our opinions: ADVICE FROM AN EXPERT In The Comfort Zone Are You Ready For A Smart Home? Brett Hobson BY BRETT HOBSON H 92 ome automation and smart home technology is all the buzz at both home electronics shows and our local electronics stores. So what exactly is a smart home and how could this technology benefit your family? What is a smart home? It is simply a home that is equipped with lights, heating and AC, locks, appli- ances, cameras, or other electronic devices that can be controlled remotely or programmed to your exact needs or wants. Anything that can be plugged in can be connected to a network and be controlled with your voice, a remote control, a smartphone or a computer with the right equipment installed. According to realty company Coldwell Banker, nearly one-third of Americans own at least one smart-home product, with half of Millennials (ages 18-34) having embraced the technology. Smart homes can control functions like temperature, light- ing, security, safety or entertainment. You can imag- ine how attractive it would be to return home after a long day at work or even a trip, have the air condi- tioning on, the house cool, the lights on and dinner bubbling on the stove. Well, that last one is probably sometime in the future, but the others are available today. While only a third of Americans own smart home devices, technology giants are betting on you want- ing a smart home in the future and are designing their products to connect to your home’s Wi-Fi, just like your computers and printers do today. But why would you want it to? The biggest reason is savings; some companies are considering discounting rates on items like home insurance for consumers who have connected smoke detectors, flood detectors and security systems in place. There is also the energy savings that comes from devices that can turn themselves off, or to a low power mode when they are not in use. Plus, a smart home could save lives. Carbon monoxide detectors could send signals to your phone, computer or tablet when dangerous levels of CO2 are present, or elderly homeowners could be monitored by doctors or family members offsite, keeping them in their own homes and safe without moving them to a nursing facility. We are getting more calls to retrofit current systems with smart thermostats; however, many customers who are replacing their systems are asking for this technology upgrade. While they are like the programmable thermostats that have been available for several years now, smart thermostats take it one step further and allow homeowners to control the air-conditioning and heating systems in their homes from offsite. They also keep data on your system, such as the length of time your system has been running, what the internal and external temperatures were, letting you know when it’s time to change your air filter. They have names like Nest or Hive and display the saved information on an Internet- connected device. For now, we recommend embracing the coming technology slowly. If you want to be able to control your home, as you replace devices, think about smart options. It’s the wave of the future and it’s nice to think we’re getting ever closer to living like The Jetsons.