Most people that know me, know that I love smart home tech. I’ve been building my ultimate smart home since 2016. One of the things that I hadn’t done yet was to make my outdoor holiday lights smarter. I had been using a simple outdoor plug that turns on at dusk and off at dawn. However, If I wanted to turn them on or off at any other time I’d actually have to go outside and do it manually.
This year my lights got smarter thanks to the Lutron Caseta Outdoor Smart Plug
I got one of these when it first came out earlier in the year to automate the lights on my back patio. I knew then I’d want another one for the winter holiday season for the front lights.
I’ve been building out my smart home since 2016. I use all three leading smart home platforms: Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa and Google Home and while each one has its advantages, Apple HomeKit is my platform of choice as it does the most. While just about any device can be controlled via an app, what makes a smart home really smart is when you can control multiple devices with a single voice command, scene or automation. With HomeKit I have automations setup like “Going Upstairs” which locks the entry doors, turns off the patio fans, turns off the family room lights and fan, turns on the hallway lights, changes colors of the Hue lights in the bedroom, makes sure the garage doors are closed, arms the alarm “home”, closes the blinds and turns off the TV downstairs. There is no other platform besides HomeKit that would let me do all of those things using devices from so many different manufacturers, with one command.
I wanted to create this video last year and then the pandemic hit and I decided to postpone it. I finally sat down to create it and here it is:
Although I put the links to everything in the video description, there is a character limit and I couldn’t go into much detail. Therefore I’ve also put the descriptions and links to each product below:
I recently added three new items to my smart home. The first one is one I’ve been waiting for the longest. When my home was built in 2016 I went with a Ring Pro doorbell. It was a good choice at the time and has worked well for me. However, my smart home platform of choice is Apple’s HomeKit and Ring is not native to HomeKit. While I was able to integrate it through unofficial HomeBridge support, HomeBridge doesn’t give it all the available features of HomeKit and now HomeKit Secure Video. While there have been a couple of entries into the HomeKit video doorbell market, one is extremely expensive and the other one doesn’t yet support HomeKit Secure Video. That all changed last week with the introduction of Logitech’s Circle View Wired Doorbell.
Logitech Circle View Wired Doorbell
Logitech is no stranger to HomeKit. Their Logitech Circle cameras are in use and loved by many, but this is their first entry into the video doorbell market. Sometimes it’s better not to be first. By taking their time they got many things right out of the gate that others still struggle with. First and foremost this doorbell not only supports HomeKit but also supports HomeKit Secure Video which is Apple’s locally encrypted video stored in iCloud. Most others promise this feature in an upcoming software update or not at all. Logitech built it in from the start. They also did a great job including everything you would need including a choice of mounting brackets.
I have always been fascinated by solar since I was a child. The thought that there is this giant fusion reactor in the sky that can provide power freely to the entire planet is amazing. When Tesla rolled out their NEW Solar Roof (actual solar tiles that replace traditional shingles) I was like WOAH! The only problem is that my house is fairly new. It was built in May 2016 and therefore the roof is too new to simply rip off, throw away and start over. I wasn’t willing to take that loss. I went the next best route. I had solar panels installed instead.
I had a solar system installed at the end of 2019
I wanted to take advantage of the Federal Tax Credit which for 2019 was 30%. That takes a sizable chunk off the cost of the system and resulted in a tax refund.
Motion / Occupancy Sensors can make a smart home that much more smart and convenient. However, most of them suffer from slow response times. What good is a motion sensor if you walk past it and it takes several seconds to actually do what you set it up to do? Or worse it doesn’t respond at all. Walking into a dark room or hallway in the middle of the night and having the lights come on is a wonderful thing. Walking several steps into that dark room or hallway before the light comes on, not so much. I know what some of you are saying…”just hit the switch on the wall. Problem solved.” Yep. That would do it. So would getting up and changing the volume on the TV, yet you use a remote control. Convenience is convenience. Everyone has a different threshold.
The Lutron Caséta Occupancy Sensor has the best response time, but…
I can’t believe that it has been almost two years since I moved away from my Apple AirPort Extreme WiFi routers. You can see my original Linksys Velop review from May 2018 here. I grew my original three node Tri-band Linksys Velop network to five nodes that year and it worked pretty well for me. However, I’m a speed freak. I want the fastest possible network speeds that I can get and I zero tolerance for dead spots. I have a fairly large network with anywhere from 110 to 130 devices connected at any given time. I also have a smart home and stable fast WiFi is a must for a smart home to function successfully. This need for speed lead me to look at the NEW Linksys Velop WiFi 6 Mesh Router.
The Linksys Velop WiFi 6 Mesh Router is a BEAST!
It’s not only significantly larger in size, but it also improves upon the Velop Tri-band Mesh Router in every way. The specs are mouth-watering.
I’ve been into home automation and smart home gear for years. I really got serious about it when we built a new house in 2016. A new house meant being about to start from scratch with the best solutions for every aspect of home automation that I wanted. When you talk smart home the usual suspects come to people’s minds: lights, cameras, thermostats, locks, security systems, shades/window blinds, garage door openers, etc. Beyond simple control from your smartphone, smart home automation is really about Scenes and Routines. It’s about using one verbal command, or press one button or come home and have a series of things happen.
This is when picking a smart home platform comes into play
My house was built in 2016. Back then I went with the security system that had been partnered with the builder. It turned out to be Alarm.com and later was acquired by Brinks. The system itself did its job. I was even able to set it up so that it could be armed via my voice by Alexa, Google Home and their mobile app. The system was basic and covered all the entry doors as well as a motion detector. It included a panel on the wall and this panel had the siren built-in as well as a cellular connection to the monitoring service. That’s it.
Why I switched from a system that I had paid off to one that I would have to buy from scratch?
It was roughly 17 years ago that the first Roomba robotic vacuum was introduced. Being a gadget geek I bought one. It was OK. Yes as a vacuum I was immediately amazed by how much it actually picked up, but as time went on it was obvious that the “brain” of the original Roomba wasn’t that smart. It would seemingly randomly go over the same places over and over again while missing other places completely. It was also easy for it to get stuck and not figure out how to get free. Lastly, it almost never returned home on its own. I would have to pick it up and return it to the charging base more often than not. When the rechargeable batteries died, I never bothered to replace them. I was over it.
17 Years Later the iRobot Roomba 960 is MUCH MUCH BETTER!
Vacuuming is absolutely a task that needs to be done and is one that in most cases we wish it could be done by someone or something else. There isn’t much joy derived from vacuuming by hand. So if you could literally have a robot (or should I say droid – sorry I had a Star Wars moment) do it. Why not? I researched various robotic vacuums and settled on the iRobot Roomba 960 It’s in the middle of the product line. It’s not the most or least expensive model. It’s priced and featured comfortably right in the middle. Trust me, it wasn’t easy spending this much money on something that I hadn’t proven to be worth it, but a little over a month later and I couldn’t imagine life without it.
Thanks to Amazon’s new Influencer Program, I can now put all my gadget and photography recommendations in one place. This is the most complete guide that I’ve ever had simply because Amazon carries so many products. Does this mean that I don’t shop or recommend places like B&H Photo anymore? Absolutely not. I love B&H and quite honestly I will continue to buy my big ticket photography gear and electronics from there. However, there are so many things that I recommend that B&H just doesn’t carry. That’s why I’m stoked to have the opportunity to have my own spot on Amazon. There isn’t anything here that I haven’t used personally. The only possible exception would be a newer version of a gadget or piece of tech that I use that is no longer available.
They are nicely organized by category. You can see my recommendations here.