the future as a place where homes are full of technology, automating everyday tasks and letting your house literally talk to you. While setting up a talking home would take some work, there are some technologies available that you can incorporate into your home right now to achieve a more advanced property. Here are some technology hacks that will make your home safer and more interactive, and some of them just may even save you some money.
1. A Hub for All Your Devices
In movies and television shows, smart homes have a central computer that controls everything and houses the AI that the owner interacts with. While most home technology hacks don’t require a central computer, having a home automation hub does allow you to tie different devices together. A hub links different smart-capable devices and allows you to access them from a central location, usually providing additional remote access via a smartphone app or secure web login as well.
These hubs use a wireless signal that works on a different band than your WiFi network. Depending on the specific hub you use, it may use different wireless bands with names such as “ZigBee,” "X10," or “Z-Wave.” Make sure that any devices you buy use the same network as your hub so that everything will connect properly.
2. Upgrade Your Thermostat
There are now a few “smart” thermostats on the market that let you have greater control over your heating and cooling costs. You can program the thermostats to automatically adjust the temperature at different times of the day. Some models can even detect when the house is empty and adjust the temperature to use less energy when no one is at home. If paired with a home automation hub, you can even control the thermostat remotely from your smartphone or over the Internet.
3. Smarten Up Your Cameras
Security cameras are a good way to keep an eye on your property when you’re not home. If you tie them in to the rest of your home automation network, you can even access them on the go to literally keep an eye on your property. Z-Wave and Zigbee cameras allow you to access streaming video feeds to check on your property remotely, and they often feature high-definition video as well. Depending on the camera model you choose, you can even select energy-efficient cameras that have built-in motion sensors, so they’ll only record when there’s something to see.
4. Window and Door Sensors
Another useful technology hack for the home is to install sensors on windows and doors that allow you to see when the door or window is open. This adds a level of security to your home, alerting you instantly if someone breaks in while you’re away from the house. If you’re a perennial worrier who constantly wonders whether you remembered to close every door and window before leaving, you can also check the status of your sensors before you leave the driveway.
5. Smart Locks
On the subject of doors, you can replace your locks and tie them into your home automation hub as well. Smart locks allow you to lock or unlock the doors through your monitoring app, and they can typically be synced with a key fob like you’d use for automatic door locks on your car. Depending on the lock, you can also use alternate identification methods such as a thumbprint scanner or digital keypad as well. Don’t worry though, the locks still use traditional keys as well, so you won’t be locked out of the house if a battery dies or if you forget a code.
6. Flood Sensors
A lesser-known home automation option, flood and leak sensors can prove invaluable if you ever have a major leak or ruptured pipe. These sensors check for the presence of water, and if they’re tripped, they alert you of a leak or a flooding situation. Depending on the sensor and how you set it up, they may even be able to automatically shut off the water until you can take care of the problem. These can be especially important during the winter when low temperatures threaten to freeze pipes in the basement.
7. Smart Lighting
Smart lighting is a common technology hack that comes in a number of different forms. At its most basic, you use plugs that sync with your home automation hub to convert your outlets into smart outlets that you can program and control remotely; these allow you to control not only lamps, but also other electronic devices and even decorations such as Christmas trees. More advanced smart lighting features automation hardware that’s built into the light fixtures or bulbs themselves. You can set the lights to come on automatically when motion is detected, program them to come on or go off at set times and even turn them on from an app when you’re pulling into the driveway after a night out.
8. Smoke Alarms
Tying your alarm system into your automation network is an essential technology hack for anyone interested in automating their home. Smoke alarm bridges and smart alarms are becoming more common, and they’re definitely worth the cost. Once synced with your home automation hub, these alarms alert you of the presence of smoke, carbon monoxide or other hazardous gases in addition to sounding an audible alarm. These notifications let you know that there’s a potentially dangerous situation at home, even if you’re not there. You can check your cameras, send a neighbor to investigate, or call the fire department if you're traveling and unable to investigate on your own.