Links to Home Control Products I Use

X-20090119111603625-1Lighting – Lutron and Wemo

Video Cameras – DLink and IP Cam Viewer Pro

Bose SoundTouch Wireless Music System

Thermostat – Nest

Smoke Alarm and CO Detection

Craftsman AssureLink Garage Door Opener

New Home Control Products

imageThe home control market is in the process of exploding. Many vendors are trying to create products that allow people to create their own smart home and control it from an application on their phone or computer.  Having more products in the market is always great, but determining whether those products really work in your home is another story. I had the opportunity to test a couple more of these products that I’d like to tell you about.

The first of these is called a Lutron Caseta dimming switch and remote. This switch replaces a light switch in your home with a switch that can be controlled from your iPhone, iPad, or android device. For the switches to work you have to have some type of a central home hub that provides control. The home hub I’m using is the Wink hub and I’ve written about it in previous posts.  The switches wirelessly connect to the hub and allow Wi-Fi connected devices to control actions. They give you the ability to be able to create what are called robots to perform functions in your home. An example of this is what I’m using to control my outdoor driveway lights. I installed one of the switches and created a robot script that tells it went to turn the driveway lights on and when  to turn them off.

The switch was easy to install by just removing the existing light switch and wiring this new switch in using the same wires and connectors that were in place. Once installed you use the app on your iPhone or android device to connect to the switch and pair it to the hub.  Once paired with the hub you have control over that device. Then you can create your scripts for how you want the light to function. You also have the ability to turn the lights on and off from any place that you’re on the Internet. This switch comes with a small remote but allows you to have remote control without the use of the phone. So far I’ve been very please with the switch and it’s ease of installation and function.

The other device I had the opportunity to test was a GE link lightbulb. This device is basically a lightbulb that imagescrews into a light socket and allows you to control the light in the same way as the Lutron switch did. It’s installation is even simpler in that you basically screw it  into a light socket and turn on the light. You then use the app, the Wink app  in my case, to pair the lightbulb with your system. At that point you have control of it in the same way as the Lutron switch.

One nice thing about the ability of the Wink hub is the ability to program conditional Robots. In my case, I have my lights set that when I turn a particular light on it automatically turns on this lightbulb. This allows me to control lights based upon the condition of other lights in the house. I can’t say enough about this lightbulb in the fact that it is simple to operate easy to install and works flawlessly. The bulb itself is an LED bulb and provides a nice warm light. This bulb was also relatively inexpensive at less than $15.

I really enjoy making my home smarter. When I pick devices to purchase I try to ensure that I select devices that have a good likelihood of being compatible with many other systems. That way I maximize my use of home control today and prepare for future developments that might come tomorrow.

“Wink” Provides and Integrated Approach to Home Control

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 1.18.02 PMI’ve dreamed for years about having a home that I could control electronically. Turn lights on and off from my phone, change the temperature of the thermostat, and open and unlocked doors. Over the years I’ve tried a number of products and many have worked very well. The one thing they lack was an integrated approach to being able to handle the controls.

A new product called Wink provides the ability to be able to control many other vendors devices from a single application. Just released in July, this unit allows you to connect other devices into a single integrated approach. While every device I have does not connect today, the open API provided should allow other vendors to make their connections work. This is the same approach Apple has to their HomeKit integration. While I’m absolutely sure that Apple’s products will be terrific, there was one thing I really IMG_0191liked about the Wink system. Wink has a single home unit that includes multiple radios to be able to connect to nearly any type of device. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, zigbee, and Z-wave radios are all included in the device. These multiple radios allow many vendors devices to be able to connect and integrate together. The real beauty of this approach allows a best-of-breed solution for home control. You can purchase devices that do the best job of providing a particular home control service regardless of how they connect with each other or with other devices you already own. This approach gives you the best opportunity to find the perfect device that fits your needs.

I’m trying out the Wink system in my own home. I was able to purchase two Lutron light switches and get the Wink box for free through a special offer Wink has at the present time. These light switches were easy to connect to each other and to the app on your phone. So the Z- wave radio within the Wink device connects them to my wireless network at home. Then I can use the Wink app on my iPhone to be able to control the switches

IMG_0192Wink also provides the ability to script actions that can be put together. An example is a single button that can turn all the lights in the house that are connected to control switches off. It also has the ability to create what it calls robots. These robots are scripts that are basically if then situations. If a particular light turns on to 100%, then turn another light off. You get the idea.

Wink has committed to providing connectivity to as many devices from other vendors as possible. I’m anxious to see if I will be able to control my nest thermostat and my WeMo light switches through this same application. If Wink continues to develop the way it looks like they have, I look forward to a day where a single app on my phone may be able to control all my intelligent devices in my home.

