How Smart Home Technology Can Improve a Relationship and Save Money
How Smart Home technology can improve one’s relationship by eliminating (or reducing) some behavior caused friction is introduced in the story discussing our kitchen remodel, and the story about sensors. We tend to become more set in our ways as we get older and annoying behaviors become more annoying the longer we live together.
Having come to this realization I looked for additional situations to apply Smart Home technology to overcome the annoying behavior – not turning the power off when using appliances, etc. The annoyance was mostly related to the wasting of electricity, thus costing more, and detrimental to the environment.
We have two single serve coffee makers (don’t ask). One has an automatic shutoff, the other does not. So I wanted an automatic shutoff solution for the one without it. There was something else happening that added to my decision to get a GE Zigbee Outlet.
The five water leak sensors are located at various locations in the home. The SmartThings app has a device “health” indicator and I was experiencing frequent conditions where leak sensors would lose connection and be deemed “unavailable”.
Working with SmartThings support I learned that both Zigbee and Z-Wave are what is known as “mesh” networks and that it is often necessary to install one or more “repeaters” in strategic locations. Mostly a Zigbee device that plugs into the wall, like the one above, provides the signal closer to selected battery powered devices. The coffee maker location was a good spot to put a repeater – so two issues with one device.
Long before I began this journey I had purchased a hair dryer for my wife because it has an automatic shutoff. She also has hair curlers that get heated (using lots of power) but I couldn’t find a satisfactory replacement with an automatic shutoff. So I bought a
“Generic Zigbee Outlet”.
The GE outlet above is supported by SmartThings, so when you add the device to your system it is recognized as a GE Zigbee outlet. Zigbee is a “standard” and SmartThings can recognize a Zigbee device, but it will probably not know what kind of device it is since this “generic Zigbee” device does not include added smarts to communicate with SmartThings. It adds the device but refers to it as “Unknown” or “Thing”.
SmartThings provides a web-based toolset for developers. With it, if you’re comfortable doing it, you can modify the “Unknown” device to be a “Zigbee switch” and all is well. I did this because the device was considerably less costly and I wanted to see if it was a viable alternative.
The outlet was initially installed in a double wall outlet. Its shape would sometimes cause a problem with certain things attempting to plug into the lower outlet or the one next to it. So I found another “generic” (without true SmartThings support even though the product listing claims it) product, but also one with a recognizable name – Sylvania.
It also uses the name Lightify and refers to OSRAM, which is a German lighting company that apparently is the manufacturer. I added a second one later and SmartThings then recognized it as “Osram SMART+”, so no longer “generic”. I’m using this one with a lamp in our media room, to have it turn on if no one’s home and its after dark, for the times we leave before dark, return after dark, and have forgotten to leave a light on.
I had another application for the “Peanut” above having to do with reducing power usage. I lived in England for a year a long time ago. The house I rented had a large bathroom that was pretty cold but had a towel heater. To me using a heated towel after a shower was pure luxury.
So when I returned back the U.S. I bought myself one. I’ve been using it ever since. It has some kind of thick gel-like substance inside which gets heated by a small electric device. I’d been using it 24 7 x 365 (pretty much) without giving any thought to the power usage – my bad, as they say.
Now the power is turned on a couple of hours before I normally get up. I generally turn it off manually after my shower but if I forget there is an automatic shut off. I can also easily reprogram the start/stop times whenever necessary, such as taking a trip.
In the overview article about my Smart Home, I included a WiFi thermostat. It was installed in 2014 when we replaced our really old HVAC system. Sometime after we had finished our kitchen remodel in 2016 we had the thermostat relocated.
When contemplating that project I considered replacing the thermostat with one from Nest. This Nest thermostat has a very good reputation, supposedly will save money, and there is a synergistic benefit with it and our Nest Protect smoke/CO2 detectors.
I did a good deal of research and found comments from a professional that pointed out that the WiFi thermostat we have, purchased as part of the new HVAC system, integrates with the HVAC system better than the Nest can.
Additionally, I believe that Nest’s money-saving technology is designed for the “average” consumer where the home is unoccupied for a good portion of most days (when working) which is not the case for us. So, I chose to stay with our existing unit.
As I was able to integrate the WiFi thermostat with SmartThings, I was able to add the ability to be alerted when the inside temperature exceeds a configured amount and take action such as closing the shutters to slow down further indoor heating from the sun – delaying the time when the air conditioning turns on.
Another comment on saving money, not directly related to the above devices. I found out that some insurance companies may reduce your home insurance cost if you install certain kinds of these products because it reduces risk, for example, theft, fire, and water damage.
Some insurance companies might offer a significant discount off the price of the device, or even provide you with one.
One more, if you’re considering selling your home, the real estate industry is embracing Smart Home in a number of ways, and it is reported that having Smart Home devices when selling can be beneficial to the seller.