Easy Smart Home Upgrades

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By: Andrea Eldridge, CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, an on-site computer and laptop repair service company.

The home of the future is available today; they are energy efficient, they protect you and your family, keep you updated when you are away, and even keep your plants alive. Smart homes are becoming more and more popular. Most smart home products are sold as interconnected systems, and can be expensive and difficult to operate. When beginning to transform your home into a smart home, you can start small with standalone products before going big and outfitting your entire home. Nerds on Call has a few smart home upgrades that are not too pricey, but can still make a big difference in the way you live.

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Our first smart home upgrade is the August Smart Lock. This battery operated device sells for $199, and communicates with your smartphone via bluetooth. When the Smart Lock identifies your bluetooth signal approaching, it unlocks your door, and can lock it behind you if you choose that setting. It also allows you to set up virtual keys for guests, with the ability to grant access for only certain dates and times for each key. The activity log keeps track of when each unique user comes and goes. Perhaps the best part about this smart home upgrade is that it goes over your existing lock, meaning that you can have strong security and an intelligent lock. If you choose, you can pair the Smart Lock with the “August Connect” for $79, which lets guests in and locks the door behind them. The Connect also grants real time status of locked or unlocked, and alerts you instantly when somebody comes or goes.

Our next smart home upgrade is the Nest Smart Thermostat which sells for 249. This smart thermostat learns how you change the temperature over time in order to program itself to your liking. The Nest Smart includes sensors that can detect if nobody is home, and lowers the systems power while you are away. Since there have been two previous generations of this product, older models sell for even less money online, and the thermostat is said to pay for itself over 2 years in energy savings. There are also guides for easy installation on the internet. The Nest Smart is another easy to install piece of smart home tech that can make your life just a little bit cooler, literally. Another great product from Nest is the Nest Protect: Fire & CO2 monitor. This alarm does more than just sound off; it speaks to you, telling you what and where the problem is. If you are away, you can know if your kids set off the smoke alarm, and hush false alarms like that time you overcooked the toast. The Nest Protect is partnered with American Family and Liberty mutual Home Insurance and offers a Safety Rewards Program. You may be able to get one for free or a discount from your insurance for having one!

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Another smart home upgrade the Nerds would like to discuss is known as SkyDrop: Smart Irrigation System Controller. This device sells for $200 on Amazon, and connects to your existing irrigation system along with your WiFi network. You can control your irrigation anywhere using the app, and the best part is the irrigation will adjust itself based on your local weather. With a severe drought in California, the SkyDrop can be programmed to adhere to local water restrictions in order to contribute to saving water. An amazing part about SkyDrop is that it can calculate how much water your lawn uses every day and adjust the amount of watering time to keep your lawn healthy. The SkyDrop is also not too difficult to install, which is important in choosing smart home upgrades that will not break the bank or be too confusing to even take advantage of.

Now that your lawn will water itself, you can focus on growing plants that take more attention! The next smart home upgrade the Nerds have to offer is the Click And Grow Smart Plant Management System that sells for $60. To use the system, all you do is plant the seed, add water, and plug it in. The NASA inspired technology will help herbs grow faster in soil that balances oxygen, water, and nutritional ingredients at optimal levels. The starter kit comes with 3 basil plants, but there are a variety of herbs and small plants like strawberries or mini tomatoes on their website.

Another great smart home upgrade is the Logi Circle. This $199 WiFi linked camera allows you to watch what is going on at home from any WiFi enabled device. The 2 way talk and listening function allows you to feel as if you are in your home even when you are thousands of miles away. The Circle is also very portable and can be used in any room in the house, like kids rooms, living rooms, or to watch your pets. You can also scroll through all of the exciting events of the day if you missed any of them, and if you install the app, you get 24 hours of video storage for free!

The last smart home upgrade the Nerds have for you today is the Garageio Automated Garage, which sells for $199.  If you ever forget to close your garage door, or find yourself questioning whether you did or not half way through your day, than this upgrade is for you. The garageio will alert you on your smartphone if the garage is open, and all you have to do is swipe to close it. Installation is easy, you just add the black box to your existing garage door opener and you can be granting temporary or permanent access to others using the app or by going online. Now there is no need to get multiple remotes, or remember pass codes on a key pad just to get into your own garage.

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By combining these smart home upgrades, or just taking advantage of one or two, you can increase the potential of your home and live an easier life thanks to the luxuries of technology.

About The Author: Andrea Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, a computer repair company that specializes in on-site and online service for homes and businesses. Andrea is the writer of a weekly column, Nerd Chick Adventures in The Record Searchlight. She prepares TV segments for and appears regularly on CBS, CW and FOX on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, More Good Day Portland, and CBS 13 News, offering viewers technology and lifestyle tips. See Andrea in action at callnerds.com/andrea/.

