Watch this video as we check out a number of high tech devices for your home, including:
- Wireless indoor and outdoor speakers for playing music.
- Easy to install switches and lighting controls.
- Video monitoring and alarm systems.
Read episode article to find out more.
- Home Automation (video)
- DIY Home Theater Installation (article)
- Inexpensive Alarm Options to Keep Your Home Safe (video)
- Adding a Wireless Computer Network to Your Home (video)
Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner we’re tackling technology for the home. Not the high price house of the future stuff, some cool, practical things that you can use. So put down the remote for now and see what’s coming up.
When most people think about technology around the home it’s all about being entertained. It’s not hard to be entertained with a large television like that. I mean, HD, also 3D in your home.
That’s unbelievable, but things have gotten larger like this television, but also a little smaller and more personal and this is one of my best friends. This MP3 player travels with me a lot, I love to go running with it.
But it’s amazing that you can get 1,500 songs on a device like this and then, if you want to share it with some friends you can use a little docking station like this. And everybody seems amazed that you can get so much music coming out of such a small little device like this. That’s really neat.
Now, another thing, of course, smartphones, almost everybody has one of these, these days. And you can do a lot with that. Storing music and also docking stations for that. It’ll allow you to plug right in to music.
And again, the sound quality is unbelievable. Now, a lot of people are finding the iPad tablet very personal. You can check out a few books or you can go online to cruise the Internet, or you can do a lot of different things. Maybe you want to just check out some of your family photos.
Now, this is still very personal; but if you want to share it with a group of people, we found a brand new, in-wall, motorized docking station made exclusively for the iPad. The iRoom iDock from Bracketron is designed to provide a convenient, secure spot to store, charge, view, and operate an iPad. Its socket mounts flush in the wall and power from a nearby outlet is connected to power the dock and charge the tablet.
You can also connect a composite audio video cable to the dock to directly connect the unit to your home’s audio and video system for larger groups. Now, the dock opens, so that you can insert or remove the pad and it can be programmed to lock it securely in place or open when you’re nearby. But sometimes getting wires where you need them isn’t that easy. So, Allen is meeting with a pro to find a solution.
Allen Lyle: All right, Brad, so I see the challenge here. All your AV gear is on that wall on the far side.
Brad Sundberg: Right.
Allen Lyle: You need to get some on this side.
Brad Sundberg: Correct.
Allen Lyle: How?
Brad Sundberg: Well, in a room like this I can’t tear ceilings apart.
Allen Lyle: You wouldn’t want to, these.
Brad Sundberg: No, I can’t go down. I’ve got bedrooms down below. So, the most economical solution, and the high quality solution, is to use a wireless transmitter and receiver. That’s what this is here. That’s what this is. SpeakerCraft makes something called the SonicAir. What I’m doing is I’m just taking the output of the surround sound receiver, sending it wirelessly back to this little receiver, hooking a pair of speakers up to it. It’s simple, it’s a great solution, about 400 bucks.
Allen Lyle: Could you put them on the wall instead of?
Brad Sundberg: I could. I could put the little receiver up on that balcony, run the wires in the wall. Done deal.
Allen Lyle: Okay, 400 bucks, let’s be brutal and honest here. I could get something cheaper.
Brad Sundberg: You could.
Allen Lyle: Why not?
Brad Sundberg: Allen, you know you get what you pay for. I’m a pro, this is what I do for a living. Any time that I cut corners, I regret it. This is a professional piece. It’s something that’s going to last for years.
Allen Lyle: Got you. Okay, beautiful solution for inside. But, come on, we’re on the beach. We want to play Frankie and Annette, Beach Blanket Bingo. Have you got anything for outside?
Brad Sundberg: Let’s go outside, I’ll show you. Allen, check this out. You got the sea, you got the surf, you got the sand. The only thing missing is music.
Allen Lyle: I would stay right here.
Brad Sundberg: This is it, here. This is a great solution for outdoor music.
Allen Lyle: Oh, yeah.
Brad Sundberg: This is a company that I use called SoundCast Systems. They build, I think, the coolest outdoor speaker system I’ve seen in a long time.
Allen Lyle: Look at this, I mean, there’s no wires. Nothing!
