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Smart showers can perform actions that you never thought possible—or needed—just a couple years ago.

I know there’s some naysayers out there that will say, “How hard is it turn a knob? You must be lazy to want a smart shower” or “Just install a recirculating pump if you don’t want to wait for warm water.”

If that’s you, then you can stop reading right now because smart showers are not for you.

Smart shower systems offer some very real benefits over a standard shower. But, a smart shower system is as much a statement of style and luxury as it is about being useful.

I analyzed each available smart shower system on the market and checked out consumer reviews to find the best smart shower system. This guide is the result of my research. Hopefully, it will help you gain some clarity about the current available smart shower systems.

Since it’s still a fairly new (and expensive) technology, I only managed to find a few choices.

>>>Best Smart Shower: U by Moen
>>>Kohler DTV+ with Konnect
>>>SmarTap

After all my research, I only found one truly smart shower controller that’s available in the US, the U by Moen. Kohler makes and sells a good digital shower controller, but the Kohler Konnect feature (which adds smart connectivity) hasn’t been released yet. SmarTap looks like a good product and has a bunch of cool smart features, but it’s currently only available in Europe.

What is a smart shower?

Before I get carried away discussing the latest smart shower systems, I should probably explain exactly what I mean when I say “smart shower”.

The four levels of shower intelligence: 1. Standard shower

A standard shower is what most of us are used to. It has some kind of handle that you manually twist or pull to turn on the water and adjust the temperature.

2. Thermostatic valve

The next level up is a thermostatic valve. You still have to twist or pull a handle to turn on the water, but there’s an internal thermostatic valve that will automatically mix the water to keep the water temperature constant.

This will help avoid the situation where a family member flushes a toilet and causes a scalding hot blast of water to interrupt your shower.

3. Digital shower

The third level is a digital shower. A digital shower includes the thermostatic valve and adds electronic on/off controls. Temperature and on/off are controlled by pushing a button on a digital screen instead of a handle that you twist or pull.

A digital shower could have programmed shower “routines” for different family members. Each person could have preferred temperature settings or timers.

4. Smart shower

The final level is the full-blown smart shower. A smart shower takes everything in a digital shower and adds smart home connectivity.

Users can set their preferred water temperature, outlet, flow rate, shower duration, and much more through the smart shower’s control display, smartphone app, or through voice command. 

Not all models have all these features, but it’s what I’m looking for as the “ideal” smart shower system.

What are the benefits of having a smart shower?

Manufacturers have been known to get carried away when adding smart connectivity to products (see exhibit A). So, why on earth might you want your shower connected to the internet?

Precise and consistent water temperature

This is the main benefit of a thermostatic valve. It will prevent drastic changes in temperature when someone flushes the toilet or cranks on the kitchen faucet. The valve will automatically mix the incoming water to maintain a steady temperature.

To be fair, it’s not necessary to get a WiFi connected smart shower in order to reap the benefits of a thermostatic valve. You could just buy a thermostatic valve and install it in your standard shower.

Safety – Scald prevention

Since you can precisely set the water temperature, you can create safe shower presets for the most vulnerable members of your family—your kids and the elderly.

In fact, currently available smart shower systems have built-in limits on how hot you can set the water temperature. Therefore, it’s not even possible to scald yourself by accidentally making the temperature too hot.

Create your ideal shower experience remotely

This can be done through the app that your chosen brand comes with. You don’t have to tinker with the knobs to reach a just-right temperature anymore. All you have to do is push the shower preset of your choice from your smartphone.

You can check the latest news while waiting for the smart shower to hit your desired temperature.

Voice activation

And to make your life easier and cooler, you can control your water temperature, which outlet to use, or activate your preferred shower preset using voice commands.

Speeds up your morning routine

Brands like Moen allow you to set your preferred shower duration. Not only will it speed up your morning routine; it’ll lower your water and electricity consumption, too.

Big households will benefit from this feature the most. It will reduce morning chaos by hastening shower queues.

Reduce water and energy usage

If I can save a little money and be eco-friendly with minimal inconvenience to myself, I’m all for it.

Despite all the aforementioned features, smart showers can reduce monthly water usage by approximately 3%. Some brands even claim that it can save up to 50% in water consumption annually.

On top of saving the water, you also save on the energy required to heat that water (assuming you are not crazy like me and you take hot showers).

Clean walk-in shower design 

Without the knobs, you’re left with a sleek walk-in shower with fewer obstructions. Plus, any time you can switch an old hand-operated device with a digital touchscreen, it feels futuristic and luxurious.

4 Questions to Ask Before You Buy 1. What is the temperature control range?

This will depend on your choice of brand. The temperature control range of U by Moen is 600F – 1200F.

I’m sure this limit makes sense for most people, but I am one of those crazy people that loves to take cold showers (as cold as it goes). If I install U by Moen, I can only get it down to 600F and that’s not gonna cut it.

SmarTap, on the other hand, can go below that limit. It’s temperature ranges from 500F to 1130F.

2. Does it require electricity?

Most people don’t have electricity wired to their shower. A thermostatic valve (this valve controls the mixing of hot/cold water) is a mechanical device and does not require electricity, but valves that direct flow will require electricity.

So just like any other digital device, the smart shower system’s water control valve requires electricity, so that may complicate your installation (see question #4).

Now you may be thinking, “What happens if the power goes off while I’m in the middle of shampooing my hair?”

In the rare event that you lose power during a shower, don’t worry about the water getting stuck “on”. Any valve that completely loses power will revert to the off position.

But what if you want to keep the water on? That’s where a battery backup comes in handy. Not all have this necessary safety net, though. If you’re erring on the side of caution, it’s best to choose a brand that offers one such as U by Moen or SmarTap.

3. How many outlets do smart showers have, and how many do I need?

Each outlet provides a path for water to flow. You usually have two pipes (one hot water and one cold water) coming into your controller. Then, based on your settings, the controller directs the water flow out to any number of outlets.

It depends on the brand and the number of shower accessories you have. Each outlet will specifically be used for a shower attachment.

The 2-outlet version is enough if you only have a showerhead and a handheld shower hose.

But if you have a showerhead, a handheld shower, and a body spray system, the 4-outlet version is the one that you should go for.

U by Moen comes in 2 and 4 outlet versions. Kohler DTV+’s valve has 2 to 6 outlet options.

4. Can Anyone Install A Smart Shower?

Unlike many other smart home gadgets, installing a smart shower system may be more than a DIY job. A typical install may require electrical, plumbing, and sometimes some minor framing and finishing.

If you can’t do it yourself, it may be a very expensive install. You may have to hire an electrician, a plumber, and a carpenter separately. Plus, as new as these products are, very few contractors have installed them, so they may need to charge extra for the extra time it takes them to figure out what needs to be done.

Also, a system like U by Moen requires access to the smart shower’s control valves. That means your shower will have to be positioned so that the location of the valves is accessible. An ideal setup would be to have a bathroom closet on the opposite side of the shower wall where the panel is mounted.

Best Available Smart Shower Systems

Again, the only currently available system for US customers is the U by Moen. So by default, it receives the “best” designation.

U by Moen

The first thing that you should know about U by Moen is that it makes mixer showers look paleolithic.

U by Moen is the first cloud-based showering system that adds extra levels of convenience to your showering needs. On top of that, it has an elegantly designed, easy-to-understand controller with a 5-inch LCD screen.

You can precisely create your ideal water temperature, create shower presets, set a shower time, activate the shower attachment you want to use, and many more.

All of that can be done through the sound of your voice, by using your smartphone, or by pushing one of the smart shower controller’s buttons.

The maximum number of personalized presets that you can create in the app is 12.

And to ensure the security of your connection, each U by Moen smart shower has a unique encrypted key.

You can enable voice control by integrating your smart shower with Alexa. You can immediately command it to start your preferred shower experience once the integration is complete. It can seamlessly integrate with Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant as well.

Another noteworthy feature is the pause water flow mode. If you’re not inside the shower yet, it will automatically stop the flow of water once it hits your desired temperature. It’ll let you know that your shower is ready via app notification or an on-screen message.

U by Moen comes in two outlet system options (a 2-output port and a 4-output port versions), and both have limited lifetime warranties.

Unlike Kohler, U by Moen doesn’t come with sophisticated extras (see below). But what it has is more than enough for anyone to have a relaxing and convenient shower experience.

U by Moen | Check Price

Kohler DTV+ with KOHLER Konnect

Kohler DTV+ (an acronym for digital thermostatic valve) with Kohler Konnect is the answer to this question: “How can a humble home shower experience turn into a spa-like one?”

At the moment, the Kohler Konnect, which allows for app and voice control, has not yet been released. Once available, existing customers with the DTV+ system can upgrade to KOHLER Konnect by purchasing the KOHLER Konnect module.

Brought to you by a powerhouse in the luxury bathroom and shower fixtures industry, this model has features that were clearly created to impress.

It can precisely set the right temperature, control each shower component, or create presets just like the rest. What sets it apart is its ability to control 4 elements (water, music, steam, and lighting) in order to mimic a relaxing spa retreat.

