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Professional or DIY Security? Your Next Move Can Help You Determine the Difference

DIY SecurityWhen deciding what kind of security system to install, people are often torn between professionally installed & monitored systems, and systems they can install themselves. Both options have their benefits and drawbacks. As you’re making your decision, you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions: how much do you want to monitor your home? How is your space laid out and how large is it? And, do you plan to update your system frequently.

How Much Control Do You Want?

What level of control do you want over your home security? Some systems offer you a central hub that aggregates control over security, thermostat, lighting, locks, and more. You can purchase systems already designed to give you that control over everything, while still being managed and overseen by a home protection company. tIf you choose to go down the DIY route, you’d be designing your own home security solution. This can mean building a unique artillery of gadgets and systems that can all be accessed right from your smartphone, wherever and whenever you want. In a lot of cases, DIY projects can be cheaper; but if you go all out, you might want to consider bringing in the professionals to get the job done.

What Does Your Space Look Like?

Home security should be based around your particular needs, namely the size of your living space, its floor plan, and whether or not you rent or own. Where entryways are situated will affect the kind of system or gadgets you install. A professional system could be the best option if you have a larger home with a lot of doors and windows on the ground floor. Professionals would be able to assess your living space and recommend options based on where you live, how large your home is, and the number of entryways. Alternatively, a DIY system could work best for you if you live in an apartment or a smaller rental home. The decision is ultimately yours, and will be based on your comfort.

Updates? Upgrades? Customization?

Plenty of professional home security companies have system updates and upgrades to offer more safety and intelligence, but maybe working through a company to implement those updates takes too long for you, or you’d rather incorporate your own gadgets into your security system. That said, do you typically like to stick to plans and put stock in authority, or do you prefer to go your own way? Figuring this out could help you settle on a professional or DIY system for your home. A professional system has a feeling of permanence, while a DIY system offers several moving parts that you can take with you wherever you go. Things like throw bolts, Canary™, basic entryway security sensors, motion-detecting lights, and more offer you customization at a cumulative price point that you are left to determine. Both professional and DIY systems have their benefits and drawbacks. Do some research, ask yourself how much control you want to have, and figure out if you want something more permanent or not. The results of this research will help you determine the solution that will best fit your unique needs.

Home Automation Without a Smartphone: Is It Possible?

home automationWhen you think of home automation, you might only think about central control hubs that access everything in your home. Perhaps you’re thinking of a system that you run from your smartphone. If you’re limiting home automation to a smartphone or control panel, then you’re likely missing out on gadgets that don’t require a “central hub.” Take a look at these useful home automation gadgets that truly work on their own:

Solar Lighting

Solar lighting is easy to install and has come down in price over the years, helping to make this no-smartphone upgrade a cinch. Solar lights come in several forms, such as stake lighting for your lawn to illuminate paths, and overhead area lights for doorways and driveways. Since solar lights don’t need electricity or much maintenance, they’re a simple addition to your home, and you’ll never need to remember to turn on or program your outdoor lighting.

Automatic Door Openers

Another thing you don’t necessarily need a smartphone for is an automatic door opener. Imagine coming home after a long day of work: no one is home, and your arms are full of groceries. Now imagine the doors automatically opening (and closing) when you walk toward (and away from) the door. Automatic door openers have all the frills of highly sophisticated home automation, but are easily obtained by adding an upgrade to your existing doors.

Some heavy-duty door openers will open and close the door, which means easy entry and quick exits so you don’t have to worry about locking up. These are especially important home automation gadgets in the case that you or someone you live with has a physical handicap.

Smart Strips™

Start saving money with this useful automatic electricity saver. Electric strips make it easy to plug your appliances in and forget about them. But the simple truth is that a lot of your appliances pull energy even when they’re in standby mode. Smart Strips ™, however, detect when an appliance has entered that standby mode, and will stop feeding it power.

