By: Laurie Mega
These days, it seems that everything is “smart,” from toothbrushes to diapers (yes, MIT has invented the smart diaper). It’s questionable whether we need some of this tech.
But smart tech in homes actually makes a lot of sense. It can increase water and energy efficiency while reducing costs. Smart security systems add another layer of protection to properties.
If your business runs on a build-to-rent model, it’s worth considering smart tech and smart home hubs in new builds, as well as in updates of your current properties. If you are a management-only firm, it might be worth discussing smart tech upgrades with owners.
With everything out there, it’s tough to know where to start. So, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite ways to add smart tech to single family properties.
The Smart Tech Hub
Before we talk about individual smart tech options, we first have to start with the hub. A voice-activated device or a smart home hub will be the central control for all of the smart tech you install.
After all, the convenience factor is completely lost if you and your tenants have to download a bunch of apps and remember a whole lot of credentials to get anything to work.
Most smart devices work with Google Home, Siri, and Alexa. You can also install a panel in the home or a central app on a device to bring everything together.
In the Kitchen
The kitchen is a busy place. When you’re in a full meal-prep mode, it can feel like you need more than two hands. And how often do you reach for the faucet or a recipe book and realize your hands are covered in something?
If you’re looking to attract tenants, smart tech in the kitchen, from voice-activated appliances to AI tech in the fridge is a great place to start.
Faucets, particularly those in the bathroom, are one of the germiest spots in a home. So, a touchless faucet is an attractive feature.
But smart faucets are more than just touchless. They respond to voice commands through Alexa, Google Home, or Siri. You can ask it to dispense a particular amount of water, such as 3 cups or 12 ounces, and some even allow you to save certain amounts for future use. So, when you say “teapot” you’ll always get eight ounces of water, for instance.
Smart faucets let users review their water consumption, as well.
You can pretty much make any kitchen appliance smart, and they all run on voice command from your home device.
For mealtime, there are microwaves that scan barcodes for cooking instructions and stoves you can send recipes to and preheat on your way home.
Refrigerators do everything from keeping a grocery list to tell you the weather. And smart dishwashers can be voice- or app-controlled. They automatically adjust water and temperature to the size of the load, as well, saving water and energy.
All of these appliances can be a major selling point for tenants who are looking for hands-free convenience in the kitchen.
Heating and HVAC
Converting heating and HVAC to smart devices is a big win for property managers and owners who are looking for an easy way to cut heating and cooling costs. They’re also attractive to tenants, who can control their climate more easily.
Smart thermostats are incredibly useful devices. They will run on pre-programmed temperature settings, like most thermostats, but they’ll also use motion detectors and AI to learn the daily patterns of tenants and adjust accordingly.
This is a big advantage over programmable thermostats since most people don’t bother to program them in the first place.
If your units have more than one zone, the thermostats will “talk” to one another to keep a consistent temperature throughout the house.
Smart thermostats let you monitor your energy consumption, as well. And you can adjust temperatures from afar. Let’s say your tenant goes on vacation for a few weeks and an unexpected cold snap strikes the region. Rather than worry about broken pipes, your tenant can raise the temperature in their home from wherever they are.
Smart Window Shades
You might wonder why we put window shades in this category. It’s because the right window shades can reduce heat loss through windows by 40 percent and heat gain through windows by 80 percent, according to Energy.gov.
Smart shades can be raised or lowered on a schedule or through an app, to maximize the amount of heat gained and minimize the heat lost through your windows.
You can also use voice commands to raise and lower blinds, handy if your tenant gets out of the shower and realizes the blinds are still up.
Doors and Locks
Ensure the safety of your properties and your tenants with the use of smart locks and garage doors. Here’s how.
Smart locks have a number of benefits for both tenants and property managers. First, they allow touchless entry, which is garnering more attention in the age of COVID-19. Viruses can live on doorknobs for up to 24 hours, and bacteria such as MRSA can live even longer – up to a few weeks.
Smart locks also allow tenants to lock and unlock doors remotely. So, if they forgot to lock the door in their rush to leave, they can do it from anywhere. They can also open the door for children coming home from school or even members of your staff coming to complete maintenance requests.
Finally, smart locks allow you to show vacant properties without having to be there. As lockdown protocols constantly change throughout the U.S., many real estate agents and property managers are conducting self-showings to maintain social distancing. A scheduling app and smart lock will allow you to open and close the property at certain times so prospective tenants can access to your vacant units.
How many times have you left the house and wondered if you closed the garage door? A smart garage door eliminates that worry.
Amazon even has a garage delivery service called Amazon Key. Tenants can take delivery of their packages in a safe, contactless way. And if they’re not home, delivery personnel can leave packages in the garage instead of on the front steps, where they can be stolen.
Lighting and Electrical
Because smart bulbs are more energy-efficient and the ability to schedule lights means they’re only on when they need to be, your tenants can save money.
It’s worth noting that some of these smart devices do draw some wattage even when not in use, but the amount is negligible, only about a watt.
Interior and Exterior Lights
Lights have been programmable for ages, and solar tech made it easy to control outdoor lights without having to worry about seasonal changes. But smart lights take lighting technology even further.
Smart lights can be controlled through an app or through voice command with a home device. If a tenant forgets to turn the lights off, they can do it from anywhere. If they’re coming home late at night, they can turn on the lights before they arrive.
If you install smart lightbulbs, though, tenants can program different lighting “moods.” For instance, they can ask their home device to set the lights to “work mode” for brighter light or “evening mode” for more subdued lighting that uses less energy.
Smart lightbulbs even change color, which can be fun for kids in the house.
Smart lightbulbs are LED, so they use only 20 to 25 percent of the energy traditional bulbs do, and they last 15 to 25 times longer. And if a tenant can control all of their lights with one command, they may be more likely to turn them on and off only when they need them, saving money.
Property managers can use waterproof smart bulbs for exterior pathways, decks, and driveways.
There are two kinds of smart plugs. The first plug into existing sockets that allow you to turn regular electrical devices on and off using voice commands or an app.
But they can do some other pretty cool things, too. Some can detect flooding in the home and can alert you when standing water hits their sensors. They can reduce wattage with certain appliances and can help you monitor energy consumption through an app.
Smart outlets pretty much work the same way. They’re just more permanent.
Of all the reasons to install smart tech, security is one of the top ones, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Smart doorbells, like Amazon’s Ring, include a security camera and alerts that pop up on your phone when someone rings the doorbell. Even if they don’t, the motion detector will alert you to movement outside your door.
You can also talk to someone at the door through a two-way communication system, and you can communicate with other Ring users in your area through message boards.
Smart Security Cameras
Smart security cameras work much the same way as Ring and other smart doorbells. You can see what’s happening on your properties at any time from your phone.
A word of caution, however. You cannot violate the privacy of your tenants by using the cameras to look in on them whenever you like.
There are so many other smart home devices we haven’t even mentioned here. There are smart sprinklers that adjust to temperature and rainfall. Smart fireplaces can be controlled remotely and come with safety detectors. There are even WiFi-enabled smart ceiling fans.
The kind of tech you choose all depends on what you, your tenants, and your owners are looking for. Is it security? Energy efficiency? Convenience? Maybe all three?
Survey your tenants and work with your owners to determine the best kinds of smart tech for your properties.