You can activate all those features through the interface, app, or voice assistant using Alexa or Google Assistant.

The DTV+ boasts of 11 pre-programmed spa settings that aim to invigorate the mind and body. The spa-like experience is made possible by the number of shower components and features that you can add.

However, be prepared for extra costs if you want to have the full spa-like experience. The steam (DTV+ Tandem Steam Adapter Kit), music (SoundTile® Speakers), lighting, and shower components are all sold separately.

You can design a truly luxurious walk-in shower because a single thermostatic valve can have up to 6 outlets.

Another cool feature of this model is the temperature therapy function.

Hydrotherapy—known to help improve various diseases—is possible through the aforementioned function. You can create hot-to-cold and cold-to-hot cycles through the digital interface with touchscreen or the Kohler Konnect app. That alone makes this a worthy splurge.

Unlike U by Moen, you can only create 6 shower presets for this one and it doesn’t have a backup battery. It will shut off in case of a power outage. The silver lining is that all your presets will be saved.

Kohler Konnect | Get notified when its released

SmarTap 

I live in South Dakota and this past winter we had a 2-day stretch where the high temperature was -15F (that’s air temperature, not wind chill).

On the second day, I woke up when the temperature was -26F and attempted to take a shower. I turned the handle but nothing came out. The water in the pipes was frozen.

I spent the next couple hours using a blow dryer to melt the blockage. Luckily, there was no cracked pipes or permanent damage. However, it could have been a lot worse.

SmarTap has a feature that works to detect leaks and prevent pipes from freezing. I really could have used that feature this past winter.

SmarTap’s most impressive feature is its ability to learn your habits and automatically adapt to your changing needs over time.

Out of all, SmarTap has the sleekest, most minimalist, and most user-friendly controller. This is not that all surprising given that Queo—the luxury sanitary ware company responsible for this beauty—is known for its line of intuitively-designed products.

Just like the U by Moen and Kohler DTV+ withe Kohler Konnect, SmarTap is responsive to Alexa and Google Assistant. And just like those two, you can define different showering scenarios. Apart from those, it can easily be integrated with IFTTT, too.

Unlike those two, however, SmarTap has two controllers. The one-dial controller can be used for a bathtub or sink while the two-dial controller is for the shower. You can use both simultaneously or as stand-alones.

Aside from that, SmarTap has a built-in self-test (BIST) to ensure that the system is in tip-top shape. It also has a built-in backup battery in case of a power outage.

SmarTap comes with a five-year guarantee and automatic software updates.

“Great, where can I get one?” you ask. Well, I’m not sure. Unfortunately, it’s not currently available in the United States.

SmarTap | Check Price

Final Thoughts

Homes are getting smarter, and if you’re future-proofing your home, a smart shower is a good addition.

If you want a smart shower TODAY, then the U by Moen will scratch your itch.

But, if you can wait for Kohler Konnect, it might be worth it. Kohler is planning an entire suite of smart bathroom products. You could install the Kohler digital shower system today, with the intention of upgrading once Konnect is released.

That said, I don’t blame you if you’re not quite ready to throw down the amount of cash required for a smart shower. For now, there’s limited options and it’s still an emerging tech so there might be a few technical hiccups.

But I believe smart showers are filled with potential. I don’t think it will be long before other digital shower models are retrofitted with WiFi so they can tap into your smart home, too.

As that happens, I think more advanced features and smart home integrations will happen. And…I will be right here writing about it.

The post Best Smart Shower System: The Smart Home Begins its Bathroom Invasion appeared first on The Smart Cave.

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It’s expected that by the year 2025, there’ll be over 64 billion IoT devices, and most of them will be inside our homes. Smart TVs, smart locks, smart lights; they all offer great convenience but expose users to great threats as well.

When thinking about cyber threats, what comes to mind most often is computer viruses. Thus, many people seem to believe that cyber-security stops at anti-malware software installed on a smartphone or PC.

However, there are many types of cyber-security threats, and every internet-connected device must be properly protected, smart homes included.

Security Risks Posed by Smart Homes

Cyber-criminals have many reasons for intercepting the network of a smart home, and two of the most common ones are:
● Accessing personal data
● Harnessing the power of the IoT devices

Personal data can be used for a variety of purposes. What most people are concerned about is identity theft. Cyber-criminals can gather credit card information, medical records, and more, not only causing financial problems, but legal ones as well.

Personal data can also be used to breach into a company. Those working from home or using their personal devices at work can open their company up to vulnerabilities without even knowing.

A hacked personal email account opens the door to a company’s intranet, and if the same password is used across multiple accounts, personal and business, breaching into a company is made even easier.

IoT devices can be useful to cybercriminals for Distributed Denial of Service (or DDoS) attacks.

Harnessing the power of multiple small devices allows hackers to launch large-scale cyber attacks, bringing down major websites, disrupting the work of companies and organizations, etc.

Smart homes are vulnerable because these small IoT devices don’t have the type of cybersecurity settings found on smartphones or laptops. This is why it’s crucial to take steps to protect a smart home.

Securing the Network

Smart home cyber security starts at the WiFi router. The router is what connects IoT devices to the world, and first and foremost, it’s the router that should be protected.

Changing its name is the first step to be taken. The name provided by the manufacturer might identify the model, making it easier for hackers to gain access to it.

A unique name that reveals no personal information (like birthday, name, street address, etc.) should suffice.

Secondly, it’s a good idea to set up a guest network for any visitor. The guest network won’t tie into the internet connected devices inside the home, and it will offer more privacy.

If possible, a separate WiFi network solely for the smart home devices should be set up. This will allow for all network traffic for home automation to be conducted through a separate line from the one used by phones and computers.

Since most people access their bank accounts and other sensitive information through PCs and smartphones, in case of a DDoS attack, their sensitive information will be kept secure.

Avoiding Public Networks

Free public WiFi poses many threats, and everyone should avoid using it, whether they have a smart home or not.

Anyone can access public WiFi, and since it’s not encrypted, anyone can see the devices connected to it, and intercept that connection.

The best way to safely use a public network to manage the IoT devices at home is through a VPN (Virtual Private Network).

A VPN will, in a sense, make a device’s connection to a public network private. It hides and encrypts the connection, making it inaccessible by the outsiders.

“Will a VPN hide my IP?” you may wonder. That’s exactly how this service works. It hides the IP address and provides a device with a new one. That’s how all device activity is protected.

Change Default Passwords

All IoT devices should be protected with a password, and most of them come with a default username and password. The provided passwords are often not nearly secure enough, so changing them is a must.

The same is true for WiFi routers. All passwords should be changed immediately, and all of them should be strong and unique.

This often poses a problem, as people are buying more and more IoT devices, and keeping track of dozens of different passwords isn’t easy.

If creating and remembering a number of passwords is causing trouble, password managers can be of great help.

Password managers are apps designed to act as a failsafe for any important information such as passwords and PINs. All information is locked under one master password, so users can easily access it.

Most managers can generate random alphanumeric pass-codes that are impossible to guess, bringing cyber-security to a higher level.

Keep Software Up to Date

Software updates are crucial for cybersecurity, and that includes PCs, smartphones, smart TVs, smart kitchen appliances, and everything else.

While most people are used to automatic software updates today, some IoT devices must be updated manually. Frequently checking the manufacturer’s website will keep everyone informed about any new updates, so it’s always a good idea to bookmark the important links and check for updates as frequently as possible.

Outdated software is an easy target for hackers. Software updates don’t only introduce new features, but they often have bug fixes, and any known vulnerabilities are patched so that cyber-criminals cannot take advantage of them.

Power Down Devices When They’re Not Needed

Certain devices are not constantly in use, like lights or motion sensors, and powering them down when they’re not being used is a good cyber-security practice. If the device is switched off or disconnected, no one can take advantage of it.

This includes any old devices that are no longer used. Before throwing away an old device, reselling it, or simply storing it, it’s important to ensure that it’s disconnected from the network and powered down.

Final Thoughts

Taking these steps as a precaution will ensure improved cyber-security for any smart home, keeping all the devices inside and outside the home safe. It doesn’t take much to improve one’s cyber-security, and it will offer greater convenience, as well as a peace of mind.

The post A Quick Guide to Keeping Your Smart Home Secure appeared first on The Smart Cave.

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Robot vacuums can save you an enormous amount of time and housework. There’s a wide variety of them out there on the market today, making it a little difficult to choose what’s best for your household needs.

Before you invest in your own personal Rosie like the Jetsons had, here are some questions to ask before making a decision. After all, you’re looking for the smartest robot vacuum you can get.

10 Questions To Ask Before You Buy 1. How does it perform on hard floors vs. carpet?

While every vacuum I looked at had the ability to transition between hard floors and carpet, some get stuck easier than others and most don’t have sensors to differentiate between the two. Depending on what most of your flooring is made of, you may need a different robot vacuum than your neighbor

2. Can it handle pet hair?

I’ve yet to run into a smart vacuum that can’t handle pet hair, although some have their limits. Make sure to test your vacuum on large clumps of pet hair, larger piles of dirt, and pieces of paper to make sure it has the suction power your floors need.

