Smart Home Technology for Renters
By Todd Wasserman
Ah, renting. No worries of having to keep up with maintenance or worry about replacing the boiler when it blows. But wait, it gets better: Home automation can make this lifestyle even more carefree.
If you're a renter, you have lots of company, According to Trulia, some 41.1% of U.S. households were renters in 2014 versus 36.1% in 2006.
This huge segment of the population can enjoy the benefits of home automation just like homeowners do. Many of the solutions on the market are designed to be mobile. In some cases, you can set up and dismantle a home automation system in under 30 minutes.
Renters don't have to be content to use whatever security system their landlord provides. One quick way to get started is by purchasing a smart camera, which can do everything from monitor a naughty pet to allow you to monitor your place from afar via your smartphone. For simplicity's sake, steer clear of first-generation security cameras that require you to enter an IP address (that's the string of numbers that identify your device's connection to the Internet). Setting up such systems can be a needlessly complex process.
A better option is an Internet-connected "smart camera." Setup will require some drilling, so you might want to get the green light from your landlord first. One variable to look for is alerts. If you want the option to be alerted whenever the camera picks up something strange, some systems will let you do that. If you'd rather not be bothered every time a cat walks by your door, though, then you may want to dial back on the alerts. Indoor versions of these cameras are another option. They're easier to set up. Some use magnetic or suction cup mounts so you don't have to drill into the wall.
If you're looking for a great way to streamline apartment living, you might want to take advantage of personal virtual assistant apps and technology. Most of the well-known personal virtual assistant technology, like Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa, can accept commands, like ordering pizza or hosting an impromptu trivia contest (fun!), as well as provide real-time information about news, traffic and weather. Not only that, but they can work with some new smart appliances. Specifically, Google and Amazon virtual assistants work in tandem with smart wireless speakers. Likewise, Apple offers similar voice-controlled convenience, but without the need for a wireless smart speaker. With the Home app on your iPhone, iPad or Apple TV, you can use Siri to control connected devices around your apartment.
For example, if you enter your apartment with an armful of groceries, ordering Apple Siri or Amazon Alexa to "turn on the lights" can make your entrance easier. One quick way to get started is with one of the starter kits on the market. For about $160, such a kit will include a bridge and three smart bulbs. Setup is almost as simple as screwing in a light bulb. Color options for the bulbs also help you personalize your space and turn your living room into a night club. Woot! Before you purchase smart lights and other connected devices for your apartment, make sure they're compatible with whatever virtual personal assistant you're using, i.e. Apple Home/Siri, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant
While appliance choices are up to your landlord, you can easily install your own monitors to alert your phone when carbon monoxide levels are too high or if there's smoke. Aside from connecting to Wi-Fi, setup is as easy as any other smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector.
Renters have a lot of options for experiencing the best of home automation. Best of all, you can take it with you when you leave.