THIS IS A SPONSORED POST SUPPORTED BY MAPLIN
When I was asked if I’d like to turn my home into the smartest of smart homes I was interested – LOVE a gadget – but secretly dubious as to whether these devices would become part of my unthinking daily life. After all, I’ve coped for twenty years since I left home without asking a speaker the time, or stalking my visitors through a wall mounted camera.
But then I got to thinking how annoyed I was when some overnight guests turned my thermostat to 30C in my absence, about the piles of parcels I regularly have to trek to the sorting office to rescue, and how I dislike returning home to a dark house during the winter months and my new smart home started to seem like less of an indulgent experiment and more like a sensible way to run my life.
The Google Home was my smart home gateway drug. It’s a doddle to set up, working as well with an iPhone as with an Android system, and although I’ve barely touched the tip of the iceberg of what it can do, I ask it the time continuously, and get it to give me directions to my meetings when I’m hopping around the bedroom trying to get dressed and no time to check my ‘phone. Most usefully it’s linked to my Spotify account so I can play music in my living room, as well as stream songs from both my iPad and my iPhone through it
Google Home, £119 (Originally £129) www.maplin.co.uk/p/google-home-white-and-slate-a14xl
When I decided to really go for the full smart home effect I used Maplin’s home service – a technician came out to my house to test, firstly my bandwidth and speed of up and downloads, and then check my boiler for suitability for a Nest system, and to talk me through the kind of smart gadgets I thought might work with my lifestyle. We settled on a Nest, a Ring, and a Philips Hue system.
A week or so later, I made use of the Maplin installation service – I’m reasonably handy but my boiler is not straightforward and I felt happier knowing someone else could fit it quickly and easily, and troubleshoot any issues along the way, and if there is drilling into walls to be done then I am very, very happy to delegate.
This is the bit where I was REALLY glad I wasn’t fitting it myself.
Boiler dealt with, the fitting of the thermostat was pretty quick. My old dial was replaced the Nest one.
Truthfully this has been a life-changing smart gadget – I had no idea how to set the thermostat on this boiler – or on the one in the old flat where I lived for five years and, consequently, I’ve always come home to a cold house, and woken up shivering in the mornings. I don’t actually mind the cold – I grew up in a house with no central heating, and the family motto is to simply put another dog or cat down the duvet for warming purposes, but oh my goodness the LUXURY of being able to easily programme a week of heating on the app on my ‘phone, and then easily override it if I am unexpectedly away or coming home early.
The Nest is also a learning thermostat and can adjust the temperature if it senses that you are out, so I’m fully expecting a diminution in my heating bills too. It’s extremely intuitive to use and I can’t imagine not having one now.
And no more pesky guests getting jiggy with the dial – you can lock the hallway thermostat so no one can change the temperature apart from the person with the phone app or in possession of the password.
Nest – Learning Thermostat, £219 www.maplin.co.uk/p/nest-learning-thermostat-3rd-generation-a90uf
This next piece of kit is the Philips Hue lighting system. Compatible with Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple Homekit, it allows you to control your lights from anywhere. I had first heard about this from my sister – her MS means that it’s important for her to conserve her energy at all times. When she comes in to the house – and departs – the last thing she wants to do is go into all the rooms turning lights on and off. I thought that automated lights were a great idea then, but when I found out what else they could do I thought they were magic.
You can set your lighting to change to different tones at different times, and you can set light schedules to automatically turn lights on/off at certain times. If you are away from home you can make it look like your house is inhabited by setting a random on/off pattern, or you could simply set the lights to come on at dusk when you are at work so that you don’t come home to a dark house. Perfect for someone like me who travels all the time.
Of course now that I am all about my home hub, they also connect to my Google Home so I can control the lights with my voice. So, when I’m at home I can vocally control my lights. A quick “Hey Google, turn off living room light” and I never have to get out of bed to turn off the house lights again.
All this happens with Hue Bridge: you connect it to your home network router, download the official Hue app on an Android or iOS device, and then you can set lighting schedules and control your lights from anywhere.
One of the reasons I really love the lights is that the beautiful vintage lamp in the photo above doesn’t have a switch – it has to be turned off at the wall at a plug socket that requires me to crawl underneath my desk with my bum in the air. Now I can just turn it on and off with my voice or with the portable switch – it’s magnetic so I’ve put it on the white board in my kitchen.
Hue LED bulbs run at a low power of just 10 watts, so you can operate this bulb for up to 25,000 hours with an A grade energy efficiency rating. The bulbs are easily fitted – you simply scan for the new bulb on the Philips Hue app to add it to your system.
so this brings me to the Ring. ah..Ring. When I first heard about the Ring system I wasn’t sure that I really needed a smart doorbell. It seemed like automation a step too far. Now, of course, I think it might be my favourite of all the devices that I have had installed. Picture this: I’m lying on a sofa by a fire somewhere in the North East of England, Lettice snoozling by my side as I write emails on my laptop. My iPhone buzzes – it’s a home screen alert telling me that someone is ringing my doorbell hundreds of miles away in London.
All I have to do is tap the alert and it automatically opens up the Ring screen with a video view outside my front door.
The camera is embedded in the doorbell and the unit was angled when fitted so that I can see up the steps by my front door shows me who is standing there. I can press a phone icon and immediately speak to the person at my door. This week it has been invaluable – I must have spoken to ten or more couriers delivering parcels, and I have been able to direct them all to a neighbour or safe place, thus avoiding multiple re-deliveries and ensuring that all my parcels were waiting for me upon my return. No more missed deliveries, no more hours on the phone or on email trying to rearrange schedules. It is brilliant.
The other thing I love is the motion detector – you can set it to a radius of your choice so it doesn’t pick up, for example, your neighbours going to work each morning, and then whenever anyone is within your designated door distance an alert chimes both in the house and on my phone (you can turn off the chime in the house at will). I love this – sometimes late at night my security light turns on, seemingly for no reason, and now I will be able to see if anyone is out there. Equally it means I can sometimes get to the front door before the bell rings, thereby avoiding setting off the Lettice alarm.
The phone app gives you a full rundown of all motion alerts and doorbell rings over 24 hours – tapping on each alert brings up the video of whatever was outside your front door for playback and, for a very small subscription, you can have up to 30 day’s worth of alerts stored, which would be very handy if you were on on holiday for a fortnight and needed to prove a delivery had – or hadn’t been, attempted.
Ring – Video Doorbell 2, £179 www.maplin.co.uk/p/ring-video-doorbell-2-a03yc
Ring – Chime Pro, £24.99 www.maplin.co.uk/p/ring-wi-fi-enabled-chime-doorbell-a34wj