Help me Automate my new apartment/townhome
March 18, 2014 10:23 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for ways to simplify/automate my apartment. Things like automatic lighting, automatic fridge contents lists, everything turning on/playing music when I enter my apartment, and any other household hacks. I don't have android OS.

So, I move into my new townhome in July. My hobby lately has been looking for the furniture, accessories, and updates that I can do to it. I can change anything I want in the townhome and leave it for the next person to live there.

What do I do at home?

-Change clothes
-Play video games
-Play board games
-Watch movies
-get lots of packages when I am not home
-play piano
-drink with friends [very rarely]

What are some automation things I would be interested in?

-LED Backlighting turns on when I enter the apartment.
-light switches turning on/off all lights in room.
-wifi controlled speakers/lights/music
-music that turns on when I enter the apartment
-My refrigerator to tell me when I am low on milk, bread, etc
-Sleep mode that turns off all lights/noises/music
-programmable thermostat

What are my tools?


I would love to hear any suggestions or anything you already do at your home.
posted by bbqturtle to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I would look into some of the options that integrate with If This Then That. I don't know anything about automation but I did see quite a few cool ones when I browsed recipes.
posted by radioamy at 10:45 AM on March 18, 2014

I love the Wemo line for automating random things. You can use IFTTT to geo-fence (that is, turn it on/off when you get/leave home) just about everything using your iPhone if they're connected to Wemo devices.

For a programmable thermostat, the Nest is the most popular, but that will use a large part of your budget.
posted by cgg at 10:53 AM on March 18, 2014

Add motion-sensing lights in closets/laundry room. ($20/each)
If you have an office desk with multiple monitors, buy a monitor arm on eBay. Instant increase to space and comfort. ($50)
Get a security cam for your front door that notifies you when people are there. ($50/ebay)
posted by blue_beetle at 11:03 AM on March 18, 2014

Unfortunately, $500 won't get you very far. Home automation is still, sadly, very expensive.

The easiest thing would probably be the programmable thermostat - if by programmable you mean different set points for different times of day. Those can be had for as little as $25. You could also upgrade to a wifi model that allows you to change temp on the fly with an app. High-end would be a Nest, but that's half your budget.

After that, wifi or bluetooth controlled light switches are available. There are several brand names available (on preview, Wemo is a big one), plus discount models that probably work well too. I know Monoprice has some. Various models allow you to set schedules, use geofencing to turn on when you get home, and even use closer proximity (based on bluetooth signal strength) to turn on a light only when you are in the room, etc.

I know with Android (which you don't have) there are several automation apps, such as Tasker, that could be used to automatically start playing music when the phone connects to a specific wifi network or bluetooth speaker. So that would be relatively easy - buy a bluetooth speaker for your home, leave it turned on, and let your phone auto-discover and start playing whenever you are in range. Not sure if there are similar apps on iphone to accomplish this though.

For your fridge to know that you are low on milk, you'd probably need to place your milk on some sort of pressure switch with a wireless connection that can send a notification to another device when the weight of the milk carton is below a certain threshold. Not sure if that really even exists right now in the consumer market, but if it does, it's probably above your budget.

Since most automation tools are easily and non-destructively installed, I'd recommend focusing on just two or three things at a time, based on priorities. Definitely go with the thermostat first - that also will provide proven long-term cost savings. After that, what do you really want? Convenience of lights coming on for you when you get home? Get a few smart switches. Convenience of wireless speakers for entertaining? Get a wifi or bluetooth capable stereo.
posted by trivia genius at 11:03 AM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: security cam for your front door that notifies you when people are there.

Can you tell me more about this? it sounds nice. Any ideas for the best wifi-locks?
posted by bbqturtle at 11:08 AM on March 18, 2014

Response by poster: With all the love for nest, I might spend half my budget on that. I'm a little worried because some people have problems with the motion detection and the power cables, and I'm not sure what the cables will be for the thermostat.

I love the idea for automatic closet lights. I would love to hear more information about these and the best ones/best setups.

and maybe I'll figure out a way to IFTTT the music and other stuff.

Keep the ideas coming!
posted by bbqturtle at 11:12 AM on March 18, 2014

Phillips partnered with Apple to create LED bulbs addressable via wifi/iPhone app. You can even save different configurations for the same room, so a single button push and you go from romantic evening lighting to cocktail party. Or whatever. And can do any colour of the rainbow I think.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:51 AM on March 18, 2014

Sorry, the Phillips thing is called Hue.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:01 PM on March 18, 2014

Response by poster: Automated/motion sensor lights in closets/laundry/utility rooms are awesome. I was on the fence about putting them in my house, but they are awesome and cheap.

Can you tell me more about your setup and recommendations for what to buy/how to install?

posted by bbqturtle at 12:33 PM on March 18, 2014

I asked my brother about this and he suggested that using bluetooth to move audio through your home is bad because the lag can cause different speakers to be out of sync - much better is to run audio cables from a centralized location to multiple small speakers, using a splitter.

Many people recommend using an android phone with a bad battery as a media server, which I bet you could control via text or IM (and if that's true, you could use IFTTT to automate it).
posted by rebent at 6:47 AM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

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