Tag Archives: energy saving

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!

Tips for Getting Lit Up Before the Dark Days Arrive

October is here, Halloween is fast approaching, and daylight savings will end November 4th. Yep, it’s time to look at lighting! Use the tips below to make sure your lighting is adding to your home’s security, both inside and outside your home.

Inside your home
With a home automation system, you can put your lights on timers so they turn on when it starts to get dark, even if your house is empty. There are two safety reasons for having your lights turn on automatically.

  1. The lights turning on all of a sudden makes it look like someone’s home, to help deter burglars.
  2. When the lights are already on, you or your kids can see when first coming in the front door, reducing the risk of trips or falls in the dark.

Also take a walk around as dusk falls to evaluate your lighting needs. Are there dark corners or stairs that would be safer with better lighting? Are there nightlights for anyone who gets up to use the bathroom or get a drink of water during the night? Fix any problems spots you find, to decrease the chance of accidents.

Outside your home
Good lighting outside will also help deter burglars and reduce accidents, but it’s a little trickier because you’ll have to experience the dark spots to know where you need to make adjustments. Do your assessment when it’s dark and check for the following:

  • Are sidewalks and pathways clearly lit, for your family, but also for visitors?
  • Is the path to your shop or detached garage clearly lit?
  • Are there dark areas by doorways or windows where someone could hide while breaking in?

As you’re improving your outdoor lighting, keep in mind these three tips so your yard doesn’t end up looking like a brightly lit runway:

  1. Use motion sensors to provide light only when and where needed. Perhaps a soft light is enough most of the time, but a motion sensor can turn on a brighter light as someone approaches the house.
  2. Be wary of really bright lights that shine like a spotlight because they will also create dark shadows—and you want to avoid that.
  3. Be a good neighbor and make sure your lights are not annoying or pointing into anyone else’s yard.

And now? Now let the darkness come. You’re ready…

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.

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!

Stop Blaming Ben Franklin and Focus on Getting Ready for Darker Days Instead

Daylight Saving Time ends November 5th, and most everyone will be looking for someone to blame when the sky starts getting dark an hour earlier than we’re used to. But did you know that the man who invented the bifocal glasses did not invent Daylight Saving Time?

A Short History of Daylight Saving Time (DST)
Although Ben Franklin did write an essay on using daylight hours more efficiently by getting up earlier, it was actually New Zealand scientist George Vernon Hudson who in 1895 first proposed setting clocks forward two hours in March and setting them two hours back in October. That idea didn’t stick, but a small town in Canada kicked things off by setting their clocks one hour forward in 1908, followed by the rest of the country and then popularized by Germany. By 1918, the United States had passed legislation to establish DST, and by the end of World War II, most European countries also followed the time change.

Time to Perform a Lighting Audit
Whether or not you agree with setting our clocks forward and backward in the middle of the night when the time changes, soon it might be dark by the time you get home from work. And if you can’t see the pathway walking up to your house, it’s probably time to reevaluate your home lighting—before the days get any shorter.

One way to check the adequacy of your home lighting is to walk up to your home in the dark as if you don’t live there. Come up the sidewalk as if you’re a guest visiting for the first time.

  • Can you see your feet, the path right below you, and the path in front of you?
  • Check your porch or your front door: Is it well-lit from the outside?
  • Are there lights on inside the home to ensure suspicious characters know the house isn’t empty (even if it is)?
  • If you walk to your outbuildings, are they well-lit?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, you could be risking someone tripping and hurting themselves in the dark, or even inviting burglars in by giving them darkness to hide under.

Light It Up Instead
If you’ve taken a look around and decided your lighting could use some adjustments, what then? You can place small pathway lights leading up to your home and to any outbuildings, reducing the risk of tripping over an unseen obstacle. Another option for these outdoor lights is to install motion sensor lights, which work well to eliminate hiding spots by dark buildings. If you’re home while the skies get dark, you can make sure to turn on any outside lighting and leave on a few lights inside as well. If you aren’t home, your home automation system can be used to turn on your lighting at any time you set it to, or even remotely. You can be halfway around the world, and as long as you have WiFi, you can turn on your lights.

Although we’re talking about shorter days, it is also a good idea to keep a couple lights on inside while it’s still light out as well since 65% of burglaries happen between 6 am and 6 pm. Just because it’s daytime doesn’t mean your home isn’t vulnerable after you leave for work.

We have a lot of things to credit Ben Franklin with (even swim fins are his invention!), but we can’t blame him for losing that extra hour of sleep in the Spring and that extra hour of light in the Fall. Instead, we can keep our houses well lit, thank him for our bifocals while reading a good book, and settle into the darkness and quiet that fall brings.

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!

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.

The Latest in Lighting—and What It Means for Homeowners

Lighting is something we tend to take for granted (until the power goes out), and therefore we don’t think much about it. Sure, we always want it available. We want the lights on when we need them and off when we don’t. And we want a variety of light options. We want different kinds of light in different rooms and settings, such as bright task lighting in the kitchen vs. soft calming light in a bedroom, and floodlights outside for security. And all of this is all basic stuff we’ve grown up with and really don’t think about.

Yet there’s actually a whole lot of innovation going on in the world of lighting that’s exciting! Sure, you’ve got your LED lights that came on the scene a few years ago (and they are now mainstream enough to have lit last year’s Super Bowl). But technology is advancing so fast that your lighting options are quickly changing, especially in the area of home security.

