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Three Unique Uses for Smart Lights

Do you want to get more out of your smart lights? You’re enjoying the energy-savings. Perhaps you already have automation set up to turn them on and off at certain times. Maybe you have schedules making it so that the lights are different tones and levels of brightness at different times of the day. There are countless things you can do to take full advantage of your smart light’s features. Here are three unique uses for smart lights you may not have thought of before.

1. Enhance Your Doorbell

A blue door with a Ring video doorbell

Sometimes, it’s nice to take a break from technology. With everything connected to your phone, it can be easy to feel like you need to have it with you all the time.

If you’re playing with your kids, you might want to cut ties with technology so they can have your full attention. You ordered dinner through Doordash, but you know from experience that you can’t hear the doorbell from the basement playroom. Without your phone, you won’t get a notification from your Ring Video Doorbell, either. Since you have smart lights, you can set up a way of getting notified without being interrupted by all the other notifications that come in before dinner arrives. Before playtime, create a rule for the lights in the playroom that will let them act as a secondary doorbell. You could have them blink blue three times or something similar when the doorbell rings. This will let you know dinner has arrived without cellphone interruptions.

Perhaps you want an easier way of notifying your teen that their friends have arrived for their weekly game night. You could text your teen or go down to their room to inform them in person, or you could save yourself needing to do either by setting the smart lights in their room to indicate when the doorbell rings. They might not want their lights acting as a doorbell every other day of the week. You can set the rule to only take effect on that day within the timeframe their friends usually arrive during.

You could also use this to have the lights on the patio flash to tell you when guests have arrived for the barbecue you’ve been outside cooking and other similar scenarios.

2. Budget Friendship Lamp

Over the last few years, much of society has come to understand the importance of connection in a new way after all the time we’ve been isolated and otherwise apart. Whether you have a friend who moved to the other side of the state, family in a different part of the country, or a long-distance relationship with someone on a different continent, you want to have ways of staying connected to the people you love. Perhaps you send texts, have phone and video calls, send emails, and see what they’ve been doing through social media. In addition to these more conventional means, friendship lamps have been gaining popularity.

The concept is to have two connected lamps. When one user touches their lamp, the second lamp will light up wherever it is in the world, so long as it has power and a Wi-Fi connection. This serves as a simple way of letting someone know you are thinking of them. This can be cute and sentimental, but it’s also expensive. The lamps are around $100 apiece, $200 for a set.

You could set up friendship lamps using smart lights as a more affordable alternative that can be just as meaningful. Start by getting lamps, either a matching set or by finding lamps for each other. Then, put color changing smart lights in them. Using the app’s sharing settings, share your bulbs with each other. From there, you can create different scenes to indicate specific messages. Pink could mean “thinking of you.” Blue could mean “I miss you.” Yellow could mean “I hope you have a great day.” When you want to activate your friend’s lamp, go into the app and tap the scene named after the message you want to share.

You could also set timers for the lights to turn themselves off after a certain amount of time. Then, you won’t accidentally leave your friend’s light on all day if they aren’t home to turn it off on their own after they’ve finished enjoying your message.

3. Red Alert

Alarms are designed to scare off intruders. You can take it up to the next level with your smart lights. In movies, when there’s an emergency, a spaceship or base will often go to red alert. The alarms and flashing red lights are a nice visual effect for cinematic purposes. In the real world, that’s bound to scare more than a few people. By programming your smart lights to flash red when the alarm goes off, you can create your own personal red alert and send intruders running.

What other unique uses for smart lights have you found? Let us know in the comments.

Three Unique Uses for Security Cameras You Haven’t Thought of

We typically think of security cameras as a means of preventing crime and identifying criminals. However, they can have many other uses. You’ve probably heard about using indoor cameras to keep an eye on kids, babysitters, and elderly parents. You might have heard of using indoor cameras with audio capabilities as an intercom system. But here are three unique but handy uses of security cameras.

1. Pest Control

Every gardener knows how frustrating it is to discover something has been eating their flowers or crops. It’s even more frustrating if you don’t know who the thief is. Different critters require different pest control methods. If you’re contending with a raccoon, then a squirrel trap isn’t going to do you any good. Just like how you can use security cameras to aid in identifying human thieves, you can use them to help you identify furry thieves. Point the camera at your garden and wait. Upon reviewing the footage, you’ll know what you’re dealing with, and you’ll be able to take the measures needed to protect your garden.

You may even decide to use a camera that makes a noise when it detects motion. Then, it can scare off the invasive critters before they get a chance to steal anything. You will want to consider where you live before installing a garden alarm, though. If you have close neighbors, they might not appreciate the noise, especially if the garden thief drops by late at night.

