SCHOOL’S out — and more than 16million Brits are headed overseas for fun in the sun. Or so they hope. Half of us worry about leaving the house empty for more than a day and Booking.com says one in five get so stressed at the thought of returning to find their pad’s been looted, flooded, used as a squat — or possibly all three — that they fail to switch into holiday mode at all. How’s that for a sun downer?
Modern technology is, of course, here to ease those fears with a suite of smart home-tech that’s just longing to keep you posted on matters back in Blighty. Concerned you’ve left the iron on? Did you double-lock the door? These two questions need never bother you again. Bon voyage!
Beat the burglars
There is about one burglary per minute in the UK but also a buzzillion bits of smart home gadgets tech to help. Home security cameras are the biggie. Plant one on the bookshelf of your living room and it will notify you if it senses motion or sound when you’re not home and automatically start recording. And make sure it’s got an alarm loud enough to force a burglar into a fast retreat before they grab your telly. Some come with face-recognition tech and there are also outdoor models for keeping eyes on your garden and stopping crooks before they even make it inside.
Smart locks are an option for the future but, right now, they’re all a bit too ‘early adopter’ to be reliable. Instead, try a smart doorbell, such as the Ring Video Door Bell 2 (£179, ring.com), which will notify you of any movement around your doorstep.
Three-quarters of burglars gain access through doors so it’s more effective than you might think. You’ll get a live video stream and the chance to have a walkie-talkie style chat with the postie, salesperson or whomever else is trying to gain access.
Keeping your curtains shut isn’t bad for hiding whether you are home or not but scheduled, smart light bulbs are even better. LIFX (£49.99, amazon.co.uk) does a very decent range of wi-fi-enabled LEDs in bayonet, screw and strip light form. You get all the fun of setting colours and intensities for your movie watching and sexy time needs plus, of course, you can confuse the hell out of any would-be burglar while enjoying your poolside pina colada.
Washing machine nearing the end of its life cycle? Bathroom plumbing seen better days? These are the real reasons to worry because, with insurance companies paying out £2.5million every day on this, water is the number one cause of damage to UK homes (so says the Association of British Insurers). A smart leak sensor is what you need if the prospect of flooding your neighbours is stopping you snooze in your palm tree hammock.
If you have a particular pipe, place or product that you suspect is a bit of a weak spot then pick yourself up Honeywell’s The Lyric W1 Wi-Fi Water Leak and Freeze Detector (£64.99, amazon.co.uk). Mount the battery-powered end, with the 100dB alarm inside, on your wall and then place a 1.2m moisture-sensing cable wherever you think it’s needed. Cable extensions can reach 150m.
Workmen can trail the Lyric’s line under the floorboards where it can detect leaks. Otherwise, pop it on top of your tiles and underneath your wonkier white goods. As well as blasting eardrums for miles around when it goes off, it also notifies you and nominated others with a text.
If you’ve no idea where your house is going to spring a leak, the sensible and general purpose solution is LeakBot (£149, leakbot.io). It sits on your mains pipe and monitors water flow around your house. If it senses even a small leak, it’ll notify you straight away. The Grohe Sense Guard (£439, coming in September) acts as a connected stopcock. Get a message about a blockage or a burst pipe and you can remotely send your water supply into lockdown.
Tackle burning issues
A smart smoke alarm is the only thing to prevent total disaster on this front, short of persuading a firefighter to housesit, and the second generation Nest Protect (£99, store.nest.com) is a good option. Should it catch a whiff of a blaze or sense a carbon monoxide leak, you’ll get an emergency alert to any mobiles you’ve linked to your Nest account.
So, between you in the taverna, your mum back home and your neighbour clutching their ears, someone can then call the emergency services into action.
Power for flowers
A thirsty Yucca plant might not sound like an emergency to you but there are dedicated gardeners for whom deserting their charge in the height of a heatwave is something they’ll never settle into, no matter how many hot stone massages they book themselves in for. No need to sweat it nor trust your flakey neighbours with the keys and watering responsibilities because there’s some really solid smart gardening kit.
Your first port of call is GreenIQ (£199, vesternet.com). It’s a connected irrigation controller that hooks up to your hosepipes at one end and your home wi-fi at the other.
It then taps into real-time local weather info and turns on your sprinklers only when it knows your beds are getting dry.
Hook it up to the popular Netatmo Weather Station (£139, shop.netatmo.com) to measure the humidity, temperature and barometric pressure of your backyard to really fine tune that environmental data.
The upshot is that you’ll save money, you’ll save the planet and you’ll save your radishes, too.
Smart Home Cover
GETTING your smart home protection set up needn’t require a degree in electronics nor a second mortgage. Insurance companies are getting wise to how connected kit can stop small problems becoming bigger, more expensive problems. That saves them on claims and customers on premiums. On August 7 Neos (neos.co.uk) will become the UK’s first connected home insurance specialist to provide and install all your cameras and detectors included as part of the premium. You get a dedicated Neos app to control the lot, 24/7 emergency assistance and a no claims promise that the price is fixed for three years. Cover starts from £200.