Brad Sundberg: No, totally weatherproof. This thing can sit outside, but it’s easy to bring indoors. It’s got a battery in it that’s going to hold a charge for about 18 hours or for a hard rocker like you, it might be six or eight.
Allen Lyle: Nice. I see a dock or a place here where you can actually plug in. Is that for like an iPod there?
Brad Sundberg: I can put a little iPod here with a wire going right into it. On this one we actually have a transmitter back in the house.
Allen Lyle: Oh, you’re kidding.
Brad Sundberg: So, I can transmit and control an iPod from here. And I can carry this thing 350 feet. We can put it on a kayak and have some tunes out there.
Danny Lipford: If you’re thinking of adding video components like a TV, DVR, or Blu-ray player, consider models that have an Internet interface so that you can access programming from online programmers like YouTube, Hulu, and others. Boy, there’s just so much technology out there available for your home. And a lot of it is great for entertainment, but there’s also some technology out there that can be very useful.
In just a few minutes, I’ll show you a system that’ll allow you to monitor any room in your house from anywhere you may be. As long as you have your iPad or your iPhone. And if you decide to take this technology out in the shop to help you out on a few of your projects around the home, Joe has a great Simple Solution for you.
Joe Truini: More and more homeowners are using the Internet to search for plans and instructions on home improvement projects. What that means is electronics are coming into the workshop, where they’re going to be exposed to dust and dirt. Now, most of these have a touch screen. And so if you have glue or dirt on your hands of course, you’re getting it on the electronics. And that’s not good.
So one solution is to get a large Ziploc bag, such as this. This is a one-gallon size. And you slip the iPad right in, and you zip it tight. You’ll keep out all dust and dirt. But the really cool thing is, even though it’s in the plastic bag, you can still manipulate it. So you can search. In this case we’re looking at these “how-to” photographs at todayshomeowner.com. You’re very welcome, Danny.
Now, if you have a smartphone the same idea will work, you just need a smaller bag. Zip it tight and here’s another additional tip, you put on a couple of binder clips. Clip them right onto the top of the bag. What that allows you to do is to hang the phone right over your workspace. And again, you can still manipulate it right through the plastic bag.
Danny Lipford: This week we’re looking at how technology has changed the way we live in our homes. Earlier we looked at some of the entertainment issues. Now let’s look at how we control some of the things in our home.
Now how many remote controls do you have at your house? Well, if you’re like the average American family, you have a lot. I mean, in a little porch area like this I have a remote control for the television.
I have one for ceiling fans, ceiling lights, and also I have one here that controls the opening and closing of the skylights. Now that’ll open really, really slowly and close very slowly. But the idea of this is, it’s more than just convenient. It’s also very practical because it has a rain sensor on it. So, if you have it open and you go away and forget to close them and it rains, it’ll automatically close them down.
And when you have something like this you have to think ahead in making a selection like these skylights, but there’s a lot of right off the shelf type of very do-it-yourself friendly controls available for your home.
Allen Lyle: Honestly, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like some sort of practical technology in their home. But if you’re a do-it-yourselfer and terms like Romex pigtails, junction box, and massive surge give you the heebie jeebies, don’t tackle electrical jobs. Hire a professional to do it for you. Now, that being said, I got to tell you, there’s some pretty cool stuff on the market.
Anytime you tackle an electrical job, two rules that I follow, always. Number one, find the breaker that operates whatever you’re working on, kill it. Even though I’ve done this as many years as I have been working on electrical, I always take a meter and make sure there’s no juice going to it.
Okay, let’s talk switches – easy to replace. But if you’re gonna replace one, why not go high tech. Check this out. Okay, how many times have you heard this? “Time to go to bed.” “Oh, Mom, five more minutes.” Okay, you walk into their room. Click! Hit the five-minute button. It’s a timer. You replace the switch with a timer. It goes off automatically. I love this thing – easy to do.
Here’s another great one. This is an occupancy sensor. Basically, I’ve got a 180 degree motion detector on this thing. I don’t even have to look for the light switch. I walk in the room, it comes on. Again, easy to install.
Okay, I understand electricity still bothers a lot of people out there. How about this? A remote-controlled, wireless, you don’t even have to wire anything. Plug in your television, small electronics, appliances, lights to this module. Automatic, it’s working, you just put this on the wall and you’ve got a switch to it.
