Posts in November 2020

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Set Up a Smart Home on a Budget

November 30, 2020
Every day, we see new home tech designed to make our lives easier. Connected devices can streamline tasks and information sharing, give us peace of mind, and save us money. But the problem is, many smart home gadgets carry a pretty high price tag. There are plenty of products on the market that appeal to people on a budget, so we put together a list of the smart home trends you can jump on without breaking the bank.Smart Bluetooth Speakers Portable Bluetooth speakers are excellent – you can carry them from room to room, you can connect them to any phone or computer in your house, and the sound quality is pretty high. Some smart speakers come with the added bonus of connecting with your Amazon or Google accounts, so you can listen to online playlists or podcasts or just ask about the weather. If you go for later generations, you can often pick these speakers up for under $50.Smart PlugsSmart plugs are easy to install and essentially turn any device into a smart one. For example, you can plug in a coffee maker or a table lamp into a smart plug, and it can run through Alexa or Google Assistant, another smart device, phone app, or even the sound of your voice.  You simply plug it into your outlet, plug something else into it, and then connect the plug with your preferred smart assistant or the smart plug’s app. You can then use your phone or voice to turn it on or off or issue other commands. The Wyze Plug comes in a 2-pack and costs just $14.99, is voice-activated, and allows for custom scheduling.Smart Light BulbsThe idea of swapping out all the light bulbs in your house for smart versions might seem way too expensive. But these light bulbs are surprisingly affordable and can allow you to lower energy bills by being able to adjust the lights (including turning them on or off) remotely.On the fun side, smart light bulbs often offer cool lighting effects, such as colors or patterns, and smart device connectivity. YEELIGHT has a variety of Smart LED lights at relatively low costs.  Home Security SystemsYou don’t have to contract through a security company to get the peace of mind that comes with home security. Homeowners can purchase smart security systems that record activity, allow you to speak to visitors, or even contact 911 if there’s a break-in. There are different security tiers – from a single security camera to house-wide contact sensors and alarm systems – so you can choose the level that fits your budget. Something as simple as the Ring Video Doorbell, which is battery-powered, has motion detection, and allows for two-way talk, offers security for around $100.  Smart Heating & CoolingHere’s where you can start saving some serious money. Smart heating and cooling systems allow homeowners to control each room's temperature, create temperature zones, and set timers, so your home isn’t wasting energy when you’re not there. You can also get systems sophisticated enough to adjust humidity and air quality.Automated, programmable temperature changes can save you money in the long run. You can program some smart HVAC systems to adjust automatically during specific weather conditions or temperatures. You can find smart heating and cooling systems for just a few hundred dollars. The Google Nest Thermostat, for example, is $129.99 each.Smart VacuumingGet ready to meet your new best friend: a robot vacuum! You’ve probably heard of this one before – and have most certainly seen it. A smart vacuum allows you to enjoy a clean home without ever needing to touch your Dyson again. High-end models have smart navigation and learn the layout of your house over time. More affordable options include the VieOli Basic Robot Vacuum Cleaner for under $30.There are plenty of other smart devices you can purchase for your house – fitness platforms, automated sprinkler systems, smart displays –. Still, we only included the most affordable options to get started. Begin by connecting some of your devices – install a few smart plugs and swap out a few light bulbs – and slowly grow your connectivity over time. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll appreciate turning lights on with an app or checking in on sketchy behavior through your smart security camera. A smart home doesn’t have to cost a second mortgage.

6 Tips to Lower Your Energy Bills this Winter

November 2, 2020
Temperatures are dropping, which means it’s time to bust out the fuzzy socks, cozy blankets, and cups of hot cocoa. Unfortunately, it can also mean your heating bill is about to go through the roof. Luckily, you can take action now to increase your home efficiency during the colder months to keep your bills manageable. Here are six tips to make your home more energy-efficient and reduce your energy bills during the coming winter months.Give Your HVAC System a Little TLCThe first tip is to make sure your heating system is running at peak performance. Schedule regular check-ups for your heating system and replace filters. Furnaces and heat pump filters should be replaced once a month or so depending on use.Don’t      Set it and Forget it – Pay Attention to your Thermostat! It might be tempting to set your thermostat to a balmy 75 degrees and forget about it until the spring, but you’ll pay for it (literally) when the bill comes. Keep your thermostat at or below 68 degrees and consider lowering it at night and when you’re not at home. You can reduce your heat costs by up to 10% just by lowering your thermostat for around 8 hours each day. You can also further your energy efficiency by swapping your thermostat out for a programmable one that can automatically adjust your temperature throughout the day.Get Some Sun… From Inside Your HouseYou can’t beat free heat! Let the sun’s power warm up your home by keeping curtains or shades on your southern-facing windows open during the day. You’d be amazed at how much warmer your rooms will stay when you let the sun shine through them during the day.Downsize the Draft with Plastic SheetingDo you feel a draft? Some older windows tend to let the cold air in – which means it takes more heat to keep the room toasty. Use plastic film insulation to cover those drafty windows. You can purchase window insulation kits at most hardware stores. Some of these kits include plastic sheets with adhesive strips, but regular tape will work just fine. Tape them tightly over your window frame to keep the cold air out and the heat in.Deck the Halls for Energy SavingsIs there anything cheerier and brighter than holiday lights strung up inside and out? The only problem is, you’re using an awful lot of energy keeping them lit. Replace your holiday lights this year with energy-efficient LED light strings. You can find LED lights in most stores these days.  Invest in a Space HeaterIf you spend the majority of your time during the winter cuddled up in your living room, why pay more to heat the whole house? Purchase a portable space heater (or two) for areas you’ll spend the most time in – such as a living room or bedroom. Lower your thermostat and crank up the space heater (but don’t go crazy about it!).Keeping your energy use at bay in the cold months isn’t impossible. And you don’t have to shiver your way through winter to do it. By taking these precautions, you can cut your energy bills, reduce drafts and cold spots, and become more energy efficient.  
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