Domestic Robots

By now, you’ve likely heard of robotic vacuums and floor cleaners, the most popular of which is the Roomba. The first Roomba automated vacuum debuted in 2002, and since then the manufacturer, iRobot, has continued to refine the Roomba and offer additional models. The sensors in the Roomba allow it to detect dirty sections of the floor, steep drops, and to find its charging station at the end of a cleaning session. The Roomba and other similar robotic vacuums run on batteries, so no smartphones are necessary.

Automating your home without a smartphone is entirely possible, especially once you know what to look for. So, invest in some solar lighting, snag a Smart Strip™, and check out a door opener—your home will be smarter and more efficient in no time!

The Automated Evening: How Emerging Tech Can Help Tuck You in at Night

automatedWe live in a world where modern security practically tucks us in at night. With newer technologies becoming more and more available (and automated) each day, it’s easy to load up your home with enough protection that will help you get some quality rest knowing you’re safe within your own home.

So what does safety look like when you’re inside the home? Today, safety is more about having control over your kingdom, rather than building a fortified gate. Modern security devices give you the ability to put every aspect of your home right into the palm of your hands. When you’re home asleep, you should know exactly when something isn’t right in your home and having that immediate information can allow you to act on whatever may go wrong.

Smart Thermostat

A smart thermostat, like Nest, not only sets your temperature to what you like, learns your patterns, and does so by a smartphone app, but it also reads the temperature inside your home. This means that it can tell when the temperature rises or drops at an alarming rate. If a fire breaks out while you’re asleep, a smart thermostat will be able to detect it immediately and inform you, which can help save your life. If there is a huge decrease in temperature during the winter due to a possible broken window or malfunctioning heating unit, you’ll know immediately so you can take action.

Video Camera

There are a number of camera and motion detecting devices out there—like Canary ®—that can not only give you live video footage of your home, but also detect movement during the night. Some movement might be normal depending on how big your family is, but if there is an unusual amount of movement at odd times of the day—like midday when everyone’s at work or in school, for example—then you’ll be notified immediately. After all, it could mean the possibility of a break-in and knowing someone is in your home before they get to your valuables can help make a difference.

Smart Locks

Until recently, you could only control who comes in and out of your home by giving out keys. Now, with the modern security addition of smart locks, you’ll know exactly when your home has been unlocked and by whom. Smart lock systems like Goji™ allow you to enter your home simply by having access through a mobile app. You can send access to anyone at any time for any period of time. Goji has a built-in camera that takes a picture of whoever is trying to get into your home and sends it to you. If they don’t have access but you wish to allow them entrance, you can simply unlock the door from your smart phone.

Siren Padlocks

When you have a stand-alone garage or shed, it’s normal to feel a little uneasy about the security of what you store inside. When you turn the lights off inside and go to bed, you want to know that everything you store outside of your home is safe. This is where siren padlocks come in handy. When knocked around without being opened, a loud siren sounds, which will both scare off whoever is trying to get in and notify you that someone is/was trying to get in.

In an age when technology is evolving quicker than you can blink, it’s getting easier for homeowners to feel genuinely safe in their homes – especially at night! The thermostats, motion detecting devices, cameras and smart locks have all made homeownership a lot easier and less nerve-wracking. While it isn’t possible to truly know what’s going on all around you, the extra smart home technology can certainly help – and having that consistent stream of information will likely help give you peace of mind.

The Best DIY Halloween Decorations for Your Family

It’s that time of year when ghosts and ghouls come out to play, and children dress up like their favorite comic book heroes, princesses, and more. Halloween is quickly approaching, and if you haven’t decorated your home for new, otherworldly guests, it’s time to get cracking! While the witches and the Avengers skip from door to door, you want to give them an experience to remember! You’ll have a ball making your own DIY Halloween decorations with your family to spruce up your home and really get into the season (and maybe you’ll spook some of those trick-or-treaters).Here are some really neat DIY decoration projects you can do to get your home in the Halloween spirit!

