The kits come with free basic service that provides a limited array of alerts and gives you remote control of some functions. But you’ll have to buy the premium service at $10 a month if you want a more sophisticated system — for example, one that notifies you when your kids get home from school or automatically turns off items in your house when you use more than a predetermined amount of power.
Iris has been available online and at a limited number of stores since summer, and it’s expected to be in all Lowe’s stores by early next year, Meagher said.
Another smart device that’s gotten a lot of attention is the Nest thermostat, which was designed to automate and greatly simplify the process of programming a thermostat.
The need for the Nest was rooted in the simple fact that most programmable thermostats don’t get programmed, said Kate Brinks, director of corporate communication for Nest Labs. Homeowners might program a thermostat once when it’s new, but they often neglect to tweak the program as their household schedules change, she said.
The Nest, on the other hand, learns your schedule from the adjustments you make to it, either by turning a dial on the unit or operating it remotely. It also senses your presence, so it can adjust the temperature if you’re home when you’re normally gone or vice versa.
The occupancy sensor is a far-field activity sensor that detects heat and body fluids, so it can differentiate between humans and animals, Brinks said.
The thermostat has some other features, such as a leaf logo that appears when you make energy-saving changes and an Airwave feature that uses a fan to push out additional cold air when the air conditioner cycles off. It’s designed for do-it-yourself installation, using lever connections for the wires that are similar to the connectors on stereo speakers, Brinks said.
It’s available for $249 on Nest.com, or you can buy it from Amazon.com or Lowes.com. Nest also offers installation for an additional cost.
Leviton’s Hendler said that of all the home automation options, a smart thermostat probably provides the best payback for your investment.
He recommended choosing a communicating thermostat that’s capable of supporting Wi-Fi so it can be connected to a home network. Make sure you have electrical power where the thermostat is installed, or you’ll need a battery-operated unit, he said.