2. Time-Lapse Videos

Have you ever done a project like building a shed or patio and thought it could have been fun to film a time-lapse of it for your DIY YouTube channel or simply to share your accomplishment on social media? Some home security cameras have time-lapse settings that enable you to do this. Position your security camera to have a good view of your work area and adjust the camera settings so that it records a time-lapse. Since many security cameras can capture high-definition footage, you could get a decent-quality video without any fancy recording equipment.

3. Insurance Claim Documentation

You get homeowner’s insurance hoping you will never need it. When you do need it, it’s a pain. Not only are you dealing with a major disaster at home, but you’re also jumping through all your insurance company’s hoops. You wish they’d just help you already! You’ll discover the process goes more smoothly if you have good evidence of the damage. Your security cameras can provide you with valuable footage to submit as documentation.

The next time your basement floods, go into your camera’s cloud storage and pull any footage you may need from before, during, and after the flood. Better yet, install a flood sensor. Since you’ll receive an alert when the sensor detects water, you’ll know about the flood before it becomes as big of a problem, and you’ll be able to take measures to limit the amount of damage you’ll have to work through with your security company.

What unique uses for security cameras have you used? Let us know in the comments.

Smart Devices for Cats That Owners Will Love

Cat owners love making their fur babies happy. They give them toys, scratching posts, beds, the best boxes that come in the mail, and whatever else they deem prudent for giving their cat a good home. In the rapid advancement of technology, people have found ways of using smart devices to keep cats safe, entertained, and well taken care of. Some devices have been designed with the owner in mind. Now, owning a pet is easier than ever. Here are three smart devices for cats you will love.

1. GPS Tracker

Perhaps you have a cat that you can’t trust outside. He’d eat something he’s not supposed to or get stuck climbing a neighbor’s tree. But he’s a little escape artist, so he sometimes slips past your decision that he’s an indoor-only cat. On one of such days, you’ve been looking for him more than an hour, but he’s nowhere to be found. Maybe you have a cat that’s allowed outside. It’s time for her to come inside for the night, but she isn’t responding to your calls or promise of a treat.

Whatever the case, if you’ve ever not been able to find your cat, you know how nerve-wracking it can be. The first of our smart devices for cats will make it so you’ll always know where your cat is. Attach a GPS tracker to your cat’s collar, and finding your pet is a simple task of tracking it from your phone. Some trackers come with additional health and fitness monitoring features. If you want something basic that doesn’t require a subscription, plenty of options are available.

2. Self-Cleaning Litter Box

One of the main advantages of cats over other pets is that they can be litter box trained. Then, you just have to clean a litter box instead of checking your entire yard or cleaning an entire cage. The disadvantage is that you have to clean a litter box.

With a self-cleaning litter box, you can simplify this chore. After your cat does its business, the box will scoop itself, and you just need to empty the waste drawer. Some smart litter boxes will detect when your cat enters and leaves. Then, it will wait a set amount of time to ensure the cat is gone before scooping. This way, it doesn’t frighten your scaredy-cat into not wanting to use the litter box that makes intimidating noises.

3. Smart Feeder

Everyone who has cats knows they like being fed at a consistent schedule. And the cat picks the schedule. Should you fail to comply, you will be subject to incessant meowing until you correct the error of your ways.

There are days you won’t be around to give your cat dinner on time, though. Sometimes, circumstances arise that make it so you don’t get home until late, and you feel bad that you’ve kept your kitty waiting so long. With a smart feeder, you can avoid this. All you need to do is pour food in the feeder’s storage tank and schedule when to dispense food and what portion size, and it does the rest. Want to go out to dinner after the matinee or afternoon game? Go for it. Your cat isn’t waiting for you to get home before it can eat.

Maybe your cat eats all the food that is supposed to last from morning to dinner too fast, which makes it sick. To prevent this, you can program your smart feeder to dispense more meals with smaller portion sizes throughout the day. If you’re really lucky, your cat will learn you don’t need to be around for it to get breakfast, so it will stop meowing at you at insane o’clock in the morning.

If you have multiple cats, get a selective cat feeder. When a cat walks up to the bowl, the feeder will know which of your cats it is via a collar tag. It will dispense the appropriate amount for that cat. Should you have a cat on a special diet, you can use multiple selective feeders. Put the diet food in a feeder that will only respond to the special diet cat, and put regular food in a feeder that will only respond to the other cats.

