As the days get shorter and the outdoor climate cools, you’ll probably be spending more time indoors. Now is the perfect time to spruce up your home environment with some smart devices. The suggestions offered here are simple and affordable. They can be added without having to completely renovate your house, but they’ll make such a difference, it might seem like you did.
- Mesh Wi-Fi system. The kids are back in school. They’ll need the Internet for homework assignments. Football season is in full swing. You’ll be streaming the action live to your big-screen TV. New fall sitcoms, NetFlix series and other goodies are accessible through the Internet, too. Make sure your wireless home network has ample bandwidth to do it all by swapping your existing home router for a more robust mesh networking system.
By employing a unique method of passing signals between smart devices, a mesh network dramatically enhances the functionality of a home’s Wi-Fi network. Instead of passing a signals from point A (your home’s router) to point B (the nearest access point), the main router-connected node of a mesh network spreads the signal to multiple nodes positioned in various areas of the house. These nodes talk to each other to determine the quickest, safest path for communications, which will minimize buffering and dead spots so that video streaming is fast and reliable. Eero, Luma, Linksys, Netgear, and TP-Link are a few manufacturers of mesh networking systems.
2. 4K TV. 4K TVs were somewhat tough to find and afford a couple of years ago, but the technology has matured and the price tags have dipped to a point where 4K is super accessible. The picture a 4K TV produces is undeniably brighter, clearer, and crisper that what you’ve been watching on your non 4K TVs, so now may be the time to make the switch and get your media room in prime condition for indoor entertaining. The 4K Frame TV from Samsung is the hottest thing going.
3. Whole-House music system. Speaking on indoor entertainment, why not invest in a whole-house music system? Sonos may be a fan favorite, and rightly so, but there are many other options that are worth checking out: Casatunes, NuVo, Denon, and any Play-Fi-based system.
4. Media server. Yes, streaming is THE way to consume media these days, but your DVDs aren’t completely obsolete. A media server can store them on a hard drive so they’re at your fingertips. Check out Kaleidescape, Fusion Research, and Autonomic Controls. As well as storing your physical media, many of these servers also stream content, so you’ll be able to enjoy the best of both entertainment worlds.
5. Motorized draperies. Good, quality windows can help insulate your home from cold air; add window coverings to insulate even more. Honeycomb shades are noted as being the most energy-efficient of all window coverings. They feature a layered design that traps air in individual cells. This creates an effective temperature- transfer barrier between the window and the room. The higher a window treatment’s R value, the more energy efficient it is. Honeycomb shades typically have an R-value of between
R-2 and R-5; thermally lined drapes range from R-3 to R-5.
By attaching these shades and drapes to a motorized rod or headrail, you can set up a schedule so they open and close automatically throughout the day. You’ll be able to take advantage of the sunshine to help heat your home; then close them at night when you need the insulation. Check out motorized blinds, shades, and draperies from Hunter Douglas, Lutron, and QMotion.
6. “Warmer” light bulbs. As the days get shorter, you’ll be relying on artificial lighting more and more. Choose bulbs with a pleasing color temperature, which is represented in Kelvin (K). The “warmer” the light the lower the color temperature. Warm yellow home lights usually have a color temperature of around 2700K, while cold white lights range up over 5000K.
Colored lighting can also evoke ambiance—reddish light will feel cozier; bluish light will feel crisp.
Once you’ve installed new light bulbs, you can go a step further by automating the fixtures and lamps. For example, at the same time each night you can have lights in the kitchen and family room activate to make your house look warm and inviting as you arrive home from work; while entertaining, you can have the lights dim to certain levels—it’ll feel like dining by candlelight without the candles.