While your home might not look like the Jetsons’ and you can’t get a robot to clean your refrigerator (yet), today’s homes are getting more and more tech-savvy, and there are plenty of simple upgrades you can make to bring your home to the cutting edge of technology. Whether you’ve always wanted a tech-dense home or you’re simply looking to streamline and enhance your lifestyle through simple home improvements, these upgrades are for you.
10 Top Tech Updates for the Home
From self-adjusting thermostats to robots that vacuum your floor, these ten top tech updates can help your home feel modern and functional – both now and in the future.
1. Smart door locks
Have you ever gotten so busy that you left the house without locking the door? Maybe you’ve gotten to work or the airport only to ask yourself, “Did I lock the house?” If you’ve ever experienced either of these things, smart door locks can help.
Produced by a variety of companies, smart door locks sync with a smartphone so that you can lock and unlock the home remotely. Ideal for keeping your home secure while you’re gone or simply making sure the housecleaner or dog walker has easy access to the place, smart door locks offer keyless entry and enhanced convenience for your home and lifestyle.
2. Remote-control blinds
Sick of fighting with standard blinds that fall out every time you touch them? If so, remote control blinds are a great option. Simple, sleek and sophisticated, remote control blinds open, close, and lower or raise with the help of a remote control.
Ideal for people who need to darken or illuminate rooms quickly, or who want to keep their homes safe by making them look inhabited even when you’re not, remote control blinds are fully programmable and come in a variety of colors, finishes, settings and sizes.
3. Smoke alarms that sync with your smartphone
What if a fire starts, but nobody is home? If you have a smart smoke detector or carbon monoxide detector, you won’t have to worry about not knowing until it’s too late. Manufactured by companies like Nest, smart smoke detectors detect the presence of smoke and send an immediate notification to your smartphone, as well as issuing an audible warning within the home.
4. Refrigerators with built-in touchscreens
While stainless steel refrigerators rose to popularity several years ago, the refrigerator of the future takes it one step further.
Instead of just offering stainless steel beauty and appeal, today’s refrigerators often feature built-in touchscreens that can do everything from displaying recipes to giving you a real-time view into your fridge, so you can check how much milk you have or decide whether or not you need to grab apples from the store. They can also help you make grocery lists and eat healthier. Simple, beautiful and functional, these touchscreen-enabled refrigerators are the way of the future.
5. LED light bulbs
While they may not be as exciting as a smart fridge or remote-controlled blinds, LED light bulbs are some of the most eco-friendly and accessible tech upgrades you can make. They don’t cost thousands of dollars, and they apply to all homes – even those that may be lacking in technology to begin with. Simply swap them out with your existing bulbs for a smaller energy bill, longer-lasting light and even full integration with your smartphone (on some models). Ideal for bringing any home into the modern age, LED bulbs are a smart, easy tech upgrade everyone can enjoy.
6. Dual-flush toilets
Like LED light bulbs, dual flush toilets have been around for a while. That notwithstanding, though, they’re still one of the most efficient ways to upgrade the tech in your home and benefit the environment all at once.
Outfitted with separate buttons, dual-flush toilets allow you to adjust the water level of each flush as needed, so you can save resources and decrease your energy bill. Available from many quality manufacturers, dual-flush toilets work beautifully in bathrooms that are also equipped with features like motion-activated sinks.
7. Robotic vacuum cleaners
No, there’s not yet a robot to clean your fridge or walk your dog, but there is a robot to sweep your floors. Popularized by the iRobot Corporation, many companies now produce these simple robots that run according to your pre-programmed preferences. Ideal for daily use in households that feature pet hair and kid messes, or occasional use in a house that just needs a bit of tidying around the edges, these small, sleek disc vacuums do a great job of keeping your floors spic and span.
They can also help improve the overall functionality and cleanliness of your home. They run according to program and return to their charging stations when they’re done. All you have to do is clean the receptacle every once in a while.
8. Voice assistants
Voice assistants are functional, convenient and handy home upgrades that come in small, sleek packages. Products such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home are ideal for playing music, checking the weather, making lists, scheduling an Uber and more – all hands-free. Plus, their streamlined and beautiful designs make them easy to enjoy in any home, anywhere in the world.
9. Smart thermostats
Smart thermostats can be programmed to get warmer when you’re home and bump the temperature down when you’re not. What’s more, they “learn” your patterns over time and adjust themselves accordingly, saving you energy and time, and helping your home run more efficiently. They’re also easy to install, without renovation. To install one in your home, look for a model that syncs with your smartphone, like the Nest Learning Thermostat.
10. USB-equipped outlets
USB-equipped outlets allow you to plug your USB cords directly into the outlet and save the traditional outlets for things like televisions and larger electronics. Ideal for anyone who wants to charge their phone, laptop or tablet, but hates struggling to find an open outlet, USB-equipped outlets are the way of the future.
A Tech-Savvy Home Starts Here
If you’re looking to upgrade your home and bring it into the modern age without remodeling from top to bottom, these ten tech-savvy upgrades are exactly what you need.
Need help envisioning how they may fit into your home? No problem. Simply us to talk through your project with one of our experienced designers. We can incorporate these clever gadgets … and recommend so much more!
As the days are darker this time of the year, we turn the lights on earlier and leave them on more each day. Lighting accounts for about a quarter of all electricity consumed in the U.S. Here are some ways to lighten the energy load while keeping your home bright:
- Replacing light bulbs. Regular incandescent light bulbs are inefficient, with 90% of their energy going to generate heat, not light. Replace standard lamps with compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs – they cost more per bulb but are far more efficient and last up to ten times longer. Over the life of one CFL, you can avoid replacing up to 13 incandescent bulbs and use 75% less energy. Visit www.energystar.gov for more information.