The Benefits of Smart Home Technology

Nowadays, more and more things are becoming “smart.” We have smartphones, smart speakers, smart lights, smart cameras, smart refrigerators, smart thermostats, and more. But why “smart”? Why not just call it a light or a thermostat? What makes a device smart, and what are the benefits of smart home technology?

In general, a smart device is a device that connects over a network. Some devices have AI and the ability to “learn.” For all smart devices, the goal is to perform a task more easily than the “not smart” versions. As a user, this can provide you with numerous benefits.

Convenience

Image of a Ring Video Doorbell hanging on a door frame.

Smart devices are built with convenience in mind. Automation helps optimize convenience. You can program your smart lights to turn on and gradually increase to full brightness, which can simulate sunrise during the winter and make it easier to get up. Then, when you go to the kitchen, the lights automatically turn on when motion detectors recognize you’ve entered. You find your morning coffee already waiting for you since you programmed your smart coffee maker to brew per your schedule. But automation isn’t the only way smart technology benefits you. Much of it is at your fingertips or a voice command away.

Since smart devices can connect to a network, you can integrate them by connecting them to your phone and smart speaker. When you’re in your cozy reading corner and you get a notification from your Ring Video Doorbell, you don’t need to leave. By accessing your video doorbell through your phone, you can see if it’s someone you need to answer the door for.
It’s a package delivery driver. Even though it’s an important delivery, there’s still no need to leave your cozy corner. Using the Ring app, you ask the driver to put the package inside, and you quickly ask your virtual assistant to unlock the smart lock on your front door. After the delivery driver places the package inside, you remotely lock the doors again and get back to finding out how the hero of this book escapes the fortress. Many other devices will connect with your phone and smart speaker, giving you full control of your home no matter where you are.

Save Money and Conserve Energy

Image of a Nest Learning Thermostat

Another of the benefits of smart home technology enables you to save money and conserve energy. Utility bills contribute significantly to a household’s expenses. With smart technology, you can not only make your house more eco-friendly but also decrease your utility bill. One of the biggest money/energy savers is smart thermostats. These learn your schedule to know when you need the heating and cooling and what temperature you like. Should you need to make any adjustments, you can easily do so from your phone. Nest did a study to show how effective the Nest Learning Thermostat is by looking at energy bills from customers. On average, people saved 10% to 12% on heating and 15% on cooling.

Smart lights will further reduce your energy usage and power bill. They last longer and use less energy than other bulbs. They also have features to help you regulate usage. If your kids are always forgetting to turn off the lights and you’re already at work by the time they leave for school, you can remotely turn off the lights with your phone.
Two devices to decrease your water usage and the associated bill are flood detectors and smart sprinkler controllers. With a flood detector, you can get notified of a flood or leak faster so that you can save water and your bill. Sprinkler controllers will use local weather information to adjust your sprinkler schedule automatically. No more accidentally watering your yard right before or during a rainstorm.

The more you look at different smart devices, the more you will see how much smart technology can benefit you. If you would like help designing your perfect smart home system, contact us at 844-904-9473 or request info online.

Hate Mornings? Try a DIY Sunrise Alarm Clock Using Smart Lights

Princess Anna was onto something when she said, “The sky’s awake, so I’m awake.” Due to circadian rhythms, the inverse is also true. When the sky is asleep, people generally want to be asleep. Because of this, even if you’re a morning person, it can be difficult getting up in the morning during winter when the dark is glaring in through your windows.
Sunrise alarm clocks were developed as a means of combating this. A set duration before your scheduled alarm, the clock’s light will turn on at its dimmest setting. It will gradually brighten in an artificial sunrise that eases you out of sleep. When your alarm goes off, you’ll wake up to a lit room.

The only downside is the cost. Cheaper options are available, but these don’t have a smooth sunrise cycle. They will often be one hue rather than mimicking the multiple hues of a natural sunrise. Plus, instead of gradually fading to brightness, they will become brighter in incremental jumps. There are also complaints about the cheaper sunrise alarm clocks not lighting up a room as thoroughly as some of the other options. For a good sunrise alarm clock, you would be looking at $100+. You can make a DIY sunrise alarm clock using smart lights as a less expensive alternative.

Choosing Your Smart Lights

Smart lights can connect to your phone, smart hub, or smart speaker. You can remotely control them from an app or voice commands. You can also schedule times to automatically turn them on and off.
When you create your DIY sunrise alarm clock using smart lights, you will want to get at least one light, which you can put in a lamp. However, for the best experience, you will want to put smart lights in your bedroom’s overhead light fixture. If the light fixture has a dimmer switch, you will want to convert it to a regular switch before using smart lights. Otherwise, the light will flicker and make a buzzing noise.

