Category Archives: Home Automation

Is Your Home Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

As our phones get bigger and smarter and the technologies we use every day get more sophisticated, so too can our homes. With the Internet of Things now upon us, we’re poised to go from smart homes to smarterhomes in 2019 as home automation systems become commonplace and off-the-shelf products offer the convenience of smart home technology.

Here’s a quick look at just some of the tasks you can hand over to automation and smart home technology:

Home security: This one you’re probably already familiar with, but it gets better and better every year. Today’s home security systems offer video to let you see who’s at the front door, smart locks you can operate from anywhere, and even home automation features that let you program heating, air conditioning and lighting.

Lighting: Speaking of lighting, your home automation system can be set to turn lights on or off. You can now also buy lighting systems that let you control the brightness but also the color. You can even match the color of the light in a picture on your phone. This system can also turn lights on slowly to help you wake up in the morning.

Thermostats: Your home automation system can be used to control your thermostat or you can buy a “learning” thermostat that adapts to your lifestyle.

Household chores: Would you like to hand over some of your household chores to technology? You easily can. You’ll find devices that can handle some of the most mundane tasks for you, including window washing, vacuuming and floor mopping.

In the kitchen: We’ve heard all kinds of chatter about smart appliances already, like refrigerators that can track your groceries for you and ovens you can turn on remotely on your way home from work. But the one I’m ready for is the coffeemaker that knows when I wake up and brews my coffee just in time!

In the yard: You can lighten your load inside with smart home technology and automated devices, but you can also hand over some of the outside jobs too. Technology today offers automated lawn mowers and sprinklers, pool cleaners, and even a gutter cleaning device. (That’s the one at the top of my list! I do not like ladders!)

In the bedroom: Even your mattress can now help you sleep better, using biometric sensors and your smart phone.

And for the not yet smart? For those appliances that aren’t yet “smart,” you can get an outlet that lets you control whatever is plugged into it from your smart phone.

Experts say we are on the verge of the Internet of Things revolution, and that it will change our lives as fundamentally as the Internet did 20 years ago. As a homeowner, you won’t have to wait for the benefits of this technology, because you can easily start making your home smarter than a fifth grader with all the home security features and home devices already available to you!

Is Your Brain Overloaded? Home Automation Takes on Task Saturation!

My husband recently introduced me to a new term: task saturation. Task saturation happens when your brain has so much information coming at it that it can’t absorb any more. I was complaining about being so forgetful lately and he suggested that my brain is overloaded. It sure is!

I’m not alone. Many of us suffer from task saturation because we have high-pressure jobs with looming deadlines, constant communications via email and text, financial stresses as we try to make ends meet, and more…in addition to simply raising our kids, making our meals, taking care of our homes, and getting through each day reasonably sane.

That’s where home automation can help. It can remove a few of the tasks from our lists and free up our brains to handle other information.

Free up brain space when you automate some tasks
Forget about setting the thermostat or regulating the air conditioner. Your home automation system can take care of that. In the winter, you can set it to warm up the house right before you get home but save money by keeping the house cooler during the day when it’s empty. And the opposite is true during the summer. If you have pets, your home automation system can be set to keep the temperature correct for their needs without using too much energy—and without your having to worry if the dog is okay on a really hot day.

Your home automation system can also turn lights on and off, so you don’t have to come home to a dark house on a cold winter’s night—and if your kids get home first, they’ll appreciate the welcoming look of a warm, well-lit house.

The big benefit here is you can simply stop thinking about heating and cooling and lighting. You’re welcome, brain!

Home automation also protects your home—despite your forgetfulness
Your home automation can also free your brain from worrying about home security. You no longer have to nag the kids to remember to lock up, because you can lock and unlock doors, and even arm or disarm your security system, remotely using your phone. Or maybe you forgot to double check something because you were rushing out the door to work and your brain was full of thoughts about that big meeting later in the day. It’s okay. If you did forget, you can take care of it later from your office or while on the road.

We don’t function well when we suffer from task saturation, so we should be trying to get out of situations that cause it if we can. But at least a home automation system can offer a little bit of relief on the home front.

9 Ways Your Home Automation System Can Keep Kids Safe When They’re Home Alone

Following the high-profile abduction cases that led to pictures of missing children on milk cartons and much more diligence on the part of parents, studies show that far fewer kids are home alone these days: The number of grade-school American children who spend time at home alone has plunged by almost 40% since 1997.

