Making Your Home Smarter


As a self-proclaimed tech geek, I was beyond excited when we started adding smart devices to our home. Once the first came, we opened the flood gates, and now I have a HUGE list of wants!

Our first smart device purchase was the Amazon Echo (we now also have two Dots). As Amazon Prime members, the Echo was a no-brainer for our first smart device. We use ours to listen to music (usually from Prime); get news, weather, and sports updates; re-order items from Amazon; hear terrible Dad jokes (which really are super funny); and control the lights, thermostat, and more (these things of course require more smart devices that we bought later)!

The Echo is great because it does all the smart stuff, but it also has a great built-in speaker for listening to music. The Dot is considerably cheaper, and while it does have a built-in speaker, it’s not great for listening to music. However, the Dot can be connected to your Bluetooth devices so our two Dots are connected to Bluetooth soundbars (that we already happened to have).

To enhance our smart home experience, our next purchase was the Ecobee 3, a smart thermostat. Like any digital thermostat, it’s programmable, but it also has additional sensors that can be placed in various rooms throughout the house. These sensors track not only the temperature in their room but also whether the room is occupied. Unoccupied rooms are ignored when the thermostat determines whether it needs to kick in. You can also tell it which rooms to include in your comfort settings. For example, if your heat is set to 68, and you tell the thermostat to only include the sensors at the thermostat and in say, the living room, the Ecobee will use the average of those two sensors to determine when to turn the heat on. If the sensor at the thermostat reads at 69, and the living room sensor is reading 67, the heat won’t kick in (even if other sensors are reading at only 65). With the Ecobee app, you can also control your thermostat from anywhere with your phone. On your way home from vacation and want to start warming the house? Open the app, and adjust the setting.

Next, we purchased Hue smart light bulbs and a Hue bridge. Connect the bridge to your WiFi, and every new bulb automatically connects to the bridge with its own built-in WiFi. Install the bulb, turn on the device or switch, and the bridge adds the bulb to your account. Using the Hue app, you can uniquely name each bulb (we named based on its location). Connect your bridge to Echo, and now you can control the lights with your voice! Simply tell your Echo to turn the lights on or off, or ask her to dim them to any percentage. The bulbs can all be controlled with the Hue app as well.

Our final purchase (so far) was a Wemo light switch. We used this switch to replace the switch for our exterior lights. Using our home’s WiFi, this switch determines our local sunset and sunrise and automatically turns the exterior lights on at sunset and off at sunrise. This switch can also be controlled by Echo so you can simply tell her to turn your lights on or off as well.

The next purchased we’d like to make is the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller. This device works with your already-installed sprinkler system but replaces the current control panel. Using your home’s WiFi, it follows past and future weather predictions to water only as needed. Maybe tomorrow, only zone 5 needs to be watered. Have your garden on zone 6? Tell Echo to run zone 6 only.

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