Throwing open the windows and the sliding glass doors to let in a cool summer breeze is one my favorite things about summer. Sure, I let the AC rip when it’s hot and humid outside, but in the evenings when it’s cooler nothing beats some fresh air blowing through the bedroom windows. The opening of them isn’t the issue; it’s the closing of them that sometimes slips my mind and causes all kinds of potential problems. First, it wastes energy when it’s hot again and the AC—and money–basically blows right out the window. Second, it offers an easy way for anyone to enter my house when I’m out running errands or maybe even gone for the weekend. And third, it lets a pop-up rainshower fall freely into my house.
By attaching a simple sensor to the frame of the doors and windows, you can actively monitor their status right from your smartphone or tablet. In seconds, you can determine which windows are open instead of having to stroll throughout your entire house. You can go right to the open portals, shut them and be on your way. And you’ll never miss one. Just keep checking your smartphone to see an updated status report. By the same token, you’ll know the second someone opens a door or window and can choose to investigate if necessary. Did that downstairs window open at 10 a.m.? It’s probably your house guests just enjoying some fresh air. If it’s midnight, well, that might be your teenage son sneaking out of the house … or inviting someone inside.
These sensors can also be set up (professional installation is generally recommended), to send you an instant notification after a certain period of time, when raindrops are detected, and when you activate your home security system.
Other clever setups are possible, too, when the sensors are tied to a home automation system. For example, when the sensors notice that you’ve opened a window, they can signal the home automation system, which then instructs your homes air conditioning system to shut off temporarily. The same can happen with your lawn irrigation system to prevent the sprinklers from soaking your living room sofa.
Think beyond the exterior doors and windows as you contemplate where to install sensors. Applied to the door of a pantry or even the refrigerator, you’ll be able to make sure that an elderly live-in parent is eating during the day while you’re at work. This same sensor could also be useful for making sure your kids shut the refrigerator door. They might ignore the beep that the fridge emits, but when you receive notification on your smartphone, you can call them to put them on the task right away. A sensor might also be a good addition on a liquor cabinet, closet (my teenage daughter is notorious for “stealing” my clothes), and medicine cabinet.
Fortunately, sensors are affordable and easy to install. Insteon, for example offers a four-pack for $125.99 at smarthome.com; a two-pack from Wink Quirky & GE sells for $50.42 at smartlivingshop.com. You’ll still need to invest in a home automation hub for realize most of these benefits, which for basic notification might set you back no more than a couple hundred of dollars. A more sophisticated and system that can integrate the sensors with a security system, irrigation system, and heating and cooling system will be more expensive—and require installation by a professional home systems integrator.