But Apples HomeKit will be a contender also. So as I purchase new controllable devices, IMG_0190I’m keeping my eye open for support for HomeKit too. That way if HomeKit becomes the better solution, all the devices I purchased can be used with it. Since the Wink controller was provided at no cost with the purchase of the two switches I just bought, I had no investment to lose by giving this a try.

Wink devices are available through Home Depot at

I’ll continue to give updates on how I’m doing with Wink and home control. Hopefully that control I’m looking for in my home is just around the corner.


Belkin Wi-Fi enabled WeMo Switch

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 3.39.21 PM The Belkin Wi-Fi enabled WeMo Switch lets you turn electronic devices on or off from anywhere. The WeMo Switch uses your existing home Wi-Fi network to provide wireless control of TVs, lamps, stereos, heaters, fans and more. Simply download the free WeMo App from the Google Play Store or the Apple App store, plug the switch into an outlet in your home, and plug any device into the switch. You’ll be able to turn that device on or off using your smartphone or tablet (running Android 4.0 and later or iOS 5 or higher). You can set schedules for your devices and control them remotely using a mobile internet connection. You can also add additional switches to your home to control more devices.

The Belkin WeMo Switch works with the free WeMo App to give you wireless control of your home appliances and electronics. Whether you want to turn on a light from your kitchen, front yard, or office, WeMo Switch has you covered.

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 3.40.17 PMTo get started, simply download the free WeMo App from the Google Play store or the Apple App store to your smartphone or tablet Next, plug the WeMo Switch into an outlet in your home and plug any device or appliance into the switch. Connect the WeMo Switch to your home Wi-Fi network and follow the onscreen instructions to complete the installation. Now you can turn your home electronics/appliances on or off from anywhere.

The Switch also operates over mobile Internet, which means you can control home devices from anywhere you have an Internet, 3G or 4G connection.

  • Turn electronics on or off — from anywhere.Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 3.39.48 PM
  • Operates over Wi-Fi and mobile internet, at home and away.
  • You’ve already got everything you need: WeMo works with your existing Wi-Fi router and any iPod touch, iPhone, iPad – iOS 5 or higher.
  • Put your electronic devices on a schedule.
  • Modular system. You can add additional WeMo Switches easily, any time.
  • Control as much or as little of your home as you want to.
  • Plugs into any regular 120v wall outlet.
  • Intuitive, easy set up. Easy to use.
  • Free WeMo app.

These units are very easy to use.  I’ll bet you can think of a number of uses for modules like these.

Craftsman Assurelink Garage Door Opener

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 3.28.36 PMHave you ever forgot to lower your garage door?  Or worse yet, have you ever been unsure if you left it open or closed? The Sears Craftsman Assurelink Garage Door Opener is just the ticket for these times.    This opener connects to your home internet and allows you to open and close the door from your smatrphone.  Assurelink allows you to monitor and activate your garage door from the web, so whether you’re fishing at the lake, in a hotel on business,  or stuck in downtown traffic, you can know for certain that your home is safe and secure.

The opener itself is a top of the line feature full garage door opener from Sears.  In addition to all the features you would expect, it comes with a internet gateway that plugs into your home network and gives you the ability to control the door with a free application for your iPhone or Android phone.  It’s also compatible with many already existing technologies, like MyQ™ home activation products or in-vehicle HomeLink® remote control systems.

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 3.28.49 PMThe app for your phone allow you to check the status of the door and to open or close it.  It requires a 4 digit password to open so that someone playing with your phone cannot accidentally open the door.

Even if it’s not time to replace your opener, if you have a modern Craftsman opener, an add on package is available to give you the internet connectivity.  The openers cost between $229 and $299.  If your opener is comparable, the add on package is just $89.

If your looking for a new opener or have a recent one you may want to add this functionality to your home.  It definitely has its place in providing piece of mind.


Home Control with the Nest Thermostat

Nest 1For the last 15 years, I have had a controllable setback thermostat in my home.  When we first moved in, I created a program for it.  As the season changes, I would reset the program.  Unfortunately, I would forget to adjust it sometimes and leave it setup for the wrong season.  Then I would manually adjust it to the temperature I needed and try to remember to set the program back on later.  I did not do a very good job of remembering and after the first 6 or 8 months, I ended up leaving it set on a specific temperature and forgetting about it.  That definitely was no way to save energy!

When I first read about the Nest thermostat it intrigued me.  A computer controlled thermostat that I could adjust from anywhere sounded like something I would actually use.  Not only that but if the device actually learns my habits, it could be even better at anticipating my needs.  If a Nest thermostat could learns my schedule, program itself,  and can be controlled from my phone it would be awesome. Not only that, but if teaching it well could let Nest lower my heating and cooling bills up to 20% it would pay for itself.

