Friday 5 May 2017

Living in a smart home

Our first foray into the world of the smart home was a few years back when we installed a Tado smart central heating system. We can control the heating from our phones, and because it works on location the heating can turn on and off depending on where we are. If we are going on holiday we turn the heating off, then time when we turn it back on so that the house is nice and warm for our return. If we are only out locally for a short time the house doesn't have long enough to get cold, and it's nice to pull into the drive and see that the heating has come on ready for us without having to worry about it.

The next element to our smart home was the Amazon Alexa, which we bought just before Christmas last year, and since then things have become much more complicated. We started out with just the main Amazon Echo (affiliate link), which was very shortly followed by two Echo Dots (affiliate link), so we now have the main Echo in the kitchen and a dot in both the living room and bedroom. I mostly use Alexa to play music as she's linked to our Spotify account. It's really good to be able to put music on in the kitchen while I'm making dinner. She's can also tell me the news, the weather, and the children love asking her to tell them a joke.

However one of the main reasons that Alexa was purchased was for the next element - the light bulb invasion. Initially intended for just the living room and bedroom, the light bulb empire has gradually expanded to include most of the house. We have Philips Hue bulbs, in a mixture of both coloured and white, some set up individually and some linked. The outside ones are set on timers, and all can be controlled by both voice and phone.

They were quite fun at first, especially the four coloured bulbs in the living room which can be set to flash on and off in time with music. The excitement has worn off a bit now, as has the novelty of controlling them by speaking to Alexa. The trouble is that as we've added more and more, Alexa isn't always sure exactly which bulbs you are referring to. By the time she has asked for clarification, and you've managed to come to a joint agreement about what you are hoping she might do, it's a lot quicker to just pull up the screen on the phone and change them yourself.

Most recently, a few weeks ago we installed a Ring Video Doorbell (affiliate link). This was quite an expense, not just for the unit itself but also for the full morning that it took two electricians to install. It is fab though, the camera is motion activated so whenever someone comes to the door it will record a 30 second clip. If someone rings the bell we have the function to answer it from our phone. So for example if I've just popped out and the postman arrives with a parcel I can speak to him through the doorbell and ask him to leave it round the side. If small boys come to the door to ask us to throw their football back (a regular occurrence) I don't need to go running to the door if I'm busy and I can tell them I'll chuck it over later. It's also comforting to be able to pull up a live view from our front door when we are away and make sure that nothing untoward is going on.

Although it's great from a security point of view although it does make me feel a little bit spied on - the husband will receive an alert whenever I leave the house, when I return, and will see any visitors that I might have during the day (most likely none!).

Ring doorbell on house

So what is next for our smart home? I've not noticed the husband researching anything else recently although I know that there are plenty of add-ons available that work with our existing set up. I wouldn't be surprised if he starts mooting the idea of an indoor video recording security system, but I might have a few objections to that one!

Do you have any of these devices? I'd love to know how you get on with them!

Amazon links are affiliate.


  1. We have nothing like this, we are completely old school still. lol Mich x

  2. I'll start by saying I work in a fab team. And finish with how much we love to mock each other. One has recently had some technology installed which means she monitors movement at her front door via her phone. Mainly because she has a garden room from where she works and kept missing deliveries. And it makes perfect sense in today's world. Whilst being fun to mock. As you've said, as long as it is creating an efficiency and not taking longer than the original task, I think it's a good thing.


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