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Smart Home Stuff, all in ASL

My name is Ross, I am introducing you to this website, and my vlogs will be all about smart home technology, all done in ASL.

Many of you might be wondering what Smart Home is, I will talk about all of it here, in ASL on all the different smart home technologies, how it can help you, how it can benefit you, and what you can use it for.

If you have questions, I can respond to your questions regarding smart home stuff!

There are so many different smart home devices, such as:

  • Smart bulbs,(Philips Hue, LIFX, etc)
  • Smart plugs (SmartThings outlets, WEMO, etc)
  • Smart smoke detectors (Nest Protect, etc)

There are a lot more, such as:

  • Doorbells
  • Cameras
  • Door Locks

There are a lot more that I will cover them in here. You can also order them through here, how to use it, and some fun things you can do with them!

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Internet outages, does that affect your smart home?

Remember in 2021, we had 2 major internet outages that affected the internet? A lot of us were not able to access certain websites, email servers, and all that for several hours? It has happened every now and then.

During those internet outages, sometimes smart home devices were affected to the point that automations failed to execute. Becuase of that, there were people saying smart home technology is not ready because of that. Don’t get smart home tech because if internet goes out, your smart home stops working!

They’re correct, but only to a certain extent. If you build your smart home to be independent of the cloud, you won’t be impacted. Having smart home with home hub that runs everything 100% local, (such as Hubitat) won’t be affected by internet outages! I’ve built my smart home around local automations, so the last 2 internet outages didn’t affect me at all. Local executions rules! (pun intended!)

Plugging your vehicle to keep it from freezing in cold weathers

We plug in the car in very cold weathers, to prevent it from freezing so that we can still start it, right? We typically use timers for the block heaters because we do not need to plug it in 24/7. Only a few hours are enough to thaw out the engine and battery so we can start it before heading out to work. But as we all know, weather can be strange. We have a week of -30c (-22f) weather, then the next day it goes up to -3c (+27f). Those weather we do not need to plug in the vehicles, so it would be a waste of electricity (and a waste of money paying for it) having them plugged in.

Block heater timers are dumb timers, they follow a schedule, turning on sometime in the night and then off in the day, based on the time you set it. That’s it. Doesn’t care about any other factors. If you plugged in the car upon coming home from work, ready for the next day and it happens to become warm, the timer is still going to heat up your car in a weather that doesn’t require it being plugged in.

That’s where smart plugs can come in handy! A smart plug can still turn on the block heater according to the schedule you set, but also be able to check the weather, and skip turning on the block heater if it’s not cold enough, saving you money in the long run! You do not need to come home, check the weather, and decide whether to plug it in or not. Just plug in and let the smart plug take care of deciding whether to activtate the power to it or not.

The other advantage of smart plugs is that it will allow you to go outside of your usual scheduling. For example, you aren’t working today and plan to go out tonight with friends, to watch hockey. Your parked vehicle is sitting all day without the block heater on (assuming you set the schedule for it to turn off in the morning, such as 8am), it’ll be cold to the point it might not start that night. You step out to start the car and realize it’s frozen and now need help to boost it. You forgot to go outside and turn on the override timer button or unplug from the timer and plug it in bypassing the timer to heat the vehicle.

You could just pick up your phone, connect to the app and turn on the smart plug from the comfort of your heated home. Now your vehicle will be ready for you when you leave. The smart plug that was turned on, will resume it’s usual schedule the next day and turn off at 8am.

That is smart! Be smart!

Product shown above: Samsung SmartThings

Christmas trees and cats – not a great combination!

Christmas trees are beautiful once you set it up and fill it with ornaments, aren’t they?

Only to have it wrecked by those darned cats climbing it up, and knocking ornaments off!

How can we prevent cats from going up the trees? Lots of people have different ideas on how to prevent that. Some use orange peels, use cat deterrent sprays, or fencing around trees. I decided I could use smart home devices to deter cats, and it works!

Use a motion sensor, and a smart plug, to operate something cats hate, such as a vacuum, and you got a winning combination!

Products used here: Wemo smart plug and Samsung motion sensor.

What can we do with smart plugs?

Smart plugs. What can we use them with?

Lots of things!

Since they are smart, just like smart lights, they can be turned on and off manually by yourself, toggled on and off with your phone, or automatically by itself.

They can be plugged in by practically anything. While the smart plug will be on 24/7, whatever is plugged into it can be controlled. What can we plug into them? Anything.

