Automated devices help keep your home safe and sound while you’re away
Vacation time is finally here! Whether you’re heading out for a long weekend at the beach or off on a multi-week trek to Europe, concerns about the safety of your home are likely to follow.
And there’s good reason to be worried. According to a recent FBI Crime Statistics report, there were an estimated 1.5 million burglaries committed over the course of a year, with more than 70 percent of them being residential. The U.S. Department of Justice reports burglary rates are highest in the summer.
The good news is that burglary rates have been steadily dropping in each of the last five years. That’s likely thanks to increased vigilance through:
- More subscriptions for affordable monitored home security systems like that offered here in Georgia by EMC Security, a subsidiary of Walton EMC.
- Greater availability of home automation products to help owners remotely safeguard their property.
- Even those who have a monitored home security system can do even more to enhance property security, save on energy and even care for pets while you’re away. Consider these “smart” products that let you use your smartphone to monitor and control what’s happening in and around your home from anywhere.
A smart plug can turn any electronic device into one that can be controlled remotely to create the illusion that someone’s home.
A smart plug can turn any electronic device into one that can be controlled remotely or put on a schedule to create the illusion that someone’s home. No more leaving the hallway light on for a week, wasting electricity and money — and not fooling would-be thieves.
Wemo Mini smart plug
Wemo Mini ($30) – Consumers rate this a favorite because it’s reliable, compact and easy to use. The Mini works with both Android and iOS devices (as well as Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant). It’s easy to set up: Plug it into an outlet, download the free app to your phone, make the wireless connection and then control lights and appliances right from your smartphone or tablet.
Wemo Insight Smart Plug ($50) – For a few dollars more, this Wi-Fi enabled device lets you monitor energy consumption in addition to controlling your home lights and electronics from your mobile device. That’s a win-win.
iClever Smart Plug Wi-Fi Mini Outlet ($15) – This little plug offers a lot of bang for the buck with a broad array of automation commands available through iClever’s Smart Life app.
iClever IC-BS06 ($29) – Has two weatherproof outlets that can be controlled remotely and independently. Automations can be configured based on time, weather, humidity, temperature, air quality or sunrise/sunset.
TP-Link HS300 Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip ($80) – Turns one outlet into six independently controlled smart outlets and three USB ports. Smart outlets have scheduling and timer features. An Away mode triggers devices randomly during set periods, so it appears as if someone is home. It includes an energy use tracker.
The majority of residential burglaries occur during daylight hours, with access gained through a door or window. A video doorbell offers a first line of defense for homeowners that not only lets you see and speak with whoever is outside, but will also record footage of visitors that approach your door while you're away or unable to answer.
A simple replacement of a traditional doorbell allows you to use
your smartphone to see, hear and speak to anyone at the door.
SkyBell smart doorbell
SkyBell ($199) – Offered by EMC Security, the Skybell is the top-ranked video doorbell by reviewers at PC Magazine. A simple replacement of a traditional doorbell allows you to use your smartphone to see, hear and speak to anyone at the door whether you’re in the kitchen or out of town. Best feature: Storage of recorded video is free.
Ring Video Pro ($249) – Its features are comparable to those of the SkyBell, with one notable exception: Access to recorded video requires an extra paid subscription. An online video tutorial makes this device easy to install.
Smart Door Lock
A connected lock offers both security and flexibility, letting you control access to your home with your phone. No more leaving keys under the mat for dog walkers or neighbors who are looking after your place while you’re out of town.
Schlage Sense smart deadbolt lock
Schlage Sense ($199) – Easy to install, the Schlage Bluetooth deadbolt lock lets you use your phone to lock and unlock doors, program access codes and set up access schedules. It also supports voice control.
August Smart Lock Pro ($229) – The August lock can be controlled remotely by phone or with Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri voice commands. Auto-Unlock feature knows when you arrive and unlocks the door as you approach.
Water Leak Sensor
In the U.S., 14,000 people experience a water damage event each day. Property damage from water leaks is the second most common home insurance claim, with each claim averaging $8,000. Murphy’s Law says this costly damage is most likely to occur while you’re on vacation. Using wireless leak sensors that send an alert to your smartphone or other connected device can help you stop the leak before significant damage occurs.
Property damage from water leaks is the
second most common home insurance claim.
Most sensors on the market require the additional purchase of a hub or subscription service to receive alerts to your phone or computer. If you already have a hub for operating other smart appliances in your home, the chances are good that you can buy a reasonably priced water sensor that is compatible. Also, EMC Security customers have the option of adding a leak sensor to an existing home security package.
If you don’t want the hassle of a hub and don’t mind a finicky connectivity setup (according to customer reviews), here’s an option:
Wasserstein Smart Wi-Fi Water Sensor, Flood and Leak Detector ($30) – The Wasserstein smart water sensor features a compact design that easily fits under appliances. This smart Wi-Fi sensor sends notifications straight to your phone through the free Wstein app that is iOS and Android compatible. Note that a separate sensor is needed for each potential leak location.
Most smart thermostats are built with vacations in mind. They have settings for extended home absences as well as convenient control from your smartphone, so you won’t have to worry about wasting energy while you’re away — or coming home to a hot house.
Google Nest smart thermostat
Google Nest ($249) – You can install it and forget it because the Nest memorizes your favorite temperature settings and adjusts throughout the day. If your home gets dangerously hot while your vacationing, you’ll receive a notification on your phone or tablet to alert you to the problem. Plus, the Nest also sends energy reports based on your usage patterns to guide you toward a more efficient, economical heating and cooling routine. Product claims say this ENERGY STAR-rated thermostat can save up to 15 percent on cooling bills. In most cases, it can be self-installed in about 30 minutes.
Ecobee4 ($249) – Equipped with a lot of bells and whistles (such as built-in Amazon Alexa voice assistant), this thermostat will do everything you want and probably more. The Ecobee4 uses sensors placed around the home to measure both occupancy and temperature. The manufacturer claims homeowners can save up to 23 percent annually on heating and cooling costs. It’s an easy DIY install, too.
Worrying about your furry friend who’s left behind at home can detract from the fun of a vacation. A pet camera can help you connect with doggie or kitty while you’re away.
Petcube Bites Wi-Fi Pet Camera and Treat Dispenser ($179) – Equipped with a high-definition video camera, two-way audio, a treat dispenser and 24/7 cloud recording backup, this gadget not only allows you to check on your pets remotely, but also to feed, play and interact with them through your smartphone. The dispenser can hold up to 2 pounds of cat or dog treats. Rewinds and plays back up to four hours of video history with no subscription required.
Simplify: Connect to your existing security system
If you already have a monitored security system such as EMC Security, it’s a smart move to talk with a customer service representative before you invest in any of these smart products. Your security company may offer similar products that are compatible with your fire/security system at a competitive price. Integrating smart monitoring devices, lights, thermostats and locks with your existing system will simplify safety and security measures when you’re away.