For a lamp, you may run into problems if you try using a touch-activated lamp, but if you use a lamp with multiple brightness settings, you can turn it on to the highest setting after installing your smart light, and you should be fine.

Smart lights come with a broad range of features and capabilities. For your DIY sunrise alarm clock, you will at least want to find a light with a fade-in feature that you can schedule to fade to full brightness over an extended duration. To optimize your sunrise alarm clock more fully, get color-changing lights. Ideally, you will find bulbs capable of fading through a color cycle that you set while simultaneously becoming brighter.

If you want to connect your smart lights to your smart home hub or smart speaker, you will want to check for compatibility as you research different bulbs. Keep in mind that the device you use to connect to your smart lights will need to be connected to Bluetooth or the internet for your DIY sunrise alarm clock to work as scheduled. If you generally turn your phone on airplane mode at night, you will want to start using do not disturb instead. However, unlike many regular sunrise alarm clocks, a power outage won’t throw off your programming.

Programming Your Artificial Sunrise

Image of someone holding a smartphone.

Most sunrise alarm clocks have a 30-minute cycle. You can copy this or choose a different duration as you create your DIY version. For purposes of this article, we’ll use the 30-minute model, and you can adjust as needed for what you decide is best for you. There are two main methods you can choose between when creating your sunrise.

Sunrise Simulation

The most accurate way of simulating the sunrise involves using the light tones in a natural sunrise. This is the method the top-ranked sunrise alarm clocks use. They start with a red-toned light at the lamp’s dimmest setting. As the light progressively gets brighter, the light fades through shades of orange and then yellow. By the time it reaches its brightest setting, the light takes on the hue of natural daylight.

To recreate this with your DIY sunrise alarm clock:

1. Familiarize yourself with your smart light app.

The exact process will vary based on the brand of light you selected, but this guide will walk you through the general idea.

2. First Schedule

Create a new schedule starting 30 minutes before your alarm will go off with a light that fades from red to orange over ten minutes and increases from 0% to 33% brightness.

3. Second Schedule

Create a second schedule starting twenty minutes before your alarm with a light that fades from orange to yellow over ten minutes and increases from 33% to 66% brightness.

4. Third Schedule

Create a third schedule starting ten minutes before your alarm with a light that fades from yellow to daylight over ten minutes and increases from 66% to 100% brightness.

5. Set to Repeat

Set the schedule to repeat on the days you want it to.

If your bulb isn’t able to fade between colors, you can manually create a fading effect. Start with the color set to red. Then, create a new schedule with a shade of red closer to orange and so forth as you work your way through the sunrise cycle. The more schedules you program, the more natural your sunrise will feel. You will want ten minutes of red and shades that get closer to orange. Then, have ten minutes of orange and shades that get closer to yellow. Next, have ten minutes of yellow that get closer to daylight. Finally, set your lights for daylight when your alarm goes off.

These may sound like intensive processes, but most smart light apps are easy to use, and once you create your sunrise schedule, you never have to do it again. If it’s still more work than you want to do, there is an alternative. You won’t get the natural shades of sunrise, but it’s easier to set up.

A Simplified Sunrise

Image of a Google Nest Mini

For a simplified sunrise, pick one light color or a white tone. Then, set it to fade from 0% to 100% over 30 minutes, reaching the brightest setting when your alarm goes off. Do you have a Google Nest? There is a built-in feature where you can say, “Hey Google, turn on Gentle Wakeup.” It will automatically set your smart lights to fade to full brightness over the 30 minutes before your scheduled alarm.

Whichever method you decide to go with, you no longer have to wake up to darkness in the winter. With your DYI sunrise alarm clock using smart lights, you can always wake up to sunrise for easier, brighter mornings.

Sci-Fi Technology You Can Add to Your Smart Home Today

In 1865, Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon was well received by audiences. At the time, it was fanciful and utterly impossible. One hundred four years later, man first set foot on the moon. What was once science fiction had become a reality. From this and the other events of the Space Age stemmed more fanciful ideas for futuristic technology. People incorporated these into the science fiction of that day and the decades that followed. In some cases, technology didn’t develop as quickly as the hopeful creators had predicted (Back to the Future fans are still wondering where those 2015 hoverboards are). In other cases, technologies found in sci-fi set centuries from now exist in some form today, such as a few of those found in the 23rd and 24th centuries in Star Trek. We might not have the starships and warp technology needed to travel the final frontier easily. We do have versions of  some Starfleet technologies in our current frontier, though. Here is some sci-fi technology you can add to your smart home today.