Nest 2I looked into the Nest and checked out my system at home only to find out that the first generation Nest could not control my Heat Pump system.  I was absolutely thrilled when Nest introduced it’s more advanced system that met my needs.  I ordered one immediately.  If you’re comfortable installing a light fixture, you can install Nest yourself. Three out of four people install Nest in 30 minutes or less.  You can also buy our Nest Concierge installation service from or call 855-4MY-NEST for more info.

Nest 3First, you answer a few basic questions during the install, connect it to your home WiFi, and after that, Nest will optimize itself for your system and start learning from your temperature changes.

Nest knows one size doesn’t fit all. So you tell Nest what system you have and System Match will turn on specific features to keep you comfortable and help you save.  My system is a Heat pump so nest knows

After you connect Nest to Wi-Fi you can access it from your smartphone, tablet or laptop. Changing the temperature or schedule remotely is just like making a change directly on your thermostat. So when you turn up the temperature on your phone it’ll affect Nest’s learning and schedule, and that info will show up on your Nest at home. You can even set features such as Early-On to get the temperature you want when you want it. If your schedule says 72ºF at 6am, Early-On will start heating or cooling early so it’ll be

Filters are incredibly important for systems that blow air out of vents. A clogged filter can increase your bill by 5%. Unlike other thermostats that just alert you once a year or once a month to change the filter, Nest’s Filter Reminders are based on how many hours you’ve used heat or AC. That means they’ll only

One of the really innovative features is called Sunblock.  Sunblock senses when Nest is in direct sunlight and automatically adjusts so Nest reads and sets the correct temperature. It uses Nest’s built-in light sensor to track the sun’s patterns and temperature sensors to detect—and adapt to—heat spikes from the sun. Sunblock is enabled by default in every Nest thermostat, and will turn on after at least one day of Nest being in direct sunlight.

If you live in an excessively humid area (Mid Missouri Summers) and don’t have a dehumidifier, you already know the only way to control humidity – and the mold that comes with it—is with the air conditioner. With Cool to Dry, Nest uses its humidity sensor to detect when humidity reaches potentially unhealthy levels. Then it automatically turns on the air conditioner when needed—for as long as its needed—to help keep your home dry.

The Nest Mobile app works on all iPhone, iPad, and Android tablets, including Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire. You can also log on to your nest from the Web and make changes to your unit or review your energy use.

The thermostat on the wall is absolutely beautiful.  For the first time, I have a thermostat that I can understand what my energy use is and stay comfortable in the process.  Nest can’t control the weather (yet), but with all it’s features it can help make this a better, cooler, more comfortable summer. And you could even begin to save money in the process.

Logitech Harmony Smart Control: The one to Purchase.

Harmony 1Universal Remotes.  I can personally remember 4 different ones I purchased over the years.  Some as simple as a universal Sony remote about the size of a hard backed book that did a good job with simple on off and channel commands.  Others as complex as a Harmony remote with a screen on it that was programmed by a USB cable.  All sort of worked.  None really worked well.  That all changed with my purchase of the Logitech Harmony Smart Control.  Finally. I have found a smart remote that I feel can put all my other remotes in a drawer.

What makes this one so special?

How many people sit on the couch to watch TV these days and have their iPhone or iPad right at their side.  Logitech takes advantage of this with this new remote product.  ALl programming of the remote is done through your iOS device.  And yes, Android is also supported.  Using the Harmony app (free from the Apple app store)you connect to the device and program it from the web.  You simply follow the prompts, make selections of the brand and model of devices you have, tell it what port the device connects to the TV on and it all gets programmed for you.  It even creates shortcuts to common activities like Watch a Movie that can turn on the TV, turn on the Blu-ray player, and set the correct connection port.  All of this happens from the push of a button.  This integration with iOS makes getting the remote to control all your devices very easy.

Not only will it control all your devises that use an infrared remote, but the unit has Bluetooth built in so it seamlessly addresses devices like the PS3 game console that uses Bluetooth.  Unfortunately for my aging Bose system, it does not do Radio Frequency (RF) devices.  In addition, this device handles the AppleTV very well.  Other units make it hard to access the menu button but this one maps it automatically for you.  Everything is seamless.

Harmony 2With this unit, you can easily control your home theater devices.   Anyone in the house can download the Harmony iPhone or Android app turn their mobile phone into a personal universal remote control, including 50 favorite channel icons and gesture control.  When your mobile phone is not available, you can use the included simple remote control. It lets anyone in the family change the channel and adjust the volume.   Simply press one button to switch to favorite activities, like watch TV or play a game.

It controls what you already own.

Logitech says you can consolidate 8 remote controls into one simple mobile app. Harmony is compatible with over 225,000 home theater devices. And unique to Harmony is their patented Smart State technology, which remembers your devices’ power and input settings and automatically adjusts them based on what you want to do.  If you are unsure if your device is supported, Logitech provides a great presale site to check.

Here is the best part of this product.  It’s reasonably priced for a smart remote.  Priced at just $129, it is a universal remote that I can finally recommend to people.