Yet there are still those situations when kids will be unattended, at least for a short while, as much as parents would like to avoid it. Or the kids will be old enough to be unsupervised, but haven’t quite proved they are trustworthy before that day comes.

In either case, your home security system can help. Below are nine ways you can use your home security or home automation system to keep your kids safe and your sanity intact when your children are home alone:

  1. You can get alerts when a code used to unlock the front door, so you’ll know when your child has arrived home. If you’ve ever sat there waiting for a child to return a text message to you, letting you know they got home safely, you’ll know how nice this can be!
  2. Window and door sensors can alert you when a window or door is opened, so you can check in with your child.
  3. A video camera at the front door can show you (or your child) who is knocking.
  4. If you’ve said no video games, you can monitor the room that has that tempting distraction with a video camera to make sure rules are followed.
  5. A security video camera can also be used to monitor the yard (which is also helpful for those families who must leave a mischievous pet home alone).
  6. If your child is too young or your teenager too forgetful for properly monitoring the heating or air conditioning, you can use your home automation system to regulate the thermostat.
  7. Your home automation system can also be used to turn lights on automatically, either to make sure the house is lit when your child gets home on a dark winter afternoon, or to make sure your house is lit when you get home at the end of the day—because teenagers simply won’t think about it.
  8. As a parent with a child home alone, you can also get peace of mind knowing your home security system offers fire, carbon monoxide and flood monitoring.
  9. And if your kids need to leave the house, you can lock doors remotely should they forget.

Views about how much latitude children should have and at what age have changed drastically over the past 70 years, especially in the past 20 as we have turned into helicopter parents. (You can find a fascinating breakdown of changing parental attitudes over the decades by reading the results of this Slate study.)

My own kids are all grown and gone now and in their own apartments, and I still worry about them and wait for replies to texts so I know they’re okay. I guess some things never change, but at least technology makes it easier to keep an eye on them even when we’re not around.

Are You One of the Many Going Green in 2018? Home Automation Can Help

Although Americans tend to say they are environmentally conscious more than they act like it, there is definitely a trend toward a greener America. From re-usable grocery bags to organic foods to hybrid cars, the signs that we’re sitting up and paying attention to the consequences of our actions are all around us. Even fast-food giant and mega brand McDonald’s is going green. When that happens, we know something is afoot!

If you’ve been contemplating ways to green up your life, maybe as part of your New Year’s resolutions, and you’re shopping for a new home security system, you’re about to have a win-win situation. That’s because a home automation system can help you to be more green and consume fewer resources (while reducing your utility bills, which is a nice add-on). Here’s how:

Home automation can green up your thermostat
Heating an empty home in the winter or cooling the same in the summer are both huge energy drains. But no one wants to walk into an icebox at the end of the day in January, or an oven at the end of the day in July. With a home automation system, you can have smart control over your home’s temperature, and use your energy wisely.

Your house can stay moderately warm or cool while empty, but then your furnace or AC can kick in before you get home, so you walk into a comfort zone, not a hot or cold one. If you have pets at home, or kids who get home from school before you get home from work, you can adjust the temperature accordingly—and automatically.

Home automation can cut your electric bill
Coming home to a dark house at the end of a long day can be a dreary start to the evening, and sap your energy even more than your work and commute already did. But you don’t want to leave lights on all day just so you can drive up to a cheerful sight once it’s dark out. That’s wasteful.

Enter the home automation system that lets you program your lights to turn off and on at scheduled times, so you can have the lights off while gone but come home to a cheerful, well-lit abode. And if you have kids who leave lights on when they leave, because that’s what kids do, you can turn lights off remotely.

A home automation system won’t include solar panels or wind energy or make your washing machine more energy efficient, but every little bit really does count. Imagine what a difference we could make if all 324 million Americans cut their energy usage by just a fraction: huge!

Finally, if you’re looking for other ways to be a better citizen in the year ahead, be sure to check out these 101 tips on going zero waste. Many are ridiculously easy to do. And again, every little bit counts!

Home Automation Helps Seniors Stay Put

I’m at the age when my generation is helping their parents to downsize or move into retirement homes. My own mother is determined to stay in her house for as long as she can, so I assume it will be several years before I’m in the same situation as my friends. However, I still want to be mindful that my mother is older, and therefore needs extra consideration if not a new place to live.