3. How does it handle corners and edges?

Buying your own personal Rosie is supposed to save you time, so checking how your vacuum will clean inside corners and edges is important. Some vacuums are round with edge brushes peeking out from underneath them, allowing them to clean straight wall edges despite being circular.

On the other hand, some are in a “D” shape, with one straight side to align and get close on inside corners. However, I didn’t see any reviews that said the “D” shape performed better than the others, so it likely doesn’t make a real difference.

4. Does it get stuck all the time?

One of my major rules for buying smart home stuff is to make sure it makes life easier. It can be very annoying when your “smart” robot vacuum is constantly getting stuck and needing you to walk over and free it. And especially if you’ve set your vacuum to clean your floors while you’re gone, you don’t want to come home to dirty floors and an incompetent vacuum.

5. How much suction power?

This is a really important question to ask yourself before you make a purchase. Depending on the suction power, some robot vacuums struggle to clean up larger piles of dirt, debris, hair, and paper. Dirt gets stuck deep inside carpet, and the stronger the suction power, the more likely your floors will be thoroughly cleaned.

6. Is it self-emptying?

A self-emptying vacuum removes yet another, typically somewhat messy, housecleaning step. Unfortunately, there’s only one smart vacuum I’ve been able to find — the Roomba i7+ — that offers this option as of now.

7. Does it find its way back to its base and recharge?

If a vacuum is able to charge itself, especially by being able to return back to its charging station without needing you to carry it, it removes even more inconvenience for you. Nobody likes a needy robot vacuum that is only partly smart. Having one smart enough to zip back to its base and charge itself is now almost a given.

8. How does it navigate your home?

All of the vacuums have a plan. Each one may look different, though. Some vacuums form squares of each room they’re in, focusing on cleaning each square before moving on to the next one.

Some more advanced vacuums will form long lines to best fit the type of room they’re in. For example, a smarter robot vacuum will form long vertical lines down a hallway to clean it faster and more efficiently, whereas the less advanced vacuums will still go down the hall mapping it out and cleaning square by square.

You also need to ask if you can set up barriers to separate rooms or sections to keep your vacuum from going in certain areas. Some vacuums learn the layout and floor plan of each room and adapt their cleaning patterns to best suit each room’s lines (forming long vertical lines for long hallways). Some can also learn each room by name, so you can schedule it to clean certain rooms on certain days.

9. Does it work with voice control?

This is something you’ll want to know if you want to be able to just talk to it without having to program and push buttons. Voice control is a convenient feature, especially if you often have your hands full and don’t want to fool with messing with your phone screen.

10. Is there an (actually useful) mopping function?

If you’re looking for a smart robot vacuum, chances are you may want it to be able to mop your floors too. Mopping features still seem to be a work in progress, as it hasn’t yet been perfected as well as the vacuum features have been.

If you go with a vacuum that can mop but can’t distinguish between carpet and hardwood, simply make sure to set up barriers so your carpet doesn’t get wet. It’s also recommended to not use soap or cleaning chemicals as it can clog the hoses for certain vacuums’ mopping function.

Top 5 Smartest Robot Vacuums 1. Roomba i7+ Robot Vacuum

The Roomba i7+ is the only robot vacuum that can empty itself. With a hose reaching up to a bin, it empties the dirt inside of it and saves you a somewhat messy job. Plus, the container it empties into can hold up to 30 bins of dirt and hair.

The Roomba has two round brushes right next to each other that roll in opposite directions. One is designed to loosen the dirt while the other one rolls in the opposite direction to pull it up. When it comes to corners and edges, the Roomba has an edge brush extending out from underneath its circular frame to sweep along the straight edges.

It also has an estimated suction power of 1800 Pa.

When tested on hard floors, it runs up to 75 minutes before it needs to recharge itself. Like most robot vacuums, it returns back to its base and recharges once it’s low.

Roomba also has sensors that let it know which spots on the floor have a higher concentration of dirt. This lets it spend more time cleaning those areas so you get the cleanest floor possible. You can also schedule what days and times you want specific rooms cleaned, plus you can schedule your rooms by name.

On top of that, it’s WiFi connected and works with voice control when you connect it to Alexa or Google Assistant. About the only thing this particular Roomba vacuum doesn’t have is a mopping function.

iRobot Roomba i7 | Check Price

2. Neato Botvac D7 Connected

This robot is designed in the shape of a “D” so it can line up with edges and inside corners better than round robots. However, even round robots seem to be able to clean just as well as the Neato, providing they have long enough edge sweepers extending out from underneath them.

The Neato Botvac uses lasers to map out your floor plan and move in straight lines instead of a random pattern, plus it comes with two settings for suction power: Eco and Turbo. The suction power is rated between 1,200-1,500 Pa. It runs for up to 120 minutes by itself before returning back to base and charging (taking 2-3 hours to recharge).

Like every other robot reviewed here, the Neato works on both hard floors and carpet, however, it doesn’t have sensors to keep it from falling down the stairs. Instead, you can create “No-Go Lines” to block your robot from going into certain areas where it’s likely to get stuck.

While it is compatible with voice commands using Alexa or Google Assistant, you have to start it off cleaning with the Neato app or a scheduled cleaning if you want to utilize the No-Go Lines.

Neato Botvac D7 Connected| Check Price

3. Roborock S6

This robot vacuum has the most powerful suction of them all, with a suction rating of 2000 Pa(enough to lift AA batteries). It also maps out rooms so that it doesn’t randomly bump around them, cleaning wide rooms horizontally and long rooms lengthwise. This makes it faster and more efficient because it can adapt to the type of room it’s in.

You can also save each room in your home to be automatically recognized by the robot, so like the Neato, you can direct it to clean certain rooms at certain times.

You can also watch where your vacuum is in real time from your phone, even knowing which direction it’s facing. It also runs very quietly and non-distracting in your home. When its job is done, it returns back to its base to recharge. It has a run-time of around three hours when set to quiet mode, with a 5,200mAh battery powering it up.

The brushes seem to be great at picking up even long hair and leaving your floors actually clean. However, if you have large house, you’ll have to clean out the bin after each cleaning because the bin is a smaller size.

Roborock S6 | Check Price

4. ECOVACS DEEBOT OZMO 930
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Is the Awair Glow a smart plug trapped in an air quality monitor? Or is it an air quality monitor trapped in a smart plug? We may never know…

Either way, the Awair Glow is a fairly unique smart home gadget with some cool tricks up its sleeve. But does it work as advertised? Does it provide accurate readings? Is it a hassle to install and configure?

In this review, I’ll do my best to answer those questions, and more. When you’re done reading this review, you’ll know exactly what to expect from this air quality monitor.

Awair Glow is Packed with Smart Home Goodies

At first glance, the Awair Glow might look like just a fancy night light. But, it’s actually packed with a virtual grab bag of smart home goodies.

Here’s what’s included:

  • WiFi, Bluetooth
  • Smart LED “glow” light
  • Smart plug
  • Carbon dioxide and VOC air quality sensors
  • Temperature, humidity, and motion sensors

Pretty impressive to pack all that into a night light, right?

Add in the Awair app to automatically control the smart plug and suddenly, your night light turns into a powerful smart home gadget.

Connect To Your Network

The first step to start using the Awair Glow is to connect it to your network. It has both Wi-fi and Bluetooth capabilities. In most cases, the Awair Glow will use low energy Bluetooth, so make sure you toggle Bluetooth on your mobile device.

Once your phone is paired via Bluetooth you’ll need to use the Awair app to connect the device to your Wi-fi network (only works with 2.4gHz networks). Once it’s on the network it will search for any other smart home devices, such as Alexa or Google Home.

Although you can see sensor readings on the app when you’re away from home, you won’t be able to control any appliances (using the Awair app), unless you’re connected via Bluetooth or the local area network.

Some people have complained about the product losing connectivity at random times, but I haven’t run into those issues yet. Overall, the network connection steps are a bit of a hassle. Still, you only really need to do them once.

What Does Awair Glow Tell me About My Air?

Once you’re up and running, you can check out the Awair Glow’s impressive amount of sensors. It can track
temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds).

Glow Can Alert You of the Killer VOCs

Like most other consumer-level air quality monitors, the device doesn’t track each VOC individually. There are hundreds of common VOCs and tracking each one would be too complicated and expensive.

Instead, the toxins are grouped together under the general term “chemicals”. Potential household pollutants that will be detected by the Glow’s VOC sensor are:

  • carbon monoxide (furnace fumes, vehicle exhaust)
  • hydrogen sulfide (vehicle exhaust)
  • methane (human “fumes”)
  • ammonia and (cleaning solvents)
  • toluene (gasoline, nail polish, paint thinner)

I believe the idea here is to use the Glow to turn on an air purifier if the Glow ever detects high levels of VOCs. It’s not a terrible idea. But, in my opinion, it’s not a very useful one either.

The times when your living space accumulates elevated levels of VOCs should be relatively rare. So most of the time your air purifier will just be sitting unused.

Also, most consumer grade air purifiers are marginal at best against eliminating VOCs. They typically rely on carbon filters that are undersized and lose their effectiveness after a couple weeks.