  • Lamps
  • Fans
  • Appliances such as microwaves, hot water kettle, laundry machines
  • Above ground pool filter pumps
  • Bed shakers

With a lamp, you can use it to turn it on when it gets dark. In the past we had those old timers that will turn them on and off at specific times. It works but there’s a drawback with them. The sun doesn’t set the same time throughout the year! In the summer, the sun comes down at 10pm. In winters, sun’s down by 5pm. Those fixed timers turns them on too early or too late and you have to adjust it yourself. Smart hubs can toggle them on based on sunset times so it continues to update all the time withour your help! Those smart plugs can have multiple automation rules. One rule for toggling them based on time, but they can also have another rule to toggle them on when you arrive home regardless of time. You can have multiple rules for one of them.

Fans? Turn them on automatically when the room gets a little too warm, and off when it cools down. Or have them on a timer when you sleep and off sometime in the morning. Have them automatically cut the power to the fans if a fire alarm gets tripped.

Hot water kettle? Put water in it, and turn the kettle on but plugged to a smart plug that’s off. Have it come on at 6am at the same time you wake up at 6am. You get up, get dressed, walk into the kitchen and the kettle is hot and ready for you.

Cheap smart plugs can just simply toggle on and off, nothing more. There are more expensive smart plugs that can measure power being used by whatever is plugged into it, for additional automations. It can trigger any other automation if power is turned on, or off. Lets use a microwave as an example. Have it trigger lights when power from a microwave goes down. Sort of like the “chime” for Deaf people. Put food in, turn microwave on. Power will go up and the smart plug sees there’s approximately 1,000 watts being drawn. Once the microwave is done, power drops down. Smart home hub notices power just dropped down, it triggers the lights. You know microwave just finished. Go get your food!

We can do the same with laundry machines.

I have a great way of using those for kitchens. I have old wiring in the kitchen so that if microwave and toaster are used at the same time, it trips the circuit breaker. Put in smart plugs that measures power. If microwave is turned on, it turns off the power to the toaster, making it impossible for us to use both at the same time. No more tripped circuit breakers.

You could use it to plug a TV into it. If kids sneak in and turn on TV when you’re in bedroom because you can’t hear them, the lights will come on because the TV is on. Alerting you!

With some creativity, smart plugs can do a lot of things for you!

Product shown in the video: Wemo Insight smart plug.

Flashing Notifications

We are used to flashing notifications from specialized systems which has been awesome in helping us with accessibility. But they are closed system, and does not have opportunities for expanding. They typically have 5 to 7 different notifications, but that’s it. Doorbell, alarm clock, fire, motion sensor, and a few others and no more. If you saw some other sensor that you would like that works with another system, you are not able to add it to your closed system. What you have is all you can have with a closed system.

The big benefit of smart home with smart hubs is that you can have as many notifications as you want! The limit is your imagination. I have over 20+ different possible notifications at my home!

All explained in ASL.

Devices shown here in video: Inovelli red series dimmer, Inovelli LED strip, LIFX 1100 bulb, Wemo Insight smart plug, Samsung Smartthings smart button and Samsung Smartthings multipurpose sensor.

What is Matter

You may have heard about “Matter” when it comes to smart home technology. It is a new standard for smart home, that is supposed to help remove the long standing issue – that there are still many smart home products that do not work with others. There are hundreds of smart home products that will work with SmartThings, Hubitat or other smart home hubs, but there still are many that do not. Many of them work within their own closed ecosystem and does not play nice with others.

An example I have is that when I was new to smart home and wanted to try some things out, I got a Nest Protect smoke detector. It works well, and if the alarm goes off, it sounds the alarm and goes to the app on your phone and tells you there’s smoke. But it does not connect to smart home hubs sucha s SmartThings. Which therefore makes it impossible for smart home hubs to help automate if an alarm goes off from Nest Protect. This is why I switched to First Alert 2 in 1 smoke detector. It does connect to smart home hubs and helps automate such as triggering your lights, unlocking the doors, turning off furnace, etc.