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Video Transcript

Marianne: With the Nerds on Call.

Ken: I’m just a little creeped out about the concept of my house speaking to me but Ryan here with Nerds on Call going to help ease my fears.

Speaker2: Okay so let’s start with I’m coming home from work. I reach in my pockets, I try to get my keys and I’m like oh man I forgot my keys again or I left them at work. So this is called the August Smart Home Lock. The cool this about this is it is battery operated and it works over Bluetooth so it communicates with your phone and so it’ll unlock your door for you as your coming to the house. But let’s say you’re going on vacation and you’re going to have a babysitter come over or somebody watching your house or your plants. You can set up a temporary key for them so they can come in and you can take away that key when they’re done watching your house.

Ken: I do like that.

Speaker2: That’s kind of cool. You can also go to the activity log. See who came in and out, when they came in, when they came out.

Ken: And this all is controlled by your smart phone.

Speaker2: All by your smart phone. You can use a little app and connect to it. And here’s one of the coolest parts of this thing is that if you walk into the house it’ll talk to our next product and set the temperature of the house or as you’ll leaving the house it’ll set the temperature of your house. So the next thing we’re going to talk about. Well first let me tell you about the, that’s about 1.99. You can buy it at august.com.

Ken: Got it.

Speaker2: So the nest, the nest is a thermostat that you install, you take out your old thermostat, put this one in. Cody was asking me how easy it is to install. Here’s this cool little thing right here. It shows you how to do it. It’s very easy. You take out the old system, plug in the new one, put this on and it’ll adjust the temperature based on your preferences. So as you, the more you use it, you say oh I like it cooler in the morning and warmer at night it’ll automatically adjust so you don’t have to mess with it anymore. And it’ll integrate with other smart products. So let’s say you’re coming home and you like the house at a nice cool seventy two degrees it’ll automatically set it to seventy two but if your wife comes home and she wants it at seventy four it’ll automatically adjust and override your settings.

Ken: Okay. Yeah that’s fine.

Speaker2: But the cool part about the nest is it integrates with so many products. So if you have a Fitbit for example and you’re laying in your bed and you’re going to sleep at night and your temperature on your Fitbit is registering to your nest it’ll start adjusting the temperature of your house based on your personal temperature.

Ken: See now the problem with this is it’s a great idea but in every household the husband and the wife completely needs when it comes to the thermos, I like it to be warm in the house. I get super upset when it’s not warm in the house.

Speaker2: There are other products that integrate with the nest and it’ll do different zones in your house.

Ken: There we go. Now you’re talking.

Speaker2: And so you can have your office at a certain temperature and the bedroom at a different temperature and all based on who’s in there and how often. That’s kind of cool.

Ken: Now I like it.

Speaker2: This is about two forty nine. If you are interested in getting it but you don’t want to spend two hundred and fifty bucks you can get an older generation for about two hundred bucks but this is a really great thing. It also works as a smart hub so I guess that’ll integrate with other products in your house.

Ken: I like that.

Speaker2: So here, this one’s kind of cool specially when we talking about the drought. This is called the Sky Drop and what this’ll do is you replace over your existing irrigation system. Here’s what it does though. This is the best part is it connects to your WiFi in your house and it’ll download the weather report and adjust your irrigation system based on current weather conditions. So if it’s raining it’ll turn it off. If it’s too hot it’ll add a little bit more water to your system. It’s really cool. Very easy to use. It’s got a cool little dial.

Ken: That’s true.

Speaker2: And like I said it’ll also integrate with the rest of your system. The cool part about this is it saves almost fifty percent of your water usage. I mean how often do we go out there and adjust our thing based on okay it’s going to rain for the next three days. I need to adjust my water. Usually we turn it off and then we forget to turn it back on again. So that’s kind of cool.

Ken: Biggest question for all these. Let’s say something happens with my phone. I lose my phone. I don’t have my phone. Is it going to be easy for me to go in and override?

Speaker2: Very easy. All of these can be set through an app or online so you can go through a browser and reset it. Just like with that smart home lock. Let’s say you give out keys to like six different people you can go in and revoke those keys as you want using online, even if you don’t have your phone any more.

Ken: Brilliant.

Speaker2: The last one, we’ll talk about the Sky Drop that’s about two hundred bucks so you can get that on Amazon.com. Works really great specially for the droughts.

Ken: Always good stuff Ryan. Always good to see you.

Speaker2: We have more.

Ken: So ways to make your home a lot smarter, more intuitive to your needs. All the stuff’s going to be linked to the site at gooddaysacremento.com. Marion.

Marianne: Alright very good. Well even with temperatures expected to top. 

Video Transcript

Ken: Back here in the Good Day Studio’s once again joined by our good friend Ryan Elders from Nerds on Call. We are once again helping to up the IQ of our home.

