Once thought of as a passing trend, home automation is here to stay. Nearly 30% of Americans already own at least one smart home product,1 and Parks Associates reports that half of all United States households will be smart homes by 2020.2 Even though home automation is becoming mainstream, there's still a lot of confusion and apprehension surrounding the technology. In fact, we're often asked, What exactly is a smart home? and, Is getting started with home automation hard? If you have similar questions, this article is a must-read. We'll define a smart home (complete with a virtual tour), explain how to choose the right smart products for your lifestyle, and suggest five smart devices perfect for home automation beginners. Rest assured, achieving a smart home is easier than you think! What Is a Smart Home? There's no tried-and-true definition of a smart home, but in general terms, it's a home that's equipped with smart devices to automate and control household systems such as thermostats, lighting, security cameras, and more. The benefits of a smart home include everything from saving energy and money to increasing security and convenience.
Smart home devices can be managed remotely through an app on your smartphone or computer, with many also responding to voice commands using digital assistants like Siri and Alexa. Smart devices often communicate with one another through protocols like Z-Wave and ZigBee to create a home automation network. Take our interactive smart home tour to see what today's automated home looks like. How Do I Get Started with Home Automation? Many people want to enjoy the benefits of smart home automation, but they're not sure which products to buy. That's understandable considering the dizzying number of smart devices on the market, and each one claims to be the best. We developed this four-step process to help you choose smart devices that are a good fit for your lifestyle. Step 1:Determine Your Tech Level Become familiar with how home automation works, then realize that some smart devices require much more technical proficiency than others. If you're not particularly tech-savvy, stick to basic smart devices that are intuitive and easy to use, such as the products featured below. Step 2: Decide How Much You Want to Spend Smart devices are found at all price points from affordable to quite expensive, so before you go any further, decide how much you feel comfortable spending. Step 3: Match Your Home Automation Device to Your Unique Needs
Remember, everyone is different, so the smart gadget your neighbor swears by might not be helpful to you. When selecting a smart device, consider your lifestyle. For instance, if you're a stay-at-home parent, you might want the extra security of a smart doorbell. Step 4: Research Products Thoroughly before Buying Once you have an idea of what home automation tools are the best fit for your tech level, budget, and lifestyle, do your research. Before purchasing a smart device, read customer opinions, buyers guides, and independent reviews. Which Smart Devices Are Best for Home Automation Beginners?
Getting started with home automation doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. All of these SafeWise-recommended smart gadgets are user friendly, and some cost less than $100. Smart Lighting
One of the easiest and cheapest ways to start automating your home is with smart lightbulbs, and Philips Hue is one of the best brands. This bulb offers a soft, white, dimmable light that reviewers rave over and it works with Alexa once connected to the Phillips Hue Bridge hub.
Nest Learning Thermostat connects to Wi-Fi, allowing you to control it right from your smartphone, tablet, or computer. It also works with Alexa and Google Home. One of the most popular features of this beloved home automation device is that it learns your preferred temperature settings and programs itself in about one week. Nest also turns itself down when no one is home, helping you cut back on energy costs.
