As technology evolves, more and more homeowners are using smart home technology to control systems and appliances in their homes – thermostats, refrigerators, dishwashers, lighting, sound systems and more. These systems and appliances can be controlled by your smartphone, but many can now be controlled by voice-controlled devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home.
If you’re considering smart home devices, here are some tips to help you get started:
- Manage your smart home devices on a secure home WiFi network.
- Start small to see if smart home technology fits your lifestyle. For example, try LED light bulbs that you can dim or turn on and off with your smartphone, or buy a smart plug to turn lamps on with a timer.
- Smart lights, which are all LEDs, use a lot less electricity than other light bulbs.
- Voice controlled devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home let you use voice commands to order a pizza, play music, shop online, or tell you the news or weather.
- Security cameras like those by Nest and video doorbells like those by Ring are a great way to monitor your home from your smartphone, tablet or laptop. You can mount them outside your front door to see who is coming and going. Some also offer monitoring services and cloud-based video storage.
- Smart locks are also growing in popularity. You can lock and unlock your front door using your smartphone, and you can grant temporary access to guests like a pet sitter or babysitter.
- Smart home hubs can control multiple smart home devices, so they communicate with each other. Companies like Samsung create hubs, but Amazon Echo can also act as a hub.
- Want to save on your energy bill? A smart thermostat can help. You can automatically set the temperature of your home with your phone, and adjust it as needed. You can even turn on the heat remotely if there’s a sudden weather change, so you don’t have to go home to a cold house.
- You can now get a smoke detector to let you know if there is smoke or fire in your home, no matter where you are.
- If you enjoy technology, universal remotes are a cool way to control your TV, stereo, DVD player, cable box and more, all from one device.
There are so many smart home products on the market, and we don’t want to recommend any specific products here, but there are review sites like The Wirecutter and Tom’s Guide that will give you their recommendations. Also, before you buy anything, check buyer reviews on Amazon to see if customers are pleased with their purchases. Good luck!
Do a Final Walk-Through Before Closing
You’ve done it! You’ve found your dream home, and you are almost ready to sign the papers that will make it yours. While you are anxious to close the deal and move in, there is one critical last step before you do so – a final walk-through. You might be tempted to use this opportunity to give the house one more cursory glance as you plan where you’ll put your furniture, but this is your last chance to make sure the home is in good shape and that any repairs or changes have been made as agreed.
- Heating and Cooling Systems. Check to be sure that the heating and cooling systems in the home work, no matter what the season. You don’t want to wait until winter to know that the furnace or heat pump isn’t working.
- Plumbing. Turn on every faucet and showerhead and flush all the toilets. Do they all work? Is anything leaking? Is the water pressure appropriate? If not, make a note of it.
- Electrical Systems. Turn on all the lights and ceiling fans, find the fuse box and check to be sure that switch plates, fixtures, etc. are in place. If anything is missing, jot it down.
- Appliances. Are the appliances in good working order? Make sure that any appliances that are staying work. Turn on the dishwasher, make sure the refrigerator and freezer are cold, give the dryer a spin, test the garbage disposal, and check the microwave and bathroom fans.
- Home Security. If the home has a security system, is it working? Does the keypad work? How about the remotes? Do you know where everything is and do you have instructions on how to change passcodes, etc. once the home is yours?
- Windows and Doors. Open every window and door to ensure there aren’t any problems, and make sure you have keys to each door. Are the screens and storm windows intact? If the home has an electric garage door opener, check that too and be sure you have access to all remotes.
- Landscaping and Lawn Care. Check to be sure that the lawn has been left as you agreed to it. Make note of any problems with the fencing and, if there is a watering system, check to be sure that it works. Is anything missing?
- Repairs. If the current homeowner agreed to make any repairs prior to selling the home, or if the inspection required repairs or upgrades as a condition of sale, follow up to be sure these repairs have been made. Also, if the homeowner agreed to leave the ceiling fan, curtains or other items, check to be sure they are still in the home.
- Overall Condition of the Home. Is the home clean? Have all of the previous owner’s property been removed? If not, let your Realtor® know.
Make sure you have your Realtor along when you do the final walk-through, so she can serve as the liaison between you and the sellers should there be a problem. You’ll want to get everything resolved prior to closing. Enjoy your new home!
Sources: Money Crashers, Realtor Magazine and Zillow
According to the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), only 20% of Northwest Washington homeowners have air conditioning, with 42% cooling their homes through a heat pump in 2012. Compare this to Eastern Washington homes where 65% have air conditioning with 52% of those having central air, or Southwest Washington where 40% of homes had air conditioning via heat pump.
Wow – only 20% have air conditioning! Until a few years ago, we only had high summer temps a few weeks every summer, but in the last three or four years, we have many more hot days than we used to. In fact, in April, the Seattle area broke high-temperature records by hitting 89 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Now that’s hot!
Even if you love the heat, it can make daily life less pleasant at times. For the 80% of homeowners in Northwest Washington without air conditioning, we offer 16 ways for staying cool this summer.
- Keep blinds and curtains closed to block out the sun. You’ll stay cooler and save on energy costs.
- Set your ceiling fans to rotate counter-clockwise and at a higher speed during the summer.