Home automation can help.

A home security system can provide peace of mind for both my mother and for me, because it means her house is being watched over. If the alarm is triggered, the police are notified and on their way. Home security systems can also monitor for heat and smoke, as well as carbon monoxide. However, home security systems that also offer home automation can provide even more peace of mind than a home security system alone.

How home automation can help seniors stay in their homes
The AARP says 90% of seniors want to stay in their homes. We as the children can help our parents to be safe at home with common sense tips like these, and by taking advantage of the features home automation can offer.

For example, home automation means you can schedule lights to be turned on and off at set times, in case your parent is getting forgetful, or they’re getting wobbly on their feet. Automated lighting means the lights can be on before dusk falls, so your parents aren’t fumbling around in the dark. It also means they have fewer reasons to be getting up and risking a fall in the first place.

Such a home automation system also enables you to regulate the temperature, especially important during the heat of summer and the cold of winter. If your parents are like my mother, then you’re already used to their house being too warm or too cold because they’re trying to save money on the heating or cooling bill. Yet our goal is to ensure they are always warm or cool enough. Automating the temperature control can do that for us.

If your parents are starting to forget simple tasks like locking doors or windows, a home automation system lets you lock up from afar.

Security cameras give you extra insight
Security cameras let you keep an eye on the home and property, and see who is at the front door when the doorbell rings. Those same cameras can help you keep an eye on your parents too, so you’ll know when they leave and when they return. That means you’ll know that they remembered the doctor’s appointment on Tuesday, for example, and then returned home safely afterwards. If you’re not living near your parents, you’ll probably appreciate the security cameras even more.

It’s challenging when the tables turn and it’s the children caring for the parents rather than the other way around. Taking advantage of modern technology to enable you to provide some of that care without seeming intrusive in doing so can help. And that’s just what home automation can do for you, your parents, and your peace of mind.

Tips for Protecting Your Vacation Home When It’s Sitting Empty

Your vacation home: Out of sight and out of mind perhaps, when you’re not there, but not out of danger! How do you make sure your home away from home is safe when you’re not there? Try these tips…

“Fake” your vacation home like your regular home
When you’re going away, you make sure your regular home is cared for in your absence, right? Someone tends to the lawn, waters the flower beds, gets the mail, picks up any packages on the front porch… In short, you make sure your home looks like you’re there even when you’re not.

Take that same approach with your vacation home, if you can. Logistics are going to come into play, obviously, meaning a cabin in the woods is less likely to get (or need) regular maintenance compared to a beach house with a lawn. But do what you can to make your vacation home appear to be regularly visited if not occupied.

Buy even better locks!
Some vacation homes are more like brand-new and expensive luxury homes than “cabins,” so it could be the locks on those doors and windows are already top-of-the-line. But for every other kind of vacation home, you might want to double up on this part of your vacation home security. Invest in really good locks for your doors and windows, and remember that this applies to any outbuildings and garages too.

Get to know your neighbors
We recently gave this advice regarding your regular home, but you’ll also benefit from knowing your neighbors so they can keep an eye on your vacation home for you.

Across the street from our farm is a tiny yet adorable one-room cabin on the river. The owners are only there for a day or two at a time, and the cabin sits empty all of the other days. Getting to know us (the neighbors) was one of the first things they did when they bought the place, and it has worked out well for them. When a tree fell on their property and into the road during a storm, we alerted them and cleared the road. When the river rose and was inches from flooding the cabin, we kept an eye on it for them. And we regularly take our dog over to their place for a dip in the river on hot days, per their request, just so anyone watching will see activity and people around. That gives us a place to cool off the dog and them some peace of mind.

Install a home security system
A home security system is a must for any home that sits empty, whether it’s your regular home or your vacation one. But your vacation home might need it even more, for the security reasons but also because you can have flood monitoring and smoke detection too. And with a home automation system, you can schedule lights and a radio to turn on and off to give the appearance that the home is occupied. (Just be sure to keep the curtains closed.) Best of all, with video monitoring, you can quite literally keep an eye on the place…even when you’re far away, daydreaming about your next chance to get away to that home away from home.

4 Ways a Home Automation System Can Help You Enjoy Summer More

With summer in full swing, we were thinking about all the ways a home automation system can help to keep summer time an easy time. Here’s our list of the top four ways a home automation system can help you get the most out of your summer.

