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Smart Windows Are Here: What You Need to Know

by Mary Gilbert


Everything’s getting smarter these days. Everything. Not only are smart appliances, smart outlets, smart light bulbs and smart TVs gaining traction, smart windows are all the rage among the techy types. They can also be a really useful part of your home automation setup.

They’re not for everybody and there are differences in what various types can do, though, so pay attention and research the windows of your dreams well before you choose one for your home.
 

How Do You Make a Window Smart?

There are actually several different types of windows currently using the moniker “smart.” Some, like those produced by Marvin, are simply regular windows fitted with smart locks at the factory. There’s little else that they do than a traditional window doesn’t besides let you know that you left the kitchen window unlocked.
 

If this is a concern because you have a child that might climb out a window or a teenager known to slip out of the house that way, this might be a solution for you, but it’s hardly touching what other smart windows can do.
 

Some of them can generate their own electricity. Who’s smart now?
 

Smart Homes Made Smarter With Smarter Windows?

There are many of the mindset that we’ve all gone a little wild with the “smart” stuff in our homes. Who really needs a smart toaster? Or a microwave that you can turn on with Alexa? What’s the point of smart switches when you have a smart light bulb?
 

There are so many questions. But the truth is that smart windows can have a big impact on your living space and your happiness. The smart windows with lock sensors can make it easier to sleep at night, which is always great, but other smart windows can literally change the feel of the room, no matter what time of day.
 

Before you run out to buy yourself some fancy smart windows, keep these items in mind:
 

  • Energy efficiency is a big part of many designs. Lots of smart windows are designed to help you get the most out of your utility dollars. Many can change color based on different environmental factors, like bright sunlight or especially dark days. This way, your home stays reasonably easy to heat and cool and you can have lots of big windows without lots of big curtains.
     
  • Smart Windows can do lots of different things. The fact that a smart window can simply be a window with a smart lock or a window that changes tint to help keep your utility bills low is only the beginning. Smart windows can also double as solar panels. It’s true!
     
  • They’re not cheap, but that’s not the point. The smartest of the smart windows may come in at around $1,000, making a whole home window refit unbelievably expensive, but that’s not really the point at this time. Right now, the “cool” factor and their ability to save energy are really what buyers are getting out of these advanced windows with their connected features. Early adopters make it possible for these kinds of technologies to fall in price over time, opening up the market even wider.
     

For homeowners interested in smart windows that have responsive glass but terrified of their price tags, it might make sense to put the windows in rooms that get extra hot or cold (just be sure to match the style of the windows in the rest of your house), rather than doing a whole home install that can become hugely cost-prohibitive.

 

Contact The Mary Gilbert Group for ALL your Real Estate needs! 541.371.5500 or [email protected]

 

By: Homekeepr, Rob Morelli

What Can Smart Switches and Light Plugs Do For Your Home?

by Mary Gilbert


“Siri, how much water did I drink today?”

 

“Alexa, what’s on TV tonight?”
 

“Google, turn off the lights!”
 

You know the drill. We’re all starting to talk to ourselves under the guise of speaking to our smart speakers and voice assistants. There’s nothing at all wrong with this, but it’s a future no one could have conceived even a decade ago. Smart speakers were cool for creating grocery lists, but that’s just a fraction of what they’re capable of now.
 

Your computer friends can control your lights and outlets from anywhere now. How cool is that?
 

The Power of Smart Switches and Plugs

Smart switches and plugs are among the most underrated components of a smart home. In fact, they’re a cheap way to get into the smart home world if your home wasn’t built with this type of equipment in mind.
 

They’re simple to install and essentially disappear after a few days. After all, they’re just boring plugs and switches, right?
 

Well… that’s one way to look at it. But, then again, how long do you go in a day without interacting with an outlet or a switch? Are you using either right now?
 

Behold the Handy, Hidden Household Helpers

If you really think about it, you use outlets and switches all the time for a wide range of reasons. Smart switches and smart plugs are no different, they’re a frequent touch item in your home. But they’re so much more than power regulators. Smart switches and plugs can do things for your household like:
 

  • Making mornings tolerable. Most people have heard of the coffee pot that’s powered using a smart outlet. You fill it up at night, then your programmed smart outlet switches on in the morning and starts the coffee cycle. It’s a popular trope, but it’s also a real thing… so you have that to look forward to.
     
