2nd February 2017

Creating a smart home in the Oxfordshire countryside

My colleagues in the office all know I love buying the latest gadget! For me, technology is a great way to make my life easier. In the past, adopting new technology hasn’t been too easy. Living in a rental property meant that making changes to the property could be difficult, if not impossible! Fortunately in October 2016 we purchased our first home in a village in Oxfordshire.

Before we even had the keys, plans were afoot to make a smarter home. We purchased a fairly standard new build home and so the fittings are pretty basic. However, a few months on and our home is certainly becoming a lot smarter, here’s how:

  • Intelligent heating with a Nest Learning Thermostat

This has to be my favourite gadget, mainly because I love a warm but efficient house! Nest is an intelligent thermostat that adapts to your needs. I have an app on my phone that I can use to turn the heating up or down or change the pre-set programme – which is great if the weather takes a turn for the worst whilst I am on my way home. Nest also knows the outside temperature so will ensure the house is 18c by 6am whether its -7c or +10c outside…clever!

  • Voice activated controls with Amazon’s Alexa!

Amazon’s voice activated assistant launched in mid-2016 and with all the hype ahead of launch, we purchased one with a pre-order discount. Alexa lives in our kitchen and so is most often asked to check for news, play music, turn the lights on/off or check the weather forecast. It’s certainly an item I never knew I needed but now wouldn’t live without – Alexa is now one of the family! I think it is still early days for voice-activated controls, so can’t wait to see what the future has to hold.

  • Clever lighting with LIFX light bulbs

Our house came with fairly inefficient light bulbs so changing them was a natural step. We opted for the LIFX, a wi-fi enabled LED bulb that allows you to change the colour and warmth of light. With no hub, the bulb is simple to install and we can change the settings from our phones.

  • Making things with a 3D printer

Okay so this one doesn’t really count as a smart home gadget. However, I love to make things! Historically this has been cakes or jewellery but the developments in 3D printers have actually made it feasible to have one in your home. My designs are quite basic, using the 3D printer to create Christmas baubles or wedding cake toppers but my other half is a designer and has come up with all sorts, including a handy dock and cable tidy for the Amazon Alexa!

  • Cutting emissions with an electric vehicle

I like to follow the developments in the auto industry and have always had an interest in cars. I love my current Audi TT but can’t help thinking about the big bills that it comes with! I’m very fortunate to have a fairly short journey to work, around 30 minutes on scenic country roads. With several local trains stations for trips further afield it got me thinking, how could I reduce my fuel bill? When a cheap deal came up for an electric car, the Nissan Leaf, I jumped for the chance to give it ago. It arrives in March but in the meantime I have a team from Podpoint coming out to install a home charging point to keep me on the go.

I’m sure there will be more developments in the near future, in fact we’ve ordered a Glowforge (a 3D laser printer and the biggest 30-day crowdfunding campaign in history!). I’ll keep you posted!