In the classic cartoon series The Flintstones, Fred and Wilma are frequently shown using quirky inventions to make life in the modern stone age a little more, well ... modern. While we've come a long way from eel-powered appliances and dinosaur-operated garage doors, many technologies that were once cutting edge are now getting passed up by newer, smarter devices.
For some, adopting home automation may seem like a way to complicate things that have worked just fine until now. But the truth is, some smart home devices are simply better than their old-school counterparts. Here are three familiar household amenities that you should consider retiring in favor of their new and improved versions.
The Internet of Things is a term that's bandied about quite a lot — but do you really know what it means? Simply put, the IoT refers to any device that connects to other devices via the internet. For instance, your coffee maker connecting to your phone, or your smart lights syncing up with your smart security system. When your home's smart devices are connected via a central hub that controls all your IoT components, you can achieve true home automation.
Someone rings it, and you know there's a guest at your door — that is, if you're home. Not much better than an old-fashioned knock, is it?
Ah, but with a video doorbell, like those made by Ring, Nest, or August, you can see who's at your door — day or night — straight from your mobile device via live video stream. Even before the doorbell is rung, motion sensors notify you if someone approaches, which is helpful for monitoring and deterring unwanted guests (like package thieves). All of your video footage is stored in the cloud and can be referenced whenever you need it. Many smart doorbells also include a built-in microphone and speaker that allow you to talk to visitors for issues such as giving drop-off instructions to a delivery driver or turning away solicitors without having to open the door.
A recent trend among homeowners has been to share doorbell footage with neighbors or post it on community apps like Nextdoor to alert nearby residents about suspicious activity. This helps keep the community at large safer, kind of like forming your own neighborhood watch.
You left the lights on again, and you won't be home for eight hours?! That's life … unless, of course, you have smart lighting.
When it comes to smart lighting, you have two options: smart bulbs or smart switches. Smart bulbs, such as Philips Hue or LIFX, allow you to set the ambience in your home by changing the color, switching between warm and cool lighting, and tailoring your lighting for specific tasks or times of day. For instance, you can have your lights mimic the sunrise in the morning or the sunset in the evening, which is great for helping to regulate our sleep cycles, moods, and even hunger patterns.
Beyond the potential health benefits, smart bulbs are also more energy efficient, as they use CFL or LED technology instead of incandescent lighting. Some even include built-in Bluetooth speakers, motion sensors, and security cameras. They generally connect with voice assistants, like Siri or Alexa, so you can control your lighting with voice commands, or from an app if you prefer. The catch is that each bulb has to be switched out for the full system to be truly "smart." And like any other bulbs, the light switch that controls them must be turned on in order for them to work.
Alternatively, smart switches can control all your old "dumb" bulbs through an old-fashioned switch on the wall that lets you program when the lights turn on, off, or dim. These also can be controlled through voice commands or remotely. Smart switches are a more permanent investment, but the benefit is having every light in your house connected through a single system.
Constantly turning the thermostat up and down to suit your desired comfort level is both inconvenient and inefficient. Why not just use a programmable thermostat? Because you still have to program it. And you may not know the best way to program it for optimal efficiency, whereas a smart thermostat learns your household's patterns to identify the best heating and cooling schedule for your lifestyle.
Imagine you're driving home from work, and the thermostat senses you're near, so it kicks on the heat at precisely the right time, providing a warm and toasty homestead when you arrive. All the while, your home was conserving energy while you were away. A smart thermostat can do all this and more. It can target certain "temperature zones," such as heating your bedroom when you're asleep, but keeping it cooler in the kitchen or living room. Of course, we can't forget the typical "smart" benefits: voice commands, remote control via mobile device, a sleek aesthetic, and the ability to link up with other devices, like a humidifier or air purifier. But perhaps the biggest benefit is that a smart thermostat conserves as much energy as possible, which in the long run saves you money.
Of course, there are numerous other home automation devices that can benefit you. Smart smoke alarms, smart security systems, smart garage doors; the list goes on. It just depends on what level of convenience and modernization you want to live with. But there's one other reason to consider adopting smart tech: It may increase your home's value when you're ready to sell.
The majority of potential homebuyers are interested in buying a home that's already equipped with smart home components, according to a recent survey. While there's no way to guarantee it will increase the home's appraised value, it can make your home more attractive to potential buyers, which can result in receiving offers above asking price if you're selling in a competitive market.