The start of a new year is usually a good time to look ahead to what’s coming, so we offer you a quick look at the three lighting technologies we believe to be most relevant to homeowners, now and in the near future:

Connected lighting
Called “connected lighting” or “smart lighting,” control is where it’s at. And now you can tell your lights to do all kinds of things! Technology is growing in sophistication, meaning you’ll be able to change the color of your lights to suit your mood, use sensors or settings to control lighting, even using your location data to turn lights on when you arrive home. Although much of what is touted as “connected lighting” might be gimmicky in the eyes of many homeowners, the home security benefits of this kind of connectivity are obvious, when you realize you can make your home look quite occupied even when no one is home.

Lighting as network
If you’re like me, you’re hearing about the Internet of Things a lot—I mean a lot. Like. Every. Single. Day. If you’re anticipating the continued growth of the IoT and you want your refrigerator talking to your car via the Internet (I am admittedly being facetious here), you’ll be interested to learn that lighting might be the network upon which your “things” get connected, because it provides an existing wired framework upon which to build wireless connections…which makes the mind spin with possibilities.

Home automation
Of the most interest to most homeowners, however, since it’s the most practical application of advanced lighting technology, is home automation—specifically home automation as it applies to lighting and home security. Technology keeps advancing forward in this area, offering homeowners ever more ways to reduce energy usage while protecting their homes and families. Home automation helps you save energy and provide a welcoming home in the dark of winter, but it can also deter burglars as different lights come on at different times of the day, giving the appearance of activity inside the house when you’re not home.

With the home automation featured offered by your home security company, you can set it up so lights come on—inside and outside—before you (or your kids, if they’re first) get home, which makes for a welcoming homecoming. And you won’t be locked in to whatever you setting you used: If things change and you’ll be home earlier or later, you can use your smartphone or tablet to change the setting.

Plus there’s a safety benefit to this: Scheduling outside lights to turn on as well means lighting the pathways that lead to your door. Some home automation setups let you program lights to turn on automatically when you walk into a room, or to signal you if the doorbell or phone is ringing.

I’m sure as technology keeps evolving in every area of the lighting industry, there will be all kinds of perks for homeowners, from the gimmicky like making your lights turn blue if it’s raining to the practical like better protecting your home when you’re away at work. And to keep tabs on the latter, just keep checking back here!

Home Automation Cuts Costs Giving You More Money to Spend Elsewhere!

It’s the holiday season! And that means a tendency to be spending a bit more than we normally would (and often should!). So maybe it’s a good time to consider ways to save money as well as spend it?

Home automation is one way to cut costs. “Hold on,” you’re probably thinking. “To have a home automation system means I have to pay money monthly, so how’s that a cost cutting technique?”

Yes, my friend, a home automation system costs money, but it pays you back in several ways. Think of it like an investment: You have to spend a little in one area to save a little in another. Here’s how…

First off, the cost of the home automation system is likely less than you think. Many home security setups cost under $40 per month, which is less than you’d pay for dinner at a restaurant once a month. And once you have the home security system, your homeowner’s insurance will likely decrease in price, so really the monthly cost is less than sticker price.

Now, as far as the actual home automation part of all of this, here’s how it saves you money:

On your electric bill
With a home automation system automatically turning on the lights, electric heat or air conditioner at specified times of the day, you’ll definitely save money compared to leaving lights on all day to make it look like someone’s home, or heating an empty house. Consider too the outside lights. You need those on when you get home after dark, but you don’t want to leave them on all day, right? The home automation system turns on the lights at just the right time, so your house looks occupied and your path from garage to back door is well lit—all without having to pay to leave all those lights on all day.

On your heating bill
If your house is heated by something other than electric—like natural gas—you’ll still lower your monthly bills by using the home automation system to control the heat while you’re not home. Forget leaving the heat on all day just so no one has to walk into a frigid house. Use the home automation system to warm the house up just in time for your homecoming instead! In addition, if you have pets home alone all day, you can set the thermostat to be comfortable for them, without the poor things shivering through an entire day of no heat at all.

On your risk
The average cost to a homeowner who is the victim of a burglary is over $2,000 according to the FBI. Depending on damage done and items stolen, the cost could be significantly higher. With a home automation and security system—complete with obvious signage in the yard—your home is a lot less likely to be the one burgled, saving you a lot more money than you’ll spend for the service over the course of a year!

On your babysitter
If you knew the kids come home to a warm, well-lit house on those days they get back before you do, you could save a few dollars on paying a sitter to be there to welcome them home. Just make sure the cookie jar is full, however, so they truly feel “welcomed home.”

On your therapist
OK, we’re admittedly a little tongue in cheek with this one, but couldn’t you use a little less stress in your life? If a home automation system enables you to cross something off of your “worried about” list, isn’t there a payback to that? We’re all healthier and happier when our stress is at a manageable level, and that means fewer trips to the therapist or doctor–which is definitely a cost saver!

Technology is evolving at a rapid pace, and homes will only get “smarter” as home automation and other home technologies continue to improve and offer ever more features. But why wait? Start saving money today with a home automation system—and then go do a little more holiday gift buying, knowing you’re cutting costs in other ways!

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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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