How To Control Your Appliances from Anywhere.

As the internet creeps further into our lives, it’s almost become standard for homeowners to communicate with internet-connected home appliances via their phones, tablets and computers from anywhere there is a connection. These appliances not only provide convenience for their ease of control, but can also be startlingly efficient by tracking energy use as well as keeping to schedules and self-regulation.

What to Know

There are a few things to keep in mind when considering home automation. First, your device–or devices–connect to your home appliances via a shared Wi-Fi connection. This means you will want to ensure your connection is secured, accessible from all over your house and always running.

There’s more to Wi-Fi security than enabling a password to keep others off your connection. Smart appliances can store information that can be useful to thieves and other criminals: imagine a lock that logs when you leave for work and arrive home each day, or an alarm system set on vacation mode. In both instances, you’ve made your device aware that you are not home–which means a hacker could learn this information as well. This isn’t to say smart appliances are dangerous. Rather, it’s essential to follow directions for a proper, secure set-up of your smart appliance or device.

Next, you’ll want to be sure that your smart appliance–light, refrigerator, thermostat–is within range of your wireless router. It may be possible that your house is too big, the device doesn’t have a wide reach or something may be between the appliance and router cutting off the signal. If this happens, a second router or booster antenna is the way to go!

And speaking of a low Wi-Fi signal, be aware that you won’t be able to connect with an appliance when suffering an Internet outage. It may be obvious, but is worth noting.

Smart appliances can be very convenient to use, but may be difficult for some to set up. Proper calibration as well as a secure Wi-Fi setup can be more than less-technologically inclined homeowners might bargain for. When considering an appliance, be sure to read reviews to assess not only the appliance’s features and reliability, but ease of setup as well. Check with the manufacturer to see if someone else may set the appliance up for you if you are unsure about doing it yourself.

Finally, be aware that service to some smart products may require regular service fees, either monthly or yearly, and that you will have to pay for the life of the device.

Smart Devices for Your Home

There are many smart appliances and accompanying apps for both iOS and Android, allowing you to control many aspects of the home from a smartphone, tablet or computer. The INSTEON Hub and its apps is among the most comprehensive setup, which connects to lights, wall switches, outlets and thermostats. You can control these devices from anywhere there’s an internet connection, and receive text or email alerts for intruders, water leaks, fires and more. Of course, each device the Hub connects to must be INSTEON-branded; if you don’t want to be locked into a monopoly in your home, such comprehensive a system isn’t for you.

The Fortrezz Wireless Z-Wave Water Valve is a device that can shut off a water valve as soon as a leak is detected. What makes it even smarter? It will alert you via call, text or email when a water leak occurs and you’re not home. Those wanting to be extra safe can connect it with an alarm system. 

TCP lighting is a system that allows you to control the lights in your home from anywhere. If you’ve ever worried about leaving lights on after leaving your house, you may simply turn them all off to save energy via your phone. By scheduling lighting levels throughout the day, you can give those outside the impression that your family is home while on vacation, deterring would-be thieves.

These are only a few smart devices controllable via your phone or computer. If you want to upgrade an appliance in your home, chances are there’s a smart, internet-connected replacement on the market. If you’d like to hear more about controlling your home via smartphone, check out the original segment from the May 10, 2014 episode of the Home Wizards show below.


This post is adapted from the May 10, 2014 episode of Home Wizards that was released on iTunes May 14, 2014. You can find this segment during Hour One of the podcast.