Smart Home Compatibility FAQs (Part 1)

Today’s post is written by Lee Adkins, founder of Amplified Solutions, continues with his series about Smart Home Tips for REALTORS® with information about setting up smart home devices, and for REALTORS® who encounter these devices when buying and selling homes.

Smart home devices are fun and trendy now, but this trend is here to stay. As a REALTOR®, you should have a basic familiarity with these devices, what they do and how that affects your clients and your clients’ transactions. These devices not only offer convenience for a home, but they also provide safety, security and data that can help us conserve energy use.

Pro Tips:
• Be sure it’s clear – in writing – if (and which) devices are included in the sale of the home.
• Be sure that all devices included in the sale are reset or wiped of any personal data – including the previous owner’s ability to control or monitor the devices. For more info, check out this handy Smart Home Checklist for resetting devices.
• CRT Labs has recently published Smart Home Simplified guides to help you learn more about possible smart home devices and what makes each type unique.

Nest Thermostat

What does it do?
Controls the temperature of your home – automatically or based on when you are home or come and go or on energy usage. Also provides historical energy usage data and compares to other users (anonymously of course) and even the local weather.

What is needed to run it?
The Nest thermostat communicates with your phone and the Nest servers via your wi-fi, so having a wi-fi connection is generally the only requirement beyond HVAC system compatibility.

Can you “relocate” it?
Yes. There is fairly nominal work to remove the thermostat if you are moving. Just be sure to keep the “old” thermostat if this is a possibility so you have something to replace it with. Generally speaking, there is no modification to the wall area around the thermostat needed.

Difficulty of set up:
The Nest thermostat is pretty easy to install – it basically walks you through setup once powered up. Everything you need is in the box including a wall plate in case your older thermostat is larger and you need to cover up an unpainted area or larger holes visible beyond the size of the Nest thermostat. I would highly recommend using this wall plate you are installing it knowing you will move it later.

Cost:
$250 one time for the 3rd generation (newest) model

General compatibility tips:
Nest in generally compatible with most modern HVAC systems. Full compatibility information at: https://nest.com/support/article/How-do-I-know-if-my-heating-and-cooling-system-works-with-Nest (click the link towards the bottom for an easy guide specific to your system)

Nest Protect Smoke and CO2 detector

What does it do?
Alerts you to smoke or carbon monoxide in the home or area you put it in – even remotely via your phone if you are not present at the time.

What is needed to run it?
The Nest Protect communicates with your phone and the Nest servers via your wi-fi, so having a wi-fi connection is generally the only requirement.

Can you “relocate” it?
Yes, relocation is very easy – please be sure to comply with local laws and fire code when removing any type of smoke or carbon monoxide detectors

Difficulty of set up:
Very simple to install – essentially replaces your old smoke detector, including hooking up via the backplate.

Cost:
$99 for the latest model

General compatibility tips:
The Nest Protect can be used by itself and is also compatible with a number of other devices and all other Nest products. Comes in both wired and battery varieties, so make sure you pick up the right one for your needs!

 

SmartThings System

What does it do?
Controls lights and plugs in your home, monitor doors and/or windows, monitor temperature and/or moisture.

What is needed to run it?
A wi-fi network and a device to run the app on (iOS or Android).

Can you “relocate” it?
Yes, pretty easily. For the most part, the system is not permanently installed. A double-sided tape is used for the door/window sensors that is pretty easy to remove or relocate those devices. Many of the rest of the devices are not permanently installed at all – such as outlet switches that just plug into outlets, then devices plug into them.

Difficulty of set up:
A kit is very easy to set up and the app will help walk you through the process of connecting and installing each component.

Cost:
Basic kits start at $199. A hub ($99 for most recent model) is needed to control the devices, which can be purchased separately. A starter kit is highly recommended for cost effectiveness and to understand the full ability of a system.

General compatibility tips:
SmartThings runs on Z-Wave technology which makes it compatible with any other Z-wave devices. There are no specific compatibility requirements for the home.

TP-link smart plugs and switches

What does it do?
TP Smart Plugs can control outlets in your home via an app. You can set a timer that runs consistently, check the status of an outlet (is it off or on) and turn any item plugged into them off or on from anywhere in the world.

What is needed to run it?
Wi-fi and a device to run the app (iOS or Android)

Can you “relocate” it?
Yes! Just unplug and take with you – nominal setup if your wi-fi network changes names or settings.

Difficulty of set up:
Just plug back in (possibly rename outlets in app) and go!

Cost:
Currently selling around $25-35 for a single plug and a 4-pack for $120

General compatibility tips:
Fully compatible with any setup – very simple to use and setup (also works great with Amazon Echo, but works as standalone device)

Lee Adkins is the Founder of Amplified Solutions – a consulting company focused on operational excellence for real estate teams and brokerages. He has served in many leadership and committee roles at the State and Local Associations and is currently a Vice President at the Atlanta REALTORS Association. He frequently teaches and speaks at various conferences around the country. Visit www.AmplifiedSolutions.co to learn more or find free resources, tools and suggested reading list.