I think the more useful feature is simply the push notifications. You might consider placing a few Glows around the house near trouble areas like the furnace, a door to the garage, or a gas stove. Then, in the rare event that something bad happens, you get an alert.

Probably Won’t Help With Allergies

The Awair Glow doesn’t have a particulate sensor (PM2.5). That means it can’t detect common allergens like dust, pollen, or mold.* So, if you are trying to narrow down the source of your allergies, the Awair Glow is not for you.

It surprises me that Awair decided against including a particulate sensor. They managed to jam everything else into it. Why not one more sensor?

If I was going to use the Glow to add smart control to an air purifier, the particle sensor is the one I would want instead of the VOC sensor.

*The Awair 2nd Edition (here’s my review) does track these particles, so I would recommend that product over this one if you are struggling with allergies.

Transform Any Device Into a Smart Device

The Awair Glow has a built-in smart plug that can control any non-smart device in your home. It can use its own built-in sensors to determine when to turn your device on or off.

Common devices you might use with the Awair Glow are:

  • space heater
  • portable air conditioner
  • humidifier
  • dehumidifier
  • air purifier
  • fan
Other Smart Home Integrations

The Awair Glow can connect to Alexa and Google Home. What this means is (if you set up everything correctly) you can now use voice commands to control any non-smart device in your home, as long as it’s plugged into your Awair Glow.

Keep in mind, it won’t be able to change settings on the non-smart device, only switch it on and off, which is usually sufficient. Most people use the default settings on their devices, anyways.

You can also make use of Awair’s integration with IFTTT.

Relaxing Nightlight

Awair Glow got its name because the LEDs emit a soft glow which can double as a nightlight.

The light can be either controlled by the app, touch, or motion. You can change the light settings by tapping the wood panel on top of the device.

The LED lights will also change based on pollution levels. Green is safe, orange is moderate, and red is dangerous. So even if you don’t receive a notification on your phone, you can still see it.

Return of the Bulky Smart Plug

When you plug the Awair Glow into one outlet, there won’t be enough space to plug anything into the other socket. It’s a bit bulky.

This was a common issue when smart plugs were first released. Most other smart plugs being sold today have been modified to fix that problem.

However, considering all the extra instrumentation installed in the Glow, I’m willing to give it a pass on this minor issue.

How Accurate are the Sensors?

With air quality monitors, there will always be some unfortunate customers that end up with faulty sensors that lose their accuracy (or never had it to begin with). It’s important to realize those few unfortunate customers are usually the loudest on online review boards.

With that said, it looks the sensors can sometimes be inaccurate. Some customers have reported the temperature sensors are a few degrees off. But judging by the generally positive reviews online, it doesn’t seem to be a systemic problem.

It would be neat if they could include a way to calibrate the sensors. However, I suspect any sort of user calibration option would just open up a flood of support calls from customers who improperly calibrated their device.

Final Thoughts

The Awair Glow is a decent air quality monitor with a reasonable price tag.
It can be used for VOC gas detection, CO2, humidity, and temperature. But, don’t forget it doesn’t detect particulates.

As an air quality monitor alone, I don’t think I would recommend it. There’s lots of other smart air quality monitors out there that outperform the Glow.

However, the Glow’s smart plug sets it apart from the other monitors. The smart plug integration makes it really easy to take an old, non-smart appliance and immediately make it smart. You don’t have to do any fancy programming or mess with any extra hubs. It’s all done within the Awair app.

The Awair Glow can breathe new life into old appliances, monitor your air quality, and provide a convenient night light. Not bad for a fancy night light.

Awair Glow | Check Price

Thanks for taking the time to read this review. Leave a comment below if you have any questions.

The post Awair Glow Review: A Smart Plug Trapped in an Air Quality Monitor? appeared first on The Smart Cave.

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This isn’t a massively long list for a reason. Believe me, there’s a ton of stuff Alexa can do. I could easily list 100 features. But, the truth is, not all of them are worth your time.

In this article I will show you the stuff you need to use so that your Alexa devices will be a useful part of your smart home.

1. Brief Mode

Ever get tired of Alexa’s long-winded responses to your simple commands?

You can shorten her responses using Brief Mode. This works especially well for smart home applications. Instead of her saying “okay, turning on living room light,” she just turns on the light and a simple chime confirms she heard you.

To turn on Brief Mode, open the Alexa app and go to Settings/Alexa Account/Alexa Voice Responses. Set the Brief Mode option to “on”.

Brief Mode is account wide. So, once you turn it on in your Alexa app, all your Alexa devices will use Brief Mode.

2. Follow-up Mode

Have you ever had to issue multiple commands in a row? It’s repetitive and kind of annoying, right?

Here’s an example me using multiple commands:


“Alexa, turn on dining room lights…Alexa, turn off kitchen lights…Alexa, play relaxing music.”

Eric Blank, annoyed Alexa user

Instead of repeating the Alexa wake word for each command, you can turn on Follow-up Mode.

With Follow-up Mode enabled, Alexa will continue listening after she answers a command. Then, you can ask another question or issue another command without having to repeat the wake word.

To turn on Follow-up Mode, open the Alexa app and go to Settings/Device Settings. Then, choose the Echo device (in the example below, my device name is Eric’s Echo Dot). Scroll down until you see the option for Follow-up Mode. Turn it on.

You’ll know Follow-up Mode is working when you see Alexa’s blue “listening” light remain on after you ask a question. Follow-up Mode needs to be turned on separately for all your Alexa devices.

3. Routines

Follow-up Mode makes issuing multiple commands a little shorter, but it’s still kind of annoying.

Here’s another example of me, this time with Follow up mode turned on:

“Alexa, turn on dining room lights…Turn off kitchen lights…Play relaxing music.”

Eric Blank, slightly less annoyed Alexa user

What if you could issue multiple commands with one quick command?

Well, you can with Alexa Routines.

If you have sets of commands that you frequently use together, you can set up a Routine that will execute those commands with one initial voice command.

Here’s my “good night” routine, I use it almost every night right before I go to bed:

“Alexa, Good night.”

Eric Blank, satisfied Alexa user

The one command does the following:

  1. Immediately turn on the bedroom lamp
  2. Wait 2 minutes
  3. Turn off all the smart lights in the house except the bedroom lamp
  4. Wait another 5 minutes
  5. Set bedroom lamp to dim
  6. Wait another 5 minutes
  7. Turn off bedroom lamp

To create a new routine, open the main menu and select Routines. Then press the “+” button to begin creating a new routine.

Next, you need to choose an event that will trigger the routine to start. This can be a voice command, a scheduled time, a GPS location (geofencing), a motion sensor device (see below), or an Echo Button.

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Improvements in kitchen technology are changing the way we cook, store food and interact with our homes. The advent of smart appliances has made managing homes easier and continues to improve lives by saving time and energy.

Food isn’t the only thing made better by smart appliances. Smart refrigerators, microwaves, ovens, sinks and other appliances can monitor the energy they’re using and reduce waste. Investing in smart appliances can mean monthly savings for years. They can also alert homeowners to issues in the kitchen when they’re away from the house.

The best news about smart appliances is that, even with all the recent advancements, things are only going to get better. The Internet of Things is growing and will become more customizable, so we’ll be able to have more control over our homes and the appliances in them.

Read more to learn the top five benefits of smart appliances in your kitchen.

1. Smart Devices Provide Useful Notifications

Tech companies are knocking on the door of having appliances order groceries or cook meals for us. We’re not quite there yet, but smart kitchen appliances still provide useful information to homeowners.

They’ll tell you when you’ve left the fridge door open or if something’s up with the dishwasher. The microwave will tell you if something’s done, and smart cooking appliances can be monitored on your phone, so you know you’re at the right temperature. Ovens will tell you when it’s time to take something out.

These improvements mean you don’t have to wait until something malfunctions to know there’s a problem. How many of us growing up found out we left the fridge open because the milk was warm, or the ice cream had melted?

With smart kitchen appliances none of that needs to happen. Notifications can be pushed to multiple devices instantaneously.

2. Energy Efficient Appliances Cut Costs

It’s true that smart kitchen appliances are typically more expensive than traditional ovens or sinks. However, the mark up is not random. You’re investing in the software and technology that’s integrated into them.

Ultimately there’s a payoff. If your dishwasher isn’t getting to the right temperature, you may never know. A lot of people are inclined to just live with small issues like that and will run multiple cycles until things get clean.

The same goes with refrigerators. Kids can sometimes unexpectedly tamper with temperatures, making things inside colder than they need to be. This ramps up electricity costs that will eventually hit your wallet.

Smart kitchen appliances can be monitored on a regular basis from your phone, so you’ll know everything is in working order. A little extra money up front will eventually even out with the energy cost savings you’ll see.

3. Cooking Made Easy

It’s still going to be a while until food cooks itself, but we’re making progress. With smart fridges, microwaves, and ovens, things are much less labor intensive.

The newest innovations in smart fridges mean homeowners can keep track of what’s in their fridge at any given time. You’ll know what your dinner options are before getting home after work.

