If you’re looking to be the talk of the table this holiday season, look no further. We’ve put together a home automation kit that will have you set up before the kids finish decorating the Christmas tree.
Whether you’d like the lights dimmed to set the mood for the ugly sweater party or the heat turned up for grandma, this kit will have you well on your way for under $500. And if you think you need to be some kind of tech guru to take advantage of home automation, think again. All you need is a smart phone and your smart home could be in Santa’s sleigh.
Amazon Echo Dot ($39)
Wondering how to eliminate the awkward silences during the family meal? Alexa can help. This hands free, voice-controlled device not only tells jokes, she also has the ability to prove know-it-all Uncle Tom wrong once and for all. The Echo Dot makes a great focal piece, whether it’s by playing your favorite holiday song or turning up the heat for grandma. How? It quickly connects to the smart home devices in this kit when you “enable a skill” in the Alexa app.
Alexa’s skills are growing by the day and include an increasing list of smart home devices.
Nest Thermostat ($279)
One such smart home device is the Nest Thermostat. Nest has not only made the thermostat sexy, they’ve made it easy enough for anybody to install! They go so far as to include a screwdriver in the box with a web-based wiring guide that a 2-year old could follow. While Alexa is entertaining your friends and setting the mood, the Nest will be hard at work maximizing your comfort and paying for itself by slashing your energy bill. And if that’s not enough, your utility company might slip a nice rebate check in your stocking. (For Austin Energy customers, that’s $110 in rebates to be exact).
Speaking of setting the mood, once the turkey and pie are eaten, a simple voice command will have the lights dimmed to watch your favorite holiday flick. Lutron’s Caséta lighting dimmers work with the Echo Dot to do just that. Not only will this system work with Alexa, it will also work on your energy bills, just like the Nest. When the kids fall asleep, simply use the Lutron app instead of Alexa to turn the lights back up.
Philips LED lights ($23)
To round out the home automation kit, an 8-pack of dimmable LED lights will not only brighten your home up, they’ll work seamlessly with the Lutron lighting dimmers to add more padding to your wallet.
What will you do with all this money?
Gridmates: If you’re really in the giving spirit, one of Austin’s new tech start-up’s can help. Gridmates has a platform where you can donate your saved energy to a family in need, struggling to keep their lights on. That’s right, you can help a family living in energy poverty power their oven to bake Christmas cookies. If you’d like to encourage your kids to start a campaign of their own, they have an ambassador program to do just that.
“Hey Alexa, play Jingle Bells!”
Jeff Julia is the founder of the Austin-based utility bill coaching and advisory firm Energy Project Advisors. He is also the author of the award-winning book Navigating the Maze of Energy Efficiency Projects.