By Christy Matte
With everyone talking about smart homes, there’s no need for apartment renters to feel left out. Sure, you may not need a robotic lawnmower, but there is plenty of tech that shines in apartment situations. The key is balancing your gadgets with your budget, space, and any restrictions you may have in your home.
What Is a Smart Home?
A smart home is one that utilizes connected technology (typically WiFi-enabled) to monitor and control devices in your home remotely usually via a mobile app (whether it’s from across the country or right from your couch). Connected devices range from light bulbs and cameras to large appliances to heating and cooling systems.
This is one of the biggest considerations for rental situations. Some smart devices require semi-permanent installations, while others merely require power and a WiFi connection. You can easily add a smart light bulb and speaker, for example, while you’ll need permission from your landlord before replacing your deadbolt with a smart lock. Look for devices that don’t need to be attached to a wall, hardwired, or otherwise installed.
Long-Term vs. Short-Term
Adding smart home features is an investment. Before getting started, consider how long you plan to remain in your apartment and what you’d like to automate. In addition to portability factors, consider how the devices will adapt with you to new housing situations. Is it a good investment over time?
Most portable smart home devices rely on WiFi. Make sure your apartment has a strong and stable WiFi signal. If not, you may need a WiFi range extender. Another option for some devices is to plug them directly into an Ethernet jack. If your WiFi signal is still poor or the connection is slow, you may want to limit your smart home purchases until there’s an upgrade, or you move into more optimal conditions. There’s little more infuriating than a smart bulb that won’t turn on or a camera that won’t allow you to see where your pet or child is because it has no connection.
Suggested Smart Home Devices for Starting Out
Once you’ve decided to take the plunge, you may be wondering what sort of devices to invest in. Here are some beginner suggestions specifically for those who enjoy apartment living:
- Security system/security cameras. While your apartment complex may already have a security system built in, an in-apartment system can capture (and alert you!) when your landlord or contractors enter and can give you peace of mind about your belongings. Your local cable or internet company may have options that you can bundle with your other services.
- WiFi lightbulbs. Let’s be honest, WiFi lightbulbs aren’t a life essential for most people, although they’re good for alerting those with hearing difficulties. That said, WiFi bulbs are fun and flashy and an easy way to kick-off your smart home obsession. And, you can have yours automatically turn on when you get close to home, so you never need to enter a dark apartment.
- Smart speakers. These devices have gained popularity recently and are the perfect way to access music and information, as well as to contact friends and family.
- Smart thermostats. While you will likely need permission from your landlord to install a smart thermostat, it can help save energy consumption and lower your bill over time. Not only can it learn your schedule, but you can turn it up and down remotely. Save on paying for AC while you’re gone at work all day, and then have it cranked up right before you return home.
- Smart outlets. Just plug in any appliance and you can turn it off remotely from the office after forgetting to do it in the morning.
There are smart homes that largely automated with even more options: shades that open and close on their own and walkways that heat up when there’s snow in the forecast—all controllable with one central hub. But not everyone needs, wants, or can afford something so complex. You can easily get started with a few components that play nicely together and can go with you if you decide to move.