Sarah and I recently moved into a new home. It is a nice gigantic home that will allow us to put in studio space as well as have room to get 30 or 40 more cats. When we were getting ready to move Harper got really excited and sent us all sorts of neat things to make our home more automated.
As I played with these automation devices I realized that I don’t need a lot of things automated. Or I realized the things I want automated are not available for the single family home of a middle class family.
Here is what I have tried out:
- LifX bulbs - Color changing fancy light bulbs
- Phillips Hue - Color changing fancy light bulbs
- SmartThings - Used for automating and tracking
- Sonos - Music
- Nest - Thermostat taken to the next level
Some of those aren’t automation but they put me in the same frame of mind: Making the HOME OF THE FUTURE!!!
or what worked for me.
Both bulbs work great. The LifX bulbs where easy to set up and don’t have a hub so don’t take up a spot on your router. The iOS app is well made and works. Response time between your phone and the bulbs is quick. I did experience a time when it would lose connection and I would have to restart the app to get them to work.
I like the LifX bulbs because they remember settings. If I set it one way and then shut off the switch when I turn it on it will be the same color/brightness it was when I turned it off.
The Hue bulbs worked well and considering that the setup was more complex it wasn’t difficult. Plug in hub, screw in bulbs, open app and push the button on the hub. The problem is that we are energy conscious and having to open up an app to turn off the lights was a pain. When you flip the switch off and then back on they return to the default white.
Where they shine is in the app. The ability to design color schemes based on a picture is a neat feature and makes creating a new theme a snap. Also the ability to link bulbs and adjust until you are happy with it is nice.
I have had more problems with my Hue bulbs then the LifX ones. I had to change out my router and in doing so craziness happened. The Hue app wouldn’t work even after quitting it and resetting my phone. It just started to work again but it was a frustrating week.
When it comes to fancy color changing lights I would recommend the Hue bulbs. The presentation is slicker and they support a ton of bulbs. But, I don’t feel the need to have different colored lights. The auto-off/auto-on features can be nice but I am not so lazy I cannot use my fingers for that.
SmartThings are cool. Not super useful but cool. I set them up once we moved in and did not find the options to be useful. There was a lot of neat potential but I found the execution to be lacking. Part of that could have been me.
The SmartThings app is a pain to use. I found that it was counter-intuitive for a lot of things and didn’t update as fast as I wanted.
The one thing I wanted to be able to do with my SmartThings was tell if my garage door is open or closed. I couldn’t get the magnetic sensors to work in a way that made sense so I ended up using the motion sensor. Motion meant garage open, no motion meant closed. This worked ok. The sad thing was is that it ate the battery so fast. Like a month.
The other part of the SmartThings that was cool but failed was the outlet. We used it to turn our Xmas lights on and off. It was plugged into an outlet in our garage and was destroyed by the polar vortex or something. It stopped working in about 3 weeks. When the outlet was working it was magical. It would turn them on and off at a set time or we could do it from our phones to turn them on.
We also used the key fobs but that felt like I was tracking Sarah and didn’t have a purpose other then that.
The Sonos system is awesome. Do you remember when you could stream itunes to speakers connected to your airport. Remember how that never worked. Especially if you were trying to stream to many speakers. Sonos fixed that.
The Sonos system is independent of anything else. They have apps for just about every device. Once you link your music services to your Sonos you can listen all day long without any trouble.
Setup was super easy. I got it setup the day we moved so that we could rock out. Open app, add component, push button on Sonos and listen to music.
Another thing that Sonos does which makes me happy is the ability to have every Sonos’s play different music. Great for when I am writing in one room and Sarah is hanging out somewhere else. Also adding components is easy and since they are wireless you can just plug it in and add it.
Nest is by far the best thing for a house of the future. Nest is a fancy thermostat that learns your life and temperature needs. It has a motion sensor which allows it to go to away mode when it doesn’t sense motion for a certain amount of time.
When you adjust the temperature it makes a note and if you do it consistently it will anticipate your needs. This means you don’t have to program your thermostat, it programs itself.
The other nice feature of the nest is the ability to turn on your heat or whatever from anywhere. There were many times this last winter where Sarah and I would be on our way home from somewhere and it was cold. I would get in the app and turn the heat up in the house so that it would be nice when we got home. I am looking forward to this feature this summer with the AC.
I would say of all the things that will make your house the house of the future the Nest thermostat is the way to go.
What did I learn
I learned that I like some automation but not too much. When I feel like my house is stalking me I get worried. Colored lights are neat but they are not for me. I want my lights to work on a switch and not have to deal with an app to change them. I love to have my music work wherever I am and for my house to manage the heating/cooling for me.
If you are thinking of automating your house figure out what you want to automate before getting started. And make sure you understand what is possible and what isn’t with the current tech. Also… get a nest thermostat they are awesome.