Winter is coming. Rather than use this opportunity to bombard you with Game of Thrones memes, I’ll cut to the chase. There are a lot of things to be worried about every winter. The kids, the pets, even freezing pipes or staying dry! Your home is your castle after all and after a hard day at work managing slick roads, you should come home into a comfortable and safe home.
In this installment of the Great Canadian Winter series, we’re going to look at helping you prepare the inside of your home for winter. There are lots of great things out there to help you accomplish this.
Run inside and stay dry with keyless entry
If you’re one of the many Canadians out there that have to park outside every night, you’ve probably been pelted with your share of snow and rain. While I live in relatively mild Vancouver, the rain tends to make life difficult for us here. Still, it’s an absolute pain having to fumble through your keys while you get rained or snowed on and you want nothing more than to escape the chilly temperature. That’s where something like the August Bluetooth Smart Lock can help you out.
While there are a handful of home keyless entry systems out there, August is the only one that can bluetooth authenticate as you approach your front door and have it unlocked and waiting for you. No keys or wringing out your soggy raincoat required.
Enter a warm house, not a freezing cold one
So now you’re inside and you might be a little bit damp. The first thought, for many generations before us, was to adjust the thermostat. My current situation for this could potentially involve running up a flight of stairs, unlocking a baby gate, avoiding a meowing cat (and possibly an affectionate baby if my wife’s arrived home at the same time) and then cranking the thermostat and waiting for my home to warm up.
I don’t have to do this anymore. Not since I installed a Honeywell Lyric in my home. I can manage the heat remotely from work and arrive home to comfortable warmth. The Lyric also has a Geofencing option. This is for those of you with longer commutes perhaps. Lyric’s Geofencing options detect how close you are to home and signal the thermostat to start your furnace and warm to your desired temperature. I don’t even have to open an app and change any settings!
Your other option would be the industry leading Nest Learning Thermostat. You can also manage your home’s heat remotely and instruct it from wherever you are—even before you leave work. Perhaps the most important thing for a smarthome user is that it’s simultaneously a gateway for other products. The “Works with Nest” system is the biggest partner program among Smarthome manufacturers, combining dozens of other devices into one neatly wrapped package. What’s more is that Nest also participates on the IFTTT (If This Then That)online smarthome “recipe” site. What this means for you is that you can use one app to control multiple devices. For example, if you’re a Fitbit user, you can use that great wearable device to track the quality of your sleep and then when it detects that you are awake in the morning, it can automatically trigger your Nest thermostat to turn your furnace on. Nest will then warm the house while you take your morning shower or get ready for work. You’ll have a heated home ready to welcome you to breakfast.
Nest and Honeywell Lyric are only for forced air furnaces though. What about those of you with electric baseboards? There’s something out there for you too. In fact, the Plug-in Blog JUST reviewed a smart electric baseboard system put together by Sinope Technologies. Let my colleague Graham Williams show and tell you all about this this new entry to the market
Keeping your home safe during the winter
There’s more to home safety and security nowadays than just an alarm system or a couple security cameras, especially during winter. For a lot of Canadians, freezing pipes in the winter is a reality. Whether you’ve forgotten to shut off and bleed your outside hose taps or your furnace fails and the pipes freeze inside, pipe bursts are one of the issues you can help prevent in your home in the winter. Even if you are unable to prevent a major issue like this, you may be able to minimize the damage using Smarthome products.
Insteon offers a leak sensor which sends you a text message alert when it has been immersed in water. This was one of the first of these products out in the smarthome market, however, it requires you to own the starter kit and the product itself is pretty tough to find now. Still, if you have the Insteon starter kit, this would be your cheapest alternative. Having tested it personally, I can attest to how responsive it is.
For everybody else interested in this service, you have two other options.Skylink has a water alert system using a localized hub that allows you to carry up sensors in 4 different zones and up to `6 sensors at all. The big drawback though is the fact that it is solely a localized device. It sounds an audible enough alarm that anybody in your home can hear it. However, it doesn’t have internet access built in so there are no complimenting apps or remote alert features.
For the best of both worlds, look to the D-Link mydlink WiFi Water Sensor. It requires no startup software, will easily partner with your WiFi network and can easily set up shop somewhere near a designated water area like your laundry room or beside the hot water tank.
If you are interested in in-house security, a new trend has emerged in the smarthome market over the past year or two. Single In-Home IP Cameras have become a quick and easy way to monitor what’s happening inside your home. You can even use them as communication devices with their built-in mics.
Perhaps the most comprehensive one of these I’ve seen is the Piper All-In-One Security System which is available only at Best Buy. Besides a blaring 105 dB local alarm, Piper offers one of the largest single viewpoints among the competition (at 180 degrees) and the app automatically comes with a 4 camera view which can allow you to focus in on and look at multiple things simultaneously. There is also a two-way communicating microphone in case you want to make sure the kids or pets are ok during a snowstorm. While Piper primarily runs on electricity, it is one of the few cameras out there that can also run with AA batteries on backup. This means that if your home is without power and you’ve got a backup power source keeping your internet connection stable (ie. for a home based business,) you can still rely on your Piper camera.
For the rest of your safety and security needs, I would really recommend reading our recent look at Choosing Safety and Security Smarthome Products. Not only will you find out more about D-Link’s Water Sensor, but you’ll see a vast range of other products you may find suitable for your winterproofing needs.
My final tip about winterproofing: I’ve spent a lot of time talking about selecting things for inside your home. If you choose anything for the outside (like a security system, for example,) be sure into two very important weather-based features. First, the Liquid Ingress Protection rating (sometimes seen as the IPX rating) will tell you how useful your item will be when faced with certain water scenarios. The higher the number, the better. Second (and very important for those of you back east,) make sure you’ve read up on failure temperatures. There are some touted “top of the line” smart security systems out there that don’t work past freezing, while others can down all the way to -40 Celsius.
If the overall task sounds too daunting or maybe a little bit more than you’d like to manage yourself, it’s no problem! You can begin your quest to preparing for the Great Canadian Winter with the help of Geek Squad. Geek Squad offers a free in-home consultation custom fit for your needs and requests. Whether you want keyless entry, a few cameras inside or outside the house or a few automated helpers, Geek Squad can help your prep go from 0-100 with a mere phone call.
Winter and Halloween and all those great traditions associated with the season are coming quickly, but you can begin your preparation now with the help of a few new trusty additions to your home.
Some of the products discussed in this blog include:
Piper All-In-One Security System
August Bluetooth Smart Lock
See more interesting and useful smart home solutions at Best Buy
Don’t forget to check out more from our preparing for winter series.
Upgrade your kitchen and dining
Stay safe while driving
Have foolproof soup and stew recipes on hand
By Matt Paligaru, Editor Emerging Technology
I’ve been an avid gamer and gadget enthusiast from the first time I picked up a Colecovision controller at a young age. I’ve written for XBox Addict, Vancity Buzz and Rebellion Media, covering everything from Gaming to Mixed Martial Arts. I am also co-host of the G3 Podcast. Follow me on Twitter “@paliontology” and I’ll be more than happy to talk shop with you.
A good way to identify problem areas around the home needing insulation or draft fixing is a thermal camera. What used to be thousands of dollars is now a few hundred.
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