“Computer, Increase Ambient Temperature by Two Degrees Centigrade.”

When Star Trek first came out, controlling a computer with a mouse was a new technology. Meanwhile, Star Trek and other stories introduced the sci-fi technology of a computer that could respond to voice commands. The main computer was also integrated with the other systems. Crewmembers could tell the computer to adjust the temperature, turn off the lights, play music, and other things in addition to operating the starship.

Today, we have voice command computers. However, instead of referring to them as “computer,” we call them “Alexa,” “Google,” and “Siri.” A smart speaker with a virtual assistant isn’t entirely the same as a ship-wide computer, but if you set it up correctly, you can get close. Start by choosing a smart speaker to serve as your smart home hub. You could even put smart speakers in multiple rooms for a more immersive experience. Once you have your speaker(s), connect your smart thermostat, smart lights, smart locks, home security system, and other technology. With an integrated smart home system, you can have all the control of a Starfleet captain over your home without leaving the atmosphere.

“Tea, Earl Grey, Hot”

The idea of a replicator is fascinating. You can go up to a terminal and ask it for a cup of tea, and it will make one for you. No need to bring your own cup. The replicator will make that, too. We’re still a ways off from this, but one could argue that we’ve entered the early stages of this sci-fi technology. We can take an intangible computer file and use it to create a tangible object with a 3D printer. Even though you can’t replicate a cup of tea, you can replicate a cup.

As 3D printing technology has been progressing, it has become more affordable and more accessible. There are easy-to-use home 3D printers available. Many libraries offer 3D printing services for patrons who want to utilize this new technology but don’t have their own 3D printer. For those without experience in 3D design, premade files for printable objects are available, often at no charge, through websites like Thingiverse.

“Computer, Begin Program”

In Star Trek, a holodeck is a room that can become a 3D simulation of anything. The simulation isn’t bound by the room’s dimensions since the simulation moves with the user. It can be the ultimate training program or the most immersive video game in the galaxy.

Nowadays, we are starting to see more of this level of immersion through virtual reality technology. VR uses stereoscopic displays to create the illusion that the user is in the VR world rather than looking at it. VR treadmills make it possible to move around in the VR world as though you are really there. Additional physical props can further enhance the experience. Though there are still kinks developers are working out and affordability issues, VR is on its way to becoming the holodeck of reality. Between these and other developing technologies, we are well on our way to more of yesterday’s science fiction becoming today’s reality.

How to Prevent People from Hacking Smart Home Devices

If you’ve watched enough spy movies, you’ve probably seen both the good guys and the bad guys hack into computer systems, tap into cameras, deactivate security devices, and other means needed to accomplish their aim without getting caught. Their methods are dramatized for cinematic purposes, but real-life hackers can achieve similar results. Your home probably isn’t a fortified base holding an artifact critical to a mission. However, the real-life hackers may still see it as a target. As one cyber security expert put it, “If it’s digital, it’s hackable.” We surround ourselves with digital technology, and some hackers find ways to take advantage of this by hacking smart home devices.

What Hackers Do

It starts with finding something to hack. Many hackers will use network scanning tools to locate devices. They would then execute various strategies to gain access. Once they’ve accessed one device on the network, it’s easier to hack into others.

They might access the indoor cameras to watch what’s happening inside a home. Finding it empty, they could decide to investigate further. By accessing the smart thermostat, they’re able to see the temperature is set lower than the usual of previous weeks, suggesting that the residents could be out of town. The hacker keeps an eye on the home. When they conclude they’re right about the home being vacant, they decide to take advantage of it. First, they access the cameras, ring doorbell, and alarm system and disconnect them from the Wi-Fi to deactivate them. Then, they tap into the smart locks and let themselves in. When the residents come back from their vacation, they find they’ve been victims of a home robbery.

Now, before you smash your Ring Video Doorbell and swear off all technology, there are things you can do to prevent people from hacking smart home devices.

1. Be Smart with Your Devices

Preventing people from hacking smart home devices starts with the devices you choose. When you’re designing your smart home system, get devices that have built-in security features. Many major brands do, but some are safer than others. You will want to do your research and find devices that are less vulnerable. If you’ve already built your system and find out you chose less secure devices, it may be time to upgrade.

Whatever devices you end up using, you will regularly want to check for software and firmware updates. Often, hackers can attack outdated encryption algorithms to get into devices. If you keep yours updated, that’s one less thing hackers can use against you.