When it comes to actually cooking, smart ovens can monitor how well things are cooked and automatically shift into warming mode until you’re ready to eat. It’s no longer a step by step process you have to manage the whole way through. Everything can be done from your phone and is really intuitive.

At some point, it’s likely we’ll see built in options where appliances will recommend recipes and walk you through each part as you go.

4. Less Worry When You’re on Vacation

Have you ever been on a trip and couldn’t shake the thought that you left something on at home?

One of the best benefits of smart devices is that they’re always accessible. Most of them have bespoke applications you can use to see that they’re functioning and everything at home is doing fine.

With things like smart lights, you can keep a kitchen light on at night if you’re worried about the house looking empty. You can change the temperature of the fridge to a lower setting to make up for it not being opened as much while people are in the home. Everything can be set to expire at a certain time, so things are back to normal by the time you get home.

In short, smart devices can give you the peace of mind you need while you’re out of the house.

5. Wi-Fi-Enabled Devices

Being able to monitor kitchen appliances from afar isn’t the only benefit to having them connected to the home Wi-Fi. Connected devices also make your life easier because they can cut down on timely steps that used to take a while.

A great example is a smart microwave, which can be utilized from afar no matter where it is located in your kitchen. A lot of people have trouble getting things just right in the microwave because they’re unsure about how long to leave things in or what power setting something should be cooked on.

Image source

Well, the newest smart microwaves can scan barcodes on food items and automatically download cooking instructions, so everything comes out perfectly. They can also respond to popular artificial intelligence voice assistants that most homeowners already own. If you’re a planner, you can place something in the microwave early in the day and start cooking it from your home so it will be ready when you walk in the door.

All of these options are on top of other developments to actual cooking functions like having moisture sensors inside and convection oven technology.

Final Thoughts

It’s a great time to be a homeowner. Things in the kitchen space are changing so rapidly that it seems like every year the game changes.

Smart appliances are making actual changes to how we eat, cook and live. It gives us more time to focus on being healthy, preserving the environment, and saving money.

With so many options and all this rapid change, it’s important for homeowners and other people shopping for smart appliances to do the research necessary on the best products.

The post 5 Benefits of Installing Smart Appliances in Your Kitchen appeared first on The Smart Cave.

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Here’s a list of 41 actionable tips to help you get started with your smart home.

As you might guess, I included tips which I learned through my own experiences and research. In addition, I reached out to the blogosphere and included advice from several other smart home bloggers.

1. Use LAN when you can

Wireless technology has come a long way in recent years, but it’s still common to run into problems with signal interference or range. If you can, wire your home with CAT6 for wired LAN access in as many rooms as possible. This becomes especially important if you have multiple high bandwidth devices like streaming video or security cams.

2. Find dead spots

Many of your smart devices will connect using WiFi. WiFi networks become more congested as more devices connect to them. Before you go crazy buying new networking equipment, use your mobile phone and a WiFi analysis app to find the dead spots.

3. Get used to voice control

Several years ago when I got my first Alexa device, I felt a little weird talking to it. Now, it’s a regular part of my life. In fact, it’s part of the family. It’s also the most common way I interact with my connected devices.

4. Watch out for missing neutral wires in old home wiring

If you have an old home with old wiring, your light switches may not have a neutral wire. This is a problem for most smart switches.

A circuit with a neutral wire can switch a light off while still delivering power to the light switch. With no neutral wire, the smart switch loses all power when the switch is turned off. Without power, a smart switch can’t communicate with your smart home, which is obviously a problem.

One smart switch that works without a neutral wire is the Lutron Caseta dimmer switch.

5. Use both Google Assistant and Alexa

You don’t have to choose between the two voice assistant giants. You can connect all your smart home devices to both Google and Alexa at the same time. Then, use whichever is most convenient to control your devices.

6. Family acceptance

“You’re most likely the techie in the house, but think about the non-techies in your family or friends that visit often.  Any hardware or automations that you build out should be easy to use in ways that people are used to.  Your family should never get frustrated or confused trying to turn on the family room lights.”

Matt Ferrell, Undecided with Matt Ferrell

For more tips from Matt keep reading, or have a look at his Youtube channel.

7. Smart switches are usually better than smart bulbs

Smart switches let you continue to use the wall switch as an on/off switch. Conversely, a smart bulb loses its smartness if someone turns off the wall switch.

In the perfectly automated home of the future, there would be no need for manual switches. But until it exists, there will inevitably be times when it’s more convenient to flip a switch.

8. Learn to use geofencing

Yes, that is a 2001 Geo Metro in a fencing bout, but that’s not the kind of Geo fencing I’m talking about.

A smart home geofence is an imaginary circle around your home location. The GPS on your phone can be used to trigger different actions when you cross this “fence”.

If you’re like me, you take your phone with you nearly everywhere you go, so it’s a pretty good indicator of whether you’re home or not. A good smart home setup takes advantage of this. I use it all the time with my smart thermostat setup.

9. Map it out from the start

Rose from the H.A. Report, one of our top smart home blogs, suggests that users “map it out”.

“When you start building your smart home, you generally have only one or two devices but it can quickly grow.

With growth comes creativity. You might have a rule connecting Nest and Hue but Hue might also be controlled by built-in rules, IFTTT, or even Stringify.

Before long, you have multiple devices controlled by multiple rules and it can be hard to remember what you have set up where, unless you’ve mapped things out of course.”

Rose, homealarmreport.com
10. Smart switches don’t need to be wired together to work together.

Smart switches can replace any switch and can be linked to any other smart device.

For example, my kitchen has two sets of lights that aren’t wired together. Normally it requires me to flip two switches to turn all the lights on. With smart switches, I can set it up so that flipping either switch turns on all lights.

11. Minimize battery use

Whenever possible, put in the extra effort to connect your smart home devices to a constant power source. When you first start building a smart home, you may be inclined to use the cheapest and easiest option for powering your devices. That usually means batteries. But, as you get more devices, battery maintenance can become a real pain.

12. Try a wall mount for your Echo Dot

There are several vendors that sell low-cost ready-made mounts.

I make use of several Echo Dots throughout my home. They’re usually pretty good at picking up my voice, but sometimes they have problems. One way to improve its ability to “hear” you is to mount the speaker vertically using one of these mounts.
Additionally, it can be a real space saver for space limited locations like a countertop or bathroom.

13. Smart thermostats are usually the biggest money saver

A typical home spends close to half the energy bill on heating and cooling. Smart thermostats are designed to take a big chunk out of that. How much you can save depends on your current habits, but a smart thermostat is one smart product that has the potential to pay for itself.

14. Check for rebates with your power company

In many states, power companies offer rebates when you buy a new smart thermostat. I’ve seen rebates that range from $25-$100. The additional rebate can make buying a smart thermostat a no-brainer.

15. Leverage communities for help

If you have questions about a smart product, Facebook groups are a wonderful resource. Popular products like SmartThings, Philips Hue, and ecobee have their own dedicated fan groups. Join the group and you will find more than just casual fans. You’ll find fanatics and gurus and probably get 10 answers to any question.

16. Protect your privacy

“Buy products from brands you trust.  And always consider self hosted options first to ensure you’re in control of your data.  A good example would be security cameras that record locally and don’t require a paid cloud service.”

Matt Ferrell, Undecided with Matt Ferrell
17. Smart thermostats work best with a c-wire

Smart thermostats that have a big screen and a WiFi connection require lots of power. A c-wire allows the thermostat to get that power from the wires without disrupting the HVAC operation. If you don’t have a c-wire, you’re asking for a headache. Don’t worry though, it’s not a big problem to solve. Here’s what I recommend.

18. Name your smart devices

“When it comes to controlling all your smart devices, you want to make sure those devices are named correctly in each room so you don’t get confused which room you are operating.”

Rodney Diamond, www.automateyourcrib.com

For more tips from Rodney, check out his big list of home automation tips and tricks.

19. Participate in demand response programs

Some smart thermostats work with certain power companies to help manage peak electricity loads. During periods of high usage, the thermostat will automatically set your temperature back a couple degrees. This makes it easier for the power company to provide consistent power and they reward you with a lower rate.

20. Colored bulbs are really cool

If you’ve never experienced colored light bulbs, I recommend you try Philips Hue.

I was skeptical at first. The idea of color changing light bulbs seemed childish and gimmicky. However, after using them, I was amazed at how effective they can be at influencing my mood.

I am an especially big fan of using Hue color bulbs in light fixtures with multiple bulbs. There are preset scenes available (with names like Savanna sunset and Arctic aurora) that set each bulb to it’s own color. The combination of colors together creates a spectacular effect.

21. Cheap bulbs with Philips Hue

The Philips Hue system uses the Zigbee protocol. If you want to buy more smart bulbs to add to your Philips Hue ecosystem, but don’t need the premium price and quality of the Philips Hue bulbs, you can buy some cheaper Zigbee bulbs that will work with the Philips Hue hub.

22. Use Alexa routines

The Alexa app is slowly becoming a more powerful force for automation. Routines are a huge part of that. You can use routines to set off a chain of actions with only one voice command.

