Smart Home

It seems to be all the rage now-a-days to have the newest smart home product prominently displayed in your home. I have to say that I have tried a lot of these products and there are a lot more I can’t wait to integrate into my home.

As a Real Estate aficionado and investor I am into all things that would lead to the advancement of more efficient, planet-friendly homes (reducing the need for fossil fuel and helping our planet… after all it always starts one home at a time).

In addition, to all of the good that these products are doing for the environment and our personal home inefficiencies, they also have the “cool” factor!

Real Estate is what I do ( I get asked that a lot). Primarily I List, Sell, and manage real estate for Sellers, Buyers, and Investors in Central Florida (for now). However, it is in all of my clients best interests for me to stay abreast of the latest in home technology, materials, deficiencies, legal matters, and the like.  For this post, I thought I would write about two of my favorite Smart-Home Products and share some of the most amazing tech toys for the home with my friends and clients.

First on my list as a home must have?

1. Alexa a.k.a The Amazon Echo

The Amazon Echo is also affectionately referred to as “Alexa.” Alexa is one of the best tech tools to come into my life, like EVER, like Alexa is up there with my computer, flat screen monitors, and cell phones. I know she has some new competitors to the market (namely the Google Home , which I am also currently testing), I have yet to try all of them but right now I am in LOVE with Alexa. Every morning she wakes us up at the time we set the night before via voice activation. She provides us with the whether report, reads our audible books to us, plays our Spotify or Pandora playlist, re-orders items on Amazon for us, she tells us jokes, sets timers, adds to our to-do/ shopping lists, turns on our lights and just makes us feel like better people.

Recently, Amazon released the “Alexa Show” which is Alexa on steroids as they added a video screen. You might say that it might as well be a tablet but the show is so much more. I set it up in my kitchen and Alexa has been wonderful. When I am cooking and I have a question she can now actually search it for me HANDS FREE or Alexa can YouTube search it for me and without having to pick something up and type out my question(like I would have to do with a cell phone). It is a completely hands-free experience, which is wonderful when you are in the kitchen cooking dinner. You can also connect with other Alexa users simply by telling Alexa to call that user. I use it to speak to my sister at the end of the night. It connects us on an entirely new level because I am walking around my kitchen disconnected from the phone on my ear and it is almost like she is has been transported to my house. For us this is amazing, fun, and super convenient. The new Alexa show can do video calls if you want, which is why I limit the show to my kitchen (video cameras in my bedroom is the, metaphorical, line I draw). The show is currently being marketed for around $230 but keep an eye out for sales (hello friends and family convo night… the easy way).

For my testing purposes I started with the one Alexa and in our current set up I can’t see the need for another Alexa Show right now. I have one on each floor of the house (the Alexa Show Downstairs and the Full Blown original Alexa upstairs). I tried to put Alexa dots(the little sister to the first generation Alexa) in different rooms and it didn’t work too well because the voice was overlapping room to room (not to mention the fact that the speaker on the dot is seriously inferior).

Now to be fair I didn’t mess with the settings enough to determine if I could change the name of what Alexa responds to, by device, but in our house more than one per floor is just not necessary (there are only two of us).

Ok, so I might be going overboard with my claim that Alexa somehow increases our self worth but she is pretty awesome!

Second, on my must have list?

2. Lutron Smart Blinds

This was a heavy investment but for personal reasons I decided to take a leap of faith in these babies(smart blinds) and boy am I glad I did!!! To date it has been one of the most liberating experiences in home technology I have had the pleasure of experiencing.

Here’s the background: I like it when the suns natural rays overtake every corner of my home and the light crawls over the darkness as the sun rises due east.  When I let the light in, I am welcoming the light that creates the morning dew, the light that awakens the chirping birds and the light that makes the flowers puff their petals just a little bit more with a sense of awakening and pride, I am letting this light into my home and it is invigorating;  this bright natural light brings a certain je ne sais quoi to the house, I have done my best to explain the feeling but some things are just not meant to be explained.

However, at night, I want to feel like I have my privacy because, at night, with the lights on inside, it is very easy to see inside of a house; but you are usually unable to see out into the darkness that is the adjoining preserve. Call me paranoid, but my preference is to keep the blinds open during the day, and close them at night. I guess, in a way, it’s a kind of literal metaphor for letting the light in and keeping the darkness out.

This preference, to maintain that je ne sais quoi, is obtained through ritual, the ritual of me personally opening the blinds every single morning, and closing the blinds every single night. This one task would take me, roughly, five minutes each morning and each night to complete (not bad considering the task).

Consider the following: Five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night each day is ten minutes a day, times seven days a week is 1 hour and ten minutes a week spent opening a closing blinds. Take that one hour and ten minutes a week and times it by fifty-two weeks in a year and you come up with two and a half days a year (2.53) full days a year!!

I spent of my life opening and closing blinds, that’s two and one-day (2.53) FULL twenty-four hour days!! (Math: 1 hour per week*52 weeks = 52 Hours | 10 minutes per week * 52 weeks= 520 minutes (remember it was 1 hour and 10 minutes per week) / 60 minutes in an hour = 8.66 hours/ 52 Hours + 8.66= 60.66 Hours| 60.66 Hours spent / 24 hours in a day = 2.53 FULL 24 HOUR DAYS A YEAR SPENT OPENING AND CLOSING BLINDS!!!!!!!)

All that being said, the Lutron blinds have been AWESOME! I have them set to open with the Sun rise and close when the Sun sets automatically! Since I put the blinds on my sliding glass door, and I still go to the porch after dark, I have synced the Lutron blinds to open and close on voice command with Alexa using the Scenes function (all of which I programmed into the apps, custom to my preference). This way I tell Alexa what I want, and my house comes ALIVE!

My favorite Scene is the “relax” scene, here, I tell Alexa my code word, for the desired scene, and she opens my sliding door blinds (so I can go relax on my screened in porch), turns my lights to a red light/blue light combo (check out the studies on the benefits of blue light here ; and learn more about color wave lengths on NASA’s site here ; and one more on how our eyes process light and colors here— Light therapy has been shown to help with SAD and amongst other benefits see here ), and starts up my Sonos with a light Jazz music (is an explanation of the soothing soul of Jazz even necessary?! )! All with one custom code word!

I have spent the last year re-organizing (blogs to come) and testing almost any smart home product I can get my hands on (one at a time but still building on my collection).  Moral of the story, I don’t know if I could go back to a life without Alexa and my Lutron Blinds (I mean, let’s be real, I know I could but I surely would not want to)! Both devices are worth every penny to save my time, while maintaining that feeling I want in my home.

*I work from home some days and an office on other days. For those of you who want privacy in your home while you are at work, you can set the blinds to rise with the Sun (so its bright when you wake and remember you can do this room by room it is fully customizable), then have them go down when you are scheduled to leave for work and rise 10 minutes before you are scheduled to be home and then close with the Sunset. You can control them from Alexa, your phone, or even a wall switch. Downside is the price they are custom ordered, I ordered my from Budget Blinds but I can promise they are anything but “budget.” However, you can always build into them, by buying one room at a time, to start I just did the downstairs level in my house and plan on doing the upstairs next year.

Those are my top two products but not far behind are Sonos, Alexa wand, Amazon Dash buttons, Philips Hues, Nest Thermostat, Nest Protect, WeMo, Ring, Plated, Fresh Meal Plan, and more. These are all smart home/time saving, organizational products and technology that I will tell you more about in my upcoming blogs 🙂 Enjoy your Smarter Home!