Part 1: A Connected Home & A Race Against Time

In the first of a two-part series, a SmartThings user describes how he uses SmartThings to monitor and control his home away from home, and races back to try and save his property from a devastating hurricane.

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“What you do when you’re four hours away from your vacation home and there’s a hurricane headed straight toward it?

If you’re me, you ask yourself questions like: Will it get damaged? Will it flood? Heck… will it survive?

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

An article in early 2012 about some dude named Alex piqued my interest. He had arrived back at his mountain cabin only to find that a busted pipe had flooded the whole thing, and he started wondering why humans couldn’t keep an eye on what’s going on in their homes away from home without spending a fortune. I thought his brainchild could help me, and so I got SmartThings.

After using SmartThings for several months in our full-time home, we decided to bring it to our beach house that we rent when we’re not vacationing there. I was eager to see how the connected lifestyle would affect our peace of mind and convenience in a place where we went to get away from it all.

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The calm before the storm.

I started by installing wall outlets in each bedroom where the TVs, DVD players, and cable boxes are plugged in. I found I could power them off when the house was not being used and save some money on electricity bills. We also installed more wall outlets for our top-floor lamps. Now, not only can lights automatically turn on and off at night when we come and go, but I can also make it look like there’s someone home when wandering beach bums come looking for a place to crash.

While we open up the house for guests, there are a few areas that I ask renters not to access: certain closets and a storage cabinet in the kitchen (off-limits mainly because it’s where I keep my 12-year-old Scotch). To make sure no one tampers with these spots, I installed a SmartThings Multi sensor to monitor whether doors opened and ensure no one was sneaking.

When no one is using the property, I use the Notify Me When SmartApp and the SmartSense Motion sensor in the main hallway to alert me of any movement. Another Multi on the back doors lets me know if someone is tampering with or has opened them. If either of these security measures alerts me that I have unwanted guests, I’ve also installed the Big Turn On SmartApp to light up the place and scare off anyone as soon as there’s unexpected motion.

In addition to safety and security, SmartThings packs a lot of wow-factor. I installed Z-Wave switches and use the Turn It On When I’m Here SmartApp to trigger the outdoor spotlights and pool lighting to automatically come on when my kids or I are around. It’s a big hit with our family and friends. One night as we were coming back from dinner and turned onto our road, the house immediately lit up. I don’t know if I was more satisfied with how cool it was or that we could actually see how to get back into our house in the dark. We love walking along the beach at night, and being able to light the path back to our house is really magical.

David and his family outside their beach home.

Security, convenience, and fun aside, perhaps the best use that we’ve gotten from SmartThings so far was the recent installation of the CT 2-gig programmable thermostat for the upstairs HVAC. I can now monitor and adjust the temperature as needed and save some big bucks. It’s been great to get an alert if a temperature that I’ve set has been adjusted­ (dang kids!) and also get a warning if temperatures inside our home get dangerously cold while we’re not there.

I installed a Multi on the bottom-floor, unheated closest. It’s the farthest closet from the thermostat and generally the coldest part of the house. Whenever it gets too cold, I know to crank on a space heater in that room so that I can keep those pipes from freezing. I suppose this is exactly what Alex was looking for a few years ago!

Little did we know it, but 11 months after we brought SmartThings to our beach-front rental home, Hurricane Sandy would strike…”

– David


Check back on Monday to see what happens to David’s beachfront property when one of the most devastating storms in US history comes calling.

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