A recent addition to Alexa routines allows routines to also be triggered by a motion sensor.

23. Go cross platform

“Look for devices that offer integrations into major services like Amazon, Google, HomeKit, Smartthings, etc.  They’ll give you the flexibility to jump between platforms as your smart home evolves.  Basically, stay flexible and try to avoid getting stuck with hardware that only works on one specific platform.”

Matt Ferrell, Undecided with Matt Ferrell
24. Keep a list of passwords

If you buy a bunch of smart home products, you’ll end up with a bunch of passwords. Follow good security practice and use unique passwords for each device. Once connected to your network, you shouldn’t need to use the password very often. Make a list of the passwords and save it somewhere. I store mine in a password protected file.

Now, if only I could remember the password to the password file…

25. Use LED strips

LED strips have the ability to take your mood lighting to the next level.
Whether its downlighting under cabinets or beds or uplighting on crown molding, indirect lighting can have an awesome effect. If you can afford the extra expense and add some color, you won’t be disappointed.

You can buy ready made Philips Hue LED strips, but they’re expensive. For big rooms with long strips, it might be better to try to the DIY route.

26. Beware of crowdfunded startups with big promises

The rise of the crowdfunded startup has coincided with the rise of the smart home. There is no shortage of new companies with big ambitions and cool ideas. However, it’s fairly common to see those ambitions fall short of a finished product.

If you choose to invest in one, be aware that deadlines are often missed and sometimes products are never delivered. Your money could be tied up for awhile.

27. Buy from a place with a good return policy

Don’t get stuck with a “half-product” that doesn’t work with the rest of your smart stuff. I try to research before I buy but sometimes, a product just doesn’t deliver on its promises.

I’ve found that sometimes I can get a better price on a product through the manufacturer, but it’s almost always easier to do a return if I buy through a major retailer like Amazon.

28. Learn to use IFTTT, Stringify, and Tasker

You’ve probably heard of IFTTT, but what about the other two? The world of smart home devices is still young, and interoperability is still a challenge. Learn to use these third party scripting apps to make more complex automations and connect devices that are otherwise incompatible.

29. Ceiling fans require special smart switches

It could be tempting to install a standard dimmer switch to control your ceiling fan speed, but it’s not a good idea. There are specially made fan speed controllers that will get the job done right.

30. Consider a second router to secure your home network

“Make sure you have your smart home network secured, preferably on a second router and wireless network if at all possible.

Early on my smart home network got hacked and I actually had my TV turn on and thermostat crank up to 85 degrees while we were having a party. That’s one way to make sure your smart home party gets wrecked fast!”

Kevin Noyes, diysmarthomeguide.com

For even more smart home tips, check out Kevin’s list of home automation tips.

31. Don’t overcomplicate

Remember, the end goal is to make things easier. Complicated automations leave more room for something to go wrong.

For example, when I first started building my smart home, I thought it would be cool to have a motion sensor in a closet trigger the closet light. That’s totally unnecessary and overcomplicated. The simple solution is to just buy a motion activated bulb. The bulbs are cheaper than a typical motion sensor and the only setup required is to screw it in.

32. Keep firmware updated

When you open the app and that nagging message to update keeps popping up, its tempting to just skip it. Don’t.

Firmware updates are important for security, bug fixes, and new features. At the very least, make a note to yourself to update at a more convenient time.

33. Choose a hub based on your skill level

Amazon’s Alexa platform is easy to learn and easy to use. However, you’ll quickly find it’s limited to fairly simple automation.

On the other hand, something like Home Assistant has a much steeper learning curve, but allows for complex custom programming.

Typically finding the right hub is finding a balance between ease of use and ability to create complex automations.

Something like the Samsung SmartThings hub is good mix of both. It has an easy to use If/Then style app. Plus, if you want to get more geeky, there’s addons that allow you to create custom code.

34. Don’t compromise on smart speaker sound quality

Cam Secore at allpowermoves.com values sound quality over all else in his smart speakers.

“When buying a smart speaker, don’t compromise on sound quality. Sound quality is the only thing that matters.

Studies are showing that smart speakers are primarily being used for music, with easy tasks like reminders or timers being at the top of the list too.

That’s terrible news when you consider Echo Dot and Google Home Mini are the two highest selling smart speakers and have tin can audio quality. You may think you’re in the minority and NEED the best personal assistant to perform nerdy tasks, but you’re probably not.

When you..

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Many smart home products are compatible with Alexa, but far fewer are directly compatible with Samsung SmartThings hub. The SmartThings’ automations are more powerful so wouldn’t it be great if we could link these two universes together?

This tutorial will teach you a method to make any device that can be controlled by Alexa also be controllable by Samsung SmartThings.

Recently, Alexa added an option that allows certain types of sensors to trigger Alexa routines (this only works for people in the US and UK…don’t ask me why that is).

The method in this tutorial takes advantage of that option. It let’s you trigger an Alexa routine with basically any SmartThings action instead of just the sensor trigger. It may seem like it’s a bit of a hack (because it is), but it works well. And, in my experience it’s quite reliable.

Here’s the method in a nutshell:

  1. Create a virtual switch/sensor in SmartThings
  2. Create an Alexa routine that is triggered by the virtual sensor. The Alexa routine will send a command to the device you’re trying to control.
  3. Create two SmartThings automations that turn the virtual switch we just created on or off.

The SmartThings automation triggers the virtual sensor, which in turn triggers the Alexa routine which sends the command to the device. Simple, right?

You will need:

If you follow this tutorial, you should be able to have your first routine up and running in about 20 minutes. After that, creating more only requires a couple minutes each.

1. Create the Virtual Switch/Sensor

Go to the following page:

Select all text (ctrl-a) and copy (ctrl-c). Then paste (ctrl-v) to your New Device Handler

Go to https://developers.smartthings.com/. Click on Login in the upper right hand corner.

Then, sign into your Samsung account. If you already have your SmartThings set up, you should already have a Samsung account. If not, you’ll need one.

If this is your first time, you’ll have to agree to some terms and conditions by checking a box. Then, click Next.

Eventually, you should end up on a screen that looks like the screenshot below. Click on My Device Handlers.

This will take you to your list of device handlers. We want to Add one now.

Next, you should see the Create New Device Handler screen. We are going to use some code someone has already written so we want to create From Code.

The code we are using will create a device that will be a virtual switch and contact sensor in one. When you turn the virtual switch on or off, the virtual contact sensor gets automatically turned on or off by the switch.

Luckily, there’s all kinds of generous people in the SmartThings community that create custom code and share it with us for free.

To get the code, go to the following page: https://raw.githubusercontent.com/bjpierron/SmartThings-Alexa/master/devicetypes/bjpierron/simulated-alexa-switch.src/simulated-alexa-switch.groovy

Select all text (ctrl-a) and copy (ctrl-c). Then paste (ctrl-v) to your Create New Device Handler page.

Scroll to the bottom of the Create New Device Handler page and click Create.

This will create a SmartDevice named “Simulated Alexa Switch”. You should see the green “Created SmartDevice” message. Before you can use it, you’ll have to publish it, so click Publish.

If everything goes as expected, you should see the green “Device type published successfully” message.

Next, we need to create the device that will use the device handler we just added. Click on My Devices in the top menu bar. Then, click New Device in the upper right corner.

Then, you’ll have to fill in the required blanks. I named my device “virtual switch” but you can name yours whatever you want.

When you select “Type”, you want to select “Simulated Alexa Switch”. It will be all the way at the end of the pulldown list. This tells SmartThings to use the code we just published for this device.

Once the appropriate blanks are filled in, click the blue Create button to create your device.

Now, check to make sure it worked. If you click on My Devices, you should see a list of your devices which should include your new device.

Great, the device is created. That’s all you need to do here.

2. Create The Alexa Routine

Next, we are going to use the Alexa app to create a routine that is triggered by the new virtual device you created.

First, Enable SmartThings Skill

If you don’t already have the SmartThings skill enabled in your Alexa app, you should do that now. This will allow your Alexa app to see the virtual device you just created.

To enable the SmartThings skill:

  1. Open your Alexa app and select devices from the bottom menu.
  2. Then, select “YOUR SMART HOME SKILLS”.
  3. Press “ENABLE SMART HOME SKILLS”.
  4. Next, search for and select the SmartThings skill.
  5. Finally, press “ENABLE TO USE”.
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Smart vent systems offer the possibility of room to room climate control.

This benefits you by allowing each room to be custom conditioned depending on the time of day or the preferences of the person in the room.

Before the smart home, this was only possible with expensive zoning systems or decentralized systems such as baseboard heat. Now, several companies are perfecting smart vent systems that will work to increase your comfort and decrease your energy bill.

Do Smart Vents Work With Smart Thermostats?

Smart thermostats and smart vents are not competing products. In fact, smart vents have the potential to be the perfect compliment to a smart thermostat.

A Smart Thermostat’s Weakness

A smart thermostat only has the power to turn the heat on or off. It doesn’t have the power to direct where the air goes.

However, a smart vent system can redirect air flow. When a vent is closed in one room, increased pressure in the system causes more air to be redirected to other rooms.