- Close off rooms that get sun during the hottest part of the day, and allow those rooms to cool at night.
- On cooler summer evenings, open your windows to let the breeze in.
- Create a cross-breeze inside your home by strategically placing your fans.
- Replace your heavy winter and fall sheets with lightweight cotton sheets to keep your bed cooler.
- Make your own air conditioner by putting a shallow bowl with ice in front of a fan to create a cool mist.
- Turn off and unplug personal electronics and small appliances, which can radiate heat, when not in use. Every little bit helps!
- Don’t use your stove or oven for cooking. Instead, make meals that don’t require heat (sandwiches, salads, etc.), or that you can microwave indoors or grill outside instead.
- Staying hydrated with ice water will help keep your body temperature cool.
- Keep frozen treats on hand – popsicles, slushies, smoothies, etc.
- Make space in your refrigerator and/or freezer for wet washcloths, sheets and other little luxuries you can grab to cool off when the heat gets unbearable.
- Cool or cold showers, if you can stand them, can also help bring down your body’s temperature before bed time.
- Take a dip in the pool, run through a lawn sprinkler, visit a water park or wade in a local lake.
- Swap out incandescent light bulbs, which give off heat, and replace them with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which are cooler and more environmentally friendly. Learn how to choose the best CFLs at Energy Star.
- Make improvements that will help keep your home cooler in the long-term, such as planting shade trees strategically or adding awnings or outdoor shades to shield your home from the sun.
If these tips aren’t enough to help you beat the worst days of the heat, go to an air conditioned restaurant for dinner, hang out at the library or movie theater when the heat is at its worst, or offer to bring takeover to your friends who have air conditioning!
Sources: NEEA, MyNorthwest.com, Huffington Post, Greatist, Lifehacker
Thinking of going green or stepping up your existing efforts this spring? We can help! We’ve got 10 easy ways for you to go green at home this spring:
- Cleaning: Make your own cleaning products at home from simple ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, lemon and soap. They’re a breeze to make and easy on the budget while improving your home’s air quality and protecting children and pets from harsh chemicals.
- Lighting: Switch to Energy Star-rated CFL bulbs which use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer than standard bulbs. Yes, they are more expensive, but they will save electricity and lower your annual electric bill. Also, consider installing dimmer switches in living, dining and sleeping areas.
- Appliances and electronics: Save on electricity by unplugging appliances that aren’t currently in use (e.g., toaster oven, blender, etc.) or use a “smart” power strip that cuts power when energy isn’t actually being used.
- Heating and cooling: Use a programmable thermostat and change the settings seasonally to maximize your comfort while minimizing power usage. For example, lower your thermostat when you go to bed at night or when you’ll be gone during the workday.
- Water: Use a low-flow showerhead to save water and energy, or take shorter showers. Also, skip the bottled water which is expensive and produces a lot of waste.
- Commuting: You can reduce your gas usage by utilizing other options for your daily commute to and from work. Consider taking mass transit, carpooling with a co-worker, walking or biking if time and distance allow, or ask your boss if you can telecommute a few days a week. We know one couple where the wife takes the car Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and mass transit on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When she doesn’t have the car, hubby has it. Genius!
- Food: Reduce your meat intake by making meatless meals a few days a week, and consider buying fresh produce and dairy products from local farmers.
- Shopping: Remember to take your recyclable bags to the supermarket with you to cut back on plastic bag usage, and rather than buying books and movies, make use of your local library.
- Recycling: Consider composting food scraps rather than tossing them in the trash, and instead of putting unwanted electronics in the local landfill, recycle them after removing all personal information.
- Laundry: To reduce energy usage, wash loads in cold water whenever possible, and buy machine washable items rather than having items dry cleaned with harsh chemicals.
Thanks to American Home Warranty and Good Housekeeping for these great tips on adding more green to our daily routine!
HouseLogic encourages readers to celebrate Energy Awareness month by doing our best to improve energy efficiency in our homes. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
1. Buy energy efficient appliances. Energy Star appliances are a good start, but for stellar performance, look at an appliance’s CEE rating online. CEE is the Consortium for Energy Efficiency and it uses a tiered system to rate energy performance and water usage.
2. Install a programmable thermostat. Rather than manually adjusting your thermostat, use a programmable version, so you can set temperatures to drop during the night while you’re asleep and when you are gone during the day.
3. Use a laptop instead of a desktop computer. Laptops use approximately 1/3 less energy.
4. Add motion sensors to turn off lights when not being used. Even if you’re diligent about turning off lights when exiting a room, your children and visitors may not be.
5. Make your own ice cubes. Sure having the refrigerator do it for you is handy, but by making your own, you can save 14 to 20% of your refrigerator’s energy.
Have a favorite energy saving tip? Email it to me. I may include it in a future blog post.
I love American Home Shield’s monthly newsletters and website. They always contain great ideas for maintaining your home, as well as “go to” tips for remodeling, decorating and organizing.
Here’s a resource I find particularly helpful. It contains troubleshooting tips for home systems like air conditioning, plumbing, large home appliances and more. Bookmark this page – you may not need it now, but it will come in handy when you least expect it!