Want something even simpler? You want those exterior lights to come on at dusk? Go off at dawn? All you’ve got to do is screw this module into the light socket, the light bulb into the module and you’re done.
Danny Lipford: For more complex control, you’ll likely have to rely on a wireless Internet connection. A wireless router will certainly make it more convenient for you to use your computer all throughout your home. But you can take it a step further by adding one of these. It’s called a bridge and it’s from the Schlage LiNK System. And what this will allow you to do is control a lot of other devices in your home. Here’s how it works.
First of all, you set up an account online. That’ll cost you just a small amount per month. Then, from that account you can manage all kinds of systems in your house like your heating and cooling system by simply adding this type of thermostat onto your existing system you’re able to raise or lower the temperature in your home. You’re also able to monitor exactly how the system is working, if there’s any problem with it. It’ll email you an alert so that you can get it taken care of.
Here’s another very simple part of it. It’s called a little module. You plug that into the wall, then you can plug a lamp into it. And then, from any computer, anywhere, or smartphone, you’re able to control the lights and monitor them as well. So here you can just turn it on like that. And then, if you’re away and you forget maybe I want to turn the lights off. Then you simply can go to your computer and, or your smartphone and turn it off.
So imagine all that control you’ll have with a system just like this. You also can improve the security around your home, and I’ll share with you how you can do that right after this week’s Best New Product.
Jodi Marks: Now, if you’re going to be adding new electronics to your house or new gadgets, you need to, of course, protect your investment. And one way to do that is to plug everything into a surge protector. But take a look above me. You can see there are so many surge protectors to choose from. And to be honest, they’re not all created equally.
Well, I like this one. This is by First Alert. And upon first glance, it looks just like a typical surge protector, but there’s a lot going on inside there. Now, of course, after you get all of your electronics plugged in, not only will it monitor the electrical current coming in to detect surges or spikes, but it also monitors itself. And by that I mean, anything that you plug in here.
This surge protector will monitor the amount of insulation, if it detects a breakdown in the insulation of the cords that are plugged into it, or if it detects fraying of the cords that are plugged into it, it’ll automatically shut off. And that can reduce the chance of fire. So not only are you getting a surge protector, but you’re also getting fire protection as well.
Danny Lipford: This week we’re looking at some practical uses of technology in your home. Stuff that entertains us and that gives us control, but technology can also help provide us with security. Now this looks like a regular combination lock. And basically, it does the same things that a combination lock will do with a lot of extras because it’s the part of the same system, it’ll allow you to remotely, through your phone or computer, customize a security code that will expire after a certain period of time. So, think about if you’re having a plumber or somebody dropping by doing a little work at your house that they need access.
You can set up a special code, it’ll expire in whatever time frame that you establish. You can also allow someone to lock or unlock this remotely, by just activating it using the same program. So there’s a lot of features on this lock that really might surprise you. Now, to really have that level of security, nothing better than having a camera to tell you what’s going on and one that you can monitor through the same program. So wherever the camera is, you can see exactly what’s going on from your smartphone or your computer. So, again, a great comfort level for your family.
Allen Lyle: The camera Danny just showed you is really made for interior use. It’s really not going to hold up to the elements, but I’ve got a couple of exterior cameras here that I’m hoping will be a solution to a couple of problems to help my friend Bill here. Hey, Bill, how you doing?
Bill Parks: Hello, Allen, how you doing, man?
Allen Lyle: Oh, good. All right, you got my curiosity up when you said, “Bring me some sort of trail camera.” What’s the story here?
Bill Parks: Well, when you live a little out in the country, like we do, there are all kinds of varmints around. And we try to have a little garden. Right now there’s just lettuce in there, but just the night before last the rabbits got in there and ate most of our lettuce.
Allen Lyle: Well, I think you’ll like this. This is brand new, it’s called an Outback camera. This is, what love about this, Bill, is the fact that you don’t have to have power to this – battery operated, it’s in a weather proof case, it operates only by motion sensors. So, it’s only when something comes by then it’s going to start activating. It’s got the infrared, so you got night vision, and it records everything right here. You can actually strap this to a tree, to a post, anything. It will find out.
Bill Parks: So it’s completely self contained?