In a smart vent system, the thermostat controls the on/off of the HVAC system and the smart vents direct where it goes.

It’s ideal but not necessary to have the two devices be able to communicate with each other.

An Example Of A Smart Thermostat’s Limitations

Ecobee’s smart thermostat comes with the ecobee sensors. The sensors allow you to get the temperature you want in a specific room. However, it will not even out uneven heating or cooling.

If you happen to have a room that is too cold, you can place a remote sensor in the room and tell ecobee to leave the heat on until that room is up to the temperature you want.

What will happen?

Well, it will turn the heat on until that room reaches the temperature you selected…and that’ll be nice. But, it will also keep heating the rest of the house because it has no control over where the air goes.

So, the end result will be your one room at a comfortable 72, but the rest of the house at a balmy 76. Then, when your energy bills come, you’ll curse the person that told you, “Smart thermostats save money.”

How do you fix the problem? You need control over where the air goes, and that’s where smart vents can fill the void.

Do I Need To Replace All My Vents With Smart Vents?

In most cases, the more vents you replace with smart vents, the more effective the system will be.

According to Keen Home’s website,  “In our test home, 8 Smart Vents can create an 8 degree difference between rooms.”

Not Enough Air

First, understand that smart vents can only restrict air flow.

If you happen to have one room that doesn’t get enough air (cold in the winter and/or hot in the summer) that room would not need a smart vent.

Instead, you would need smart vents on many of the other vents in the house. Then, you could close some of those vents. That would increase pressure in the system, and force more air into the low flow room.

Too Much Air

The second case is a room that gets too much air flow (too warm in the winter and/or too cool in the summer). This is much more easily solved with smart vents.

You would only need to put a smart vent in the problem room. The vent would restrict airflow in the problem room and the system pressure would get harmlessly distributed across all the other vents in the home.

My Attic Example

I have a third floor attic that has been converted into a living space. My HVAC equipment is in my basement so it’s a long run up to the attic. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t get enough air.

I could install smart vents on all the other vents in my house which would force more air up there, but that would reduce the flow quite a bit and put a lot of pressure on the system.

Instead, I am going to get an inline booster fan (like this one) and install it in the duct that runs to the attic. The booster fan doesn’t come with the same pressure related risks as restricting air flow with vents. It does the opposite. It reduces the pressure in the system.

How Much Can Smart Vent Systems Save?

Manufacturers of smart vent systems estimate as much as 20%-30% can be saved using smart vents. That may be true in a few cases, but I think most people may only see a minor reduction in cost, but an increase in comfort.

How much you can actually save will vary widely depending on your current system’s performance and how you intend to use the smart vents.

If you want to use smart vents to even out poorly distributed air, you probably won’t see much of a change in your energy usage. In that case, the benefit of the smart vents is increased comfort rather than cost savings.

However, if your intention is to “shut off” certain parts of your home for large periods, you may be able to achieve significant savings. Although only in rare cases would you be able to save 20%, a five to ten percent reduction seems achievable.

Example Savings Calculation

Here’s an example situation that can give you an idea of how much you could save with smart vents:

Let’s say I keep my home at 70F all day every day and the average outside temperature is 20F. That’s a difference of 50F.

In order to reduce the amount of energy used to heat the house by 20%, I would have to reduce the difference by 20%. 20% of 50F is 10F.

So that means if I reduce my home’s temperature by 10F to 60F all day every day, I should be able to reduce my heating costs by 20%.

I doubt very many people would be comfortable keeping their home at 60F.

Let’s consider a more realistic example with smart vents:

Let’s break up the day into three 8 hour blocks and call them: Home, Work, and Sleep.

For the Home block, we want to keep 75% of our home at 70F. We keep a couple rooms that we rarely use at 60F, but most of the home at 70F.

During Work, no one is home so we want to let temperature get down to 60F for the whole home.

During Sleep, we only need to keep the bedrooms at 70F, so say 25% at 70F and 75% at 60F.

That setup would amount to:

.25*1/3*.2 + 1*1/3*.2 + .75*1/3*.2 = about 13% savings, not bad.

However, the savings during work could easily be achieved without smart vents. Any programmable thermostat could be used to set back the heat while you’re gone could do that.

If we subtract the benefit during our work time, we are left with about 6.5% savings from smart vents.

The Problem With Pressure

When you close vents, you cause pressure to increase in the ducts. The flow in the closed vent will be reduced, and the extra pressure will cause increased flow in open vents.

What you may not know is that when you increase the pressure, the overall amount of air that is being pushed out of vents will decrease.

If you close enough vents, you can restrict the air flow enough to cause mechanical failure with your expensive HVAC equipment.

Any smart vent you buy should have some mechanism to account for pressure. All the smart vent systems listed in this article have a pressure monitoring system that keeps air flow from becoming too low.

What Do The Pros Think?

If you search the web for advice on smart vents, HVAC pros will often advise against them. Their main concern is the pressure problem I mentioned above. While not wrong, most advice that I’ve seen is exaggerated.

It’s true that usually, the best way to solve an uneven heating or cooling problem is properly sized ducts and HVAC equipment. However, in a home that’s already built, that sort of renovation can be way too difficult or expensive.

Also, traditional zoning systems that are often recommended by HVAC pros will not be able to address individual rooms on the same level as smart vents.

Features To Look For

Pressure Monitoring – This is essential. A smart vent system that doesn’t monitor pressure will not be able to effectively distribute air flow and protect your expensive HVAC equipment at the same time.

Temperature Sensors – A smart vent needs temperature feedback to do its job. It needs to either come with its own, or be compatible with third party temperature sensors.

Battery Life – Very few people have wires running to their vents, so most people will be running their smart vents off batteries. If I’ve got ten plus smart vents scattered around the house, I definitely don’t want to be replacing batteries very often.

Smart Home Integration – Is it compatible with your smart thermostat? Is it compatible with other smart sensors, or will I need to rebuy sensors that work with my vents? Can I control it with my voice or use IFTTT to customize my experience?

Correct Size – As I write this, the companies selling the smart vent systems are having a hard time keeping a variety of sizes of their products in stock.

Measure your vent sizes from the duct opening. This means remove the existing vent cover and measure the opening of the duct. Don’t measure the outer dimensions of your existing vent.

4 Smart Vent Systems

I’ve found four companies that are working on smart vent systems for the home. Ecovent is the most complete system, but is the most expensive by far. Both Keen and Flair have shipped their products and are in the process of refining their products. Alea is the newest of the group and is getting ready to ship their first products.

The idea of a smart vent has only recently been made feasible by the rise of the smart home. As a consequence, the available smart vent companies and products are quite new. So, if you choose to buy in, consider yourself an early adopter.

Ecovent

Ecovent has what I would consider the most complete product in the space, but they’re also priced about twice as much as their competitors. Their smart hub alone retails for $300, while Keen’s is about $60.

They have a nicely designed vent with a silent open/close mechanism. The vents monitor system backpressure to make sure your HVAC continues to operate safely. The vents are powered by 4AA batteries that will last for 3-5 years.

The system needs at least one smart hub and a compatible smart thermostat. Each room requires a vent and a wall sensor.

The app allows you to view individual room temperatures and create and schedule scenes.

Ecovent’s parent company is Emerson, the makers of the Sensi smart thermostat. It’s no surprise then that Ecovent is compatible with the Sensi. However, it’s not compatible with the two most popular smart thermostats, ecobee and Nest. Furthermore, Ecovent does not work with any third-party sensors or other home automation platforms.

As far as I can tell, Ecovent does not market towards the small customer. They don’t list individual components for sale on their website. Instead, they only list complete home system packages (I suspect this is a business strategy to minimize the resources required to handle customer service calls, which is totally understandable).

However, you can buy individual Ecovent components from retailers like smarthome.com. Unfortunately, the in stock items are still pretty limited so you may have a difficult time getting the vent sizes and color you want.

Ecovent | Check Price

Flair

To me, Flair has the most promising smart vent system. It has a few unique features that have the potential to set them apart from their competitors.

The Flair smart vent system consists of two components: smart vents and Pucks.

The Flair vents are unique. Unlike their plastic competitors, their vents are constructed with steel. Also, they can be battery powered or optionally wired for 24VAC power.

The Flair Pucks are especially unique. A single Puck is designed to be a dedicated thermostat for each room.

The Puck can control a smart vent located in the room. It uses its onboard temperature, pressure, humidity and occupancy sensors to manage each room’s environment.

In addition, it has an IR blaster which gives it the ability to control window ACs and mini-splits.

Every system requires at least one gateway Puck which needs to be plugged in. The gateway will connect all your vents and any remaining Pucks to WiFi. Additional Pucks can be added to the system as needed with the option of battery power.

One of the necessities of a great smart home product is compatibility, and Flair understands this.

Flair’s product is compatible with ecobee, Nest, and Honeywell Lyric smart thermostats. It also works with Alexa and Google Assistant, so you can use your voice to check or set the temperature.

Flair is especially compatible with ecobee. ecobee’s sensors can be used by Flair and Flair Pucks can be used as temperature sensors by ecobee. Isn’t it great when products from different companies and countries just work together and get along??

