Do I Really Need a Smart Home?

Smart Homes are the latest craze in tech for gadget freaks. Your connected home can do pretty much everything without your direct intervention—turn your lights on and off, raise and lower your shades, regulate your thermostat, lock and unlock doors, monitor the perimeter with lights and cameras, and much much more.   All you need for a smart home is a reliable internet connection and one or both of these:  a smartphone and/or smart speaker….and a bunch of intermediary gadgets to make the miracle happen, as this article spells out.

But is it really the answer?

Smart homes are also being touted as the solution for elderly people living alone for the safety features.  They have fail-safe cutoffs for stoves and water left on accidentally, will remind you take medication, and can allow caregivers to monitor you.

But how much help do you really want? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you need or want to do these things remotely?
  • Do you feel comfortable being monitored?
  • What if your internet is out?
  • What if something breaks?  If you’ve dealt with a malfunctioning computer, tablet or smartphone (and who hasn’t?)  the nightmarish possibilities of your smart home malfunctioning are legion– the stuff of satires like this thriller, where the home is smarter than the owner and turns on them.

A survey of a few years ago revealed some ambivalence about smart homes on these and other issues.

On the Other Hand…

That said, since then (and one pandemic later), there are smart home devices that are worth the risk, both to save money and potentially, to save your life  – as this article explains.

Amazon Alexa is the default (at least for this article) because it’s the device most of us are familiar with.  But if you’re considering a smart home, you should also look into Google Nest, Samsung Smart Things and Apple Home Kit.   This article explains and compares them. for you.

Where to start?

Consider starting small with a few affordable devices:

  • A smart speaker. If you have one within earshot—and they’re inexpensive enough to have more than one—you can instruct it to make a phone call or call 911 if you fall or have another emergency.   Here’s a roundup of the best for 2021.
  • Smart plugs. Once you connect a device by plugging it in, you can control it.
  • Smart lights.  How many times have you come home and wished you didn’t have to stumble through the house switching on lights?  Saying “Alexa, turn on the bedroom light,” before you ascend the stairs can be a safety feature and money saver–since it turns lights off when you leave as well.   Here’s how.
  • Smart thermostat. A smart thermostat can raise or lower the temperature from your couch –  or the grocery store. It can even sense when you are home or away, saving you money. This  article gives buying tips.
  • Smart doorbell. These are relatively inexpensive must-have safety devices if you want to see who is outside your door before you open it.  For a comparison of comparison of price and features, check here.
  • Smart lock.  A lock on your front door that you can unlock with your phone can come in handy, especially in bad weather or dicey neighborhoods.

Wealthy homeowners are spending $10,00 to $20,000 for smart home systems.    But you actually can get started for under $100.   Why not give it a try?  While it might sound like just another passing fad to some, the smart home—like the smartphone—is here to stay.

Do you have a smart home?  Why or why not?  Take our poll and let us know.

What do you think about smart homes?


4 responses to “Do I Really Need a Smart Home?

  1. It’s interesting to know that smart homes actually have fail-safe cutoffs for stoves and water left on accidentally. My wife and I are planning to build a new house and we’re thinking of what kind of house style to use. I heard smart home devices are quite common these days and they seem very convenient so we’ll take it into consideration.

  2. I don’t have a fully smart home, I have no need for many of its’ features–my son set up a fully smart home; he’s in his mid-30s and finds it wonderful. I have Alexa which is convenient to turn my lights on and off, but haven’t wanted to set her to do any of it automatically, and a trash can that’ll open and close automatically by voice command. Alexa will also make a call for me by voice command, ‘though I’ve only used that feature once. I like the idea mentioned above about automatically turning off the gas if I forget and would love to have that, if it could be had on a gas stove. (I’d forgetten recently to turn off the flame under my tea kettle, hoplessly burning it, and if I hadn’t remembered to check my gas range just before bedtime or left for a weekend away, who know what would’ve happened?

  3. Alexa has been useful. As a former HR VP in charge of recruiting, I keep encouraging corporations to include someone in their tech team who understands writing directions. Lots of our tech abilities are not used because directions are written by techies. I begrudge the time I spend to make tech work. I’d rather be reading a book or taking my dog for a walk. I appreciate the good AARP directions but wish it were easier to get back to sites. Often, once one leaves one, it’s lost.

  4. I was recently a guest in a “smart” hotel room that was extremely inconvenient for me. The light switches were all flat “touch”switches which I couldn’t find in the dark when I was trying to find the bathroom at 3AM and the window shades had all been programmed to open and close at times that were wrong for me and I couldn’t figure out how to change them. Just a NO vote from this old curmudgeon.

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