Our gadgets are getting smarter every day before our very eyes, from thermostats that know to turn the temperature up or down when you arrive home, to lights that turn on and off and change color to suit your mood or the time of day. You can even put the dryer on spin cycle without ever leaving book club.
If you’re renting a home, you might not necessarily buy a smart stove or washer that wouldn’t be easy to take with you when you move, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the energy-saving and remote control features common to many smart gadgets.
We’ll go over what renters typically can and cannot do when it comes to putting their own gadgets in place. We’ll also cover the tech you can typically take with you.
Know What’s in Your Contract
The first thing you really need to do is review your rental contract and see what you are and aren’t allowed to do.
Stuart Forchheimer is president and CEO of HS Tech Group, a company specializing in security technology for homes and businesses. He said to be very careful before you replace anything.
“Without examining rental lease provisions, you should know that most rental leases would require you to repair or pay for any damage to walls, doors or the structure,” he said. “In other words, you need to turn over your unit in the same or like condition it was rented in. This means any structural work would need to be repaired. They also restrict you from re-keying the doors or changing out any appliances, etc.”
How much you’re allowed to do depends on your contract, but a good guideline is to leave your apartment or rental house the way you found it.
Once you know what you can and cannot do, it’s time to go ahead and make your living space a little more intelligent.
There are several tech upgrades you can make without worrying about violating any provisions of your rental agreement.
Sarah Brown is a home safety and security expert for SafeWise, a company specializing in internet-connected home security systems that you can take with you when you move. She said one of the important points to consider is making sure whatever you buy works with any connected hub you might already have.
“Whether you use Amazon Echo or Google Home, you’ll want to check a list of their connected devices before purchasing gadgets for your home,” she said. “Using a centralized hub will make your life easier.”
The same tip applies if you use Apple devices that support HomeKit. Once you have your supported devices connected, you can use your hub to do cool things like have the lights turned on and the heat turned up when your phone gets within a certain distance of your house, or simply tell your phone via voice.
There are all sorts of tech tweaks you can make to your home that don’t require Elon Musk-level engineering skills. These updates are pretty much plug-and-play options.
One of my favorite easy smart home upgrades is installing Wi-Fi connected outlets. These can cover one plug all the way up to a full power strip. Anything you plug into the outlet can then be turned on and off remotely through your tablet, or can be placed on a timer.
Another advantage of the strip is that you can connect multiple devices and use it as a power-saving feature. If you only want your laptop to charge when you happen to be working at your desk, you can do that.
I really like the idea of immersive movie experiences. I think it would be awesome if when I was watching The Lord of the Rings, I was transported to the green hills of the Shire or the black depths of Mordor. I can’t actually hop a plane to New Zealand, but I can get pretty close with Philips Hue lights.
There are a number of connected lightbulbs, but what makes the Hue series really cool is that you can customize your colors. Using a connected app and the camera on your phone, you can set it up so that your lightbulbs change color to match what’s being shown on the TV, helping transport you to another setting without leaving your couch.
The one downside to this is that your phone camera is always on, so I would suggest keeping your phone connected to its charger if possible.
There are a number of Wi-Fi connected security cameras that operate on electricity or battery, so you can just take them with you when you move. Some are motion activated; you can pull up the video from your phone or a desktop website. There are various brands, so you just need to determine which one best fits your needs.
Advanced Home Smarts
We’ve gone through the easy stuff, but if you’re a little bit handy, you can take a look at the next two projects. It’s important to note that before doing either of these things, you should feel comfortable not only installing the new hardware, but also putting back what was there before when it’s time to move. As always, make sure to check your rental agreement before taking on a project like this.
This wouldn’t work if you lived in an apartment or somewhere with centrally-controlled HVAC, but if you’re renting a house, you could consider installing a smart thermostat that allows you to control the temperature from your phone or tablet.
Make sure you’re aware of how your old thermostat is wired in. Thermostat manufacturer Nest recommends taking a picture so you know where everything goes.
Smart Door Locks
This is a little easier than installing a new thermostat, but you’ll still want to confirm with your landlord that it’s OK to do this. I really like the August Smart Lock. It attaches to the back of your existing deadbolt.
What’s really cool about this is that your smart phone can be your key. You can give digital copies of the key to people you trust, and your door will unlock via the app when it detects their phone’s Bluetooth signal. You also have the ability to make people’s keys work only at certain times of the day if you want, and the ability to virtually buzz people in.
This is just the tip of the iceberg for smart home technology. Do you have any strategies you use to connect your home that we haven’t mentioned here? Share them with us in the comments.
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