Smart Home

6 Smart Home Gadgets You Should Install Before Leaving For Summer Vacation

Matthew Hughes 28-06-2016

It’s official. It’s that time of the year again. Summer has landed. Inevitably, millions of us are going to jet away on vacation to some warmer climate, where we’ll laze our days away by some azure seafront, before being sharply jerked back into grim reality.


But while you leave your work and your smartphones at home, worries about the safety of your home will follow you wherever you go.

To calm your nerves, you should consider installing these six smart home products. These will prevent the damage done by fire and flood, protect you against any burglars, and are absolutely worth the money.

Smart Valves: To Prevent Flooding

One of the most unusual smart home products you can purchase is a smart water valve Install a Smart Valve and Stop Your Basement from Flooding What if you could prevent home flooding or water damage by installing a single piece of equipment? I am, of course, talking about smart water valves. Read More . These connect to your water mains, allowing you to turn off the water without getting on all-fours, or scrambling to find the stopcock.

A few months back, we looked at the various smart valves on the market. One stuck out as especially good – the Waxman LeakSMART Smart Water Valve. While this is no longer being sold on Amazon, you can purchase it directly from the manufacturer for just $250.

This consists of two parts. One is the automated valve. The second is a moisture sensor. You replace your mechanical valve with the automated one, and you place the moisture sensor under the pipes. The moment a burst occurs, the LeakSMART will step into action, and automatically shut off the water supply.


Better yet, the latest software update to the LeakSmart has introduced compatibility with the Nest ecosystem. This means that it can know when you’re away, can notify your emergency contact, and can control the Nest Thermostat 13 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do With a Nest Thermostat You may be surprised just how many little tricks you can accomplish with your new Nest thermostat! Read More to set the room temperature.

Nest Protect: Detect Smoke from 4000 Miles Away

You don’t need to light a candle or forget you’ve got a pizza in the oven to cause a house fire. Certain faulty electrics have been known to cause them in the past.

You might remember when the US International Trade Commission (ITC, not to be confused with the FTC) banned those irritating ‘hoverboards’ on the basis that many of them were poorly built, and liable to go up in flames (as many did).

If your home catches fire while you’re away, it’s unlikely that someone will notice and call the fire department in enough time to limit any damage. It’s for this reason why it’s so important to get a “smart” smoke alarm. The Nest Protect Nest Protect Review and Giveaway Read More is the most well-known product in this category. The latest (second) generation model costs just $100 from Amazon.


Once installed, it can tell you if it detects smoke or carbon monoxide, no matter where you are in the world, giving you precious time to call the emergency services.

Nest Cam: To See Who’s Snooping Around

If you’re looking for a smart security camera, you can’t do much better than the Nest Cam. Costing just $189.99 on Amazon, or $494.00 for a pack of three, it allows you to see what’s happening in your home in vivid 1080p resolution.


What’s so great about the Nest Cam it includes an integrated night vision mode, as well as a motion sensor. This means you get the full picture on who is moving thorough your house, no matter what time of day it is.

You don’t need a hub to use the Nest Cam, nor do you need to subscribe to Nest Aware to get the mobile alerts. However, this subscription service offers continuous recording, allowing you to retain any evidence should someone break into your home. This costs as little as $10 per month, or $100 when billed annually.

If the Nest Cam isn’t in your budget, you could improvise by turning an old Android smartphone into a security camera How to Use an Old Smartphone or Tablet as a Security Camera Learn how to easily set up your Android device to act as a home security camera! Read More .

A Motion Sensor: To Find Intruders Skulking Through Your House

While the Nest Cam includes its own integrated motion sensor, you can also purchase your own dedicated sensors for a fraction of the price. The advantage of this is that you can position them in multiple locations through your residence, and thus reducing or eliminating any gaps in your security system.


There are a lot of dedicated motion sensors on the market. The Samsung SmartSense costs just $39.99, and can send immediate alerts if any unexpected motion is detected. The only downside of the Samsung offering is that it requires a SmartThings hub.

Alternatively, there’s the D-Link DCH-S150 Wi-Fi Smart Motion Sensor. At $35, this is a whole $5 cheaper than the Samsung offering, and doesn’t require any hubs. It also offers integration with IFTTT IFTTT Now Connects to Anything: Introducing the Maker Channel The potential uses for IFTTT are endless. But until now, it's been difficult to interface it with your own hardware projects. Today, that's all changed. Read More , allowing you to create your own recipes that do something upon the detection of motion.

