South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

The Connected Home

Posted in Around The Home, Around The House, Home How To, Home improvement, Home Security, Real Estate Tips by southorangecounty on July 10, 2015

smart-homeTechnology is infiltrating every aspect of our lives. Twenty years ago, who could have predicted we’d have the Internet in our pockets? Or a refrigerator that tracks our purchases? There are so many choices when it comes to connecting your home and finding fun ways to let technology make your life easier. But which new tech tools are really worth the cost?

Smart ovens.
GE has come out with a range of connected appliances. Smart ovens can be turned on to preheat while you’re still driving home from the grocery store, and you can also change the temperature or get a notification that dinner is done right from your phone, too.

Smart fridges.
According to thewirecutter.com, they’re just not worth it — yet. GE’s Wi-Fi enabled fridges, due out in fall 2015, will let you know when the water filter needs changing or if the door has been left open. One day your fridge will be able to order more milk when you’re running low and check you’ve got all the ingredients for pasta primavera. Currently, though, fancy refrigerators mostly play music and post notes for the next person nearby to buy that milk. Plus, thewirecutter says, the software in general can’t be upgraded. Wait until these things have developed further.

Smart dishwashers.
Huh? Do you really need an alert when your dishwasher is done? Personally I set mine to run either overnight or in the morning before I leave for work. I find it’s usually done by the next time I’m in the kitchen

eKeys.
Kwikset, a pretty well-known maker of locks, has developed an ekey system. You can share a key with anyone, so no more fake rocks in the yard or placing a spare above the front door (or sending your five-year-old through the doggy door, ahem). Keys can be assigned to multiple people and can be revoked right from your phone. Know when your door is opened when you’re not home. You can even create a “scheduled” ekey that only allows access on certain days at certain times. Pricey, but super-convenient for key losers, especially if your car is also keyless.

Connected thermostat.
The Nest is still the top pick for most people when it comes to home technology. The Nest Learning Thermostat is not only attractive, it’s smart—it can learn your preferences, and your daily schedule, and adjust the temperature in your home accordingly. So it saves you money as well as helping to keep you comfortable. Its interface with your phone is considered the best of all the smart thermostats out there, as well.

Smart lightbulbs.
Control color to suit your mood, turn lights on when you’re out late or away on vacation, or schedule lighting changes from your phone or tablet. Cree, GE, and Belkin make smart LED bulbs that get pretty good reviews.

The Hub.
Of course, you can’t really hook up your smart home without a hub. Hubs help you get all of your smart devices controlled under one app, making life easier, which is really the ultimate goal of a smart home, right? PCMag recommends the SmartThings Hub and devices from IControl, and Logitech. There’s also the Wink Connected Home Hub, Apple’s Homekit, and the Insteon Hub to turn your Wi-Fi enabled home features into remotely controlled smart accessories that you access on the go. If you’re working on a budget, the Quirky Pivot Power Genius is a smart power strip that you can use to control plug-in items you already have in your home.

Our lives are getting easier — or are they getting more complicated? Either way, these smart, connected home appliances and features can help you take care of your home with the touch of a few buttons, and soon these tools will be taking care of us!

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5 Strategies To Secure Your Home Against A Break In

5 Strategies To Secure Your Home Against A Break InHaving your home broken into is completely violating. Burglars don’t just steal your stuff; they steal your peace of mind. While this is the sort of thing you think will never happen to you, it’s worth the time and effort to make sure you’re not a target.

Below are five strategies to help secure your home against a break-in.

1. Use Landscaping As A Barrier

Purposefully place plants in spots that create a natural barrier to your home. Plant thorny rose bushes in front of bedroom windows and remove overgrown shrubs that provide coverage for creepers.

Also, trim back any tree branches that might make an open upstairs window accessible.

2. Put In A Security Alarm

While a loud alarm might not stop a burglar from quickly grabbing the large flat screen in your living room, it does limit their time for snooping around and finding other valuables. Install an alarm that monitors the entire perimeter of your home.

Only give the code to family members and trusted friends. Also, be sure to advertise your alarm system with a sign out front.

3. Install Motion Detector Lights

Not only should these be placed in the front of your home, but also on the sides and in the backyard. Install motion detector floodlights that cover a wide area, and use LED bulbs so that you don’t have to change them as often.

4. Hide The Spare Key Better

Get creative when it comes to hiding your spare key. Seasoned thieves know the common places to look, such as under your doormat, in the mailbox and beneath flowerpots. If you can’t seem to find an obscure spot, then you’re best to leave it with a close neighbor.

5. Don’t Tweet Your Trips

While we may have the strictest of privacy settings on all of our social media outlets, you never know who your real Facebook friends are — or who’ve they’re talking to. So don’t let all of your friends know over the Internet that you’ve arrived safely in Paris and will see them again in two weeks.

The insecurities a robbery creates might even be worse than losing your precious valuables. Follow the precautions above to secure your home and make your possessions less of a target for looters on the lookout.

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Do Fence Me In, Here Are A Few Good Yard Fencing Options

Posted in Around The Home, Around The House, Home How To, Home improvement, Home Security, Real Estate Tips by southorangecounty on October 4, 2013

Do Fence Me In… Your Yard Fencing OptionsWhether you just got a puppy, have newly mobile children or built a pool, there are a multitude of reasons for wanting to keep people and animals in your yard, while preventing other from entering.

