Clap On For Home Automation – Navasota Star (registration)

Do you remember the Clapper? The Clapper is a simple sound activated device used to turn on and turn off lights by clapping your hands. Clap twice to turn on and twice again to turn off. Some of us remember the catchy jingle from the commercial (clap on, clap off). The Clapper was the first home automation device that everyone could afford.

Home automation has come a long way since the Clapper. Today we can control almost every electronic device in our homes by simply tapping a button on a smartphone. Although most of us will never own the automatic doors made famous by Star Trek, we can control lights and many other devices on a budget.

Controlling a single light bulb, like a lamp or porch light can be as simple as buying a device that screws in to the light fixture and the bulb screws in to the device. These devices generally cost less than $100 dollars and connect to your home Wi-Fi network. Once connected, you will be able to control that light from anywhere in the world where you have internet access. This is the simplest form of home automation. If you wish to control more than a few lights, you may consider buying a home automation package that installs at the breaker box. These products will allow you to control every light in your home from your smartphone, tablet, computer, or wall mounted control panel. With the right bulbs, you will also be able to control brightness and even the color of the light.

Controlling the temperature in your home from afar can be a great money saver. Instead of setting your thermostat to a desired temperature and having the air conditioner or heat run while you are away from home, you can use your smartphone to adjust the temperature anytime you like. For around $250 dollars you can purchase a Smart or Learning thermostat that wires exactly like your old manual thermostat and connects wirelessly to your home Wi-Fi network. With the smartphone app provided by the thermostat manufacturer, you will be able to control every aspect of your heating and cooling. The Nest Learning thermostat costs about $250 on Amazon.com and is fairly simple to install. It even recognizes voice commands for those times when you want to scream at an electronic device.

Smart locks are another great home automation device. If you have ever locked yourself out of your home, you will really appreciate these devices. Most of these locks are direct replacements for the old lock and handle and require no drilling. Some are battery operated (which I don’t recommend), but most have an AC adaptor that plugs in to an outlet. I recommend buying a smart lock with dual power (AC with a battery backup) so that it works even in the event of a power outage. Schlage makes a smart lock with dual power, a keypad to enter an unlock code, a keyhole to unlock by key, Wi-Fi access, and Blue Tooth technology. This allows visitors and maintenance people to have access to your home while you are away.

Smart kitchens are also becoming a real thing. Smart refrigerators can keep inventory of your food supplies and alert you when you are low or out of something. Some will even make you a shopping list and send it to your smartphone when you are at the grocery store. Some have video screens that allow you to Google recipes and build your shopping list from the recipe. Smart ovens, fryers and cookers have the ability to look at recipes and automatically set cooking times and temperatures. A fully smart kitchen allows all appliances and devices to communicate. The refrigerator can tell the oven if there is enough frozen chicken for that ranch chicken casserole and instruct the oven to preheat to the proper temperature, all of this while you are shopping.

Smart security systems are usually a combination of video cameras and alarm systems. These systems allow you to turn off the alarm system and also view and control the video cameras from a smartphone, tablet or computer. These systems can also alert you of alarm activation or movement by cameras.

My favorite home automation device is the Petzi, a two-way communication device for your pet that costs about $170 dollars at Amazon.com. Have you ever wondered what your dog does all day while you are at work? The two-way video camera allows you to see your pet and for your pet to see you. The Petzi also has audio so you can talk to your pet and hear the pet bark. If that isn’t enough, you can actually give your pet treats. That’s right, you just load the device with treats before you leave home.  And at any time, press the treat button on the Petzi app and it will dispense your pet their favorite treat. Now you can spoil Fido any time you like. 

 

Jason Morris is the owner of Grimes County Computer & Electronics. Has over 30 years of experience in the IT industry and a passion for anything electronic. 

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