I can give you a similar example – think of traditional specialized Deaf notification systems. They are closed systems. If you have a flasher from a specific brand, you are required to stay with that brand. They do not work with other products. I’ll give you an example. Lets say there’s a specialized Deaf flasher system named RossFlash. I bought a RossFlash alarm clock to flash the lights to wake me up. If I want a doorbell, I must buy a RossFlash doorbell. If I want more such as baby cry signaler, phone ringing signaler or more flashing devices, they all must be from RossFlash. If I saw something from a different deaf flashing system, such as SherylFlash that I like because RossFlash does not have, and I want to use that, it will not work. You are forced to stay in a closed RossFlash system. If it just so happens that RossFlash stopped making products, you are stuck with what you have. If a device broke and needs replacing, or if you moved and wanted to expand, needing 1 or 2 more devices, you are stuck and cannot expand. You now have to abandon and invest in a new system.

The point of Matter is that it is designed to be a standard for all new products to communicate and work with each other. You buy anything that has Matter logo on it, you know it will work with everything you have that also supports Matter. The great thing is that 170+ companies has signed up to participate, and that includes many major companies such as Google, Apple, Amazon, and Samsung, who typically does not play nice with each other. Before, if you had a Ring doorbell (which is owned by Amazon) and you have a Google display (Google Nest Hub), they couldn’t connect and you cannot view the ring doorbell camera. You would have to use the Amazon hub display. Because of Matter, you should be able to view on any display hub (Google, Amazon, etc) a video doorbell from any branded doorbell. This makes things much easier for you and removes barriers.

Matter standard should have been released this year in 2021, but it has been delayed to 2022 because the committee working on Matter has not completed the certification process and the SDK, among a few other things. Once it releases, all products that supports Matter should have the Matter logo on it. Existing products right now should be able to be compatible with it. For example, Philips Hue has announced that the hue bulbs will work with Matter. Nest has said their thermostats will work with Matter, except for the first generation ones. But do not worry, many of the existing smart home products should still work well for a long time. Matter is not meant to replace the existing smart home products, but work with it.

One of the great things about having open systems such as Matter where everything works, is that you know that no matter what you have, you know it will work. For example, I have 4 different smart lights here. LIFX (my favourite, and used primarily for flashing), Philips Hue, Wiz, and Inovelli LED strip. They will all flash if I need to. It does not matter that they are all different branded companies. If I plan to renovate my basement and want to add another light bulb to flash for whatever notifications I needed, but one of those went under next year (closed) and does not make bulbs anymore, that will be fine with me. I can always try something else, such as Sengled or Inovelli’s Ilumin bulbs, and it’ll work just fine, flashing along with the existing lights I have. No problem! If I see a new device, such as a new smart microwave that can trigger automations and flash lights for me if it finishes microwaving, sure. I can do that, no problem at all! Remember my example above if I used RossFlash flashing system, I will never be able to do that!

Be Smart!

Smart Switches, or Smart Bulbs?

If you are planning to put in smart lighting in a room, you have two options, you can go with smart switches or smart bulbs. But which is the better option for you? There are no wrong options, they both will work well. Smart bulbs and smart switches each have their pros and cons.

Smart bulbs, have the option to change colour or the white temperature (from cool blue to warm white), they usually come with apps to play with them, and some features only found with smart bulbs. Smart switches cannot change colour or white temperature. They can only toggle on/off or dim them.

However with smart bulbs, switches must be left on permanently. If the switches was turned off, there are no power to smart bulbs therefore they cannot be toggled on automatically. They need power to be able to turn on by itself. Think of TV’s. You can turn them off with your remote. But the TV is technically still on. It’s still plugged to the wall, therefore drawing very little power, waiting for your command to turn it on. Press the remote, and viola! It turns on. If you unplugged the TV from the wall, it has no power. If you wanted to turn it on by pressing the power button on the remote, the TV will not turn on. The very exact same thing applies to smart bulbs. It needs power to be able to turn on automatically. You can turn the power off at the wall to turn off the smart bulbs, but you have to manually flick it back on to turn the bulb on. This defeats the purpose of automating smart bulbs.

I’ll give you an example. My bathroom has smart bulbs, connected to motion sensor. You walk into my bathroom, the lights will come on. And turn off when you leave the bathroom. It’s automatic. However because of that, my wall switch (not a smart one) always stays on. If a friend of mine who goes in my bathroom and does his business, and then leaves and turns off the switch by habit – he kills the power to the smart bulbs. The next person goes into my bathroom, the motion sensor is triggered and tries to signal the smart bulbs to come on, but they cannot turn on because they have no power.

