Tehcnology boom: Turn your Maine home into a ‘smart house’

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Rich Brooks from Flyte New Media shares new tech upgrades, from automatic lights to text alerts when your laundry is done.

PORTLAND, Maine — As technology continues advancing, so do the ways we use it. 

Now, there are many devices and apps to turn your home into a smart home. From controlling your thermostat to programming your lights and even getting a text when your laundry is done, there are plenty of devices on the market. 

Rich Brooks from Flyte New Media shows us just some of the options you have.

What is a smart home and why would we want one?

“With a smart home, you’re able to control devices around your house, either by voice commands, apps, sensors, or other methods. A smart home can make your life easier, as well as provide energy savings, convenience, security, and even accessibility,” Brooks said.

What are some of the devices that can be “smart?”

“While you can control almost anything that can be plugged into a wall, there are a lot of devices that were built to be smart out there,” Brooks explained. “Popular ones include light switches, thermostats, doorbells, blinds and shades, ceiling fans, electronics, and even things like Roombas (robot vacuums) and door locks. In my research, someone had added an energy sensor to their dryer which would ping them when the laundry was done.”

And how can we control these different smart devices?

“There are usually multiple ways, depending on the device. You can speak to them, like an Alexa, telling your lights to turn on or playing back any messages. You can control them via apps on your phone or tablet. Some people will set up dedicated tablets to control every device and every automation,” Brooks said. “You can also set up sensors, so lights turn on when you enter a room, or blinds open up when the sun hits them.”

“You can also set up automation, where a series of events happen based on the time of day or an action you take, like opening your garage door in the evening after work. You can also install smart buttons which will allow you to quickly activate a setting or override a scheduled automation,” Brooks added.

How do these devices talk to each other and stay connected?

“You can use your existing wi-fi or Bluetooth, although for bigger houses you’ll want to make sure you have a really good wi-fi mesh. However, many experts recommend investing in a smart home hub, which acts like a brain for all of your smart devices,” Brooks said. “These range from under $100 to several hundred or more.”

Do all these devices work seamlessly, or do we need to only buy products from one vendor?

“The devices are becoming more compatible with each other, but it might make sense to get started with one smart home system, like Apple, Google, Amazon, or many people who are really interested in setting up automation use a system like Home Assistant,” he explained.

Speaking of getting started, what do you recommend for people who are new to all of this?

“Definitely walk before you run,” he instructed. “Start by focusing on a single room, or even a single task you’d like to automate to make your life easier. Maybe get a smart plug so you can use your existing smart speaker, if you have one, to turn on or off the lights or change the thermostat.”

“You can continue to add devices, including motion sensors, video cameras, and smart home hubs to create powerful automations that will lower your energy costs, secure your home, and shut off the iron when you leave the house,” Brooks enthused.

“Of course, these smart devices can get expensive, and the national average to automate a house can range between 2K – 6K, so many people might decide to just get up and shut off the light themselves,” he said.

What are some of the craziest smart home automation you’ve seen?

“I saw a NYC family that connected their smart home hub to the NY subway schedule and set up colored strip lights to let them know when they should get ready to leave the apartment so they would arrive on the platform just as the train was arriving,” Brooks recalled.

“There was also another person who had a smart mouse trap. When a mouse was captured, it would send him a text alert. Although he didn’t do it this way, I’m sure you could do something similar with a Have a Heart trap,” he added.

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