Wall of Bats

batsonwall

Bats are synonymous with vampires, and vampires are synonymous with Halloween, so it’s only fitting that we see them everywhere during Halloween season. You can take your walls—inside or outside—to a whole new level with this simple, inexpensive project from danamadeit.com that’s all about the bats. This is a great one to get the kids involved with!

Large Milk Jug Spider

milkjugspider

This big guy is really easy and only slightly creepy. For decorating an outside window or your lawn, round up a milk jug, black foam insulation tubes, a couple plastic eggs, some black tape, and follow these easy-to-do instructions from Spoonful.com.

Yarn Spider Web

yarnspiderweb

Of course, you can’t go crazy on DIY Halloween projects without including at least some spider webs, right? Yarn spider webs can be as big or small as you want them. They give a decent freak-factor while not going overboard so you don’t scare the young ones too much. For a great, quick guide on how to put these together, check out Instructables.com.

Window Silhouette Décor

windowsilhouette

Gather some cardboard or big black sheets of paper, some scissors, and tape for this window-decorating project. Decorating your windows is a neat way to instantly turn an undecorated home into a lively, Halloween-ready mansion. While this guide from Shelterness.com makes some pretty cool suggestions, you can really get creative with this one. Round up the kids and see what kinds of interesting scenes they can come up with to fill your window space for the season!

Pasta Skeletons

macaroniskeleton

This one is fun and a little educational. Get some pasta and paper, and build your very own pasta skeletons, labels and all. While the kids put together the shapes, they can learn what each one is called. Marthastewart.com also recommends using alphabet soup noodles for the labels. Hang these up around the house to add to the festive season and get in the Halloween spirit.

DIY projects are a simple, easy way to decorate your house while creating memories with your family. Kids adore Halloween, and we can all remember when we donned white sheets with cut-out eyeholes or smiled wide with vampire fangs when we were younger. So, embrace the season and start decorating your home with your kids!

The Automated Morning

automatedFor many people, morning routines usually mean waking up earlier than you may want to — but what if you could wake up each morning to an automated home that allows you to take care of everything before you even get out of bed? After all, there’s really nothing better than being able to wake up and relax in bed for a few extra minutes before facing the day. There are many smart products out there that help make every morning easy, which means you get to start each and every day off right. Take a look at how these things automate your mornings so that you can get that few extra minutes of coziness in your bed.

SmartThings ®

Say good-bye to groggily walking into things before you’ve had your morning cup of joe. SmartThings has a line of products that all work to automate your home from one simple, extremely smart phone app. Their products either plug into existing outlets or are brand-new outlets altogether that allow you to monitor and control your small appliances, lights, and even keep a close eye on any irregular movement in your home.

You can pick one of their preset packages or build your own set-up that matches your home perfectly. Before you get out of bed you can turn on the lights, coffee machine, toaster oven, maybe even feed your pets, and more. They have products for the outdoors, too; which means you can think about turning on garage heaters and lights in the winter so you’ll be able to walk right into a warmed-up vehicle. Mix and match their products to suit your preferences, and get your mornings going before you even get up.

Smart Thermostat

Temperatures can often change dramatically overnight, which means waking up to warmer or cooler temperatures than you’d personally like. Smart thermostats, like the Honeywell ® Wi-Fi Smart thermostat, enable you to change the temperature of your home without being in front of the thermostat hub. If you wake up to a cold home, you can turn the heat up or on before you get out of bed, giving you a comfortable temperature to get ready to.

Although perhaps it’s time to start a new morning routine that includes taking care of your home before you leave. Turn off your heat or AC in the morning when you wake up to make sure it’s off while you’re gone so that you can help save money on your energy bills.