2. Be Smart with Your Logins

If you have weak logins, it will be easier for a hacker to get into your devices and the accounts associated with them. Use strong passwords, and don’t use the same password on multiple accounts. If you do, a hacker will only need to crack one password. Then, they can easily get into all your other accounts that use that password. Have you been reusing the same password because you know you won’t remember a bunch of different passwords? A password manager app is a great way of securely storing your passwords so you can look them up rather than going through the “forgot password” process whenever you need to log in.

To add another layer of security, use two-factor verification wherever possible. This way, a hacker might crack the password to one of your accounts, but they won’t get the text or email code they need to complete the login.

3. Be Smart with Wi-Fi

Sometimes, hackers will access smart devices and use this as a bridge into hacking laptops and other devices that may contain more personal information than your smart fridge does. To prevent this, you may want to set up a secondary network for guests and smart home devices that is separate from the network you use for your computers. When connecting devices to this smart home network, use PoE (Power over Ethernet) connections rather than Wi-Fi as much as possible. This adds an extra layer of security, making it so a hacker would need to go through the added step of figuring out how to get through your network’s firewall before they would be able to start trying to hack into the device. When you are away from home, never use public networks to remotely access your smart home devices. This makes a hacker’s job even easier. Instead, use your cellular data, a far safer method than the unsecured public networks.

In the case of your home security system, you can prevent aspects of it from being connected to your network altogether if you get a cellular monitoring system rather than one with a Wi-Fi connection. With cellular monitoring, a cellular module is built into the control panel, and it uses cellular and radio-based technology to communicate with the sensors rather than Wi-Fi. This makes it so hackers can’t affect your alarm system by hacking into your Wi-Fi network, and they can’t turn it off by cutting power or phone lines. Will cellular monitoring, you will know your home is always protected when you are away from home.

Maximize Productivity with These Home Office Hacks

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Most of 2020 was a dumpster fire that we will not speak of, but it led to a notable trend in the workforce we will acknowledge, specifically the growing popularity of remote jobs and the increasing availability of remote positions. Recent studies have shown working from home to be more productive, especially if employees use strategies to maximize productivity. One of these is to ensure you have a good home office space. Perhaps you recently got a new remote position, or you have been remote for a while and are looking for ways of improving. Whatever the case, here are some life hacks on how to design a home office space that will maximize productivity.

1. Have a Separate Workspace

Our brains come to associate different places with different things, depending on what we use them for. When you’re working from home, blurring the lines can be tempting and problematic. You may find yourself thinking it would be more comfortable to work on your bed, but this area is associated with sleep rather than work, so you will be more inclined to get tired or have trouble concentrating. On the flip side, if you train yourself to work sitting on your bed, you may find yourself having a harder time sleeping at night since your brain will think it’s time to be awake and working.

What about curling up on the couch with your laptop, then? Well… That also might not be the best idea. Since couches are generally used for watching movies and other relaxing activities, your brain will think it’s time to relax and won’t want to focus on work. The kitchen table or counter? That could work, but you’ll likely find yourself wanting to snack throughout the day since you’re where you go when it’s time to eat.

So where can you work to maximize productivity? You will want to set up an area designated for work, but if you have limited space and don’t have an entire room to turn into a home office, you can use a room for multiple purposes. Just make sure there’s a separate space for each. Pick a corner in your bedroom, kitchen, or living room and set up a desk. If you’re very limited on space, folding tables are a great way of conserving space while still giving yourself a separate workspace.

2. Get Comfortable

You don’t have to be on a cozy couch to be comfortable during your workday. Invest in a good chair, and keep ergonomics in mind. You may even want to look into a standing desk if you see yourself doing better when you aren’t sitting as much. If needed, get a taller computer monitor or a stand for your existing one. Your neck will thank you if the screen is at eye level.

After you have your basic setup, consider lighting. You will want your space to be well-lit and to maximize natural lighting. Not only will this help you better stay alert throughout the day, but it will also help you sleep better at night.

You will also want to ensure you are working in a comfortable temperature. Most studies agree that temperature affects productivity, but few agree on what the ideal temperature for productivity should be, so determine what works best for you. If you find yourself needing to change the temperature during the day and you have a smart thermostat, you won’t need to step away from your work to adjust it. You can quickly do so from the app on your phone and then get back to what you were doing.

3. Minimize Distractions

Another smart home hack to maximize productivity would be to get a video doorbell as a way of minimizing distractions. Without a video doorbell, when you hear the door ring on a day you’re expecting a food delivery, you will be inclined to step away from your work to answer the door. Then, when you find out it’s not the DoorDash driver but a solicitor, you have to politely get them to go away before you can go back to your workspace and resume what you were doing. It’s a hassle and takes up time you could be using more productively. With a video doorbell, when the doorbell rings, you can quickly check to see if it’s something you need to take a brief break for or if you can ignore it and resume.