- Photocells turn lights on and off in response to natural light levels – for example, on at dusk and off at dawn.
- Occupancy sensors activate lights when you enter a room and turn them off after you leave. They are good for areas of infrequent use, such as storerooms.
- Dimmers reduce the wattage and output of light bulbs. They also significantly increase the life of incandescent bulbs.
- Don’t overuse kitchen and bathroom ventilation fans. Left on for too long, these fans can pull out much of your heated air.
- Clean fixtures and lamps annually by wiping off the dust (make sure the bulb is cool first).
- Clean or repaint walls. Dirt on surfaces reduces the amount of light they reflect and make the room feel darker.
- Turn off incandescent lights when you’re not using them, even if you’re just leaving the room for a few minutes.
(Source: EarthShare, www.earthshare.org)
That washer not quite draining all the way or the oven on your stove isn’t cooking at the right temperature could mean it is time to replace. Before you go out and replace it, though, there are many factors to consider when shopping for a new appliance.
Our homes now have more items using electricity than they did 20 years ago. We aren’t just talking washers, dryers, stoves, refrigerators and small household appliances. We now have lives filled with technology with Internet running off of cable boxes, computers (multiple ones), DVD players (if you still have one), wireless routers, cell phones and tablets.
The most important thing to consider when purchasing an appliance is to make sure that it has the Energy Star emblem/tag. Not every appliance will have this label, so you need to decide if this is the route you want to take – knowing that the appliance is certified to offer energy savings while delivering the features and performance you desire.
3 Tips on how to shop for energy efficient appliances:
Measure the space your appliance will be permanently located. Since appliances can be expensive and big, knowing the exact size where this appliance will be very important. Take the time to measure the following: counter depth and height, any pipes around the appliance, and measure the appliance with the door(s) open. Also, take into consideration the doorways and hallways where the appliance will travel to its permanent location. Once you have this information, take your measuring tape with you to measure the appliances you are considering at the store.
Research and compare appliances. Have you ever been overwhelmed with your choices when out shopping? If yes, then it may happen when you are shopping for appliances, too, because there are many different options, size, color, and bells and whistles.
Don’t make an impulse buy until you do some research because you could find yourself stuck with something that was too much for your household.
First, compare performance, features you need or want, read product reviews (online) and examine expert opinions. What about the repair history and cost? Second, check for money savings offers or incentives. Some states or local utilities offer incentive programs to entice purchases, especially on energy-saving appliances. Finally, find the best price to fit you and your budget. That is where taking your time and finding that good price comes in. Look online, check local stores, like L.H. Brubaker Appliances, and wait for sales. The best time for price breaks is when stores need to push out old appliances to bring in the newer models.
Compare the Energy Savings Guide with other appliances. Make sure you look for that yellow Energy Guide tag showing you the estimated yearly operating cost. This yellow label shows the estimate of how much energy the appliance uses. This is based on the average electricity cost in the U.S. As you know, your energy may vary from someone else’s. Do not mix the Energy Guide with the ENERGY STAR label – these are two different labels. If you are looking for energy efficiency, then the ENERGY STAR label is what you should be looking at.
Which appliances have the Energy Guide label? Washer, Refrigerator, Freezer, Dishwasher, Water heater, Television, Central AC, Window AC, Furnace, Boilers, Heat Pumps and Pool heaters.
Which appliances don’t? Ovens, Rangers, Dryers, Humidifiers and Dehumidifiers.
Even though summer is winding down it doesn’t mean the high temps will be going away. We can easily have high temperatures into September and sometimes even October. But then again, cold temperatures can strict us early, as well.
By taking the time to put in place the following tips you could see a huge savings on your home utility bill be it electric, gas or water.
Top 10 Energy Tips:
Have your local AC company install a programmable thermostat – saving you up to 10% on cooling and heating costs by reducing your thermostat 7° to 10° for 8 hours a day.
Turn off all lights, small appliances and electronics that are not being used. If you are taking a vacation in the coming weeks, turn off and unplug these appliances while you are away. TIP: Install a power strip for multiple items in an area for easier turning off and on.
Is it time to upgrade or replace an older lamp or small appliance? Look for the Energy Star label (the government’s symbol for energy efficiency). These products have the potential to save up to 30% on your utility bill.
Reduce your water heater temperature to 130°. This will save energy as well as money on heating water. TIP: Wrap your water tank in “blanket” (water heater tank wrap) to retain the heat and save energy. Most local hardware stores should have these in stock.
Clean or change air filter(s) often. When a filter hasn’t been changed in quite some time the filter(s) can slow down the airflow needed to run your system which then causes the unit to work harder. TIP: Change air filters every 30 days depending on the quality of filter you are using, and write the date on the filter so you know when you last replaced it.
Change out older light bulbs for the new CFLs, LEDs or energy-efficient halogen incandescent. These newer bulbs can reduce your energy up to 80%.
On the exterior sides of your home where you get a lot of sun, close those blinds! This will keep the hot sun out, while in the winter keep open to let in the warm rays.
Save up to 20% on heating and cooling bills by sealing leaks and properly insulate around windows and doors.
Can you believe the average US household has the potential to spend about $2,100* on their home energy bill a year! If you are ready to save, take some time to put either a few or all these tips into place today.
*Source: Data from the US Department of Energy