Here’s a thought: what if we applied the same sort of New Year-inspired aspirational and proactive lifestyle changes for our homes as we hope to accomplish for our bodies. Imagine, instead of planning, purchasing, and promising all in the hopes of dropping a few pounds, what if the goal was to make your home a better place to live, work, and relax. With that in mind we’ve set out to list a roadmap for modernizing and upgrading a home, from room to room:
Declutter: Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up
Marie Kondo became a bit of a cultural phenomenon with her first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It seemed like everyone we knew had picked up a copy or was handed one down from a friend already infected by the Zen of decluttering as prescribed by the Japanese expert. She has a new follow-up book, a sort of illustrated Cliff’s Notes for decluttering and organizing, filled with line drawings illustrating clothing folding methods and storage organization techniques. It seems appropriate a new year requires a new way of living, starting with a more organized home as “step one”.
Improve Airflow: Big Ass Fans Haiku with SenseME
I have one of these ceiling fans installed in our dining room and it’s made a huge difference over this summer, circulating air efficiently and quietly on a programmed schedule (a big deal because we live without air conditioning), a feature that I can adjust remotely using their iOS app (Android compatible too). Surprisingly, it’s also been great at circulating warm air during this autumn too, and the powerfully bright array of LED lights is effective of bringing in simulated sunlight into the darkest room in our home and turning on automatically using a motion sensor at predetermined times. The sleek Haiku was a big upgrade from the frankly unsightly big box home improvement store ceiling fan that it replaced, and I’m planning to purchase a second unit for the TV room.
Upgrade Your Lighting: Cree Connected LED Dimmable Light Bulb
The Cree Connected dimmable LED light bulb, a much more affordable $15 compatible bulb that syncs with either Wink or a ZigBee certified hubs upon entering bulb’s six digit serial number into your existing system. Rated for 815 lumens with an eye-pleasing 2700K light temperature, Cree’s LED bulbs only require 11.5 watts and are rated for a life expectancy of 22.8 years. This is the sort of low hanging fruit home upgrade that seems a little expensive today, but over the lifetime of use will prove to be a smart energy and cost efficient DIY.
Cool Down: Noria Air Conditioner
Not everyone lives in a home or apartment with an HVAC system. For those living in an older building, it’s more likely than not you rely upon a window AC unit during the summer to keep things bearable. But it’s hard to call window AC units anything but an eyesore; at best, they’re tolerable necessities. Plus they’re extremely heavy and difficult for one person to install or remove. The Noria from Likuma Laboratories is shaping up to be a contender as an intriguing cooling solution for renters or those with double-hung windows, addressing traditional negatives associated with window units with a slim and lightweight design that makes installing and removing the unit seasonally a snap. Wi-fi connectivity and control via mobile device are in the plans too!
Get Energy Efficient: Nest Learning Thermostat
The Nest Learning Thermostat was arguably the first important mainstream Internet of Things device that sparked home improvement types to look beyond the hammer and nails aisles and into integrating energy monitoring into their homes. People who had never given much thought about HVAC system were suddenly singing the praises of a device, which looked like nothing before in the category. With its success, manufacturers and developers spiderwebbed outward into every niche of home management and monitoring, with more arriving each day. The Nest Learning Thermostat has evolved further since launch, now in its 3rd generation, even sleeker in shape and size, a brighter and sharper screen, more sensors, and a smarter learning AI capable of adjusting temperature to your preference, then turning itself automatically down to save energy when you’re away. The coolest new feature in this 3rd generation of the Nest Learning Thermostat line is Farsight, a room monitoring technology which lights up the display when you enter the room, showing the temperature you set or the time (with a choice of a digital or analog clock face). Nest is also being continually developed to work in connection and coordination with an expanding stable of other thoughtful home devices in the home, from washing machines to pet feeders, making it a futureproofed ecosystem.
Automate Your Front Door Security: August Smart Home Access System
With the Doorbell Cam, Smart Keypad, and Smart Lock combo, the August system upgrades any entry point into a home security system with monitoring and automated security features all accessible via app. Designer Yves Béhar conceived the systems as an easy way for homeowners to upgrade their front doors without having to call in a locksmith, with the Smart Lock designed to be easily installed onto existing door entry hardware. The new Doorbell Cam automatically notifies users via app when someone is at the door, providing a “peephole” view of the front door even when you’re away from home. It’s a convenient feature for someone like myself who works in a room far from the front door; in practice, I could take a peek at who has rung the doorbell, giving friends entry access, while ignoring the doorbell of an uninvited solicitor.
Automate Chores – Feeding Time: Petnet
I was actually one of the early beta testers who paid to help refine this automated pet feeder. For years we had a hulk of an automated pet feeder, which relied upon manually inputting the feeding times like an old VCR. So when I learned the Petnet was completely app controlled, I was ready to dive in and manage our cats’ feeding schedule using a pair of these units. Beyond a slightly bumpy first few months, the Petnet has gotten better and is extremely reliable after moving from beta to a final product. The unit dispenses dry kibbles in portions from 1/16 – 1 1/2 cups, which keeps our cats on a set schedule and amount, insuring they stay at a healthy weight. It also lessens the morning routine of the “wake up and feed me, stupid human” paw in the face routine. And for that alone it’s worth the price.
Upgrade Your Home Audio: Sonos PLAY:5
I already was convinced the Sonos PLAY:5 system was the best multi-room streaming audio solution on the market today after testing it firsthand. They’ve since solidified that opinion with a recent announcement that Apple Music compatibility will be available via their beta app program, joining nearly every other major music streaming service. As noted in our recent review of the system, the Sonos PLAY:5 is adept at customizing its output using an interior decor acoustic measurement technology called Trueplay, adjusting how and where music is output according to what’s nearby; the speakers also adjust automatically to work in either vertical or horizontal orientation. The PLAY:5 is for someone who wants to upgrade their home audio without having to worry about component compatibility nor a multitude of accessories. It’s just unpack, plug-in, connected to a mobile device, then stream and listen.