You may find yourself contending with other external distractions if you live in a loud area or aren’t the only person home during the day. Unwanted noise can make it difficult for you to concentrate on your work, but it can often be decreased or eliminated using sound-reducing panels or noise-canceling headphones.

You don’t have to work in a bland, quiet area to maximize productivity, though. Get some tunes going if you’ve found that helps you and it works for your job, and feel free to add some decorations to personalize your workspace. However, you will want to avoid clutter, which can draw your attention and distract you from your work. Consider getting a few plants. These are great decorations that will improve productivity in addition to air quality.

After you’ve designed a home office space to improve the quality of your workday, don’t be afraid to add or change things down the road. It’s your workspace, so make it yours.

Things You Shouldn’t Use Smart Plugs For

Smart plugs are a great way of adding automation to your home. The possibilities of what you can do with them are limited only by the capabilities of the smart plug you’ve selected, the devices you use around your home, and your imagination. You can find hundreds of lists with suggestions on what you can do with your smart plugs. Some are more practical than others, some make a task less efficient for the sake of doing it in a “smart” way, and some are hazardous. Here are a few of the often-recommended suggestions that are things you shouldn’t use smart plugs for.

1. Slow Cookers

There has been a rise in the popularity of slow cookers and multi-cookers in society’s search for faster and easier ways of doing things. Because of this, companies developed and released cookers with delayed start settings. Then, you can put your food in the pot before you leave in the morning and come home to a cooked dinner. All multi-cookers come with a delayed start setting, but older slow cookers don’t. People have found that if their slow cooker doesn’t have delayed start capabilities, they can use smart plugs to achieve the same thing.

Rather than programming the cooker to start at a set time, they program the plug to turn on at that time. Then, if they have a recipe that only needs to cook for six hours but they will be gone nine, they can wait three hours before they have the plug turn on. By the time they get home, their food will be cooked and not three hours overcooked. This sounds like a good idea in theory, but if not executed properly, it’s a safety hazard.

The Danger Zone

One of the top rules of food safety is to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Anything between 40° and 140° F is what food safety experts have termed the danger zone. Bacteria grow the most rapidly in this zone, leaving food susceptible to contamination that could result in food born illnesses. You should never leave perishable foods unrefrigerated for more than two hours. If the temperature is 90° degrees or higher, you should not leave it unrefrigerated for more than one hour.

What does this mean for your slow cooker? All slow cooker recipes take a different amount of time to cook, generally ranging between four to eight hours. If it takes you a half-hour to get to work, you work for eight hours with a half-hour lunch, and it takes you another half-hour to get home, you’ll be gone a total of nine and a half hours. Even if you scratch all the shorter-length recipes from your cookbook, a delayed start still might put your food at risk. When it’s a hot summer day and you don’t leave your AC on when you’re not home since you’re trying to be energy efficient, if you delay-start an eight-hour recipe, that will put it in the danger zone too long.

Many find a way around this by saying they’ll put the food in the crockpot while it’s still frozen. This way, it will stay cold longer However, you should never leave frozen food out to dethaw. The outside will thaw faster, putting it in the danger zone before the inside has thawed. Often, this will put the outside in the danger zone too long.

A Safer Alternative

As a safer alternative, you could get a slow cooker with a keep warm setting. Then, you can cook it immediately to keep it out of the danger zone. When it’s done, it will switch to a temperature that will keep your food safe and warm without overcooking it. If you really want to use your smart plug to program an appliance, you can hook it to your kettle or coffee maker and schedule it to align with your morning routine.

2. Preheating Hair Styling Tools

Another common smart plug recommendation is to program it to preheat your curling or straightening iron so that it’s ready by the time you need it. Most styling tools heat up in a matter of minutes, so unless you’re using it the exact same time every day, you’re just wasting power. Even if you think your schedule is that consistent, things happen. Maybe your alarm didn’t go off, so you’re running late. Perhaps one of your kids requires your attention, and it pulls you off routine. It could be a holiday, so you’re sleeping in, but you forgot to change the timer on the smart plug.

Avoid Fire Hazards

Even if you are always as prompt as the Count of Monte Cristo—on time to the second with no deviations—you might not waste any power by preheating, but you are creating a fire hazard. What is on your bathroom counter in addition to your styling tool? Plastic makeup bottles? Hair products? Hairspray? These may not currently be touching your curling iron, but someone you live with might move something. If your curling iron turns on and it’s touching or close enough to something, it would melt it, possibly start a fire. A sure way to ruin your morning is to walk into the bathroom and find a fire with a melted hairspray bottle at the center of it.

