There's no denying that we live in a connected world; cell phones are attached to our hands at all times, WiFi is available virtually everywhere, and even our cars are becoming smarter than us. It's only fair that developers include homes into this tech-centric lifestyle, and that's exactly what we have been seeing. The overarching theme with these trends is automation. It is now easy to have your home work for you to make living there more comfortable, and in some cases, even more affordable.
For those who still have flip phones, desktop computers that are hard wired into the wall, TVs that weigh more than you do, and a remote control with only 5 buttons, don't fear! Just because you might not be tech-savvy doesn't mean you can't implement some simple home technology concepts into your house that can not only increase its value, but simplify your life, as well.
Read on for more details on ways you can take your home into the future:
1. Cable, no more!
Cable Television has always been a monopoly business- you have little to no selection on who you can choose to provide your home with cable, and the prices are outrageous to say the least (except during those "introductory" periods they offer that they usually fail to tell you aren't forever prices). Until recently, there haven't been many solutions to this issue. Enter INTERNET TV! Companies like Netflix, Hulu, and even Amazon now offer great options for internet TV that is a much cheaper alternative to cable. You can purchase devices like Google Chromecast and Roku to stream these TV apps, and with little exception you won't be missing out on any shows you usually watch. The only downside is that the shows aren't available until generally the next day after they air, but it's a small price to pay for a monthly savings that can easily reach over $100. These devices are also much smaller than cable boxes, so they look much more attractive sitting on your TV console, and in some cases are even hidden completely behind the TV. See ya, wires! If you're looking for a quick way to save some cash and still maintain your couch potato status, this option is for you!
2. Smart Energy
Most of us have programmable thermostats for the home, which offer a lot of savings on utilities. The trend, however has shifted to an even smarter way to save on energy bills by implementing "learning" thermostats. Companies like Nest have created systems that don't just program temperatures on an hour-by-hour basis, but control them based on your schedule. After installing these units, they learn your schedule and adjust the temperature settings accordingly to minimize the amount of time your heat or air needs to be on in order to create a comfortable environment when you're home. They also feature WiFi-enabled options that allow you to change your thermostat from anywhere using your phone or computer. That way, when you leave for vacation you can set your heater to turn on right before you arrive home - instant comfort upon arrival! These units are especially popular in second homes, because you can save bundles by only turning on your unit when you know someone will be there. These units generally cost $200-300, but can easily pay for themselves in the first two years of use. Comfort AND value!
3. Let there be (automatic) Light
Who wouldn't want to be able to turn on every light in their home with the push of a button?! Home automation technology has advanced greatly, and with devices like the Crestron you can control virtually everything in your home that has a switch or button with one remote (generally an iPad), or even directly from your phone. This is especially useful if you have pesky teenagers who forget to shut off lights when they leave, or you hate coming home to a dark house. You can raise and lower your window shades, and even control your TVs and stereos with the remote - talk about all-in-one! While the utility savings isn't necessarily there with this unit since they are rather pricey to install, your home's value instantly goes up with a feature like this.
4. The Sound of Surround
Surround sound has always been a desirable home feature, but it generally takes a lot of re-wiring and expensive drywall repair in order to make it happen. This is where the wireless sound systems come in. My personal favorite is Sonos, which enables you to have music stream in any room of your choosing. Small WiFi-enabled speakers are set throughout your house, which allows you to stream internet radio, personal music collections, and music apps anywhere in your house; you can even play different music in every room, and it's all accessible on your smart phone. While systems like this can be pricey ($200-$700 per unit in each room), it is far more affordable than re-wiring your house, and offers more convenience, since you can control everything from your phone. The best part? You can take it with you when you move, so your investment can travel with you from house to house.
5. Bringing the Weatherman Home
Homes that are located in areas that are susceptible to changing climates experience a lot of wear and tear. Companies have emerged to address this issue, and now you can have a system installed in your house that reacts to the weather and changes settings on your home to respond properly. Weatherhawk is a company that provides weather stations that link into your home's automation system, telling it how and when to adjust humidifiers, HVAC systems, pool covers, , and storm shutters to make the most out of extreme temperatures. It also offers detailed information about weather patterns at your home, which can be a great past time. While this system is definitely not a money saver (systems range from $2000-7000), if you have the weather bug this will definitely fuel your interests and help maintain your home.
6. Goodbye ICE BOX ROOM
Do you have those areas in your home that just can't seem to warm up even when the rest of your house is a hotbox? Enter the Keen Smart Vent. These vents replace your vents in the home, and open and close accordingly to ensure that even temperatures occur throughout your house. If you have that one bedroom that stays cooler than the rest, once your other rooms reach a desired temperature, those vents will close and direct all the heat to the colder room until its temperature rises. This allows you to stop forcing air into rooms that don't need the heat, which can amount to significant annual savings. The vents are around $85 each, but the comfort you gain and the utility savings could pay off 2-3 vents per year.
7. Bring Back the Landline
Now that virtually everyone has a cell phone, it is rare for anyone to have a "home" phone number now, but many miss the convenience that a cordless home phone system offers. This is where Bluetooth Phone Systems come in handy, like the Vtech Connect to Cell system. Now you don't have to carry around your cell phone in your home just to ensure you don't miss a call. You can place the cordless phones in every room of your house, and leave your cell phone to charge anywhere in the home. When you receive a phone call on your cell, all the cordless phones will ring and you can answer from anywhere in the house. When you leave your house with your phone, the system shuts off and converts back to only receiving calls on your cell. This is a solution that's truly the best of both worlds.
8. Virtual Guard Dog
Many alarm companies have been following the automation trend, but these systems can be very pricey to install, and even worse, tack on monthly fees to use the system. Now there's a much more affordable way to get piece of mind about your home's safety, with DIY systems that contain all the same conveniences of the big name alarm companies. Products like the iSmartAlarm system charge a one-time fee (generally $200-300) for the products, and that's it! The system includes contact sensors (for doors/windows) and motion sensors (interior movement), and you can even upgrade to a camera for added security. The system operates off of your home's WiFi and you can control the unit from both your phone and the in-home controls. There are many features, such as the ability to view which family members are home and when they leave, and the system can alert you via SMS, Phone Call, or E-mail when unauthorized activity occurs. This is a fantastic alternative to update the safety of your home without breaking the bank.
Whether your budget is big or small, or your tech prowess is advanced or beginner, there's an array of options that you can easily implement to bring your home into the 21st Century.
The next post on 2015 Home Trends will be Home Construction Trends... Stay tuned!