Flair Smart Vent | Check Price

Keen Home
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Until recently, I didn’t have any need for an IP cam. Now that I’m a home owner, I’m thinking a little differently.

However, I’m not interested in spending a bunch of money or having a monthly subscription to a home monitoring service. I just want something that’ll let me know if someone is trying to jimmy the door to my garage, or if a porch pirate is rummaging around my front door.

I kept seeing the Wyze cam pop up in my home automation groups, so I finally decided to check out what all the hype was about.

Wyze Cam Smart IP Cam 5.0/5.0 ★★★★★

The Wyze Cam is priced like a basic generic IP cam, but the price is deceiving. It actually comes with a rich feature set that rivals cams five times its cost. Plus, the Wyze cams are supported by active development and an engaged community.

Pros Clear night vision
Works in bitter cold temperatures
View your cameras on any Alexa device that has a screen
Easy smart home integration with IFTTT

Cons Sound quality is lacking
Motion tracking is erratic (Pan Cam only)
Interface for saved playback is cumbersome

CLICK FOR PRICE
More Than What You Pay For?

As a consumer, I’m used to following the “you get what you pay for” cliché.

For that reason, I usually avoid low-cost products like the Wyze cam. They usually come with non-existent support and a buggy app that’s not compatible with any other smart devices.

However, I’ve found that the Wyze Cam is low-cost, but not cheap. Believe it or not, with the Wyze cam, you actually get MORE than what you pay for.

Terry Walsh of Digital Trends agrees, “Make no mistake, at this price point, you really can’t go wrong.”

Thriving Community

In a short period of time, the Wyze cams have attracted a huge number of dedicated followers (geez, I make it sound like a cult ). I routinely see people post about their huge shipments of Wyze cams as they arrive. It’s not uncommon for people to brag about owning 5, 10, 20+ Wyze cams (hmm, maybe it is a cult?).

Wyze customers tend to be DIY types that like to test and tinker and share their successes and failures. You’ll find serial DIY’ers making Wyze cams work in all kinds of different applications.

Some people make their own weatherproof enclosures using 3d printers. Others test wireless setups using solar power combined with backup batteries.

Wyze keeps an ear in on the conversation as well. In fact, user get to help decide what Wyze developers will work on next. New features get proposed and voted on by actual users here: https://forums.wyzecam.com/c/roadmap.

Cold Weather Capable

The Wyze cams are not designed to be outdoor cameras. However, they seem to perform well in a wide range of temperatures.

I live in South Dakota and we (and the rest of the country) recently experienced a polar vortex weather event that pushed temperatures down to -25 F with wind chills at -50 F. I set my Wyze cam outside overnight for research purposes. I’m happy to report it continued working without any problems.

Although temperature doesn’t seem to be an issue, water and dust certainly could be. If you do plan on permanently mounting your Wyze cam outdoors, there are several enclosures available to help keep water and dust out of the sensitive places.

No Light, No Problem

The night vision on the Wyze cam is impressive.

Night vision mode “produces crisp, high-contrast images on par with pricier cameras” According to Michael Ansaldo at TechHive.

The camera uses infrared beams to illuminate the viewing area up to 30 feet away even in total darkness. Of course, the image is not in color. But, the grayscale video is crisp and clear.

One limitation of the night vision is its ability to see through windows. The IR beams will not travel through the glass very well. They will mostly be absorbed and cause any image to be dark and blurry.

Long List of Features

There’s a ton of features and options hidden within the Wyze app. I’m not trying to write a complete manual, so I won’t list them all. But, here’s a few of my favorites.

Time lapse

With an SD card installed, you can create time lapse footage. The app allows you to select a start and stop time and also the time between still shots.

Here is me eating some quesadillas for lunch in about 11 seconds. My wife and I make a homemade guacamole that is phenomenal!



Play Video On Alexa Devices

Wyze cam is compatible with Alexa devices that have a screen. I have a Fire Stick and an Echo Show. It works fine on my Echo Show, but my Fire Stick is an old version and isn’t supported. Oh well, it’s probably time I upgrade to the 4k version anyway.



IFTTT Channel

Wyze has a really useful integration with IFTTT. You can use applets to turn the camera off/on or turn motion detection on/off. Plus, you can trigger actions when motion or sound is detected.

For a complete list of Wyze triggers and actions and some ideas of what other people have done, go here.

Two-way audio

The device also includes two-way audio. I didn’t realize it had this when I bought it, so it was a nice surprise.

The audio quality is about what you’d expect from a tiny camera speaker. Any background noise like a TV will be garbled. Even if you talk directly to it, the result is pretty scratchy and there’s about a one-second lag through the app. But, if necessary, it’s good enough to have a quick conversation.

Plus, it’s great for scaring the crap out of your wife when she’s least expecting it.

Smoke and CO alarm detection

The sounds that smoke alarms and CO detectors make are standardized. Wyze cams are programmed to be able to detect that sound pattern and send an alert to your phone if it happens.

However, users have reported mixed results with this feature.

Pan Cam Only Features

The Wyze Pan cam includes all the features of the orginal Wyze cam and can also pan and tilt. The camera has a full 360 degree pan (horizontal rotation) and can also tilt (vertical rotation) 93 degrees. The camera can be controlled from the app with simple left,right,up,down buttons. You can adjust the speed it moves, too. It’s fast at full speed. On full speed, it pans at 110 degrees/second

Pan Scan

The pan scan feature allows the Pan Cam to autonomously scan a full 360 degrees. You can set up waypoints and stop points to customize your pan for whatever you need. This should help secure your place against anyone that isn’t Jason Bourne.

Motion Tracking

There’s also an option that will tell the camera to follow an object which it thinks is in motion. In theory, it seems pretty cool. But, in practice, it’s not quite there yet.

It has a tendency to get into a positive feedback loop which makes it seems like the camera is possessed. It darts all around and up and down trying to follow some phantom motion.

After some more testing, it seems the craziness is due to the speed of the camera adjustment. The camera moves too quickly and overshoots the target.

Here’s me testing the pan cam’s motion tracking in my kitchen.



Where Does It Save My Video?

Depending on how you use the cam, videos can be stored in three different places: cloud storage, mobile storage, or microSD card.

Free Cloud Storage

If you turn on event recording, each time the cam senses an event, it will record a 12 second clip of the event to the Wyze cloud service. It’s accessible through the Wyze app under the Events tab. The clip will remain there free of charge for 2 weeks.

You can choose whether to record on motion detection and/or sound detection and whether you prefer to receive a notification each time a recording takes place. You can also use the schedule feature to choose during which days and times a recording can be triggered.

However, there are a few limitations to this feature. The recorded clips will only be 12 seconds long (no more, no less), and there is a five-minute cooldown period between recordings.

Still, the fact they give that much away for free is pretty cool considering the already low cost of buying the camera.

Mobile Storage

Recordings you start manually from the Wyze app will automatically be stored on your mobile device.

MicroSD Card

If you want continuous recording, you’ll need to get your own SD card.

The card installs into a small slot in the bottom of the camera. Push the card into the slot until its a little past flush with the surface. There’s a spring loaded locking mechanism much like a pen. It should click into place without sticking beyond the bottom surface of the cam. To remove it, push it in and release.

The Wyze cam supports up to a 32 GB card so I recommend buying 32 GB. Get a high-quality class 10 card for optimal performance. With 32 GB of storage, you’ll be able to get 2-3 days recording time in HD video or 7-8 days in SD video. The times can be greatly increased by switching to “Record on event” instead of “Continuous Recording”.

Some users have successfully installed and used cards with higher capacity (64gb+) by formatting the card using exFAT. However, those sizes are not officially supported by Wyze cam, and you are more likely to experience instability or data corruption.

Once the card fills up, the camera will automatically overwrite the oldest footage with the latest recording. In order to view your past recordings, you can use the Wyze app. Click on the big “view playback” button and use the slider to easily navigate through time.

Accessories Optional

One of the reasons Wyze can sell its cameras so cheap is that they keep the hardware to a minimum. If you need extra accessories, they are available. But, if you don’t want them, you’re not forced to buy them as part of the package.

If you want to put your cam outside, great, buy a weatherproof enclosure. If you need to mount it on a wall, cool, buy a wall mount. If you want to take advantage of local storage, pick a microSD card.

Accessorize your Wyze cams as much or as little as you want.

Final Thoughts

The Wyze cam is one the coolest smart home devices I’ve had the pleasure of using. Is the Wyze cam perfect? No. But, there’s tons of features and it’s supported by a great community and an active development team.

Plus, the price is so low compared to competitors, it almost seems unfair. Honestly, I think the Wyze cam would still be a decent deal if it were priced double the current price.

I really hesitate to give out 5-star ratings because I don’t want to dilute the meaning of a 5-star rating. But, the Wyze Cam is such a good value that I think it’s well deserved.

Wyze Cam | Shop Now

Wyze Cam Pan | Shop Now

The post Wyze Cam Review: The Best Value Smart Cam appeared first on The Smart Cave.

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