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How to keep your house warm with smart home tech this winter

The smart home can keep you warm - and save money on your energy bills

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Just as the smart home can be used to keep you cool in the summer, the same devices can be relied upon to keep you warm through the cold winter months.

From smart thermostats and motorized window blinds, to the simplicity of fitting a heater to a smart plug, these tips span all budgets and levels of smart home expertise.

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Smart thermostat

Nest

The most obvious way to keep your home warm this winter is to install a smart thermostat. Devices from companies like Nest, Honeywell, Ecobee and Hive - plus Tado for our European readers - all work in a similar way, and have a shared goal; to keep you warm and save you money.

Thermostats from Nest learn your habits over the first few days after being installed, then start adjusting the heating to save money whenever possible, while still keeping you warm. You can also fit a sensor to your most-used room (the lounge, say, or your bedroom) to ensure the thermostat prioritizes that space over lesser-used parts of the home.

Smart thermostats shut down the heating when you leave the home (by knowing the location of your smartphone), then power it back up again when you are nearby. That way, the house is nice and warm when you get in, but doesn't heat itself needlessly during the working day. Many smart thermostats also feature Alexa and Google Assistant integration for voice commands.

Smart plugs and IFTTT

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Cheap, simple, but highly customizable - a smart plug is arguably the most useful device any smart home can have.

During the winter months, you can plug a heater into one and program it to switch on and off at certain times of day, or - with some help from the free IFTTT (If This Then That) automation platform - heat up when you get home, based on the location of your smartphone.



As well as heaters and fans, you can connect a smart plug to an air humidifier, which will help the air in your home feel warmer. This is because heat is held for longer by water than it is by the air, so a more humid atmosphere will retain heat for longer - that's why countries with humid climates also feel warmer than those which are equally hot, but have much dryer air.

As well as being programmed with a timer, or set to come on based on your location, smart plugs can also be operated remotely. That way, you can switch a heater on or off manually from anywhere in the world.

Awair air quality monitor and IFTTT

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Taking the previous stage a step further, you can use an air quality monitor to help automate the heaters and humidifiers attached to your smart plugs. For example, monitors like the Awair and Footbot can be configured through IFTTT to issue a power-on command to a smart plug connected to a heater when the room's temperature drops to a certain level.

Equally, you can use IFTTT to have a smart plug fire up a humidifier when an air quality monitor sees humidity drop below a predefined level.


Motorized smart window blinds

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Admittedly an expensive option, at around $300 to $500 per window depending on the system you opt for, smart motorized window blinds can be opened and closed to let the most amount of sunlight into your home each day.

If you have the budget, Serena smart blinds by Lutron are a good option. They have support for Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit, plus Nest, SmartThings, Wink and IFTTT - the latter of which can close the blinds at sunset each day, or when you leave the house.

Other options include blinds from Somfy Systems and Pella Insynctive, while motors designed to operate your existing blinds (and costing around $200) are offered by Soma and Axis Gear. Ikea is reportedly entering the smart blind market soon, and will no doubt undercut most, if not all, of its rivals.


Aquanta

Aquanta

This retrofittable water heater controller promises to lower your energy bills and lets you control the temperature of your hot water from a smartphone app. You can set the water to only heat up when you need it - at the same time each day for your morning shower, for example, then not at all for a week while you're away.

The app shows how much hot water is available, so you don't fire up the boiler for no reason, and there's an automatic shut-off to prevent overheating. Although there's no assistant or IFTTT support, the Aquanta is compatible with the Works With Nest platform.

Smartduvet

SmartDuvet

Finally, this dual-zone duvet can heat and cool either side separately to help you and your partner get a good night's sleep, no matter the temperature of the room and what your preferences are.

The duvet is controlled via a smartphone app, and is powered by a control unit which sits under the bed, where it silently pushes heated/cooled air through the duvet to adjust the temperature.

Check out The GearBrain, our smart home compatibility checker to see the other compatible products that work with Google Home and Home Mini and Amazon Alexa enabled devices.


Honeywell Smart Wi-Fi Thermostat Review - GearBrain www.youtube.com

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