  • Proving peace of mind. Whether you’re across town or across the state, it’s not a great idea to advertise that you’re not home at night. Your smart switches and plugs can be programmed to flip on and off at different times to make it appear that you’re just hanging around the house.
     
  • Conserving resources. Believe it or not, a lot of homeowners find that they save a lot of energy with smart plugs. The better units have use reporting built in, all you have to do is check your app to see which ones are using up the most juice. Create a schedule for those plugs, then check your usage again in a few months. Adjust the whole thing as necessary.
     
  • Creating a safer indoor environment. Are you the kind of person who doesn’t like to walk into a dark house, even when it’s yours? Then smart switches and outlets should definitely be on your shopping list. You can turn all the lights in the house on when you pull into your subdivision or driveway, making it clear that you’re home, in case any ghouls (or burglars) happen to be lurking.
     
  • Assisting people with handicaps. You may not need the help now, but even a debilitating sports injury can be enough to make you want to scream when you forget to turn a light on or off and are already across the room. For people who are permanently disabled, that’s an every day event. Today with the help of Siri, Alexa and Google Home Assistant, all anyone needs to do is shout, “Siri, turn off the kitchen lights!” and it’s a done deal.
     

Those little almost-invisible switches and outlets are pretty busy, looks like. They’re also an inexpensive way to jumpstart your smart home transformation. For example, if you wanted a way to turn your bedroom’s ceiling fan light off at night, you would save a bundle to install a smart switch versus using smart light bulbs and the switch won’t burn out any time soon, so bonus!
 

Ready to Make a Move Toward a Smarter Home? Contact The Mary Gilbert Group today! 541.371.5500 or [email protected] 

By: Homekeepr, David Weinstein

Smart Homes Need Smart Protection: Getting to Know Smart Cameras

by Mary Gilbert


Things seem to be getting smarter and smarter these days. From smartphones to smart pressure cookers, anything that can be built with a brain or an internet connection seems to be being bulked up. Some items that are getting brains don’t necessarily make a lot of sense (smart toothbrushes?), and others seem like they should have gotten smarter sooner.

Smart cameras are a perfect example of the latter. They’re a good balance between smart and sexy, and they will keep your smart home safer.
 

Getting to Know Smart Cameras

A smart camera is different from a regular home security camera in that one camera can integrate with lots of sensors in your home and actually learn your behavior. So, if you normally disarm the alarm at 8:00 am and rearm it at 4:00 pm, that camera will begin to build that information into its profile of your household.
 

This way, when someone comes in at 8:00 pm and tries to disarm the alarm, even if they’re successful, the camera will be on alert for more clues about who this person is and if they belong in your home. You’ll be notified through an app in your phone that someone is lurking about.
 

Some smart cameras, like the Nest Cam IQ are even able to learn faces and distinguish friends you designate from strangers. When a stranger appears in this camera’s sight, it notifies you right away. If it’s simply a friend stopping by to see if you’re home, you can ask the Nest IQ to essentially ignore their activity.
 

Benefits of Modern Smart Security Cameras

Security cameras have been in homes for decades now, but today’s security cameras bear very little resemblance to their ancestors. Although they share functionality, that’s about all they have in common today. Here are a few things to keep in mind about modern smart cameras:
 

They’re tiny, with great big brains. As mentioned above, some smart cameras learn patterns of behavior, others go further and learn faces and names. All of this is made possible by modern computing and it’s stuffed into a tiny little package that’s hardly noticeable.
 

Minimal wiring is required. Old school security cameras required you to run new wiring from them to the television and recording device you were utilizing. Assuming the place you’re stashing the camera already has power, that’s still a lot of extra cabling to deal with. Smart cameras connect to your devices using WiFi, though they may need a wire for power.
 