Nest is one of our top six smart thermostats of 2017. Consult our Smart Thermostats Buyers Guide to read an in-depth review of Nest and other high-performers. Smart Doorbells
Smart doorbells allow you to see who's at your door without opening it, which not only adds convenience to your life but also helps keep you safe. Among SafeWise-recommended smart doorbells, Ring is at the top of the list with features like two-way audio, motion sensing, and night vision. Smart doorbells are one of the most popular smart devices for the home, according to a study from the NPD Group.3 If you're ready to get on board with the trend, read our Smart Doorbells Buyers Guide to learn how the best brands compare. Smart Outlets
Budget-friendly and incredibly easy to use, smart plugs like Belkin WeMo allow you to turn virtually any appliance or electronic into a smart device. Through an app, you can set timers for your appliances, schedule lights to turn on or off, and more. We also appreciate that the Belkin WeMo Switch has an “away mode” which makes your home appear occupied when it's not. If you're thinking of purchasing a smart outlet or smart plug, consult our Smart Outlet Buyers Guide first to become familiar with common features. Smart Locks
A smart lock is an excellent investment in your family's safety and security. The Kevo Smart Lock allows you to do things like unlock your door from your smartphone, see who has locked or unlocked your door, and send guest ekeys. For additional protection, consider using a smart lock in tandem with a SafeWise-approved home security system. There are several different types of electronic door locks. Our Smart Locks Buyers Guide explains how each type works and offers a variety of SafeWise-recommended locks. There are so many ways to automate your home, so it's easy to get carried away and potentially buy smart devices you don't need. We advise starting slow. Purchase one or two of our feature smart devices, and as you get comfortable with home automation technology, consider buying other smart products. Before you know it, you'll be living in a twenty-first century smart home.
Every year for a few years, I've been invited to tour the Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles Home for the Holidays designer showhouse. This year it was another inspiring visit to the home, as I toured the rooms of top designers in the area and beyond, seeing all the beauty they put together for this gorgeous home in the West Paces Ferry Road area. This year's home is off Mt. Paran Road if you're in the Atlanta area. The post Feature Friday: Home for the Holidays Showhouse 2017 appeared first on Southern Hospitality.
Every so often, we scour the site for cool recipes from our community that we then test, photograph, and feature. This dessert comes from community member SupperStarter, whose mother served a sweet potato roll at the end of Thanksgiving dinner.
I love sweet potato casserole, I do. But I always get a little disappointed with the leftovers. Let's face it-sweet potato casserole peaks the moment it's out of the oven; that's when the marshmallow topping is puffy and toasted, or, alternatively, when the sugar and chopped pecans (or whatever nut you use) crystalize into crunchy perfection. After a couple of hours on the table, the fluff deflates and the crunch softens. There's nothing wrong with these leftover casseroles-they just don't age gracefully. Which is why I was excited to discover SupperStarter's sweet potato roll, which only gets tastier with time. The subtle sweet potato flavors mingle with spicy cinnamon, and get warm and cozy with swirls of tangy cream cheese filling. As it sits, the mellow, autumnal flavors become bolder, more comforting. Bonus: The cake's moist texture won't dry out after the Thanksgiving guests have cleared out, leaving you to enjoy slices for breakfast, lunch, or a midnight snack.
SupperStarter's mother would make this treat for Thanksgiving dessert, but it's also a great way to use up sweet potatoes that didn't make it into a casserole. Simply roast and purée one medium sweet spud and you'll have more than enough for the batter. A note: This is a pretty moist cake, which can make rolling it up a little tricky. For a refresher on how to roll cake, look here. Our test kitchen found it easiest to just roll the cake once after spreading the filling. They also let it cool completely before attempting the roll so that the cake wouldn't tear. Yes, it's a little bit of effort, but the reward's pretty sweet.
