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Going On Holiday? Here's How To Protect Your Home With Smart Devices

We know. It’s been a while since you enjoyed a worry-free getaway. But, spending more time at home has probably given you the chance to invest in it more than ever before. Maybe you’ve tried some DIY, finished a passion project or renovated entire sections of your home. It’s all this care and attention that makes your home, and everything inside it, irreplaceable. 

At Hiro, we want you to enjoy that first sip of freedom without the worry that something awful is going to happen to your home and your memories when you venture out. That’s why we’re going to take you through some practical, proactive steps you can take to make each room in your home substantially safer – whether you’re in or out.

Some of the products featured in this blog (though not all) are from our partners and you’ll find these in our members-only smart store. But don’t worry, no one’s twisting our arms to say nice things about any of these devices. We’ve only featured the ones that we’ve tried and loved, have researched to suggest they’re effective, or ones that come highly recommended from other reputable sources. 

Ready?

Show brazen burglars the door

If you’re the forgetful type, you’ll have left home without locking the door a few times. Now, we don’t want to add insult to injury, but according to ADT, 34% of burglaries happen via the front door. It’s a bit brash, but burglars can and will waltz right in if you’ve left it unlocked. So, let’s eliminate that risk - Kubu’s door sensor is a great place to start, and it’s super-simple. As you walk away from your home, and you disconnect from the WiFi, Kubu will send you a notification if your door is unlocked. 

Of course, if you’re the “leave home without your keys,” type, you’re gonna need some extra help. 

Enter smart locks! 

Yale has a rich history of creating secure locks, dating back to 1840, locking in (no pun intended) trust from homeowners the world over. And when it comes to modern-day smart locks, the Yale Conexis L1 is a standout in the range. 

Yes, it offers all the convenience you’d expect from a smart lock, and yes, it lets you unlock your door with your phone. But there’s so much more to the Conexis L1 than that.

It’s a real bone of contention whether smart locks are secure. But the Conexis L1 was actually the first smart lock to be British Kitemark approved. This means that along with security in terms of its locking mechanism (there’s no keyhole that could be picked, for example), you’ll also benefit from added security against hacking

For the design-conscious among us, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s also tremendously lowkey (no pun intended, again). In passing, the Conexis L1 looks like a regular door lock, complete with a physical handle. There’s no keypad that invites strangers to guess your PIN, and it’s not so minimalist that it inadvertently attracts attention to your door. Because it’s a footprint you’re used to seeing on a door, it just blends in. 

And when you’re away for long periods of time, the security benefits of the Conexis L1 really come into play. Using a Z-Wave module, you can integrate your smart lock with other compatible devices on your network – such as lighting systems or smart security cameras – to create your own smart security setup. You can also assign friends and family virtual keys while you’re away, so they can keep an eye on your pets or move your mail. It’ll allow them to unlock your door with their phone, meaning you’ll never have to hide a physical key in a “safe” place (under your doormat) again. And when you’re back, all you have to do is revoke their access using the Conexis L1 app.

If you decide Yale isn’t for you, there are plenty of other smart lock manufacturers out there, including August and Bold. They come in all shapes and sizes, too – so you can pick a smart lock that suits your home.

Bright ideas for a smart living room 

Next up: the living room. While burglaries fell during lockdown, our newfound freedoms are going to leave our homes empty for longer periods of time – and would-be thieves know it! But, you can always give “mockupancy” a try. Think of Home Alone, but without actually having to abandon a minor. The idea is to trick people into thinking there’s someone at home. 

Smart lighting is a really simple way of doing this – and it’s something you can enjoy even while you’re at home. For this, we’d recommend a Philips Hue starter kit

Why Philips Hue? Alright, we know there are cheaper smart bulbs available – even from Ikea – that allow you to control your lighting from your phone, but hear us out. Philipe Hue combines compatibility, customisation, choice, and control away from the home. Why pick two or three of those things, when you can have the lot? 

The Big Three smart home ecosystems – Apple, Amazon and Google – all support Philips Hue. So, if you have a preference, your Philips Hue bulbs should be able to work with the devices connected to your Amazon Echo, Google Home or Apple HomePod. Think everything from televisions to security systems. You can even control them with your voice. The possibilities and combinations are endless. You can pick up most Philips Hue products and not have to worry about whether or not they’ll work with what you already have. 