Ryan: Yes.

Ken: How are we going to do this this time?

Ryan: So first we’re going to start again with another nest product and this is owned by Google. This is one of the coolest fire monitor smoke detectors you can get. It not only does smoke detection but it also does CO2 detection. But here’s one of the coolest parts of it is when it goes off it tells you where the problem is and talks to you rather than just send you an alarm.

[Phone] Heads up, there’s smoke in the living room.

Ryan: Everybody run. One of the coolest parts of it is it integrates with an app so if it goes off and you burnt toast you can just turn it off. So no more climbing up on those little stairs and waving your pillow trying to get it to shut off. Plus you can monitor it from work or wherever else. If somebody sets off your alarm you can quickly look at it and say okay turn that off, I don’t need that to go off anymore.

Ken: What about the battery life? How long’s it last?

Ryan: The battery life’s just like any other one but you don’t have that annoying chirp as it going off. As you can see there was a very pleasant sound.

Ken: Yes it was.

Ryan: It’s like oh look my house is burning but it sounds nice.

Ken: Yes. Please move through the exits.

Ryan: So we all want to eat better and we want to eat fresher and things like that so herb gardens are kind of a cool thing but who has the time to have a whole garden out in the yard. I’ve got a black thumb not a green thumb, I’m going to destroy everything. So this is just kind of, it’s called the Click and Grow for about fifty nine bucks. You can get it at Clickandgrow.com. You plant the seeds and it has NASA technology. I don’t know what that means but as you can see it’s got sunlight, you can see our little pods growing right there.

Ken: Yeah.

Ryan: This is only about three days’ worth of growth here. You put water in there, plug the seeds in there and put it in the soil and boom it just does it all by itself. It comes with three basil plants to start with but you can buy different refills so we’ve got, right here we’ve got like mini tomatoes and you can also get wild strawberries.

Ken: Nice.

Ryan: So that’s kind of cool right. You just put that on your counter and it runs on a little timer so for sixteen hours a day it’s on and for eight hours a night it just turns off.

Ken: Does it give any indication as to how much electricity or energy it’s going to be using? Is that going to be an issue?

Ryan: I have no idea. Probably not a lot because it’s like just a little fluorescent lamp in there so I can’t imagine it’s using too much. So this is cool. You’re going to go out and buy this this afternoon.

Ken: Whoa really?

Ryan: This is called the Garageio it’s about two hundred bucks. You attach this to your garage door opener that’s opening and closing. One of the cool parts about it though is it works with your app on your phone.

Ken: I need that.

Ryan: How many times have you driven away and gone oh did I close the garage? And you’re like oh my gosh, I’ve got to go back. You can just close it with your phone. If you’ve got a remote that breaks all you’ve got to do is just connect it right to your phone and you can open and close. You don’t have to buy any more remotes.

Ken: I was going to say the biggest problem is usually when you move in, like we moved into our home, there’s only one remote. And because my wife does all the driving with our son I let her have the remote and so now I have to, when I leave the house, I push the garage door to close it and I have to run out the door with my suit and my bag in my hand or the door comes down on me.

Ryan: Or you jump over the little sensor so you don’t get hit by it. Okay so it’s only two hundred bucks. I would buy it instead of buying another remote and that way you don’t have to worry about it again. Plus you can set up different timers for different people to come in and out and give them access when you want and take away access when you don’t. So that’s kind of cool.

Ken: Perfect.

Ryan: So the last thing is called the Logitech Circle. This is a smart camera. And here’s why this is cool is its wireless and you can just move it around anywhere in your home. It’s got a little magnetic strip that you can attach to to charge but it records video, up to twenty four hours worth of video and it has a Ken in there and also a microphone so you can interact with people in your home. So if you put it in your doorway and you see somebody dropping off a package you can just tell them to leave the package there. Or like me I’m at work and my kids are doing projects and arts and crafts I can watch them from home on my app and interact with them and say hey guys what are you working on right now. It’s really cool. And it’s got a time lapse photography so it’ll record up to twenty four hours of your activity so you can kind of go, oh what did my dog do today? And you can watch it and you can see okay he’s not the one getting in the toilet paper it’s the cat who keeps framing him. And now I have proof.

Ken: I knew it was the cat. Always the cat.

Ryan: That’s about two hundred bucks. You can go to Logitech.com and it’ll integrate with different smart technology in your home like the Nest and things like that.

Ken: And we’re going to put all of this linked together on our site at gooddaysacremento.com.

Ryan: Yes excellent

Ken: Awesome I love it. I seriously need this thing for the garage. Because when it starts raining it’s going to be an issue for me. I’m just trying to beat the raindrops before I get into my car leaving the garage. Ryan always good to see you buddy.

Ryan: Good to see you.

Ken: Appreciate it. Marianne back to you.

Marion: Right very good.