Why I love my connected home

Nexia keypad
By Adam Zeis on 11 Jul 2014 12:16 pm
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A few years back I made the decision to start outfitting my house with some connected devices. I'm a geek at heart (I always have been) so having my humble abode outfitted with electronic gadgets felt like the right thing to do. I took the plunge with a Nexia start kit and installed a keypad door lock, simple lamp module, thermostat, and one wireless camera inside my house. From there I got sucked into a spiral of connectivity and a few years later, My house is teched out more than I believe it ever would be, and I'm loving it.

When I first bought my house four years ago, there was plenty of work to be done on it. We needed new floors, new doors and all kinds of other fixes, but one thing I was set on was getting my Nexia system installed. I set aside a day to do just that, and within a few hours I was officially living in a connected home. I was able to keep track of who was coming and going at my front door, monitor things in my living room while I was away, turn on my heat from bed, and even turn my lights on and off no matter where I was. In just a few hours time, I was suddenly living in the future, and it was pretty awesome.

In just a few hours time, I was suddenly living in the future, and it was pretty awesome

Over time I've added quite a bit to my system as time and funds allow. I purchased a wireless outdoor camera for my driveway, three more for inside, a few motion sensors, some door/window sensors, and a water sensor for the basement. While I have plenty of devices connected to the system, there is always room for more, which is both good and bad.

I love that I can monitor things through the web, or get alerts on my phone when I'm out of the house. I have various automations enabled for overnight or vacation, and I can tweak them as needed depending on what's going on. At night, all of the motion sensors and door sensors will send me an alert as well as turn on lights should something be up. This also triggers recordings on the cameras so any would-be thieves will be caught in action. On vacation things work much the same, but any and all movement regardless of the time will send me an alert. Thankfully the sensors are smart enough not to pick up the cats wandering around either.

Nexia Camera

One of the biggest fears of any homeowner is that their pipes will leak or the hot water heater will bust when they're out of the house. Thankfully I'm covered there (for the most part) with a water sensor in the basement. If it detects any water at all, I get an alert. If the temperature drops below a certain level (freezing) I'll get an alert for that as well. Of course if I'm halfway across the country there isn't much I can do to fix it, but I'll know when it happens so I can take action accordingly.

My connected thermostat is awesome as well. Not only can I turn on the heat on a cold morning without ever getting out of bed, but I can schedule my heat to help save energy and only go on when I need it. If I forget to turn it down before going away, I can do that from my phone too. Plus my thermostat tells me when I need to change the filter, which I always forget to do. A newer model (which I hope to upgrade too soon) actually connects to your home Wi-Fi and can give weather alerts in addition to other fun features.

Nexia app

All of those goodies are within the Nexia umbrella and work in conjunction with one another. Of course there are some other fun toys that I want (or have) that work totally independently from this system, like my Nest Protect. I picked up one of these after they were recently re-released (after a recall) and it's the one connected device that my wife absolutely loves having. It works at both a smoke and carbon monoxide detector, and also talks to a companion app on my phone. It has fun status lights and talks to you when it senses danger, and also alerts me on my phone if something is detected — which is great if I'm not at home. Much like my water sensor I can then act accordingly no matter where I am.

I also can run into issues having dedicated myself to one system as well. I've been eyeing a Nest thermostat for quite some time, but given that my Nexia system incorporates a thermostat already, it makes the need for a Nest unnecessary. Even if I did add one, I wouldn't be able to integrate it with my Nexia system and use it in my automations, and I also would need to use a separate app to control it. A light drawback that irks me a bit, but I won't dwell on it too much. Of course things like Apple's upcoming HomeKit could fix this problem too by integrating all of the connected things under one roof.

Nest Protect

I doubt my addiction will stop anytime soon. I'm currently contemplating adding some Hue lights to my setup, but I haven't been able to justify them just yet. I'm not sure I'd get a ton of use out of them aside from the "cool" factor, so I may just invest that money in more Nexia goodies or other toys that I'll play with much more. I do love having a connected home though — it's fun to geek out with, makes for great conversation and helps me keep things secure while being able to automate plenty.

In the words of the great Ferris Bueller, "If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up".

Reader comments

Why I love my connected home

10 Comments

I have been thinking about connecting my home as well, but I am trying avoid the situation you are referring to with multiple apps, incompatible devices, etc. It seems that utilizing Z-Wave tech is the best way to go. I have seen a lot regarding the Vera Lite. Do you have any thoughts on that?

I picked up a Vera Lite a month ago and just set it up with z- wave modules for my soffit lighting, Christmas lights (soffit receptacle), pool filter pump (outside inline switch) and my living room lights. It works with my Sonos using a plugin, as well as some sunset/sunrise scheduling. I plan on adding more, but every addition is $50-100. I want more energy monitoring devices, but there aren't too many out there yet, and I can't justify a full Brultech setup yet. I find the Vera has a lot of potential I just haven't been able to spend the time on it yet.

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What do you see as an advantage or disadvantage that Nexia has over the SmartThings product line? I've been looking at their product for months now and will start making my house smarter in the next month or so. I haven't looked at Nexia yet but i will now.

My thoughts exactly, I've been thinking about smart things so far, but am interested to see if nexia has any advantage
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Just visited Nexia's website. Here is a huge difference for me. $9.99/mth fee. SmartThings has no monthly fee. I'll see if it balances out with less expensive products. Thinking not.

Yeah its hard to compare, but something we'll definitely do here soon. Nexia I got into because it was one of the few solid systems at the time. Now there are many more systems with similar features.

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I have to agree with the other guys here. I want to connect but I want/need everything to talk to each other and would appreciate 1 app to control it all. I wouldn't mind paying a little bit more up front to not have a recurring charge month after month. It's my system on my phone notifying me. I don't need a middle man.

I'm in the same boat you are and I'm so far leaning towards Vera3, which is a computer appliance that doesn't rely on external services. The vera hosts a web page to control it and I'm still investigating apps. The web page helps since it is OS agnostic.

It natively does zwave and with adapters it can talk to insteon and x10 (although apparently not 100% compatible with everything). It has plug ins for Philips Hue and several security systems.I've had x10 and wasn't super impressed with the powerline communication to the slave modules. I've got too many UPS or surge protectors that eat the signals. Insteon doesn't seem particularly better than zwave in any way I can see. The converse is also true that zwave doesn't really seem better than Insteon.

Security systems can act as sensor inputs to Vera but not the other way. Which in some way works out better since it means the security panel stays functional if the Vera dies. It also means you can set up multiple methods of outreach should something happen, via the Vera and the security panel's phone link. Many security panels now support direct internet access as well as land-line and cellular links with add-in cards.

I'm still in the research phase, trying to find someone who has a config like I'm hoping to have.

I have a combination of Hue lights and Insteon swtiches to give me lighting control. I have six apps on my Blackberry for managing the devices in my home. That includes a Sonos and LG app for my TV.

I liked Insteon as they have a range of devices and are backwards compatible with X10 devices. The Hue lights provide good flexiblity but it's so handy having an on the wall lightswitch that connected. That is a much easier approach.

While not a connected device I also added USB receptacles to all the bedrooms and living rooms to make it easier to charge devices.