And there’s so much choice! You can let your creativity run wild with everything from statement vintage style bulbs, to slick-looking light strips to backlight your TV. They all feature customisation options for brightness at the very least (but other options vary depending on the product), so you’ll never be pigeon-holed into using smart bulbs that don’t fit with your decor. These are lights you’ll love to use.

Combine all of that with the fact that Philips Hue allows you to control your lights from anywhere in the world, and Philips Hue really does make for a compelling smart lighting option with no compromises.

So, how do you achieve really convincing “mockupancy,” with them? You’ve probably heard about putting your lights on a timer while you’re away. But here’s the thing, it’s old hat. Timers are so… predictable. And that’s true for the people programming them, too. Really observant snoopers can pick up on intervals if they’re designed around the times you’d usually use your lights when you’re at home. Yes, we’re creatures of habit, but never down to the minute. And if there are other visual cues, such as piles of mail lying on the other side of your letterbox or mounting bottles of milk on your porch, it’s a dead giveaway you’re not home.

So, on top of all the non-techy measures you should take before your departure, Philips Hue actually has a randomise function called “Holiday Mode” that randomly switches different lights in your home on and off while you’re away, so that patterns can’t be learned. Would-be thieves will never be certain whether someone’s actually home.

Lose the leaks with smart leak detectors

We’re not going to dwell on the negative here, but leaks? They suck. 

In their worst form, they’re destructive, difficult to bounce back from and they’re one of the most common types of domestic property damage claims – insurers pay out £1.8m for them every day

Your kitchen is the perfect place to start banishing leaks. There’s a lot of water getting whizzed up in there – between fridges, dishwashers, sinks and washing machines – leak detectors can give you some added peace of mind.

Sure, they’re not as common as your smart bulbs or smart cameras, but they deserve to be raved about. 

If you’re looking for a no-fuss leak detector, the W1 Wifi Leak and Freeze Detector from Honeywell Home is a good place to start. Everything you need comes in the box, all you need to do is connect it to your Wi-Fi, get the Honeywell app and run the cable near the spots you’d like to monitor. 

The 4-metre cable is the sensor, so if you do opt for the base model, you’ll only be able to cover smaller areas (think: bathrooms and utility cupboards). Honeywell does provide extensions, though, if you’re looking for better coverage in your kitchen, or you could get a couple of leak detectors if your appliances are more spaced out. 

How does it work? If the device detects water at any point on the cable, you’ll hear its built-in 100dB alarm to let you know and you’ll also get a notification on your phone. And if you’re on holiday, Honeywell has thought of that too – you can adjust your settings to send friends and family a notification if any leaks are detected while you’re away so that they can step in and arrange any fixes. This is where that smart lock with virtual keys is going to come in handy!

Of course, a leak detector is only as good as the action you take to prevent those leaks from getting worse. If you want a more comprehensive solution, the award-winning Sonic from Hero Labs will soon be able to give you this. 

Sonic is a smart shutoff valve that connects to your water mains, and uses hybrid “HD Ultrasonic” technology to monitor changes in pressure and temperature in your pipes over 86,000 times a day. If it detects a leak in the system, it’ll quickly isolate your home’s water supply to contain it. And, thanks to the mobile app, you can keep tabs on unusual patterns while you’re away – or, nominate friends or family to receive notifications if you’ll be off the grid for longer.

Smarten up your smoke alarms

How often do you test your smoke alarms? Research suggests that 22% of people never test them at all. Whether that’s genuine forgetfulness, or rage-induced battery removal is anyone’s guess. But the truth is, it’s an error that might cost the lives of you and your family.

Of all the kinds of protective technology that we use in our homes, smoke alarms are one of the most crucial. After all, you’re twice as likely to die in a house fire without a working smoke alarm

We know – false alarms and frantic tea towel waving are a pain that often leads to batteries being prised from smoke detectors. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Smart smoke detectors can make fire safety in your home a lot easier to manage.

The Netatmo Smart Smoke Alarm is a great place to start because it works without any need for a hub. 

