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Sunday, September 29, 2019

Promising Smarthome Tech That’s Still Too Challenging to Install

A woman controlling her shower by smartphone.
Moen

Smart lights, plugs, and voice assistants are easy to install and use. But some promising tech isn’t ready for the average person, even if it does look great. These smarthome gadgets look fantastic but have too many barriers.

I spend a lot of time looking at smarthome devices. What I have, what I don’t have, what’s available, and what might someday be possible. As a smarthome junky, I default to wanting it all. But better sensibilities (plus my family) keep me in control. Some gadgets, even if they exist right now, aren’t ready for the average smarthome consumer.

And that can be for any number of reasons, whether it’s price, the need for a professional installer, or required alteration of your home and property. It’s one thing to wire in a video doorbell or light switch; it’s another to run power to your shower or lay down wires in your yard.

Smart Water Shut Off Switches Aren’t Granular

A Flo by Moen smart valve, box, and phone showing the app.
Moen

A few companies, like Moen and Phyn, offer smarthome devices that monitor your water usage. With that monitoring comes leak notices, water usage measurements, and even the ability to shut off the water.

You can enable that last feature multiple ways—on a schedule, after a set amount of water usage (to prevent overly long showers), or if the system detects a leak.

But two related issues keep these systems from the mainstream. First, you’ll need to hire a plumber to install the device. And second, the system must be installed on the main water supply to your home. That means when you do shut off the water, you don’t shut it off to a particular shower or sink. The system shuts the water off for the entire home. It’s overkill for most people’s needs.

Smart water assistant devices are expensive too. You can expect to spend between $500 and $700 before the plumber. And if you don’t have power by your main water supply, you’ll need to hire an electrician to take care of that problem too.

Installing Smart Energy Monitors Can Electrocute You

A Sense energy monitor, phone and Computer showing results of monitoring.
Sense

You may have already heard of Sense energy monitor, but that’s not the only smart energy monitor on the market. Smappee (who wins the worst name contest), Neurio, and Emporia all want in on monitoring your energy usage as well.

For the most part, they have a few things in common. Typically the monitors run somewhere around $250, and you have to attach them directly to the wiring in your circuit breaker box. While the clamp system these devices use looks simple, your circuit breaker box is the last place you want to go mucking about without proper training.

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