PeopleImages/iStockWant to host a giant Thanksgiving dinner, but think it's hopeless because you live in a tiny apartment or other wee space? Never fear-you don't need the powers of Houdini to squeeze your guests around your breakfast nook, or that turkey and stuffing and pie into your overcrowded oven. Hosting can happen in any-size home, if you know a few tricks to make the most of what you have. Here are some of the most common questions small-space hosts often have, plus some clever solutions. Where are you going to put all these people? “When you need to serve a large crowd in a small space, the first thing you need to do is let go of the idea of everyone sitting at one huge table,” says Katie Moseman, a writer and recipe developer at Recipe for Perfection. “My recommendation is to get creative and set up as many small dining areas as you can. For example, in our house, we've used a small dining table, a bar area, and several free-standing cafe tables arranged in the living room and kitchen area.” You could also toss a bunch of pillows onto the floor so people can eat anywhere, no chairs required, advises interior designer Katrina Stumbos. If you're not ready to give up on your vision of everybody gathered around a long table, borrow folding tables and card tables from friends. Line them up and cover them with tablecloths: Nobody will ever know what's underneath. As for chairs, “be OK with mixing and matching,” says Stumbos. “Have some smaller chairs mixed with larger ones to ensure everyone fits around the table.” If all of your friends are arriving by car, consider asking people to BYO chairs if possible. It's OK to make it a group effort! Where are you going to cook all that food? One of the biggest challenges of cooking a traditional Thanksgiving dinner is figuring out how to cook all that food when you have only one oven. It's a bit of a logic problem: Turkey comes out, casserole goes in, pies get cooked before the turkey... The solution: “Prepare side dishes and appetizers ahead of time to be reheated on the day of, and plan your cooking timeline carefully to make sure you have room for everything in the oven,” suggests Melissa Riker of The Happier Homemaker blog. If you live in an apartment building or condo development, consider asking your neighbors traveling for Thanksgiving if you can borrow their ovens for the day (with the promise to clean up, of course). If you have outdoor space, you can free up the oven by doing the turkey in a fryer or smoking it on the grill. You could also toss the classic menu and cook something completely different. There's no law that says Thanksgiving has to involve turkey. If you have a signature meal you know you can pull off in your space, make that instead. Where are you going to set up your buffet? A buffet can go anywhere you have the space: on your kitchen counter, an island or peninsula, or even your emptied-out bookshelves. “Stack the serving platters on shelves,” suggests Jeff Miller, a Realtor® in Baltimore. As for drinks? “Set up a station away from the kitchen for guests to serve their own drinks and reduce traffic through the food preparation areas,” says Riker. What are you going to serve all that food on? Odds are, if you live in a small space, you don't have matching china service for 12 or 20. That's OK! Your first year hosting a big Thanksgiving might indeed involve some investment in extra china, serving dishes, and flatware-but you don't have to spend an arm and a leg. “Discount home decor stores like HomeGoods will have sets of flatware for $15, and often have fun seasonal, on-trend items,” says Stumbos. Ikea also has stylish plates and glasses for as low as $1 per piece, as well as platters, casserole dishes, and other kitchen essentials at very low prices. Mix and match seasonal patterns with your everyday plates, she suggests. Another option from Riker: “Thrift stores can be a treasure trove of inexpensive dinnerware-mix and match for an eclectic feel.” No storage space for extra stuff? If you're willing to spend the money, you can rent flatware, plates, glasses, and serving pieces. Another option is borrowing from friends and family (just make sure you remember who lent you what). There are also stylish disposable options for little more than the cost of standard paper plates. “Disposable wooden flatware can look more upscale than plastic but still fit even the smallest budgets,” says Riker. The post How to Host a Huge Thanksgiving in a Small Space appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.
To Our Better Homes & Garden'sFamily, We are honored and humbled by the help that we have received from all our Better Home & Gardens Family. You will never ever know how much this meant to us. Weraised close to $100,000 for Harvey Relief through the Gary Greene Foundation. Some of you donated directly to the Foundation or you sent a donation through Realogy which was then donated to the Foundation. 100% of the money was given to our62agents and employees that flooded during the storm.
Your heartfelt donations went so far in helping our people start to get back on their feet.They had incurred so many expenses just trying to live.One of our agents that flooded said, I'm the one that donates, I still cannot believe I am one of the ones that needs help.Some were flooded a few inches, some4 feet and some 8 feet. Many were evacuated from their homes with their families byboats,jet ski's or walked out in chest deep water.The images you saw on TV were real and you never think it could happen to you. We truly are so touched by the kindness of others.
Wewant you to know that you really got ourheartsand the heart ofeveryoneof our agents and employees that were recipients of your generosity. Without your kindness and donations wecould not have helped our agents and employees that were hurting.This is the true meaning of community and we could not be more honored to be in the Better Homes and Gardens Community with all of you. Thank you again! Sincerely, Mark Woodroof