When the Smart Home craze really started taking off a few years ago, I was incredibly excited but also quite hesitant to jump in with both feet. Unfortunately I was stuck renting a house (thanks a lot, global financial meltdown) and afraid to make any substantive modifications to someone else’s home. I finally gave in and bought us a Nest thermostat then, of course, when the air conditioner broke down the landlord blamed me and the fancy gadget I had replaced his thermostat with. Frustration to the max.
But all of that changed four years ago when we finally bought our current house. Finally, my children would have a home and we wouldn’t be faced with abrupt moves at the whim of some investment group out of state. Finally, I could yell at the kids for spilling soda on the carpet, not because it would cost us our security deposit but simply because it ticked me off! Finally, we would be able to pull out electrical switches and re-wire outlets and run cables to-and-fro and integrate ourselves fully into the Smart Home culture that had grown up around us.
So we did. It started with Nest thermostats. We already had one from our rental house so we bought a few more to smarten up the zone-controlled double-AC system in our new home. We pulled out light switches and experimented with offerings from Belkin, Lutron, TP-Link, and SkylinkNet. We bought light bulbs from Hue and just about every knockoff company you can think of just to experiment and see what worked and what didn’t. We made our ceiling fans smart with voice-controlled relays. We replaced our irrigation controller with one that knew better than I ever would how much water to give our desert landscaping and would prevent us from being “that house” that let their sprinklers run during a downpour.
In the end we wound up with a house that knew dusk was approaching and slowly turned on the lights. It knew when we were getting home from school and work and made sure the temperature was perfect for us. You can’t imagine how wonderful that is when it’s 115 degrees outside!. The house would ping my phone when someone rang the doorbell. I could unlock the front door when my daughter forgot her keys at her mother’s house. We finally got to the point that everyone dreams about: it just worked.
Then the unthinkable happened. We were driving around and my partner said, “Oh look, that house is for sale.” Famous last words. What were we thinking? We weren’t looking for a new house. We had a home. We had a Smart Home; heck we had the Smartest Home I’ve ever seen. But we were dead meat. It was the house we had dreamed about. Acreage, a barn, the kind of garage wrench-turners dream about. And a swimming pool. Oh boy.
So the offer was accepted and we began preparing our home to put on the market. The question that kicked off our consternation came so effortlessly, so innocently. “Do we leave the thermostats?” I began to say more but my partner answered, “No way, we’re taking those puppies with us.” OK, I thought, but won’t they add value to the home? We discussed it briefly and asked some of our friends what they thought. We asked our realtor. The consensus was, “I dunno.” Thermostats? That’s an easy one, what about everything else? Nearly all of our light switches were “smart” and they’re a scattered collection of different brands. We would need to pull those too, right? What about the ceiling fan controllers? What about the light bulbs? The security system? The commercial wi-fi gear we installed to handle having 85 wireless clients in the home? The doorbell? The deadbolts? Ahhhhhh!
I had a minor breakdown, I’ll admit it. The thought of everything we had to do in order to get our house ready for the market was already intimidating. I’m talking 6 children, 2 dogs, a cat, and 5 chickens daunting. Now I was faced with an Amazon shopping cart full of dumb light switches, thermostats, and LED light bulbs. I hadn’t thought of this, not one bit; when we started making our home a Smart Home we planned on being here forever. Maybe not forever, but long enough for the kids to graduate and for everyone else in the world to be comfortable asking for instructions on resetting everything in the Smart Home when they walked in. What if the buyer was someone like my dad? Or one of my coworkers that is always asking us if the internet is still working? It would all have to go.
So here I am, writing this piece, waiting for my shipment with dumb replacement parts to arrive from Amazon, and wondering what our dear GeekDad readers think about my situation. Have you encountered this? Or perhaps this is one of the reasons why you haven’t joined the Smart Home revolution yet. Would you have left everything in place? How would you handle turning it over to the new homeowners? I’d love to hear your thoughts, leave a comment and tell me what you think!