While I haven’t tested the D-Link offering personally, I’m reticent to recommend it above the SmartSense offering, due to some pretty lukewarm Amazon reviews. Apparently it suffers from serious reliability issues, which is the exact opposite thing you’d want from a piece of home security equipment.

MySmartBlinds and Philips Hue: To Make It Seem as Though Someone’s at Home

Your home becomes infinitely more enticing to a burglar when it becomes evident that nobody is living there. Thankfully, smart home tech allows you to present the façade of someone being present. All you need is some Philips Hue lightbulbs, and some smart blinds.

With Philips Hue, you can time your lights to turn on during the night hours, and turn off during the daytime, as would be the case if someone was there. You can pick up a Philips Hue starter pack Philips Hue Starter Kit Review and Giveaway The market is flooded by bulbs with wifi, all with their own silly mobile app that you need to fuss around with to turn them on. Is the Hue any different? We find out. Read More on Amazon for just $79.99. This includes the hub, and two compatible lightbulbs.

Although this sounds incredibly energy inefficient, it’s not that bad. You are wasting electricity, but with energy efficient LED bulbs, and not the power-hungry incandescent ones.

The next step in making it seem as though someone is in your house is installing some smart blinds. These will allow you to open and close them, to coincide with the nighttime hours.

The two biggest players on the market are Loxone and MySmartBlinds. I’m a fan of the MySmartBlinds offering, as it doesn’t require much assembly, and costs just $100. There are also a range of peripherals available to purchase separately, including solar panels, and “smart” switches, which allow you to control multiple smart blinds simultaneously.

The Loxone one is almost twice as expensive. That cost doesn’t include the additional equipment that’s required to operate it, such as a $349 miniserver. It is also vastly more challenging to install, and requires electronics and programming skills.

How Do You Protect Your Home?

Do you use any smart home equipment to monitor your residence while you’re away? What do you use, and why? I want to hear about it in the comments below.

Related topics: Home Security, Smart Sensor.

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  1. Binjo
    June 28, 2016 at 11:04 pm

    This is a very expensive list of gadgets. I will have to forgo my planned getaway in order to get the house in order.
    There are much cheaper ways to accomplish similar ends, but - when in Rome...
    Thanks to your Amazon link for the leak stopper, I discovered a solenoid valve that I can use as a hot water saver. I will hook it to an arduino with moisture detection and water pump shut off in case anything fails, anything.
    I appreciate good ideas, so thanks for being my "muse". I won't be using your shopping list.

  2. Anonymous
    June 28, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    How are all these gadgets powered? So far, not one MUO article on smart gadgets has mentioned how they are powered. Are they powered off the house current or are do they use batteries? Gizmos powered off the house current tend not to work when the power is cut.

    "The moment a burst occurs, the LeakSMART will step into action, and automatically shut off the water supply."
    Don't hold your breath and definitely do not depend on it. I had a pipe burst on the second floor. By the time the leak detector in the basement would have detected moisture, the entire house was flooded. While the idea of a automatic shutoff valve sounds great in theory, in practice dozens of moisture detectors are needed to keep an eye on the entire house plumbing system.

    "Once installed, it can tell you if it detects smoke or carbon monoxide, no matter where you are in the world, giving you precious time to call the emergency services."
    By the time YOU call the fire department from somewhere in the world, your house will be toast. It would be much better if the "smart"device did the calling.

    These smart gadgets are nothing but toys for the kewl kids. The same functions can be performed much less expensively by mechanical devices. Of course, a mechanical device will not notify you in Bali that your house in NY has burned down or that your Picasso has just been stolen. If properly set up, it will just call the fire or police post nearest your house.

    • Matthew Hughes
      June 28, 2016 at 10:49 pm

      Typically they're battery powered. Very few are mains powered. When they are, we'll mention it.

      "Of course, a mechanical device will not notify you in Bali that your house in NY has burned down or that your Picasso has just been stolen. If properly set up, it will just call the fire or police post nearest your house."

      That depends on the tech being able to do that, and the police being equipped to take these reports. So far, that's not the case.

      You do raise an interesting point though.