This is The Era of Smart Homes

Jon Fesmire |

In 2015 we officially passed the future as shown in Back to the Future II. The fact is, technology is moving so quickly that in a very real sense we are living in the future. We have capabilities now that people would never have expected twenty years ago, back when the Internet was new to most. We humans have an amazing ability to learn and adopt new technologies to the point where it’s hard to imagine life without them, even when we’re talking about things we didn’t have last year.

While you might not realize it yet, you can computerize and automate much of what happens in your home. This level of control can make life safer, easier, and more enjoyable.

If you want to go all-out with this, you’ll probably need to own your own home and be willing to spend a considerable amount of dough. For those renting or unwilling to splurge on 21st century upgrades, there are still little things you can add to your home.

Hire an ESC

An electronic systems contractor (ESC) used to be someone who would help set up a great entertainment system. Now, ESCs coordinate everything from installing wall tablets that control aspects of your home to customizing entire rooms to a theme. You can find an ESC on Yelp or Google by searching for Electronic Systems Contractor or Electronic Systems Integrator, plus the name of your city.

What can you, either on your own or with the help of an ESC, accomplish?

Control Panels

What can’t you do with a tablet these days? It was only in 2007 that Apple gave us the iPhone. Now, we have iPads, Android tablets, and Microsoft Surface. When it comes to running your home, there is indeed an app for that.

In a segment called High-Tech Home Organization with Sabrina Soto from HGTV, Soto talks to the Davis family about their tablet system. The parents explain that there’s a control tablet in the wall on each floor, and that they were able to see Soto approaching from the tablet. In the morning, the tablet turns on wake-up music for each of their children and brings the lights up slowly, giving them an easier transition to waking.

The camera for the front door is just one of many. Others show public areas of the house, including the living room, hallways, and the baby’s room. Yes, instead of using an audio baby monitor, the couple can see and hear their child through the tablets. The system helps the family keep a daily schedule, which is so important for keeping stress levels low and for productivity. In the Davis house, this system also controls the entertainment system and showers.

The system is also synced to everyone’s smartphones to help with scheduling.

Other aspects of a home that tablets can control include the AC, security system, television, faucets, and more.

Kitchen Control

If you like to actually cook meals rather than just pop dinner in the microwave, you’ll love modern kitchen technology. There are some fantastic ways to streamline work in the kitchen.

Cookbooks are great, but can be tough to manage while cooking. Plus food gets on them, staining the pages, and they take up space you could use for ingredients or decoration.

If physical cook books aren’t your thing, try using Basil, an iPad recipe app that, along with many other functions, will import recipes you find online, create grocery lists of what you need for any given dish, and can even recommend healthier substitute ingredients. Paprika, which is available for iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows, can also import recipes and allows you to type in your own. You can even scale recipes depending on how many people you’re serving. A simpler app for iOS, RecipeTin, is a virtual recipe box that shows your recipes in their original format, be it Word, email, or PDF. Finally, BigOven comes with 350 thousand recipes shared by users, and is available for iOS and Android. You can get the free version with ads or the $19.99 yearly subscription that is ad free with extra features, and even allows you to scan in a printed recipe.

You can use these apps from your tablet, phone, or the screen on your wifi-enabled fridge. Samsung’s T9000 is a smart fridge with a built in screen that runs on the Android OS. The retail price is $3,500, but expect that price to fall in the future. From the T9000 and refrigerators like it, you can play music, read your recipes, and even monitor and control your entire home.

Other things a tablet can control in the kitchen include faucets, cooktops, and lights. You can put on a cooking video while you cook the same dish, pausing where appropriate. You can also simply put on your favorite television show as you work.

The Smart Bathroom

Some people like their showers hot, some not so hot; some like the lights all the way up, some like them dimmed; and some want music playing while they shower or bathe, and some don’t. In a smart bathroom, each member of the family can store his or her own preference.. One company to consider for you bathroom hardware and app needs is Crosswater Digital, with products for switching between bath and shower at the touch of a button, measuring water temperature, and more.

Add a smart water fixture, such as a Brizo by Delta, to provide a great way to not only save water, but have a more pleasant shower experience. These faucets produce larger water droplets making the showering that much more comfortable. Some even have a read-out of the water temperature and can be set to turn off automatically.

An Entertainment Sanctuary

Today’s technology can make it easier for us to spend more times with loved ones. If you happen to have an extra room, why not keep the living room as a social area and move the television to its own entertainment smart room? That smart room can have comfortable chairs facing a large, wide-screen TV, speakers built into the walls and ceiling for an amazing surround sound experience, and perhaps a small tablet built into the arm of one of the chairs that can control the television and everything else in the room. No more lost remotes! iRule comes in versions for iOS and Android and allows you to control television, lights, sound, gaming consoles, and more in your entertainment room. This room would also be great for gaming, which more adults than ever are into and can be a fun activity for kids and their parents to share. The television can also be connected to NetFlix, Hulu, or YouTube.

Everything Can Be Smart

Smart technology can be applied to other areas as well, like a smart office or smart garage. In fact, Pottery Barn has smart technology furniture to help with such an office, including smart desks.

Thanks to the Internet, you can also control aspects of your smart home from your phone while you’re away. Control your heating or AC remotely so your home is comfortable while you’re there, but not wasting energy while you’re not. Look in on the cameras while you’re away. If your kids get home from school before you get home from work, you can check in on them--in the public rooms, of course. You could even do a video call with them from your phone to a wall tablet with an app like Skype or FaceTime.

You know that feeling of leaving your house and worrying whether or not you turned off the stove? Check on your phone using the iTotal Control Stove. Did you forget to close the shades? Do so via the Internet with Serena Shades from Lutron.

Naturally Smart

If you’re in a position to have your home built or greatly remodeled, you might be able to decide on the architectural design. Consult with a professional about the best placement of windows, the shape of rooms, and so on. It is possible to build a house that stays cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, allowing you to spend less money on AC and heating. You can also save money on your electricity bill by switching to LED bulbs, and more. The Renter’s Bent blog on StorageFront.Com can help.

Another great option if you can afford it is to add solar panels to your house. Some generate enough energy to not only power everything at home, but to have extra power to sell back to the local energy company. See how much power your house uses with apps like Meter Readings, and Watts Plus.

Hopefully this article gave you some great ideas on what you can do to truly modernize your home, even if you are on a budget.