Smart home devices are great for adding convenience to your everyday life, but they can also play a really important role in keeping an eye on your vacation house, your short-term rental, or on your home while you’re out of town.
With everything from smart plugs to an all-in-one smart home solution, you can figure out which device best suits your budget and your concerns based on where your vacation home is located, and how connected you want it to be.
1. Security Camera
The first thing you’ll probably want to do is keep an eye on your summer home, so a home surveillance camera with remote access is likely the most important tool in your smart home arsenal.
A smart security camera like Dropcam can alert you of any motion in your home.
If you don’t want to purchase an expensive gadget, you could always consider using a webcam and an old computer or even an old phone or tablet. The drawback here is that if the computer or phone fails for any reason, you’ll lose access to the feed.
You could opt for a small, inconspicuous smart security camera like the Tenvis HD IP Camera, which at around $40 a piece, could allow you to install multiple cameras in your home.
Nest, a smart home giant that has its fingers in all the smart home pies, also has a line of security cameras. With a “budget” indoor and outdoor security camera and a more pricey option for each, there’s a little something in there for everyone.
The top-of-the-line Nest Cam IQ doesn’t come cheap at over $300, but at that price point, it comes packed with a ton of features. It offers a crystal clear image, zooms in on any sort of action within its view, and comes with facial recognition and a built-in speaker and mic. This capability means you can actually communicate with your family at home through your security camera — a feature that has prank written all over it.
It is worth keeping in mind any security or privacy issues when it comes to installing a smart camera in your home. In a time when your online privacy is constantly compromised, smart devices are simply not immune to the serious privacy risks associated with the Internet of Things.
2. Motion Sensor
While a camera can instantly let you know what’s going on in your home, another option is to go for a motion sensor. The drawback here is that you won’t know exactly what triggered the motion sensor, but the Samsung SmartThings Motion Sensor is an extremely affordable and easy to set up choice. The sensor will notify you if it detects movement or a change in temperature.
You could also connect your motion sensor to smart light bulbs. Movement will trigger the light to turn on, and could be a possible deterrent for intruders.
3. Smart Light Bulbs
Speaking of smart light bulbs, this is probably the most affordable smart home device that helps give the illusion of someone being home when they’re not.
You can not only time smart bulbs to turn on at a specific time everyday, you can also control them from an app on your phone.
Smart lightbulbs come in all different shapes, sizes, and even colors, and in the case of the BeON Home smart LED lightbulb it can even learn your pattern for turning lights on and off and mimic it when you’re not there. The BeON Home lights also turn on and off if the doorbell rings.
You can get three bulbs for $43, and can control your lights using BeON Home’s free app.
If you want simple and affordable smart light kits, Ikea is one of the latest brands to get in on the smart light action. You can pick up one bulb and a motion sensor for just $25, or a dimming kit with one bulb for around $27. The light bulbs alone aren’t much cheaper than other brands, costing either $15 or $18.
4. Smart Blinds
Another way to give the impression that someone is living in your home is by installing automated shades. Open up the shades a little bit during the day and close the shades at night, making it impossible for anyone to see into your home.
Automated window blinds like MySmartBlinds are surprisingly affordable at just $113 for an automation kit that can bring smart capability and scheduling to any blinds.
This is probably the most cost effective way to do this, as opposed to buying and installing an expensive set of smart blinds.For your vacation property, you could also consider the smart blinds only for rooms that are particularly visible from the street.
5. Smart Valves
Another key gadget that you’ll probably want in your summer home is a smart valve. This will not only alert you to any water leakage, but can also shut off the water supply to prevent flooding.
In some cases, smart valves can even preemptively prevent a leak by shutting off the water supply when it suspects a leak may happen.
You can view a selection of smart valves here, which can cost you anywhere from $50 or $60 to well over $400. But as Matthew points out, the cost of the valve is well worth the cost of damage it can prevent.
Smart water sensors do rely on electricity and WiFi so in some extreme weather conditions, if your power goes out, you may still need someone to physically go to your home to make sure that it didn’t flood.
6. Smart Smoke Alarm
Devices like the Nest Protect send notifications to your phone when they detect elevated smoke or CO2 levels. Coupled with other Nest products, these devices can actually prevent a bad situation from getting worse.
For example, the Nest Protect can send a signal to your Nest Thermostat to turn the heat off if it detects a CO2 or smoke leak caused by your heating system. Multiple Nest Protect devices can also let you pinpoint the exact room or location of any threat. When you are dealing with a property that’s far away from where you live, these automatic processes can save precious minutes that are the difference between an inconvenience and a distaster.
The Netatmo Smart Smoke Alarm has some interesting features as well. When connected to other smart devices, it can turn on all the lights in your home if the alarm goes off, for example. And best of all, the battery should last you 10 years so you can install it and not have to worry about it for quite a while.
7. Smart Lock
A smart lock can give you remote control of your front door, and lets you know what’s going on at home even when you’re not there. So why would you need that when locking up your summer home?
The Lockitron Door Lock, for example, will allow you to let neighbors or friends in during an emergency. The $99 lock makes it easy to share access to your home with friends, and you can easily revoke access when you need to.
This is a great companion gadget to other smart home gadgets. If your motion sensor or water valve notifies you of something going on in the house, you can let someone in remotely if they can get there faster than you.
If you’re renting out your vacation home on Airbnb this kind of lock will also make it easy for you to temporarily grant renters access to the home without having to give them a physical key.
The August Smart Lock has a similar capability but costs more at $229, and will also notify you when your front door is opened. The app will also let you know who is coming and going, so if you have teenagers who might try to get to your summer home without you, you’ll know.
8. All-in-One Security Devices and Hubs
There are plenty of all-in-one security devices that can be a more cost-effective way to get as much out of your smart devices as you can. You can also consider smart home hubs in general, but choosing the right smart hub is no easy feat. A good place to start is to think about which features are most important to you and figuring out which smart hub offers the best or most affordable service in each of those categories. Some security devices come with a monthly subscription, so you’ll also want to factor that into your overall cost.
The Canary Home Security System is a security camera, siren, and an air monitor in one. The basic system costs $149 and will send you HD video and audio alerts directly to your phone. You can purchase kits with additional cameras and sensors.
The Piper Home Security system comes with a camera, siren, motion and sound detector, and has a two-way audio system, and will also set you back $149 at its currently discounted price.
Factors to Consider
There are some general factors you’ll want to keep in mind when picking out your smart devices: price point, ease of set up, and cost are always going to play a big role in your decision. Companies (and customers) will often share set up videos on YouTube, and this is a great way to gauge if your tech savvy enough to get any given gadget up and running.
Another important factor to consider when choosing any smart device is, how long has this company been around? You don’t want to invest in a pricey gadget from a fledgling company, only to have them shut down the service and your left with a very pricey paper weight or door stop.
What smart home gadgets are a must-have for your summer home? Or do you think it’s not worth investing in the technology? Have you installed any smart devices in your home, office, or vacation home? Let us know in the comments.