In this weekly column, hosts Brandon Doyle and Colton Pratt walk through smart-home products and showcase their capabilities while reviewing pros and cons. This week, automation. Wireless technologies, sensors and voice activation mean that you can control more in your home with your voice or an app than ever before.

In this weekly column, hosts Brandon Doyle, Doyle Real Estate Team with RE/MAX Results, and Colton Pratt, project manager, walk through smart-home products and showcase their capabilities while reviewing pros and cons. 

Here’s our top 10 list of home automations:

1. Voice assistant

It all starts with your favorite voice assistant. This is used to control other devices in your home, answer questions, play music, etc.

2. Lighting and fan control

Custom lighting via bulbs or switches offers convenience and entertainment. Both can be controlled via an app or by voice.

3. Video doorbells

Video doorbells such as Ring are one way to get into smart-home tech. They allow you to see who is at your door anywhere in the world and can even store recordings in the cloud with a subscription. Please note that you’ll need a strong Wi-Fi connection.

There have been security and privacy issues with Ring. Even more controversially, there’s been coverage of Amazon working with Ring and law enforcement on random sting operations.

4. Smart plugs

Smart Plugs can turn any ordinary appliance into a smart one. Simply plug your “dumb” device — like a coffee maker, toaster or blender — into the smart plug and turn it on and off right from your smartphone.

Did someone say margaritas? They’re also great for holiday decorations.

5. Thermostats

Smart thermostats are a great way to save energy while staying comfortable in your home. We recommend the Ecobee because it includes additional sensors and integrates with most other smart-home platforms.

6. DIY security systems

Previously if you wanted to install a security system, you’d need to call a company such as ADT or Brinks to come out and setup their equipment and would be locked into a long-term contract.

Now with wireless connections such as 4G, Wi-Fi and Z-Wave, homeowners can build their own network of cameras, sensors and interconnected hubs without being tied to a single vendor. You can even monitor your home yourself or do a month-to-month contract.

7. Water valve control

Flood sensors will alert you to the presence of water in places it shouldn’t be, such as in your basement or underneath the sink.

The sensors can be paired with a EcoNet water valve via a Home Automation Hub to shut off the water and prevent further damage to the property.

8. Smart Wi-Fi garage door opener

With a Wi-Fi enabled garage door opener such as MyQ, you’ll be able to open, close and monitor status of your garage door remotely via the included app.

9. Lutron shades

Lutron Serena shades can be controlled with an included remote, with a mobile phone app or by voice with Alexa when paired with a Lutron Hub.

The shades, which retail for around $475 plus installation, can be purchased at Home Depot, Lowes or directly from the manufacturer’s website. I went with Budget Blinds because they’re an approved supplier and have a local franchise near me.

Our total investment for smart shades in the master bedroom and main living room was just under $3,000 due to the size of our windows. Lutron Serena shades can be set to go up and down automatically based on a set time, sunset or sunrise, or the current temperature when paired with a thermostat such as Ecobee.

10. Smart vacuums

Smart vacuums such as Roomba are a great way to save time. They can be setup on a schedule for when you’re away.

Brandon Doyle is a Realtor at Doyle Real Estate Team — Re/Max Results in Minneapolis and co-author of  Mindset, Methods & Metrics – Winning as a Modern Real Estate Agent. You can follow him on Twitter.

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