The newest tech gadgets can make life simpler, safer, and save you money in the long run. And the best smart home devices don’t require you to be a genius to operate them. But which are worth the investment, and which will join your breadmaker and NordicTrack in the storage closet? Here are a few to consider:
Ever get a few miles away from home and suddenly wonder if you turned the iron off? The Belkin WeMo Switch takes the worry out of leaving something on when you’re gone. Simply download the WeMo App, plug the Wi-Fi enabled switch into any outlet in your home, and plug the device you want to control into the switch. Then use your smartphone to control fans, lamps, heaters—just about anything in your home that plugs in. It’s that easy. Best of all, the device costs about $36.
The Nest Learning Thermostat has built-in Wi-Fi so you can remotely control the temperature in your home from your phone, tablet, or PC. At about $250, it’s not cheap, but it has the potential to cut energy costs by up to 15%. Nest learns what temperature you like and builds a schedule around it—turn up the heat a few days in a row when you come home, and Nest learns you like your happy hour at 70º. Just pop off your old thermostat and install your new Nest in about half an hour. Locally, CPS Energy has partnered with Nest, and will give you up to $85 when you use the device and sign up for their Rush Hour Rewards program.
Wouldn’t it be nice to arrive home in the evening, and rather than feeling your way around the house while you find the lights, have them all turn on at the push of a button? Phillips Hue White allows you to do just that using your smartphone. Simply buy the starter kit for about $70 (additional bulbs cost about $15) at any home improvement store, then follow three easy steps. Screw the two special bulbs into your existing light fixtures, connect the included bridge to your Wi-Fi, then download the app, find your lights with it and have fun scheduling your teenager’s room lights to flip on early Saturday morning.
Rain gutters can be unattractive and costly, not to mention a real challenge to keep free of live oak and cedar debris. So how important are they here in San Antonio? Can homeowners really take it all off and go gutterless?
Much of the answer depends on a home’s construction. If a home has long roof overhangs, lacks a steeply pitched roof and has excellent slope at grade that adequately protects the foundation, it may be a candidate for skipping the gutters. But extra care will need to be taken to minimize water damage during the storm bursts that our area is prone to get. A sloping concrete apron extending at least 6 inches past the roof overhang can be poured, or layers of gravel or stone can be arranged to catch rainwater in conjunction with a drainage system above or below ground.
For the rest of us, gutters make it easier to come and go without getting drenched at the door, and keep depressions from becoming ponds during a deluge. Rain gutters aren’t exactly glamorous, but they are unsung heroes when it comes to protecting a home’s siding, windows, doors and foundation from rot and water damage.
There are a huge variety of gutter materials out there, ranging from relatively inexpensive and strong vinyl to beautiful, long-lasting (and pricey) copper. And many homeowners have added gutter guards to decrease maintenance. All types of gutters work about as well, so homeowners can pick the material that best compliments their home’s aesthetics—and their budget.