Avoid Electrical Hazards

What if you’re a conscientious person and you use safe practices? You put your styling tool on a heat-resistant pad or stand whenever you’re not using it, and you always clean everything off your counter when you’re finished. The first step is to give yourself a gold medal for being way more organized than most people. Then, consider that heat isn’t the only thing that can start a fire. Various electrical problems could also lead to a fire. It may seem unlikely if you’ve never had problems before. However, the probability is high enough that experts say you should never leave your hair styling tools unattended. Ever.

Here’s where a smart plug really can be helpful with styling tools. Are you often not sure if you remembered to unplug your styling tool? You can put a smart plug in the outlet you use for it. Then, when you’re questioning if you remembered to unplug it, you can remotely turn off the smart plug. Then, you will have peace of mind knowing that your styling tool will be safe until you get home.

3. Everything

Techies get excited about their tech, and many have suggested that smart plugs are so useful that people should use them for everything. There may come a day when smart plugs are the industry standard installed into all home. Right now, it’s not practical to use them for everything. The average US home has 75 electrical outlets. Smart plugs start around $10 each but get more expensive with better quality and more features. If you use smart plugs for everything in your house, it’s going to add up. If you can and want to spend $750+ to put in smart plugs for all of them, go for it. Otherwise, you will want to prioritize. What do you do the most, and what do you find the most inconvenient?

If you’re tired of forgetting to make sure your kid turned off their night light in the morning and finding out it’s been on all day when night comes again, you might be more inclined to use one of your smart plugs for scheduling when it’s on. If you don’t have a problem with over-charging devices, a smart plug you can set to turn off after so many hours of charging might not be at the top of your list. It could be nice having a smart plug on the Wi-Fi router so you can remotely reset it, but you don’t have to do this often enough for an occasional trip downstairs to be worth it. If you were still enforcing an internet curfew like you were before all the kids have moved out, then you’d be using a router smart plug every day. And so forth.

Determine your budget and how many smart plugs you need and go from there. It’s your home. You can customize it to whatever works best for you, your family, your budget, and your safety.

Do You Have a Ring Camera? You Need a Ring Solar Panel to Go With It

Not only do wireless exterior cameras give you protection and peace of mind, but they also come with the added convenience of easy installation wherever you need to place them. You won’t get as much simplicity or flexibility with a wired system. There’s only one downside to wireless: they’re battery-powered, and batteries need to be charged.

If you have a Ring Spotlight Cam or a 2nd on 3rd generation Ring Stickup Cam, there’s a solution. Ring offers a solar panel you can use to keep your cameras charged all the time, no extra work necessary. But is it worth the cost since Ring advertises you only need to charge your cameras once every six months to a year per camera, depending on usage? Let’s take a look at a scenario that may have familiar elements, and you can decide.

Without a Ring Solar Panel

Say you’re busy during the holiday season. You’re juggling work, parties, presents, and your kids’ schedules. One night while you’re waiting for your kid’s dance performance to start, you get the notification from your Ring camera.

Low Battery.

You still have some time to charge the battery before it will die, but if you don’t get it done soon, your camera could stop working. Looking over your schedule, you decide you should be able to fit it in Wednesday before you have to drive your other kid to hockey practice.

But when Wednesday comes, there’s a blizzard. There’s no way you’re pulling out a ladder in this weather to take out the battery and charge it, so you put it off another day. On Thursday, you forget, but on Friday, you finally haul the ladder out into the cold and take out the battery. Retreating to the warm indoors, you plug it in to charge and wait. It can take 5-10 hours for the battery to charge, hours during which the area that camera watches is vulnerable. If anything happens, you won’t have any footage from that camera to help with catching the culprit. This time, you get lucky, though.

When the time comes, you yet again pull out the ladder and trudge outside to put the battery back in. At last, it’s done and taken care of. Until the next time one of your cameras reaches low power.

The Easier Way

You purchase a Ring Solar Panel and follow the easy install instructions to set it up in a position so it will get the several hours of sunlight it needs per day. Thanks to the solar panel being compact but powerful, it doesn’t take up very much space on your roof. Now, not only will you be able to charge your cameras in a more energy-efficient way, you will never have to worry about your cameras’ batteries again. Instead, you’ll save time and effort and without needing to leave areas vulnerable during changing, you’ll know your home is always protected.

If you would like to learn more about how a Ring Solar Panel can help you, contact us at 844-904-9473 or request info online.