Picking the perfect fence can be difficult, so below we’ve outlined the main fencing materials to choose from and characteristics to consider about each.

Wood

Wood seems to be the most common material used in yards across the country — especially when wanting privacy. Depending on the type of wood you purchase, you’ll probably want to stain the planks to protect them from rot and ultra-violet light. Be prepared to retreat and maintain your wooden fence about every four years.

Chain Link

This economical option does its job well as a security fence. It’ll keep pets in and people out. And with the new black or green plastic coating chain link comes in, it almost blends into any background.

Chain link fences shouldn’t require any maintenance for at least 10 years, and they usually come with warranties for at least that long.

Wrought Iron

If you’re in the market for an ornate fence that you can see through and provides high security, then wrought iron should be your pick. These fences are actually made from steel and aluminum and need virtually no upkeep. Don’t expect to see any issues for at least 20 years.

Vinyl

You like the look of wood, but you hate the upkeep. Well, if you’re willing to spend the extra dough, usually four to five times the cost of wood, then you can have a man-made product that looks like the real thing.

Faux-wood fencing is usually seen in white, but can come in a variety of colors and even look almost identical to actual wooden planks. The best part is — no maintenance required!

Whatever your reason for building a fence, such as privacy, security, safety or to add curb appeal, you’ll have hundreds of options to choose amongst. Be sure you carefully consider each of the main fencing materials above, along with their look and maintenance requirements before you make the investment.

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5 Important Tips To Protect Your Home From Burglars When You Are Away

Posted in Around The Home, Around The House, Home How To, Home Security, Real estate, Real Estate Tips by southorangecounty on July 19, 2013

5 Important Tips To Protect Your Home From Burglars When You Are AwayAny family would feel violated after coming home to a ransacked house. Burglars look for specific things when choosing a home to break into, and many homeowners are unknowingly inviting criminals through the front door.

Below are five ways you can avoid drawing the eyes of thieves and deter your home from becoming a target.

Beware Of Selling To Strangers

If you’re wanting to sell items on Craigslist or another internet-based classified ad website, attempt conducting your transactions outside of the home.

If you must meet at home, screen the person over the telephone to ensure that they are truly interested in the item you’re selling. Thieves have been known to make appointments just to check out your home.

Be Careful If You Tweet About It

Not all of your friends protect their social media information, or may not have the most virtuous acquaintances. If you share your upcoming vacation or big event, then a mischievous friend of a friend will know the perfect time to forcefully check out your home.

Learn how to limit your social media posts to only your trusted contacts.

Mind Your Trash

Be careful when it comes to taking out the garbage, especially around holidays. Criminals will drive around nice neighborhoods and specifically look for empty boxes of high-price items. Then all they have to do is wait for you to leave the house before they force their way in and nab the goods.

Break down boxes and conceal them in garbage bags or trashcans.

Prepare For Your Vacation

Make sure when you leave on vacation that you put a few lights on timers and have someone collect your mail. A home that is obviously vacant is every burglar’s dream.

And if you’re on an extended holiday, ensure you also hire someone to take care of the lawn – overgrown grass is a no-one-is-home indicator.

Secure The Safe

Just because you put your valuables in a safe doesn’t mean they’re secure. If the safe isn’t installed in a wall or bolted to the floor, then a burglar can just carry it through your front door. They can figure out how to break into it later.

Make the additional time investment to ensure your safe can’t walk out the door.

With a little common sense and by following the advice above, you’ll reduce the risk of your home being targeted by burglars.

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What Does The Future Hold For The Security System In Your Home?

Posted in Around The Home, Home improvement, Home safety, Home Security, Real Estate Trends by southorangecounty on June 7, 2013

What Does The Future Hold For Home Security SystemsImagine walking into your home and turning off the alarm, locking your doors, opening the windows and starting your coffee maker, all with a few taps of your finger on your smart phone?

What if you had a home security camera that you could monitor from anywhere and a motion sensor that would send you an email when your kids come home from school? What if you could open your blinds or unlock your home for a visitor, even from halfway around the world?

The technology that powers our home security systems is getting more and more sophisticated and in the future, our homes will be more responsive than we could ever imagine.

Rather than a simple line of defense that keeps out burglars, it will be a completely integrated and custom designed automated system that responds intelligently to your needs.

Here are a few of the upcoming technology innovations:

Smart Home Technology

At the moment, prototypes are being developed for integrated home security systems that have individual Internet protocols that can address everything from a fridge to a window to a door.  Even your home appliances, like your refrigerator, air conditioning systems and lighting systems may be able to be managed remotely through a smart phone.

This connectivity essentially gives everything in your house an Internet address, so that you can control them and monitor them digitally. Once the system is linked up it can be controlled remotely by Blackberry, Apple or Android.

The 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year showcased a number of smart phone apps and devices designed to control everything within your home so that you can master the household with the click of a button.

The Future Is Still On Its Way

Although the technology is being developed, there is still a long way to go until we all live in automated houses like on The Jetsons. One underlying and yet unsolved issue is the security systems inability to function in a power outage or with bandwidth and connectivity challenges.

There are also many different conflicting operating systems, setups, standards and approaches that will need to be worked out before the dream of a fully automated South Orange County home can become a reality.

Even so, the technological advances being made in home security and management systems are impressive and exciting to learn more about.

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