The Mimicking Sunrise

When you go to sleep, you probably draw your curtain or shut your blinds to block out any light. If you wake up after sunrise, the slowly increasing light might gradually awake you in your room. This is a wonderful way to wake up. So if you wake up before the sun, you miss out on the naturally relaxing “alarm clock” of the sunrise. However, there’s no need to feel left out just because your schedule doesn’t coincide with the sun’s. With smart light bulbs like the Lumen ™, you can wake up to a mimic sunrise that will slowly and comfortably wake you from your slumber. Set them for a specific time, and then watch as they work like magic every morning, waking you up the way nature intended to. You can set the Lumen to whatever color you like, which can really change up the ambience of any room. Perhaps you’d like to wake up to a blue morning. Go for it. Not only does the Lumen help wake you up with a sunrise mode, but it also lasts about 30 times longer than most light bulbs while using five times less power.

When many people start waking up in the morning, it sometimes takes them a bit to get fully acclimated to their surroundings. Their thoughts are cloudy, their eyes are heavy and their reflexes aren’t at 100%. Home automation has made it so folks don’t have to rush to wake up in order to accomplish a variety of tasks. Mornings have become more relaxing and that, in turn, often means a calm, relaxing, refreshed day ahead.

How Smart Home Technology Helps Pet Owners Have It All

petsRecently, pet owners have been made aware of the dangers of some of the technology they use to make sure their pets are confined to small areas when the owner is away. These kinds of technologies include electric fences and dog collars—both of which might cause anxiety for your dog and can lead to more serious problems in the future with how they react to other people or how they react when left alone.

Luckily, there are still types of technology you can use to “have it all” when you’re away from home and still want to keep track of your pet. Rather than cause anxiety and unwanted behaviors, these tools can help you check in on your pet without behavior modifiers.

iCam™

Both an app for Android & Apple, iCam allows you to set up cameras in your home so you can use your smartphone to check up on your pets to see how they’re reacting to, say, a thunderstorm, the mail carrier—or whether they have separation anxiety. By keeping watch over your pets, you might discover reactionary behavior that you can later try to change with the help of a trainer or positive reinforcement. Not only that, the “extra eyes” can help alleviate some of your own worry of wondering about what your pet does when you’re away. Chances might be good that your pet isn’t getting into mischief, but it’s still a relief to see them on camera.

Whistle Activity Tracker™

Whistle Activity Tracker is a pet-safe collar that allows you to track not just your dog’s whereabouts, but you also get to keep a recording of their activity, behavior, and their habits throughout the day. The best part about this is the use of GPS to know exactly where your dog is in case you worry about them escaping the house or the fence. It’s also great for helping keep your dog healthy, and it’s relatively inexpensive at $49.

Automated Doggie-Doors and Cat-Doors

When you’re home—and own a house with a fenced yard—you enjoy the convenience of a pets-only door so your pets can get in and out of the house without you having to open the door for them. When you’re away, however, it can be difficult to monitor these entry and exit doors. So as you consider automating your door locks and windows, keep in mind an automated pet-only door that you can lock upon leaving, or restrict to only entry or only exit.

Petnet

Controllable remotely from your smartphone, Petnet (an automated pet feeder) allows you to decide when and how much food you want to put in your pet’s bowl. This tool is especially helpful when you’re trying to count the calories for an overweight pet while you are at work or on-the-go. Pet obesity is a large problem in the U.S., and now you can monitor how much your pet is eating and can schedule feeding times that fit your pet’s schedule to match your own.

Smart home technology has truly made pet ownership far easier than ever before. While having a pet still requires a lot of time and effort, smart home technology can help take away the edge that often comes with leaving your pet alone for the day. The days of worrying whether or not your pet is safe are very rare; and automated home technology is only likely to get better.