Monitoring is DIY. Gone are the days of paying a company to do your monitoring or having way too much space in your house devoted to self-monitoring of those big ancient cameras. Now, you can monitor your camera in real time, no matter where you are. It’s a snap to just drop in and see how things are going in your vacation home or review videos from last night to see if your kids threw a house party while you were away.
 

Video storage is in The Cloud. The one drawback to smart cameras is that you will have to pay for storage for your recordings if you want to keep them. Most companies offer packages by time spans that range from about 24 hours to weeks and weeks. You can download your videos, but what you don’t download will disappear after the length of your storage subscription.
 

Get Smarter, Add A Smart Camera To Your Home Security
 

Contact The Mary Gilbert Group for all your Real Estate needs! 541.371.5500 or [email protected] 

By: Homekeepr, Saro Cutri

Hey, Siri, Shut the Shades! Smart Blinds for Homeowners

by Mary Gilbert


It seems that everything is getting smarter these days. You’ve got your basic smartphone, your smart security system, your smart speakers and even smart refrigerators. It should come as no surprise that someone managed to make window blinds that are pretty smart, too.

On first glance, these things look like one of the least useful smart products out there. When you dig a bit deeper, though, it’s clear that smart blinds, much like smart thermostats, are actually a great way to save energy and make your home safer, all while you lounge on the couch conversing with Alexa and Siri.
 

What are Smart Blinds?

Smart blinds, like most things that are considered “smart,” are literally window blinds that can be controlled remotely through a smartphone app, and, in this case, by the voice assistant of your choice. You can use the app to open the blinds, close the blinds or set them somewhere in between.
 

While this doesn’t sound like much, if you think about the regularity at which you perform these mundane tasks, having smart blinds take care of themselves is a huge time saver in the long run. But, that’s not really what’s so cool about them. Here are a few things that are, though:
 

  • They help people with disabilities. People with a variety of disabilities are benefiting from smart homes in lots of ways. When it comes to blinds, it means making it easier for everyone to let the sun shine in or to shut the blinds at night for a little privacy.
  • They increase safety. Whether you’re going on vacation or you’re just working late, having blinds that are able to shut on their own makes it look like someone is home, even when you’re not. It helps to deter crime, which is a good thing, for sure.
  • They can save energy. By cleverly orchestrating the times that your blinds are open or closed, you can help reduce the use of your HVAC system all year long. More on this later.
     

There are few drawbacks to having smart blinds, if you can get beyond the price point. Many manufacturers are still treating these devices as luxury buys, pushing the cost of a single blind into the hundreds of dollars.
 

Ikea recently announced it would be releasing its own line of basic smart blinds in the US on April 1, 2019. They’re still not in everybody’s price range, but are far more accessible with units starting around $135.
 

How Do Smart Blinds Save Energy?

Before you rush out to buy smart blinds because your electricity bill is out of control, keep two things in mind: first, not all blinds will perform the same or have the same features, so make sure to read the packaging or ask a knowledgeable person about those energy saving functions. Secondly, smart blinds are only as good as the person telling them what to do. So, if you don’t tweak your programs a little bit to dial in your settings, you’re not going to get great results.
 

Like any blind, smart blinds can be used to help reduce the strain on your HVAC system. This is done largely by blocking the sun’s rays that warm up your home. Other types of smart window treatments can act as insulators against the cold. Neither is perfect, but they do work pretty well.
 

When it comes to saving energy, you will have to tell the blind what you want it to do. If you want the smart blinds on the west side of your home to close entirely around 1 pm and stay closed until 4 pm, set it in the app. Some blinds, like those from MySmartBlinds, can automatically determine when to open or close, but you’ll need to enable this feature if you want your blinds to close in response to solar radiation.
 

Smart blinds are a great investment if you plan to stay in your house for a while. Not only are they neat and gadgety for anyone interested in the Internet of Things, they can really reduce your utility bills. It could take a while for them to pay for themselves, though — shop carefully!