Smart switches solves this issue. You can toggle a smart switch off to kill the power to whatever it’s connected to, but the smart switch is always powered internally. If something is to trigger it to turn it back on, it can do that. If I used a smart switch instead of smart bulbs in the bathroom as per the example above, it would have solved this issue. A friend of mine could push the switch to turn it off, and it’ll still be able to wait for a command from the motion sensor to automatically trigger the switch on if the motion sensor triggers it.

Also the cost is a factor. Smart switches are generally more expensive than smart bulbs (excluding colour bulbs). If you have a room with multiple lights, such as kitchen, dining table, or basements, where you could have several lights, it would be more cost-effective to control them all with a smart switch, rather than replacing multiple light bulbs with smart bulbs. If replacing just a single light, such as a bedroom, or closet light, smart bulb would be better.

Being Deaf, sometimes it’s better to use coloured bulbs for notification purposes.

If you go with smart bulbs, just be mindful of switches. Cover them up, or tape them up.

Discussed in the video in ASL!

Products shown: Philips Hue colour and Inovelli red series switch.

Automate your backyard lights

Have your backyard lights come on automatically just as soon as you open your back door. Normally you would just flick the wall switches on, plug in the gazebo lights, or whatever else and then enjoy your evening outside. You can just simply have a door sensor, smart lights or smart switches for the regular lights, or smart plugs to turn on plugged lights such as string lights and they all will be automated. Open the door, and they all trigger. They can all turn off by itself as well when you go inside and close the door. You can do whatever you want with that! It can be set on a schedule as well, as well as be triggered only during specific times. That means, they do not come on if you open the door during daytime, but they will be triggered between dusk to dawn. (Or fixed times, if you prefer)

You can have smart motion sensors or smart cameras toggle them all on if it sees motion. It would likely be a better deterrent to people trying to break into the backyard. Many of them are used to standard motion sensor lights and would ignore it. But if your lights, gazebo lights, and everything else comes on, that would be a little more of a deterrent. They would probably think why is everything coming on? Someone’s coming outside and run away.

Smart devices used here: SmartThings multipurpose sensor (used as a door sensor), LIFX light bulbs and Wemo Switch.

Example 8: Left garage door open

It happens to the best of us! Maybe you forgot to close the garage door? Or had it open during the day while doing errands in your backyard or barbecuing, and then went inside, not realizing the garage door is still open. You can set any notification to remind you that it is open. It does not have to be flashing lights, or anything annoying, but subtle enough to catch your eye. In this example, I used Inovelli red series switch that turns on the lights for my dining room area but it also has a LED strip that will glow white if the garage door is open.

It is also possible with smart home automations that if you are ready to go to sleep, the notifications can become even more obvious. Such as closing back door, and when it’s dark, more lights can flash to try to warn you about the garage door is still left open.

It doesn’t have to be just garage doors, it can be anything, to help you be aware of what’s happening around your house. Another example: back door isn’t closed when you guys are getting ready to go to bed? Windows aren’t closed? Your imagination is the limit!

Products used here: Smart home hub, Inovelli red series switch, and smartthings multipurpose sensor (used as an open/closed sensor).

Schlage Z-wave Smart Deadbolt

Using a smart door deadbolt can be useful to automate your locks. With the Schlage smart door deadbolt, you can use keys, keypad or smart home to automatically unlock/lock your door.

If you are away on vacation and need someone to check on your home sometimes, you don’t need to make a copy of the key, you can just make a temporary door code for your friend or family member who will need to get inside your home to check on things, and then remove that code once you are back!

Because it is a z-wave smart lock, it can be automated. Some examples:

  • If a fire alarm is triggered, automatically unlock the door
    • Makes it easier for people to help you if you’ve collapsed trying to escape the fire
    • If no one is at home (such as at work), you can text neighbour to check your place if you got notification there’s smoke and save your pets, if needed
  • Automatically lock the door if it was left unlocked for a while, length is up to you
  • Unlock the door based on geofencing (location). You are approaching home, it’ll automatically unlock the door. Just carry your groceries and turn the handle, rather than fumbling around for the keys!
  • Turn on the lights inside when the deadbolt is unlocked

This lock also has vibration sensor, so if someone is banging on the door or trying to break down the door, it will sound an alarm and potentially scare away the intruder (bad person).

It has been reliable and I would recommend the schlage z-wave door lock. They do also come with zigbee versions if it works for you better, depending on which wireless radio you’ve built your home with.

Be Smart!