I’m a non-technical short-term rental host with a “dumb” home—a home without any smart home devices. I use a metal key for my front door, I have no smart speaker to chat with, and my guest welcome package consists of printed sheets in a nice blue folder.
It’s not that I don’t use and appreciate technology. I was among the first of our friends to buy a computer, a clunky thing called a Franklin Ace that cost more than $1300 and was slow as mud. But I’ve graduated to an Asus Zenbook, an iPhone and an iPad, and I’m proud to say that I can text almost as fast as my granddaughter.
I’ve learned to appreciate technology. But I’ve never felt that I had to run out and buy the next new device. Technical devices interest me not for how they work, but for what they can help me do. That’s why I started to think about how to raise my home’s IQ by installing some smart home devices.
I set out to find answers to these questions:
- What is a “smart home”?
- What are the benefits of raising my home’s IQ?
- What do the various smart home devices actually do?
- Which devices does a non-technical host like me really need?
What is a smart home?
Smart homes let you use various interconnected technologies to control door locks, lighting, heating, and electronic devices such as coffeemakers. You can manage the temperature, lights, locks, and more right from your smartphone, tablet, computer, or a digital assistant such as Alexa or Echo.
What are the benefits of raising my home’s IQ?
I can see several ways that making my home smarter could be useful for me and my guests. For example, smart home devices can…
- Make my home safer and more secure. Being able to quickly and remotely change door lock codes means less worry about keys floating around or guests locking themselves out.
- Save energy. Putting house “to sleep” by turning off or lowering the thermostat and lights when no one’s there means reducing costs while helping to protect the environment.
- Simplify guests’ arrivals. Being able to send guests a door lock code means not having to mail the keys, find someone to let them in, or leave a key under the mat.
- Replace a complicated “user guide.” Having a smart speaker would make it easier for guests to turn on the TV, control the heat and cooling systems, and do other tasks. They could also easily get information about the area, such as how to find a playground for the kids or what there was to do on a Sunday afternoon.
What do the various smart home devices actually do?
It didn’t take much research to see the benefits of making my dumb home a little smarter. But before diving in, I needed to know more about what smart home devices were available and what they would actually do.
- Smart lock. A smart lock replaces your metal door keys with a code you can change any time you want. Not only does a smart lock simplify arrivals and departures, changing the code after each guest’s stay increases security. No more keys to lose, no more guests locking themselves out, no more copies of my house keys floating around. That sounds good to me!
- Smart thermostat. A smart thermostat lets you use your phone to adjust temperature settings remotely. I could welcome guests into a house that was already warm and comfortable, and turn off the heating and cooling systems when the home was empty. By connecting a smart thermostat to a smart speaker, I or my guests could use voice commands to raise or lower the temperature at will.
- Smart lighting. Like a smart thermostat, a smart lighting system lets you use your phone or smart speaker to turn lights on or off and adjust the brightness settings. I could welcome guests into a brightly lit home when they arrive at night, turn off lights when no one is using them, and more.
- Smart plug. With smart plugs in your electrical outlets, you can control coffeemakers, toasters, clothes irons, lamps, heaters, and other electric devices remotely or with a voice command to a smart speaker. That would let me check to make sure electric devices were off when guests left or were away from the house.
- Smart speakers. A smart speaker is a digital assistant that lets you and your guests use voice commands to ask questions, play music, control other devices, and more. I could set up my smart speaker so that guests could say things like, “Tell me the wifi password,” “Where’s a good Italian restaurant?” “Play Ella Fitzgerald,” “Turn off the air conditioning,” or “What’s the weather today?”
- Smart appliances. A smart refrigerator can send you a text message when you’re out of milk. A smart oven can turn itself off when the food is done. A smart dishwasher can shut itself off if it detects a leak. I’d be able to control all these smart appliances from my phone or other device and get an alert when something is wrong.
- Smart sensors. Integrated with other devices, smart sensors can be your “eyes and ears” when you are away from home. They’d alert me to a possible intruder, a water leak, a power surge, or another problem that needed to be taken care of right away.
Which smart home devices does a non-technical host like me really need?
Honestly, I don’t really need any of these smart home features. And the thought of having to learn and manage a lot more technology makes my head spin!
But…I like the idea of a smart speaker that lets me listen to music, get information with a simple voice command, and be a “virtual concierge” for my guests. A smart lock would solve the ongoing problem of how guests get into our home when we’re already on our way to somewhere fun. I don’t need my refrigerator to tell me when we’re out of milk, but it would be nice to be able to turn on the lights and heat as we drive home after a late show. My guests would probably appreciate that as well.
I have to find out more about how much these smart devices cost, how difficult they are to install, and how hard they are to use. So it’s back to research mode! I’ll get started as soon as I finish reading this really good novel I found the other day….
We drew the content of this post from a wide variety of sources, including but not limited to:
Ana Bera, SafeatLast.co
Dana Young, Virtualconciergeservice.com
John Banczak, Forbes.com
Bill Andrews, Aconnectedhome.com
Tech Untangled, Lifewire.com
Smart home sensors, Ambient.com
What smart home devices do you have, and how do you use them? Tips for others who want to increase their home’s IQ? Please share them in the Comments or on our Facebook page.