There’s no tricky wiring to contend with, so you can fit them wherever you need them. At the very least, Netatmo recommends fitting a Smart Smoke Alarm in each hallway and bedroom in your home. For ultimate coverage, they also suggest fitting them in your living room, attic and basement. 

There’s also no batteries to replace. The unique, built-in battery in the Netatmo Smart Smoke Alarm lasts for ten years, and regularly monitors its own performance to let you know if there are any issues. Once those ten years are up, you’ll need to replace the whole unit – which is true for a lot of regular smoke alarms anyway.

When the Netarmo Smart Smoke Alarm detects smoke, it does exactly what you’d expect – it sounds an 85db alarm. But the beauty of this smart smoke alarm is that it notifies you when it goes off and allows you to quickly silence the alarm if you know it’s a false alarm. It’s particularly handy if burnt toast is a regular occurrence in your home (smart toaster, anyone?) And it works when you’re out and about, too. You’ll still get a notification if the alarm goes off. If you have indoor cameras, you could use these to check if there’s a fire, and call 999.

Smart switch and chill: smart devices for bedrooms

When you’re at home, bedrooms lend themselves well to all the conveniences of owning smart devices. Your smart speakers can fire up your favourite podcast while you wind down, and Siri, Google or Alexa can even remind you to take your meds. Smart lighting is a godsend if you’ve turned in and forgotten the lights. But what happens when you get comfy and realise that it’s either too warm or too cold – and the trek to the thermostat feels nigh unbearable?

Well, a smart thermostat is a no-brainer in those situations. They’re convenient, no doubt, and will save you from that unique kind of dread while you’re home. When you’re away from home, though, they have another important use case.

If you’re planning ahead for a winter trip, smart thermostats can help prevent your pipes from freezing – and help you avoid the chaos that could ensue as a result!

If you want a smart thermostat that adjusts itself (requiring very little input from you), then the Google Nest Learning Thermostat is a great option to consider. It allows you to set a safety temperature, which, if the temperature in your home falls below, your heating will kick in. This feature works if you haven’t set a heating schedule, and if your pipes are still at risk from freezing, you’ll receive a push notification on your phone before this happens. Adding to the Nest Learning thermostat’s convenience over its less expensive counterparts is that Google claims it’ll learn from your adjustments after a week and automatically set the temperature. It’s even clever enough not to waste energy heating your home when you aren’t in (unless you tell it to). It does come out top of the list in Techradar’s roundup of smart thermostats, but be mindful that it’s not supported by Apple HomeKit, and you can’t control individual zones (or rooms) right out of the box.

If zoning is an absolute must for you, or you want that HomeKit compatibility, Tado could be the option for you. They carry easy-to-install starter kits that offer similar features for cold weather (dubbed “frost protection”), as well as radiator valves so you can zone ‘til your heart’s content (and tell your favourite smart assistant where you’d like to heat). When you’re away, zoning allows you to only heat colder areas like your basement to help you prevent your pipes from freezing, without wasting energy on other rooms.

But we’re not done. Let’s take this outside, shall we?

Get off the lawn: smart devices for gardens

We’ve covered the inside, but what’s outside definitely counts, too. Your garden can be the perfect playground for motion sensor lights like these from Philips Hue and smart security systems to work in tandem. Ring Stick Up Cam is a great starting point if you’re unsure which areas of your property need some extra protection – it’s easy to install and move if you need to. Plus, the Night Vision, Advanced Motion Detection and real-time notification features are especially handy for knowing what's happening around your home, even after dark. It even comes in a solar-powered variant so you won’t need to worry about charging it as often. Alternatively, if local storage is important to you, check out the range of cameras from eufy - some save footage via an on-board SD card, others to a separate HomeBase - which can also act as a WiFi repeater, boosting the signal from your router to your cameras.  

We hope you’ve enjoyed our smart home starter for ten. Be sure to let us know how you use your smart home devices. Have you automated your way to a more convenient away-from-home setup? Or maybe you’ve got the mother of all smart security systems? Share your knowledge in the comments below.

And if you’ve got your feet wet (you should probably add a leak detector to your list), and want more, you can access exclusive offers on the smartest tech around in the Hiro Smart Store. All you need to do is insure your home with Hiro.

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