We’re big fans of home automation at Yellow Brick Home. Over the last few years, our smart home system has grown to include solutions that allow us to control window shades, exterior locks, HVAC systems, lighting, and even music throughout our home! Our home automation journey started a few years ago when we innocently decided we wanted to be able to control our window shades from our phones, which led us to purchase a home automation hub to keep everything consolidated in one place. The hub then opened the door for us to integrate all of our other connected gadgets and it’s made our lives more convenient every step of the way!
While there are an infinite number of smart home solutions available on the market, not all of these convenient devices are a great fit for someone who happens to be renting their home, so how do you know which smart home applications are worth investing in?
Today, we’re creating a master list of devices we have personal experience using, in the hopes that we can answer that very question! As a homeowner, we’ll start with the potential applications for each one and share whether (or not) the investment makes sense if you rent versus own your home. This list could also apply if a move is in the near future and it doesn’t quite make sense to commit to ‘built-in’ automation solutions that won’t be able to transfer into a new home.
Assuming a home is equipped with a modern HVAC system, installing a smart thermostat, like those from Nest or Ecobee, is often as easy as downloading an app and connecting a couple of low-voltage wires. If you own your home, we consider this upgrade to be a no brainer! If you rent your current home, the upgrade to a smart thermostat is usually easy enough that it could be worth the effort to install one when moving in and remove it when moving out. Prior to purchasing, it’s probably a good idea to confirm it’s OK with your landlord and be sure to store the existing thermostat somewhere safe so it doesn’t get misplaced.
The verdict? Thumbs up for homeowners and renters! Renters, keep the old thermostat in a safe place so that it can be reinstalled before you move, allowing you to take the smart thermostat with you.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Modern wifi-equipped smoke detectors can offer a lot of peace of mind. We’ve configured our Nest Protect detectors to send an alert to our phones any time an unsafe situation occurs, allowing us to act fast if we’re away from home. These detectors install in place of, or in addition to, traditional smoke detectors and constantly monitor for smoke and carbon monoxide. From a rental perspective, even if a unit is equipped with its own smoke detectors (which is usually required by law), the addition of a smart detector could help give an early warning in the case of dangerous conditions. These devices can also be moved and reinstalled simply with only a couple of screws, so it would be quite simple for renters to move them between spaces and bring along additional peace of mind.
The verdict? Thumbs up for homeowners and renters! Renters, keep the old detectors in a safe place so that they can be reinstalled before you move, allowing you to take the smart detector(s) with you.
Smart lighting can be controlled a couple of different ways – at the switch with any light bulb (non-smart), or at the socket with a smart bulb. We’re currently utilizing both versions! Since we plan to be in our home for a long time and have multiple sets of recessed ceiling lights, we’ve upgraded many of our switches to wifi-enabled dimmers that can be controlled through our home hub app or via voice control with Alexa. We’ve also recently added a smart bulb system with a Philips Hue starter kit, which would be a fantastic option for a renter, since investing in a smart switch could be considered a longer-term investment.
For the Philips Hue bulbs, once the required hub (included with the starter kit) is in place and the app is configured, adding dimmable smart bulbs in ceiling fixtures, lamps and other light sources is as easy as screwing in a light bulb, no tools required! Because of this ease of use and lack of electrical work, smart bulbs would likely be the best option in a rental home.
The verdict? Thumbs up for homeowners and renters, however, renters will want to consider smart light bulbs as opposed to switches and outlets.
Our whole-home audio system has expanded to fill almost every room of the house, including the back patio, with high-quality sound. The entertainment system in our living room includes custom in-wall and ceiling surround sound speakers that are likely not a great choice for rental applications. Speakers like these require substantial holes to be cut into drywall and wires to be run through wall cavities and most landlords probably aren’t too fond of this idea!
However, for situations where high-quality sound is desired but cutting holes into walls isn’t a viable option, smart speakers and soundbars are a fantastic option! We’ve integrated a Sonos One, which includes native Alexa functionality, into our bedroom. This speaker not only integrates with our existing sound system but allows for voice control of many of our other smart devices with simple commands– without even getting out of bed! These speakers have come an incredibly long way and if we were starting from scratch today, our system would likely be built entirely of Sonos products.
The verdict? Thumbs up for homeowners and renters! Renters will want to consider smart speakers and soundbars, a smaller investment that can move with them to their next home.
Smart door locks are a fantastic way to prevent lockouts from ever happening again. They also allow our friends and family access to our home to dog/cat/house sit without us having to make copies of physical keys, which has been a game changer! We can even grant temporary access codes to trusted contractors that we can then remove once work is complete.
Much like installing a smart thermostat, installing most smart door locks is as simple as removing a couple of screws, popping out the old handleset and installing the new one. If you reside in a rental and have dog walkers or house sitters that require access while you’re away, a smart lockset may be a great solution. Of course, make sure to gain approval from your landlord first and safely store the old handleset so that you can swap it back in before your next move.
The verdict? Thumbs up for homeowners and renters! Renters, keep the old handleset in a safe place so that it can be reinstalled before you move, allowing you to take the smart door lock with you.
Automatic Window Shades
We absolutely love the smart window shades we’ve installed at the front and rear of our home. With our Alexa voice controls, we can have our blinds lower or raise in many different combinations without lifting a finger! While these custom blinds are a great fit for the long-term home that we own, this is one smart home upgrade that isn’t likely a wise investment for renters. In order to fit properly, most shades and blinds will need to be measured and custom created to fit each window precisely. This means that the chances of the blinds being able to be utilized again in another space are incredibly slim.
The verdict? Thumbs up for homeowners, thumbs down for renters. Because window shades are a very specific size, chances are, you can’t take them with you, not making it worth the investment for a rental home.
Whether you rent or own your home, the options for home automation are increasing every day. We’re living in the future! With the simple statement ‘Alexa, trigger evening’ our window shades lower, landscape lights turn on and interior lights dim to the perfect level. The technology is incredible and regardless of how long you plan to be in your space, there are definitely home automation solutions available to fit the needs of homeowners and renters alike.