 

Contact the experts on The Mary Gilbert Group for all your Real Estate needs! 541.371.5500 or [email protected] 

 

By: Homekeepr, Rob Morelli

Change Your World with Smart Plugs and Switches

by Mary Gilbert


If you’ve been paying any attention at all to the world of smart homes and home automation, then the fact that smart switches and smart lights exist could not have escaped your notice. But if you’re like a lot of homeowners, you may still be scratching your head trying to figure out how these devices fit into your voice assistant-powered world.

 

Consider this your introduction to smart plugs, switches and lights.

 

What Are These Devices For?

Smart plugs, switches and lights are all small players in the greater plan of home automation. For people who come home after dark or even those that leave home overnight for business on the regular, smart automated lighting can deter burglars and make it look like someone is rattling around your place.

 

Then there’s the other neat trick smart plugs, switches and lights can do: they help people with disabilities live more independently. Although this was not necessarily part of the original intent, as it turns out, smart homes in general are — top to bottom — able to be specifically adapted for each person and their particular disability..

 

Despite their gadgety nature, smart plugs, switches and lights can literally change the lives of people from every walk of life and every ability level.

 

Breaking it Down: Plugs, Switches and Lights

Having voice-responsive or WiFi connected plugs, switches and lights may seem like you’ve basically got a set of things that all perform the same function. If you walk around in your house, smart or dumb, and note what sort of items you have plugged in versus what’s on a switch, you can start to see the subtle differences. But, let’s talk pros and cons:

 

Plugs. Smart plugs are the most flexible of this smart triad. You can plug in a lamp, or a crockpot or even a radio — you can plug anything into a smart plug and when the plug is switched on, the device (if left with the switch on) will power up.

 

Smart plugs are easy for anyone to install since they generally just plug right into your regular outlets. You don’t need to wire anything or make a mess. Definitely an A+ for ease of use. Many also monitor your energy use, another handy feature. However, many are so big that they take two outlets and turn them into a single smart plug — if you have a lot of things to plug in or a limited number of outlets, this is something to seriously consider before jumping in.

 

Switches. A smart switch can give you control over a lot of dumb bulbs and command them with one touch (or click). For people with disabilities, this can make it easier to deal with switches that might be across the room or too high for them to be easily reached from a seated position. Smart switches can also be programmed into complex routines for voice assistants like Alexa. You might have a routine that tells Alexa to turn the switch in the kitchen on, kick on the coffee pot and play some mood music in the morning, for example.

 

As great as smart switches can be for people with disabilities and gadget lovers alike, they can be a challenge to install since they will actually replace existing light switches. If your home wiring lacks a neutral wire, you’ll have to either have an electrician out to run the right lines or hunt down special switches that can run without one. These switches can have major limitations, since they often need specific bulbs in order to work.

 

Lights. Smart lights, the last on the list but hardly the least, give more people more options, especially when it comes to older homes. There’s no rewiring required, all you have to do is pop the bulb into a socket and poof! Instant smart lighting. Some even have bluetooth speakers built in to create a little extra ambience. What’s not to love?

 

Well, as it turns out, smart bulbs are only as smart as the people living in the house. If you, say, switch the fixture full of smarts off, suddenly your smart bulb is a regular bulb. You no longer have any control over it, the bulb has been rendered very dumb. And even when switches are left in the “on” position, there can be significant lag between command and execution since most are controlled through another device, like Amazon’s Echo or Google’s Home Assistant.

 

The Bottom Line for Basic Smart Home Equipment

Although smart plugs, switches and lights still have significant limitations, they’re still worlds ahead of their old-fashioned counterparts when it comes to ease of access and remote control. There will certainly be updated versions that deal with many of the current problems, but until those are released commercially, a homeowner who wants to try out these bits of smart tech should absolutely do so.

 

How else will you turn on the mixer at precisely 6 AM, kicking off a Rube Goldberg machine that makes breakfast while you shower?

 

Contact The Mary Gilbert Group for all your Real Estate needs! 541.371.5500 or [email protected] 

 

By: Homekeepr

Displaying blog entries 1-5 of 5

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Mary Gilbert
Keller Williams Realty Umpqua Valley
2365 NW Kline Street, Suite 201
Roseburg OR 97471
541-371-5500
Fax: 541-371-5501

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