It doesn’t take a technological genius to turn a wired home into a smart home. The do-it-yourselfer can choose from several home-automation technologies, even mix and match because they’re all controlled by smartphone apps.
New for 2015 (and beyond):
Now that it’s owned by Google, Nest is evolving into the centerpiece of a home-automation system. The “Works with Nest” program this year adds 15 partner manufacturers whose products communicate with the company’s thermostat and smoke detector.
If you own an Ooma home phone system with Premier service – free calls over your existing phones with a broadband connection – the Nest Protect now prompts a call to your smartphone when it detects smoke or unsafe carbon dioxide levels.
A Nest thermostat can also trigger a call if a child or other family member doesn’t arrive home by a certain time. Or, when the house empties, Nest automatically shifts LG’s smart refrigerator into power-saving mode. ChargePoint electric-vehicle chargers, Kwikset Kevo and August smart locks, Philips Hue lighting system and Whirlpool smart washer-dryers have joined the program too.
Given the price of a Nest thermostat ($249) or Protect ($99), an Ooma Telo base station ($109.99) and a Philips Hue three-bulb starter pack ($199.95), this is not a home reno gone wild.
Available: New partner products vary by manufacturer.
Belkin’s home-automation products empower a smartphone app with full control of WeMo devices, among them a light switch, baby monitor, motion sensor, slow cooker and, eventually, a water sensor.
WeMo Water, still in development this year even though Belkin featured it at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, attaches to a cold-water line and, when plugged in, monitors every fixture in the house. It knows when each shower or toilet is used, for how long, and tracks water consumption by sensing vibrations throughout the plumbing system. New WeMo products expected later this year include door/window, alarm and motion sensors.
Available: Sensors due in second half of the year.
A spotlight with eyes: The Snap packages an indoor-outdoor LED bulb (estimated life: 25,000 hours) with a built-in wireless 720p security camera, microphone and speaker.
From a smartphone app, you’ll see if it’s a FedEx delivery person or the nosy neighbor at your door. Aside from basic voice-motion activation and cloud recording, the Snap also uses facial-recognition technology to send a notification when someone you know has arrived.
Available: Midyear, price unavailable.
Roost smart battery
How to turn an old-style but still functional smoke detector into a Wi-Fi-connected smart sensor? Replace the 9-volt battery with this $40 retrofit that adds a Wi-Fi chip to two lithium cells that should power the detector for up to five years.
The chip connects to a home network and sends an alert, via smartphone app, when an alarm sounds or when the battery needs replacing.