They’ve long been telling us that one-day smart devices would solve all of our problems. Articles going back 15 years were talking about refrigerators that would give you health tips and reorder your favourite foods before you ever run out. The future was going to be a technological marvel. Well, the future is now. While 5G and the “Internet of Things,” have yet to launch, there are already some tremendous “Smart Home Devices” you can take advantage of in your rental property.
These are likely what most people think of today when you mention Smart-Home technology. The ability to monitor the energy being used to heat or cool the home and make real-time adjustments from anywhere is an easy sell. In long-term tenancies, the occupant will appreciate being able to control utility bills. And, in the case of a vacation rental, you will be able to ensure a guest that is not decimating your profits with extreme heat or air conditioning use. Not to mention, the ability to keep the energy output low between guests.
Our favourite smart thermostat is the ecobee4. It allows you to install room sensors that can manage the temperature in the spaces where people are and eliminate hot or cold spots throughout. When the house is empty, the ecobee4 turns down the utilities to a state of readiness for when people return. And, of course, it’s all smartphone-controlled and now comes with built-in Amazon Alexa Voice Service. You’ll be able to ask Alexa to adjust the temperature, or play some music, or read the news.
These are great for vacation properties but also add an element of ease to monthly rentals. With a vacation property, a smart-lock will allow you to send digital keys to guests and service technicians. More crucially it provides coded expiration dates for these digital keys. You’ll be able to see if the plumber has been, and flip a digital key off when a guest checks out. You’ll also never have to cut extra keys or worry about who has access. With long-term rentals, you won’t need to be woken up at 3am because your tenant lost their key. And, more importantly, you will not have to change the locks if a tenant moves out, to ensure security.
Our favourite is the Smart Lock + Connect by August. August Smart Locks attach to your existing deadbolt, on the inside of your door, so it’s still possible to use your keys to unlock. It can also be set to automatically open the door when you arrive and lock it again when you leave. Of course, you can control all the settings from your smartphone, but also by voice command using Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant.
Smart Door Cameras
A great feature to pair with a smart-lock is a smart-door camera. More than just giving digital keys to renters, smart-door cameras allow you to answer the door no matter where you are, through your smartphone. When connected to a smart-lock you can welcome and invite guests in with a personal touch. Most door cameras also begin filming when motion is detected, and in the event of a break-in can provide valuable video for the police.
We really like both the August Doorbell Cam Pro and the Google Nest Cam Outdoor. Both have excellent integration and make it easy for you to see who is coming and going from your property when you’re not there.
Smart Leak Sensors
Arguably the smart-device that gets the least amount of attention, leak sensors can save you thousands of dollars in the event of a water leak. They can be set near toilets, washing machines, and dishwashers to ensure your smartphone will light up if a pipe breaks. A burst pipe can leak as much as nine gallons of water in one minute, damaging carpets, furniture, and inducing electrical shorts or toxic mould growth. The sooner you can respond, the more likely you will be able to prevent catastrophic damage. The only caution is not to use sensors in place of regular professional inspections. Leak sensors will protect you in an emergency, but ideally, you never have to use them.
Our favourite leak sensor is the leakSMART® by Waxman. Their system includes a full suite of options to protect your property. From Detect and protect that can turn off your water main in the event of a leak, to Appliance-specific kits to monitor specific appliances that pose a threat.
This smart feature has a few benefits to offer. First and foremost, they can help you save energy, and thus dollars. However, smart-lighting systems can provide additional safety both in and outside the home. Lights that operate on a motion sensor are perfect for pathways to the front door, but also helpful when visiting the washroom at night. The current iterations of smart-lights allow for smartphone and motion control. Not to mention, they can be set to mimic sunlight in the morning and lower themselves in the evening to help you get you ready for bed. For vacation property owners, you can make sure that when your rental is unoccupied, the lights have not been left on eating up electricity.
We like a couple options in the smart-lighting category. Philips is by far the industry leader with it’s Hue line. And they are pretty magnificent. However, chief rival Lifx has introduced some great products and have been quick to integrate with other devices such as the Google Assistant, Apple’s HomeKit, and Amazon’s Alexa.
Smart Smoke & CO Detectors
As a landlord, smoke and CO Detectors are mandatory sensors in your property. For both safety and insurance reasons, you want to make sure this lifesaving technology is functioning correctly. This is why adding them to a smart-home system is a great option. While it’s still essential to have them regularly tested, smart-sensors will allow you to check in on them from your smartphone. Moreover, they will alert you if a tenant has tampered with or disconnected the detector.
We are big fans of the Google Nest Protect. The integration with Google’s Connected Home makes it really easy to monitor all your smart-technology from your devices. And while Google Nest is not compatible with Apple HomeKit, it is controllable through an iPhone via the Nest App.
As you add smart technology to your rental property or your primary residence, be sure to give it a bit of thought before you proceed. While there are many fabulous independent products available, consider first if you might plan to expand your smart tech over time. Some products work better with particular smart-home networks, and some are even entirely exclusive to a given system. Be sure to investigate how a specific product plugs into a broader smart-home plan so that as you expand the network, all of your devices work seamlessly together. A fully functional smart-home can provide peace of mind for you as a landlord and ease of use for your guests or long-term tenants.
We really like Google Nest Hub and Apple HomeKit. Both have a large variety of smart-home devices that can be networked together to provide you with a genuinely smart-home.