Tech to Manage the Home When You’re Away

By: Christine Persaud

June 7, 2022

It’s that time again when everyone is getting the travel bug. COVID-19 restrictions are lifting which means vacations are being booked and business travel is on the rise as trade shows, meetings, and other events are once again taking place in person. Many of us will be hopping on planes and trains or heading out by car on trips for a night, a week, or even longer. In provinces like Ontario, cottage country is a huge deal, and many lucky enough to own a second home will be spending weekends away for some R&R up north.

Ring Video doorbell

Being away, however, can be concerning for those who are worried about things like deliveries, theft, and managing the home. No one wants to return home to massive damage because of a flood in the basement or a huge mess from the cat that got into the paint supplies.

There’s plenty of smart home tech worth investing in to provide peace-of-mind while you are away from home for extended periods, or even overnight. Here are just a few key items to consider.

Smart Security Cameras, Doorbells and Locks

Ring Video Doorbell

Ideal for the front door or porch, a smart security camera or video doorbell means you can tap in at any time to see what’s going on. Receive push notifications when motion is detected within a specific vicinity, whether just on the porch or near the driveway and front lawn as well, or, with a video doorbell, even when someone rings the bell. Use two-way talk to communicate with a delivery person to ask them to leave the package at the door and you’ll have a neighbour grab it for you. With a subscription (or local storage), review incidents to see if it was just mischievous kids loitering around the home or a thief trying to get into your car.

With a smart lock, give out virtual “keys” to trusted family, friends, and neighbours so they can do things like feed the cat and change its litter while you’re away, walk the dog, or pop in every few days to water the plants.

Eufy Security Solo Indoor Camera

Security cameras can be useful indoors as well, especially if you have a pet like a cat who will be fending for itself for most of the time while you’re away. Talk with your furry friend remotely and check in periodically to see what they’re up to. If you’re traveling without the kids, who might be home with a sitter or grandparents, keep on eye on what’s going on and communicate with the caregiver and the kids through two-way talk, which can be much quicker and easier than initiating a phone or video call.

Water Leak Sensor

A water leak can lead to pools of water on the floor or carpet, and if you don’t discover it soon enough to clean the mess and deal with the issue, it can cause costly damage. Imagine this happening while you’re away for a few days, with water sitting on your floor or carpets, seeping in and causing not only a pungent, foul odor but lasting damage.

Phyn Water Leak Sensor

A water leak sensor is a simple, affordable device that typically includes a Wi-Fi-connected sensor with a long cable that sits on the floor (though there are also puck-like devices that can be positioned on the floor as well.) Place it by the sewer drain, dishwasher, washing machine, toilet, sink, or anywhere else a leak could occur, and connect it to an app on your phone. The second the device or end of the cable detects moisture, it will alert you in the app, and even sound a loud siren to wake you up if you are at home when it happens. These devices are inexpensive and can save you both money and aggravation in the event of a water leak.

Smart Lighting

Smart lighting is often promoted for its convenience, allowing you to turn lights on and off using a mobile device from the comfort of your couch or bed, or using voice commands, and being able to set schedules. These schedules, and remote access to lights, are valuable while you’re away as well.

TP-Link KS220M Kasa motion detecting light switch

No one ever wants to leave all the lights on in the home while it’s empty. But on the other hand, leaving your home in darkness 24/7 is like screaming to potential thieves that the house is unattended. With smart lights, you can set the lights to come on for a few hours each day or night so it looks like someone is there. You can also do this manually within the app, whether you’re lounging on a beach in Cancun or having drinks at a hotel in New York City. Alternatively, a light like the TP-Link KS220M Kasa motion detecting light switch will automatically come on when movement is detected, so you can set it up where your pet usually travels inside the home to trigger it every so often. You can also connect a standard lamp or light to the KP405 outdoor Wi-Fi plug to light up your driveway and front porch for a few hours each evening. We’re giving away a prize bundle that includes these two products along with the KL400L5 lighting strip and KP303 Wi-Fi power strip, a total value of $140. Enter for your chance to win.

Smart Thermostat

Nest Learning Thermostat

Just like you don’t want to leave the lights on 24/7 when no one is home, you also don’t want to keep the heat or AC going all day and night when no one is there. But turning either off can be detrimental. Imagine being on a beach somewhere in the dead of winter when the temperature suddenly and unexpectedly drops to -30°C back home? If you have pipes that are prone to freezing, you’ll want to make sure the home is heated enough to help prevent that. With a smart thermostat, you can adjust the temperature on a schedule. You can also set it so the heat or AC comes on periodically to keep the home properly heated or cooled without running at full blast unnecessarily. Many smart thermostats can learn your habits and behaviours over time and work in a “vacation mode,” detecting you aren’t home and keeping temperatures favourable without adding a lot to your electricity bill. This will also ensure you don’t return home to a freezing cold or hot and humid house.

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