DIY smart home technology making life easier, bills lower

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Making your home a "smart home" can save you significant time and money and you don't have to have a new house or high priced contractors to make it happen.

Walk into Jason Frindt's home and you'll notice just about everything is automated or remotely controlled.

He can control his locks, lights, television, sound system and security system all from his phone or tablet.

"You can see who is knocking on your door. Somebody rings the door bell, and you say you don't want to deal with solicitors," he said.

But his North Ridgeville home is not a new build, it dates back to the 1970s, well before smart homes were a thing. It's been completely retrofitted by EQ Technologies, without ripping the house up. And you can automate your home for as little as $1,000.

"Even in Shaker Heights where some of these houses are 100 years old you can easily plug it into a wall and connect it," he said.

"If I think, oh I left a light on down here I can just access the app on my phone and immediately turn them off without getting out of bed," said Jason's fiance, Ashley Styles.

He and Styles, love the freedom that comes with the technology.

"For instance we we're on vacation my mom was watching the animals. She came here and it was kind of hot. She didn't know how to fix the thermostat. We were able to do it from our phones in a different city," she said.

These smart steps are saving them money.

They've set up programs to max their lighting out at around 85 percent.

Visibly it's barely noticeable but it's cutting their electrical usage by 15 percent.

"All off" settings, sunrise and sunset lighting schedules and vacation modes contribute to lower utility bills as well.

The couple also takes advantage of Amazon's Alexa, to set set alarms and turn on music, for example.

And they use strategically-placed dash buttons, connected to their Amazon account, for ordering common household items.

You can use them on your Amazon app, or have physical buttons placed wherever you'd like in the house.

"One is for recycle bags, one for glad bags. You hit one button, it turns green and your garbage bags show up," Frindt said.

At the Gehrs household in Mentor, they consider themselves savvy DIYers, having renovated their entire first floor themselves.

But they were ready to dip their toe into more technology-driven home improvements.

So we gave them a trio of Nest products to hook up on their own: an outdoor camera, and indoor camera and a thermostat.

"Just looking at the way that they packaged the product and the user experience and the thought that they put into it it made installation a breeze," said Rachel Gehrs.

She controls the units through a dashboard on her phone.

Gehrs says the temperature in their home is now more consistent, and the outdoor camera offers her peace of mind. But the indoor camera has been the real game changer.

Her young daughter used to be leery and lonely in her basement play room.

"Sometimes it's tough as a mom or a parent when you're trying to prepare dinner and your child wants to play and it's like 'can you go downstairs in the basement and play for a few minutes until dinner is ready?' she said.

The smart camera now lets her daughter know mommy and daddy are still there.

One of the features that she appreciates is the talk feature, which works like an intercom. She can speak directly to her daughter, who might be playing in the basement, from upstairs in the kitchen or anywhere that she has her phone.

One time price points for the Nest products range from $150 to $350.

Or you can try lower priced subscription options like the suite of products from Hive.

Their packages include DIY products like smart plugs, which transform traditional appliances to smart ones.

Rachel and Ashley say they appreciate life with their DIY smart home technology, and they're open to introducing even more into their daily routines.

"Those things that come up that are really easy that make life a lot easier, that's why I like it so much," said Styles.

One drawback to technology like Alexa is that the unit doesn't just respond or react to your voice.

Guests in your home (or intruders) can order things, set alarms, change settings or mess with other systems connected to the Amazon device.

Security experts warn you to have a strong password associated with the Wifi you're using to install an run all these home technology systems.

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