Allen Lyle: It’s completely self contained. Everything actually records inside this. So I think this’ll solve the issue there. But beyond this, now, there was something that was of a little more concern?
Bill Parks: It’s the same situation. When you live in a partially rural area, you’re a little more concerned about security.
Allen Lyle: Right.
Bill Parks: And the way this house is built, of course we have neighbors that can see the front of the house. But back here, if anybody was going to break into this house or try to do something like that, I think they would have to come in through this back area.
Allen Lyle: Well, I would tend to agree looking around. Now, a couple of things here for you. I notice you’ve got flood lights over here and on this side. However, if they come in on this side, they’re going to bypass the lights. So that’s – again, we’re going to go to the cameras here. And again, here’s where we’re going to go to something wireless. If you’re shopping for one, and this is one I picked out for you because I think you’ll like this, this is digital now. The old cameras, Bill, you remember, I mean these cameras have been around for a long time. They used to work on analog, and you’d get all the lines. This, you get no interference. It’s all digital, wireless technology. It again, is in infrared lights. So it’s going to see anything in the dark, up to 32 feet in the dark.
Bill Parks: Sounds, great. I can’t wait to see how it works.
Danny Lipford: Cameras can also provide some peace of mind at home when it comes to keeping an eye on children, especially toddlers. So I’ve got another gadget to share with my friend Joey Foster, who’s a frequent babysitter for his grandson, Dwight. I’m sure someone that age right there is gonna be quite a handful, huh?
Joey Foster: Oh, yeah, now that he started crawling and getting into everything. He is quite a handful.
Danny Lipford: Well, I notice that you had the baby monitor there. It helps a little bit, huh?
Joey Foster: Yeah, it helps as far as sound. You can hear what’s going on, but when he gets quiet…
Danny Lipford: That’s when you start worrying.
Joey Foster: That’s when trouble’s happening.
Danny Lipford: Well, I tell you, we found this remote room monitor that seems like it’s the perfect thing. So, we’ll hook this thing up and just see if it does what it says it does.
Joey Foster: Sounds good.
Danny Lipford: The iZON Remote Room Monitor is an app-controlled video camera that lets you stream live audio and video securely to any Apple iOS device. The only wire involved supplies power to the camera, which can be mounted almost anywhere because of its unique base. It’s pretty cool, it’s magnetic, so you can pivot it wherever you want.
Joey Foster: Oh, that is cool.
Danny Lipford: Once the camera is set up and ready, you download the free app from Stem Innovation, to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, and you can begin monitoring. Then all you have to do is, using the free app, you can go on and wherever you are with your smartphone, as long as you have phone service, you’ll be able to see what Dwight’s doing, and hear what he’s saying. The iZON can also alert you when there’s motion or noise, and even record the signal to a free, private, YouTube account. So you always know what those kids are up to.
Marcus asks: I want to put in an attic exhaust fan, but I’m not comfortable with running electricity to it. Do you think the solar powered fans are any good?
Danny Lipford: Solar powered exhaust fans have come a long way since they were first introduced a few years ago, and attic ventilation is so important because it can really get hot in any attic space. Now the solar powered exhaust fans are great because all you have to do is cut a hole, put them in place, and you don’t even have to worry about calling the electrician to power any electric motor.
But, the key thing is making sure you size it properly. First thing you need to do is measure the square footage of your attic times point seven will tell you how many cubic feet you need per minute you will need to properly ventilate your attic. Now you might be able to achieve that with one solar powered exhaust fan, but it may take more than that.
Also very important, make sure you have proper intake air. So check out your soffit areas around your overhang to make sure there is plenty of air coming into the attic.
Danny Lipford: Technology for the home can be very simple, or a little more involved, but it doesn’t have to be intimidating. Sometimes it can be fun, or useful or just offer some needed peace of mind. You know another thing about technology? Is that it allows you to interact with so many different people, and we want to connect with you. There’s a lot of ways that can happen. You can call our toll free hotline, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, or you can join us on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or go to todayshomeowner.com and ask a question, you can send us an email with feedback, or tell us, maybe some kind of show you would like to see, and we’ll go to work putting it together.
You know, technology can really help you improve your quality of life. And part of that quality of life is staying entertained, and that’s really easy when you have such great TV shows. I’m Danny Lipford, we’ll see you next week on Today’s Homeowner.