Smart Devices that Help Detect and Prevent Home Damages
The Internet of Things (IoT) arrives loaded with an array of smart home features—whether it’s a text from the fridge that you’re out of pomegranate juice, or a thermostat that learns your family’s preferred temperature settings. Home automations are gaining a groundswell of attention for their ability to eliminate daily rote routine, save on energy bills and provide a tailored experience.
But smart gadgets cropping up on the market offer more than cutting-edge lighting features and kitchen scales that count your calorie intake; they can actually help keep your home safe from a multitude of common household risks.
There are obvious safety measures like smart security cameras with facial recognition and deadbolt locks and garage door openers you can operate with your phone. But there are also other devices that offer invaluable preventative measures and remedies for some of the most common (and costly) household perils.
From technology that can discern the early telltale signs of a fire to smart leak detectors with valve shutoff features, the following smart devices could help prevent extensive damage to your home—and keep you connected while you’re away.
Smart Leak Detectors
Water damage is serious, and one of the common causes of homeowners claims. And sure, aqueous incidents could involve severe storms or flash floods, but typically they’re the result of leaky roofs, burst washing machines, and general plumbing issues. What’s more, common leaks can easily go unnoticed. What you get is damage that often costs thousands of dollars.
Standard water detectors can be effective if you’re actually home and have the wherewithal to take action. (Do you know where your water shut-off valve is located?) Smart water sensors, on the other hand, function just like their predecessor, save for the fact that they’re integrated into your home network, can notify you via your smartphone anywhere in the world, and come equipped with an automatic water shutoff system. Many devices are designed to detect key risks associated with rampant moisture, including frozen pipes, mold damage caused by high levels of humidity, and inefficient energy consumption due to abnormal levels of temperatures in the home. Such technology mitigates damages to not just the home, but also to personal belongings therein (musical instruments, electronics, clothes, family heirlooms, etc.).
Smart leak detectors should be placed in the most problematic areas of the home. If one senses seepage, an alarm will sound, notifying both you and the central hub, which then broadcasts a shutoff command to the valve. There are also many smart detectors that allow you to set criteria, like the minimum amount of moisture that can trigger an alarm, so that it’s not tripped by condensation.
There are even brands that are interconnected wirelessly to other appliances and can automatically close pipe valves to avoid widespread flooding. Most smart home leak detectors are battery powered (some of which last three to 10 years) and contain some form of wireless technology. If you’re already a connected user, this device can be synched up to a smart home hub—the centerpiece for all of your devices—or an aggregation app.
Smart Fire Safety Systems
Smart smoke detectors, unlike their older counterparts, (again) alert you via smartphone, and many use voice features during an emergency. For instance, the calm voice may intone, “Heads up. There’s smoke in the living room.” They can also be connected to your security system and governed by a central hub to notify you, and the fire department, in the event of a home fire. To mitigate damage, these smart systems can co-opt air handling units—shutting them down to stop fire from spreading and giving inhabitants more time to evacuate.
Fire safety systems run the gamut of smoke detectors, smart stovetop devices and smart plugs. And according to the National Fire Protection Association, the leading cause of house fires is cooking fires, resulting from unattended stovetops and other ignition sources in the kitchen. Luckily, smart stovetop devices come equipped with motion sensors to detect whether you’ve left the kitchen, at which point it automatically begins a countdown to turn off the stove. Likewise, smart plugs/outlets can turn off coffee pots or ironing boards, and even allow you to control your light fixtures from a smartphone app.
More importantly, these systems can often differentiate between early warning signs of a fire and an emergency. Some brands employ color cues, such as a red or yellow glow to denote the level of urgency; when all is calm, it defaults to green or switches to sleep mode to conserve power. Like other smart home apparatus, many of these brands also function as CO2 detectors and air quality sensors that can detect levels of humidity, pollen, dander or other harmful allergens.
Ever forget to dial down the heat for the dog before heading to the office, or come home to a sweltering palace that could have been pre-cooled as you sat in gridlock traffic? Smart thermostats remedy these problems, in addition to their ability to cool the home more evenly, learn the temperature habits of your family, keep tabs on the home’s energy use, and allow you to manage the heating and cooling settings away from home with a smartphone. But now manufacturers are also prioritizing the safety of the home.
Depending on the local climate, many homeowners encounter the issue of frozen pipes during those frigid months, which can cause pipes to burst. Your smart thermostat is essentially a remote control for your HVAC system, allowing you to adjust temperature settings no matter where you are. They can also alert you if temperatures in your home increase or drop below a set parameter. That means if your pipes are on the brink of freezing, you’ll be automatically notified, enabling you to increase the temperatures as necessary while you escape to your sunny retreat during an arctic vortex. Learning thermostats also send push notifications if the home gets so hot that your pet is in danger.
Today’s homes are becoming increasingly connected, and there’s no shortage of innovation trying to make it all come together. In a rush to connect everything to the internet, the home seems to be the final frontier for IoT, and it’s catching on at an exponential rate. According to technology research and advisory firm Gartner Inc., the average home will have over 500 home automations by 2020.
In addition to offering a more seamless everyday experience, a small investment in smart technology upfront could reap tremendous savings down the road—and protect the things you care about the most.
About the Author
Mark Komiskey serves as Director of Homeowners Products at Esurance and has designed and implemented property products throughout North America. Born in Wisconsin, he is an avid cheese and beer maker and looks forward to the day when there’s a smart home device that will help him manage the humidity and temperature of his cheese cave. @mdkomiskey.