10 Best IFTTT Recipes to Automate Your Life

iftttHome automation is all about making home ownership easier. In order to pursue this goal, many home automation-monitoring companies have started working with IFTTT (If This, Then That) to help make family’s lives easier. IFTTT can help give the answers to cause-and-effect-based questions. Home automation IFTTT “recipes” help to make home ownership easier by providing quick responses if there are certain triggers. Here are the top ten IFTTT scenarios that can be made into recipes using your home automation technology: 

1. Log Every Time an Exterior Door or Window Opens Into a Spreadsheet

It’s important to know when people are coming in or out of your house. With this IFTTT recipe, you’ll be able to see when certain windows and doors were opened. Knowing the time of entry means you’d be able to more accurately report a break-in. The recipe could even help you to track the whereabouts of your family!

2. After 9AM, Turn Off the Coffee Pot

Many people have coffee pots that will brew coffee automatically every morning. Some of those coffee pots, however, won’t shut off automatically and this could cause some issues (higher electric bill, overheating, etc.). This IFTTT recipe would help make sure your coffee pot shuts off at a certain time.

3. Turn on Porch Lights When It Gets Dark

Turning on the porch lights every evening might often slip your mind, but naturally, you wouldn’t want to keep them on all day. As soon as the sun goes down, this IFTTT recipe can automatically turn on your porch lights and turn them off when the sun rises. 

4. Send a Text Message in the Event of Bad Weather Near Your Home

Sometimes you don’t see bad weather coming — or sometimes you’ve spent all day long indoors and just never got a chance to check the weather or go outside. This IFTTT recipe would help you know when bad weather is headed towards your home by texting you an automated message. The sooner you get word of bad weather, the better you’ll be able to prepare for it.

5. If Any Door or Window on the House Is Opened, Send Me a Text Message

In addition to the spreadsheet from the first IFTTT recipe, you can also program a recipe that allows you to receive text messages about people opening or closing doors and windows in your home. Because you’d know when those individuals were there, you’d likely have an idea of who was entering your home. For example: If someone enters your home at 3:30 p.m. on a weekday, it’s likely your children coming home from school.

6. If Outdoor Motion Detectors Sense Movement, Send Me a Text Message

Sending a text message for every outdoor motion detector would probably be overkill, but you might have one detector near a place that’s hard to see, or near a location that people wouldn’t have any business being in. If that is the case, you can have an alert text message sent to you if someone trips the sensor.

7. If the HVAC Filter Needs to Be Changed, Send Me a Text Message

Changing your HVAC filter regularly is another one of those little chores that tend to slip your mind. Your home automation system can help you with that. Set it up so that you can receive a text message whenever it’s time to swap out your HVAC filter.

8. Turn Off the HVAC Unit When Nobody’s Home

Regardless of whether it’s winter or summer, when nobody’s home there’s no reason to keep your HVAC unit blasting. When everyone leaves for the day (example: After 8 a.m. when everyone is off to work or school), it should be programed to shut off.

9. If there’s a Break-in or Fire, Contact the Authorities

Many home automation systems already have this built in, but it might not be a bad idea to add this recipe to your IFTTT list. The system would be able to alert the proper authorities in the event of a break-in or a fire. Also, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have the system contact you, too — no matter where you are.

10. If It’s After A Certain Time, Turn Off All Interior Lights

It’s pretty common for families to accidentally leave lights on in the middle of the night. With this IFTTT recipe, you would simply pick a time and set it so that all of the lights go out. If you want to leave one on, many systems would allow you to program that in, too.

Given its ability to connect with home automation systems, IFTTT has slowly but surely been changing the way many families live – and it doesn’t show signs of stopping. In fact, the above recipes only brush the surface of what other functions IFTTT possesses. There are lots of other recipes that people have come up with and ones that you can experiment with yourself. Home automation is about having complete control over your home – so take control!

Is Your New Home Security Army Ready to Defend Your Castle? [Infographic]

Every family’s home is different from one another, as is every neighborhood. With all the different security gadgets and gizmos on the market, it can sometimes be difficult to determine whether or not the security option you’ve chosen is sufficiently protecting your family. Here’s a helpful guide for families wanting to determine whether or not they have the best home security possible to defend their castle!Is Your New Home Security Army Ready to Defend Your Castle - new