With comfy sofas, surround-sound, big-screen TVs and coffee tables for kicking your feet up—living rooms are made for leisure. But there are high-tech ways to make your lounge time even better. Streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and HBO Now are just the beginning. “People are becoming more comfortable allowing their smartphones or tablets to control their home settings. Technology that adjusts lighting, room temperature, sound quality and security options are simply more convenient,” says Sarah Brown, home automation and security expert for SafeWise, a smart home safety site. Get ready to upgrade.
“Imagine never having to leave a gathering with your friends to adjust the room temperature,” Brown says. “With a smart thermostat, you can control it from your phone.”
Wi-Fi–enabled options with geofencing technology, like the Honeywell Lyric Round, have the added benefit of reducing your energy usage by shutting off when you’re away and starting up again as you approach the house. Don’ t have central air? Consider smart ceiling fans that you can operate with a tap of your smartphone or tablet to help beat the heat.
You needn’t sacrifice great movie-house atmosphere because you’re watching from home: Motorized shades are at your service. Consider Lutron’s easy-to-install, battery-powered Serena Shades. Use the remote, or pair with Lutron’s Caséta Wireless Smart Bridge to access the Lutron app from your phone.
You can also create “movie-theater darkness” with Philips Hue, a connected wireless lighting system that automates, dims and creates lighting scenes, all from your phone, a smart switch or via voice control. “Customize a dark setting for horror flicks, something dim for romances or a brighter option for comedies,” Brown says, “right down to a sun-salutation setting for a yoga DVD.”
Viewing and Listening
Smart TVs, which have built-in hardware to run Internet-connected applications, work seamlessly with streaming services, Brown advises. But if a new big screen isn’t in the budget right now, inexpensive streaming plug-ins like the Amazon Fire TV can adapt to many current models via an HDMI port.
If music is your home entertainment jam, you may want to add a wireless speaker. The Amazon Tap is a jack-of-all-trades option that will play all your tunes from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora and more, as well as sync to a handful of smart devices (including Philips Hue and Caséta Wireless, mentioned above) to give you voice control over your playlists and run down the day’s top headlines for you. “You don’t have to automate your home all at once,” says Brown. “Start with something simple like the Amazon Echo. You can use a set of given commands to get the weather forecast, order products off their site and ask simple questions. This will give you a taste of home automation without spending too much.”
Protect your upgrades with a home security system and you could score a discount on your homeowners insurance.
By Danielle Blundell