Temperature control
During the cold winter months, a home automation system can keep the heat turned down while you’re away at work but then turn it up before you get home, so your house is toasty warm when you get there—but you don’t waste energy (or money) heating an empty house while you’re gone.

During the summer months, your home automation system can regulate your air conditioning in the same way, saving you money on your energy bills and making you a greener homeowner.

Knowing when doors or windows are open
The kids are out of school! That means doors and windows will be left open as they’re running in and out or opening the window to yell outside for something. Your home automation system can let you know when doors or windows are left open so you can make sure they’re closed when they need to be—like when the air conditioning is on and you don’t want that nice cool air heading outside to be wasted, or when you’re leaving for the evening and you want to make sure the house is secure.

Speaking of secure…
Many people spend more time away from home during the summer, either traveling for vacation or taking day trips to the beach or pool. With a home automation system, your time away doesn’t have to put your property at risk. Even if everyone ran out the door in a hurry to catch the train, you can use your smart phone to make sure everything is locked up and alarm-ready from afar. You can also check on your home using video cameras from clear across the world (as long as you have an Internet connection).

And then there’s the lighting
Summer is kind of funny when it comes to daylight. We have our longest day of the year at the very start of summer, then days get shorter as summer goes along. That makes keeping up with lighting tricky! At our house, we spend a lot of time outside trying to take advantage of every bit of the evening light, and we can easily forget that the house is dark until it’s time to go in and we’re fumbling around for a light switch. This is admittedly a bit jarring because we’ve just gone from a lovely soft evening light into a dark home that’s suddenly brightly lit. A home automation system ensures your lights come on when you want them too, both inside and out, easing the transition for you.

Automated lighting can be a bonus outside too. We don’t have anything fancy like a pool or fancy deck…yet. But in the future when we do, I can foresee wanting the outdoor lights to come on automatically without my having to stop what I’m doing to turn them on once it’s dark enough.

A home automation system offers countless benefits year-round, and it’s easy to see that it earns its keep during the long, warm days of summer just as much as it does during the short, dark days of winter!

Even Easier Home Automation? Introducing Alexa Integration With ADT

With home automation and security systems like that offered by ADT, homeowners can already remotely manage features such as setting alarms and locking doors, as well as automate household functions such as temperature and lighting. But now you can do even more, because ADT and Amazon’s Alexa can work together, giving you voice control over your home automation and security system.

The convenience of voice control
ADT Pulse already offers voice-activated functionality but you have to be near your smart phone. For even greater convenience for you, Alexa can now perform ADT Pulse functions for you based on your voice commands. For example, you can tell Alexa to lock the front door, disarm the alarm, turn on a lamp, or give you a status update on a security feature such as the back door lock. These are all functions of your home automation system, but you can control them by using Alexa’s voice-activated technology.

If you’re like me, and you think to do something but then get distracted by something else right away, such as a toy on the floor or dirty dishes on the counter or that phone call you were supposed to make an hour ago, being able to say what you want done rather than do it can be a huge help.

For example, let’s say you forgot to make sure the back door was locked and you want to grab your phone so you can see the status, but just then one of the kids yells out that the other has smacked his head on the coffee table…oh, you’re going to forget about that back door, I think! But with Alexa standing by, you can verbally get the job done as you dash down the hall to the scene of possible mayhem.

Voice control you control
This voice control does not mean that just anyone can tell Alexa to mess with your home security, however. It’s PIN activated, so as long as the PIN is known only by you and anyone else in the household who needs it, your security shouldn’t be compromised by using Alexa to control it.

Integrating Alexa and ADT means even easier and more efficient home automation and security. And it’s easy to set up: To enable the two systems work together, you only need to add the ADT Pulse app to your Alexa app.

Read more about the integration of ADT Pulse and Alexa.

Home Security Systems Then and Now–Is It Time for an Upgrade?

We humans have always protected our homes and families. It’s innate in us, this desire to defend our property and loved ones. How we have gone about it has changed, however, and in recent years, it has changed dramatically. If you haven’t looked into home security systems lately, or you’re thinking it’s time to upgrade yours, here’s a rundown of the dramatic changes we’ve seen in home security systems in recent years…

From one job to many
Home security systems used to have one job and one job only: sound the alarm when a break-in occurred. This alarm would be audible within the home and also notify the home security provider so they could dispatch police.

