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How Smart Is Your Home?

I spent a major portion of my radio show this past weekend talking about smarthomes – how they can help make your life easier and safer; plus some vulnerabilities.   Since this is a busy time of the year for moving into new homes and apartments, let’s quickly go over some items that can make your home seem like it graduated from Harvard (ok, The University of Texas!).

LIGHTING

Having the ability to control the lighting in your home is not only convenient but also makes your place more safe and energy efficient.  Years ago I installed lighting controls and switches from Lutron that  personalized a system to recall favorite settings and transform the light around my home.   These let you control your home’s lighting from a master keypad or by remote to change your visual environment at the touch of a button.  Lutron also makes timers, fan controls, and occupancy/vacancy sensors  to automatically control your lights and fans.

LOCKS

Schlage is a well-known brand in residential door locks and the company has gone high-tech.  Technically you don’t even need a key now.   Their keyless door lock or electronic deadbolt replaces your standard lock and key with a lock, handle and lighted keypad.  Up to 19 different codes (4 digits each) can be programmed into each lock so each member of your family can have his own code.  I created a specific code for our maid so she can enter the house at an exact time.

A security I especially like is that fact that I can set alerts to text me each time a code is entered.  Now I know when the kids get home from school and, even better, what time they really cam home last night.

CAMERAS

Big brother should be watching your home especially when YOU are big brother.  Wireless security cameras can easily be set up around your home and the simplest I have found are from Dropcam.  The camera is smaller than the palm of your hand.  Just plug it into an electrical outlet and connect it via your home WiFi system.  A free app lets you check each camera, zoom in, listen and even talk through the camera to scare away intruders.  Alerts can be set-up to text you when the camera senses movement.  For an added fee you can capture and record everything happening at your house.

THERMOSTAT

If you are interested in monitoring your electricity and saving money (nice to meet you), an electronic thermostat is almost a must.  Versions of these have been around for years but new designs have made it user-friendly and simple to use.  One on the market today that is getting attention THOUGH I HAVE NOT TESTED IT YET is Nest.  The company says it is a “learning thermostat” as it remembers your schedule , programs itself and can be controlled from your phone.  The design looks great but I can’t recommend it quite yet – hopefully I will get my hands on one soon.

Honeywell’s Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat is another option to regulate and customize heating and cooling.   This device is easily installed and can be controlled via an app to remotely turn on/off, up/down your system.  Imagine coming home after a vacation to a cooled home – almost a must here in Texas.

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