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These are the two smart home products I miss the most after moving to a rental
The last 18 months were very eventful in the El Khoury casa. Not only did I change jobs — hi there, Android Authority readers! — but I also moved from Lebanon to France. That meant leaving my own lofty apartment near Beirut to look for a small rental on the outskirts of Paris and letting go of a lot of the creature comforts that I’d gotten used to in my previous life, including two very awesome smart home devices: Somfy smart blinds and the Nuki smart lock and intercom system.
A few smart home upgrades to get started
Change can be good, and this move allowed me to whittle down to the essentials and improve many of my previous tech setups, from my home office to the living room and kitchen. Upgrades to my gear were easy because access to modern tech (and free returns) in France is, admittedly, a lot simpler than in Lebanon.
And since smart home tech has been part of my life for years now, I quickly made the essential improvements to my new rental. I brought along my smart speakers and Philips Hue lights from Lebanon; I even installed a new Hue Aurelle ceiling panel instead of the three measly lights that were left there by the owners. I invested in a Tado smart thermostat system, and I got a Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra for review that is still kicking strong. A security cam and a smart fan complete my current setup.
Moving let me whittle down to the essentials: lights, thermostats, and a robot vacuum.
Overall, all of these have been awesome upgrades. The Hue lights are essential to my sleep and wake-up routine. The Tado thermostat is crucial during this energy crisis to keep the important rooms in my apartment warm without overusing energy in unoccupied areas. And the robot vacuum has revolutionized floor cleaning for me forever.
I had to limit some of my upgrades, though, because of my renter status. A lot of the smart home items I wanted to install either aren’t compatible with this apartment’s layout or already exist in a dumbed-down version that isn’t easy to replace.
Smart blinds: Convenience and energy efficiency
You don’t appreciate the convenience of smart blinds until you have to live without them. In Lebanon, my entire apartment was decked with connected Somfy Tahoma blinds (€419.99 on Amazon for the box alone). They were expensive to buy and install, but they were worth every penny.
The one in the bedroom went down in the evening then rose up in the morning to let some light in. For someone like me who wakes up to natural light, this was essential to my daily rhythm. I woke up every day to the light streaming in from the window instead of a loud and disturbing alarm. Imagine how relaxing that is.
Smart blinds add an extra layer of control over the light and temperature of my home without affecting my energy bills.
The blinds in the living room and kitchen were programmed differently for each season. During winter, they opened up during the day to let in as much light and warmth as possible, then went down after sunset to add a small layer of insulation from the cold glass behind them. During summer, they remained closed during the day to avoid the excessive coastal Lebanese heat, then went up in the evening when we opened up the windows to aerate the house.
Smart blinds added an extra layer of control over the current light and temperature status in my home, one that would help my existing smart lights and connected air conditioner without affecting my energy and electricity bill. Plus, with a simple vocal command to Google Assistant, I could change the status of any blind(s) at any time, even if I was away from home.
Smart lock and intercom: Security and control
A lot of people equate smart locks with a loss of security, or at least with adding a layer of vulnerability to your home. My experience with smart locks, and specifically the Nuki lock (€249 for the latest Pro version), has been the complete opposite.
I had chosen Nuki for my home in Lebanon because it was the only option compatible with the European double cylinder, but after installing it in 2017, it won me over and I never had any issues with it until I moved in 2021. Trusting my own home’s entrance to a connected object wasn’t easy, but that tells you how good Nuki is.
For one, the lock installs on the inside of the door, so no stranger knew it was there and I could still open and close my door with my regular key if I wanted. Dozens of security features and granular controls also meant I could tailor the lock to my own usage. I disabled geolocalized auto-unlock, for example, and only kept the notification to unlock manually. On top of that, Nuki always notified me if I’d forgotten to lock my door before driving away, made sure the door was locked at night, kept a log of every door open and close, and allowed me to store my keys safely in my purse to avoid losing them. Issuing temporary keys to friends and family was a breeze too. No matter how I look at it, Nuki was a better, safer option than a dumb lock for me.
No matter how I look at it, Nuki was a better, safer option than a dumb lock for me.
On top of that, I also had the Nuki Opener (€149.85), a smart intercom addition that could open the building’s gate for me. I couldn’t tell you how convenient it was to get home, see two notifications on my phone, tap to unlock the gate, get in, tap to unlock the door, and get in, all without having to fuss with keys. Once, in a bind, I remotely let a few repair people in the building and saved all my neighbors from showering with cold water for the next few days. Not to mention the numerous times I had to let my parents in so they didn’t have to wait in the car for me to get home.
All of these (and more) are reasons why I miss having the Nuki system in my current rental. The door here requires a shove to close and a pull to open, so I’m not convinced a smart lock will be able to handle it, but I’m going to take a gamble soon and try installing Nuki. If it works, I’ll have all of these benefits again; if it doesn’t, then I know I need to soldier on with a dumb lock for a while.
The smart home products I do not miss
Aside from these, my apartment had a few other smart home devices that, in hindsight, weren’t all that great. There was a Canary security camera that was rendered useless by all the downgrades to the free plan; a Logitech Harmony hub that worked wonders for my complex entertainment setup but isn’t needed for my TV-only system in this rental (not to mention that Logitech has abandoned the Harmony hub); and a Moodo smart fragrance distributor that made my home smell nice but also caused me to cough pretty frequently.
The only items that were fit for purpose are the Cielo air conditioner controllers ($99 but often on sale). They were an excellent way of retrofitting smart controls to our existing A/C system and they did their job wonderfully. Alas, our apartment here doesn’t have any air conditioning, so I didn’t bring them along.
Do you have any regrets about the smart home products you invested in?
Moving countries, even continents, has certainly given me a different perspective on smart home gear, and I imagine I’ll carry many of these lessons with me in my next move. Checking the curtain rods and door closure mechanism will probably be high on my list when visiting a place because I know how much of a difference smart blinds and locks can make to a so-called “smart” home.