Forget smart appliances … why smartifying your old ones is the way to go
There’s a lot of buzz around smart homes, smart cars and smart appliances these days. And it can be pretty tempting to look at that big old TV in the corner and wonder if swapping it for a $5000 “smart” model might be a good idea.
At Credit Simple, we’re all about living smarter, but ideally without the big price ticket. So what’s a person to do?
We reckon buying a “smart appliance” is hardly ever the answer. You’re far better off “smartifying” the things you already have. The world is full of gadgets, widgets and dongles (oh my!) that can connect to the appliances you already have with a minimum of fuss, giving the things you already have a range of smart capabilities at a much lower cost. As a bonus, you’re protecting yourself against obsolescence too… just upgrade your outdated TV dongle rather than the whole TV.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can smartify your appliances and your life.
It’s showtime! Smartening up your TV
Four letters: HDMI. If your TV has this socket in the back, you’re ready to plug in some serious smarts. For under $100, a Google Chromecast will turn your TV into an internet connected device, putting Netflix, Lightbox, YouTube and more at your fingertips (some of these will need a paid subscription… but check if your broadband provider offers any for free). A Chromecast Audio dongle ($70) will wirelessly connect your stereo to your phone or laptop too, making it easy to turn your favourite Spotify playlist or streaming radio station up to 11.
For a bit over $200, you can add an Apple TV. Again, this plugs you into a world of online content including paid movies via the iTunes store and a world of free stuff. (Apple TV also provides YouTube and Netflix.)
Wake up and smell the (computer controlled) coffee
Imagine waking up knowing your coffee machine had turned itself on 30 minutes earlier and was hot and ready to go. Or coming home to a house warmed by heaters that switched on as you left the office.
You don’t need fancy pants appliances to do either of these. A wireless smart switch (about $80) plugs into the wall to power your appliance and is controlled from a smartphone app. You can either turn your appliances on and off remotely from your phone, or set schedules (great for controlling lamps to make your house look lived in when you’re on holiday). Some models even track energy use, so you can find out just how much juice that espresso machine is using.
Staying safe and sound
Plug-in smart technology can be an affordable way to keep your home and family safe too. Security cameras are super affordable, and brands like Nest, Panasonic and Arlo use your home’s wifi to send images to an online server so you can check with your phone if you’re out and they detect motion. Unlike traditional systems, you don’t need to wire them in, so when you move house you can take your system with you. Spark’s Morepork also offers complete systems, although these come with a monthly subscription cost too.
Smartish technology even has you covered if there’s a fire. The Roost smart smoke alarm battery ($35US online) looks like the 9-volt battery your existing smoke alarms use (you do have smoke alarms, right?) but includes a wife transmitter that tells your Roost app when the alarm is triggered (and sends you a message when the battery is low, rather than beeping at you at 3am).
Light up your life
Always wanted fancy colour-changing mood lighting that you can control from your phone? OK, no one has really always wanted that, but now that you know about it you have to admit it sounds cool. Smart LED lightbulbs combine low energy use with the ability to change colours to suit your mood. A wife transmitter is built right into the bulb, so you can control the lights via a central base station and app. Philips Hue is the brand to look for and kits start at $200.
Vaughn Davis is a smart cookie who lives in Auckland and has a goat farm. An actual goat farm. He also has The Goat Farm, which is an ad agency and doesn't involve any actual goats. He writes monthly for Credit Simple and you can find him @vaughndavis.All stories by: Vaughn Davis