Today home security systems help to protect homes and families against intruders as well as other threats such as carbon monoxide poisoning, fires and flooding.

In addition to being able to recognize these other threats, home security systems have also evolved from home security systems to home automation systems. That means homeowners can use them to regulate lighting, heating and cooling, in addition to monitoring home security.

From one trigger to many
Home security systems used to be limited in scope, recognizing that a door or window was opened and triggering the alarm.

Today’s home security systems include motion sensors, video cameras and more to enable more thorough home security. Cameras can be placed outside the home and inside, enabling more security coverage. That means garages and other outbuildings can be monitored as well.

Features such as video cameras also allow for real-time monitoring. Someone shows up at the front door while you’re at work? You can see who it is via the camera.

From onsite to remote
And you can see who is at the front door while sitting at your desk at work because today’s home security systems can be monitored and managed remotely, requiring only an Internet connection to see what is happening. In addition to the video access, this remote monitoring lets homeowners lock and unlock doors, control lighting and heating, and more, all from a computer, tablet or smartphone that is Internet-enabled.

From hardwired to wireless
Finally, another huge evolution in home security is the the switch from hardwired—requiring hours of installation time to drill holes and run wires—to wireless. Sometimes hardwired is still the right setup for some homes. However, wireless has many advantages, not the list of which is the fast installation time (no drilling required) and the fact that you can take your home security system with you when you move. (See seven advantages of wireless home security systems.)

As with everything, it seems, technology drives significant changes in how we work, live and play—and that includes in how we protect our homes and loved ones. If your home security system is old and limited in scope compared to what’s on the market today, it might be time for an upgrade.

3 Ways to Cut Household Expenses With a Home Automation System

Among those resolutions we made this year, many of us probably had financial ones, like save more money or spend less money. (According to one website, two-thirds of us made a 2017 resolution related to finances!)

If you’re one of the majority, here’s a money-saving tip for you: home automation. In the U.S., between 5% and 22% of our after-tax income goes to pay our energy bills. That’s a chunk of change!

A home automation system can help you manage your home’s energy usage to reduce the energy used and the money you pay. Here’s how…

Heating the home
With the right home security or home automation system, you can automate your thermostat to adjust settings throughout the day based on the times someone is home or the house is empty—or someone will soon be home. Or you can control it remotely. Let’s say you’re getting off work late, or the kids will be home from school early (due to one of those notorious half days), and your pre-set settings won’t work. Simply adjust the thermostat remotely from wherever you are.

On all of the other days, however, your home automation system will be sure to turn the heat down when everyone is gone for the day then turn it back up when it’s needed. So everyone is comfortable, but you’re never wasting money (or energy) on an empty house.

Lighting the home
With a home automation system, you can set up lights to turn on and off automatically, just like you can set your thermostat. And just like your thermostat, you can also turn lights on and off remotely. Maybe the kids were the last to leave, and they left all the lights a-blazin’. You’ve got it. Or maybe someone will be coming home to a dark house unless you over-ride your settings. You’ve got that too.

The beauty of a home automation system is that you’re not stuck with whatever you program the home automation system to do. It’s more like the default that will manage your heat and lights for you, but you still have the final say…even when you’re not home.

And this way, you only have lights on when you need the energy (and cost). You can also set up your lights to turn on and off to look like someone is home, in order to deter potential burglars.

Running the appliances
Although this isn’t an option with all home automation systems, some “smart” devices can be synced up to your appliances with real-time energy information, to operate your home appliances when energy is cheapest. If the middle of the night is the cheapest time to run your washing machine, for example, that’s when it will start chugging and churning!

If you’re in the market for a home security system, consider which home automation features you might want in order to lower your energy usage. Then make sure you can make the home automation system work for you and your lifestyle by customizing it to fit your family’s needs and schedule.

View all of our security plans and features!

Customer Reviews

I feel so much better knowing my family is protected! I spoke with SafeStreets USA in the evening and a technician was able to come install the system for me then for my parents first thing the next morning. Very impressed with his knowledge and care!

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We had our ADT system installed by SafeStreets USA and were really impressed with the service we received from our technician. He was very friendly and answered all of our questions on the system and how it worked. He set everything up in a couple of hours and was a real pleasure to talk with []

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