How to be Smarter than the Homes You Sell

Today’s post is the first of many written by guest bloggers for CRT Labs. We’re working with industry insiders all the time, so we are teaming up to give readers first-hand information on how technology is shaping real estate. First up is Lee Adkins, founder of Amplified Solutions

Smart home technology is a relatively new industry, but it’s impact on real estate is here to stay. It is more important than ever that as a Realtor you understand the basics of this technology and how it will impact our industry and daily lives.

Here are my top 5 points to help you better understand smart home technology.

1) Control the temperature and environment of the home
This is probably what most people think of first when you mention a smart home; Devices can adjust lights, outlets, other devices and temperature either on a schedule or by certain criteria you can set. This can both save energy and provide convenience and even measure air quality. These devices can also provide historical data to help you save money by providing information such as peak times of energy use or totally monthly energy consumption.
Common devices: Nest thermostat, SmartThings, TP-link smart plugs and switches, Belkin WeMo devices, Philips Hue devices
(Some utility companies offer discounts for various devices that help save on energy usage, check specifics of your areas and wow your clients!)

2) Provide safety (alarms, lights on while gone or when returning)
In addition to energy monitoring and efficiency, there are many safety features of smart home technology. One of the easiest and more affordable complete systems is the SmartThings system. SmartThings offers a few packages to get you started – no special installation needed and no monthly fees, and the system works with many other devices from other companies. You can control exterior lights for safety – on a schedule (that can even change automatically with the seasons), manually or when a certain event happens, such as you return home after dark. The systems also has separate “modes” so that you can create an out of town mode where a different set of rules happen – such as an interior light on or to alert you if a door opens or a certain high or low temperature occurs. Nest also offers a camera and smoke alarm/CO2 alarm that work together with thermostat as a good system.
Common devices: SmartThings, Nest

3) Provide convenience, voice activated answers and commands
The Amazon Echo (Alexa) is probably the most common and comprehensive device in this space. This is largely because it has been around longer and they have allowed outside developers to create “skills” that you can add to the Echo. Amazon has also released the Echo Dot, which is just a smaller and less expensive version, with a less powerful speaker – designed to be connected to another speaker or sound device, but sufficient to operate without an extra speaker. Google Home is a newer player here, but basically like searching Google with your voice. Google also owns Nest, so it plays nicely with all the Nest devices as well. Voice Activation is here to stay. You can set a timer while cooking something, ask for conversions or even just how many days until a certain date. You can of course also order items from Amazon via the Echo. You can ask, “What time is the Falcons game?” or “What channel are the Grammys on?” or “What time is it in Australia?” or whatever you want to know – or ask Alexa to tell you a joke…
Common devices: Amazon Echo, Google Home, Siri, Apple Home App

4) Help the family communicate and work together towards a happy home
This is something I think we’ll see more adoption of soon. It’s easy to have each family member set up with their phone as a “presence” sensor which allows the devices (and or other family members) to know if someone is home or when they came and went. Great for teenagers or young drivers and certainly there are convenience components to this – like keeping the air or heat at a certain level if everyone is gone all day, but having it turn back on when someone arrives home or at a specific, consistent time each day. You can also have lights turn on automatically if someone comes home after dark. I’m sure you’ll soon be able to easily leave voice memos for family remembers that can be played or updated as people arrive home or even play a video message on a TV or phone.

5) Be aware of privacy issues – devices watching, listening, recording
Certainly there are viable concerns that these devices are always watching, listening and possibly recording. It’s known that many of these do record commands and send to the manufacturers for improvement. Adding cameras and/or microphones to a home is easier and cheaper than ever before. I have heard several stories already of home sellers hearing conversations by potential buyers about levels of interest in the home or “we’re making an offer ASAP” which is something to be cautious of as well – if only just from a negotiation standpoint. 

On a recent trip to NAR in Chicago, I got to visit CRT Labs and learned that the Amazon Echo (Alexa) was likely the device most likely to “play nice” with the majority of the popular devices and platforms. I have played a bit with Google Home as well and it works well too with some devices, especially Nest which is owned by Google. The Amazon Echo (with a Prime membership) has an astonishing amount of free (and commercial free!) music and shows and movies that push it over the top for me at this time. Samsung purchased SmartThings in 2014 and I’m sure they have big plans to integrate with their existing product lines. Think that your phone will remind you to pick up a new water filter for your Samsung refrigerator next time you’re at a place that sells them or a reminder that the lightbulb inside has 5% left, or a smart TV that reminds you that you have laundry still in the washing machine.

If you wanted to get started, I would recommend a SmartThings system (easy to install and relatively inexpensive) and an Amazon Echo as an add on to that. A Nest thermostat is another good layer and all three of these devices can work together pretty well with no special technological knowledge.There is no one right way and more of these devices seems to be working together in the Internet of Things. I would encourage you to venture into it – it’s a pretty cool place…

Lee Adkins is the Founder of Amplified Solutions – a consulting company focused on operational excellence for real estate teams and brokerages. He has served in many leadership and committee roles at the State and Local Associations and is currently a Vice President at the Atlanta REALTORS Association. He frequently teaches and speaks at various conferences around the country. Visit www.AmplifiedSolutions.co to learn more or find free resources, tools and suggested reading list.