By Sam Schoutko, Personal Lines Underwriter

The term “smart home” is bandied around nowadays and most people don’t have a good idea what it actually means or how their home can become a smart home.  If you aren’t familiar with technology it sounds daunting, complicated, and expensive.  It is somewhat expensive and it can be complicated but it doesn’t need to be daunting.  Hopefully I can help explain a little about smart homes to the average person that makes them easier to understand and implement in your own home.

Let’s start with a common myth about “smart homes” and that is in order to be called a “smart home” every element/system/appliance of a home needs be controlled via your phone or a computer.  While this is partly true it definitely isn’t the whole story.  Did you know that when you enter Bill Gates home you can set a climate profile for yourself and the home tracks which room you are in and automatically adjusts the temperature in that room to whatever you set?  As you walk from room to room it changes the temp based on who is in the room.  Would we all love to have a home that does that?  Of course!  Is it practical for anyone but the 1% of the 1%?  Of course not.

The point of a smart home is to make common features of a home more accessible and easier to manage remotely.  Remotely can mean from another part of the country to just not wanting to get off the couch to turn the lights on.  There are many elements to a smart home – security, climate control, doors, lights, appliances, voice commands, etc.  Could you upgrade everything in your home at the same time?  Yes, but that would cost thousands of dollars and probably isn’t even necessary.  All you need to do is identify which of these features matter to you.  You don’t have to upgrade them all like Mr. Gates.

When I bought my first house I decided that I wanted a thermostat that connects to the internet and I can monitor from my phone.  It knows where I am at any time, it automatically learns my schedule and adjusts the temperature in my house for when I’m gone to conserve energy.  This has helped me save money and made my life more convenient and it was just a small part of my home that was upgraded – I didn’t need to retrofit everything.

It is important to identify what matters to you.  Do you have kids that get home from school while you are at work?  Maybe a remote webcam that sends a notification to your phone when there is motion in front of it so you can see they made it home safely is what you need.  Do you need to let guests into your home while you are gone?  A Wi-fi garage door opener works for that.  Do you work long hours but want to come home to nice meal already made?  You can actually buy a Wi-fi crockpot that you can control from your phone.  Do you go out of town for long stretches of time?  Get smart lights that will turn on every evening for a period time to make it seem like you are home and deter would be burglars.

The possibilities go on and on and the list of items you can add to your home grows every day as more products are developed.

You know the saying “there’s an app for that”?  Today that applies to your home as well as your phone – there’s a Wi-fi connected smart device for that.  Not quite as catchy of a phrase but it gets the point across.  Don’t allow it to overwhelm you – you don’t need to upgrade everything at once.  You just need to figure out what meets your current needs the best and you can slowly develop your own smart home piece by piece over time.

SamAbout Sam

Sam enjoys spending time with his wife Krista and their Siberian Husky, Ecko, while not at work.  Krista is a wonderful cook and baker so their relationship works well as he is a wonderful eater of the food she cooks and bakes.  They enjoy keeping up to date on the latest movies and traveling to see family.  As new homeowners, there is always a project to tackle around the house as well.

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