If you’re lucky enough to own a second home, making that a smart vacation home comes with a different set of needs than your primary residence.
Whether you’ve got a vacation property resolved solely for you and your family, or a holiday rental you’re looking to automate, you’re in luck today.
We’ll look at some key basics that you can easily apply if you’re a complete beginner with smart technology. Equally, today’s guide should come in handy if you’re already reasonably experienced when it comes to home automation since we’ve tried to include something for everyone here.
Before launching in, why should you automate into a smart vacation home in the first place?
A quick personal story…
My first introduction to smart home devices was when I was at a conference. As I walked into a modern looking loft, directly above the world famous Gas Lamp District, I noticed a shiny circle with a modern, yet sleek device in the San Diego Airbnb. The circular smart home device was the Nest Thermostat.
I swear a stopped and starred at this smart thermostat for about 10 minutes. My initial thoughts about the owner of the Airbnb was, this person must really care about their guests and the comfortability of providing a home away from investing in smart home products.
Why Bother Automating a Holiday Home or Holiday Rental?
With a smart vacation home, you use primarily for your own ends, smart technology offers you the twin benefits of ramping up security when you’re away and making your life easier when you’re settled in for your summer break with your feet up.
If you’re renting out an investment property, it’s highly likely to attract more customers if it packs some smart home kit and you’ll also be able to charge a little more. Security is also a key reason for smartening up your rental. You’ll also benefit from streamlining processes such as guests checking in and out. You can save on utility bills and do your bit for the environment by checking appliances and devices remotely to make sure departing guests have switched everything off.
For both vacation homes and holiday rentals, adding some worthwhile smart home equipment can also enhance the value of your property.
We’ll now double down on some key areas that are worth lasering in on if you want a connected second home.
10 Ways To Smarten Up a Vacation Home
1) Start With a Smart Speaker
Almost one-quarter of American homes now have at least one smart speaker. Within that band, fully 40% have a number of these nifty devices.
Despite the name, it’s not really the speaker itself that’s the key selling point. Indeed, many smart speakers are somewhat disappointing from a purely audio standpoint. The primary reason these devices fly off the shelves is down to the digital assistant that comes with them.
Amazon’s Echo stable comes with the ubiquitous Alexa, Google Home has Assistant to help you out, and Apple’s HomePod rolls out Siri. In all cases, you’ll be able to control your smart devices using voice commands.
Despite sometimes underwhelming audio, if you’re heading to your holiday home, it’s nice to know you’ll have music ready to roll as soon as you’ve unpacked and put your feet up. The same holds true if you’re renting your home out. Guests will appreciate being able to stream their favorite tracks.
Voice assistants can also come in handy for helping your guests to ask questions about the area, to order food and also to control appliances.
If you want to get even more ambitious, you could consider a bespoke solution like Virtual Concierge Service so you can offer your guests a great deal of information through Alexa for a modest monthly fee. Whether you have a single holiday property or a large portfolio, you can find a pricing plan to suit and ensure your guests receive the warmest of welcomes and curated content.
2) Safety First: Protect Your Investment With a Home Security System
While convenience is inarguably one of the principal drivers behind home automation, security is probably more important when you’re dealing with a second home that remains largely unoccupied.
You might want to opt for a full home security system with professional monitoring if you want to make sure your beloved smart vacation home stays protected around the clock. While these systems are not the cheapest, they offer maximum security with the absolute minimum of effort on your part.
If you don’t fancy the idea of this kind of comprehensive system monitored by a third-party, you can quite easily build out a robust system yourself. Your home is up to 300% more likely to be burgled if it’s not protected by a security system and fully 60% of burglars are deterred by the presence of a video camera. This is really the bare minimum you should consider.
You can add some floodlight cams so nobody can sneak up in the dark without being bathed in lights and spotlight cams are a great way of bolstering security further.
While we wouldn’t recommend installing interior security cameras in a rental – customers would likely feel uneasy about privacy – installing an alarm system makes obvious economic sense. As well as protecting your investment, your customers will also feel safer heading out with all their belongings safeguarded by a top-notch home security system.
It’s not only burglary that can compromise your smart vacation home, though. How about the threat of fire and flooding? Luckily, smart technology allows you to keep on top of that, too.
3) Safety Inside The House: Smoke Alarms and Water Sensors
A fire in the house can be deadly even if you’re in the home and have a chance to deal with it before it takes hold. 2000 Americans die from house fires. It’s the smoke and gases that are even more deadly than the flames with more people dying from smoke inhalation than burns. The bulk of these fatalities occur in homes with no smoke alarms.
If your smart vacation home is empty, you might be safe from harm yourself but imagine how you’d feel if the house burned to the ground in your absence, something that could have been prevented if you’d only installed a smoke alarm.
Luckily, smart smoke alarms will ping an alert to your phone even if you’re miles away. This will give you ample chance to call the fire service in time to stop your investment being razed to the ground.
Water damage but be equally devastating if a leak develops into a full-blown flooding incident. While this is unlikely in your primary residence, smart vacation homes tend to be left unoccupied for large swathes of the year so you should seriously think about a water leak detector.
With the best water leak sensors, you’ll be notified on your smartphone if there’s an issue that needs addressing. That gives you ample time to take action, whether you are able to attend the issue yourself or you need to send in a maintenance crew. And if you’re wondering how you can easily allow someone else to access your property if you’re not around, that brings us neatly to another method of simplifying your life with smart locks in your holiday home…
4) Streamline Entry With Smart Locks
Replacing your old, dumb locks with electronic alternatives comes with several benefits if you have a second home you use expressly for vacationing.
Keys are a constant source of hassle wherever you live. Imagine rolling up to your holiday home after a long drive only to find you forget the whole bunch of keys in your excitement to hit the road. Or picture heading back from a long day out only to find you lost the door key while you were at the beach. These things happen but you can avoid them by making a modest investment in a smart lock.
If you spend a lot of time coming and going separately as a family, entrusting teens with keys is also a recipe for disaster! You can eliminate the headaches with an electronic entry system. Whether you choose a keypad or a touchscreen lock, lost keys will be a distant memory.
With holiday rentals, you can the sting out of guests needing to collect keys to check in or drop them off when they leave. Opt for a smart lock that allows you to set temporary codes. If you’re concerned about security, just think of hotel key cards. Once you’ve checked out, the card no longer works. The same principle applies to temporary codes.
Another option is something like Master Lock’s Lock Box where a code allows the guest to open the front panel and retrieve a physical key to open your regular lock. This combines the traditional approach with smart technology to give your guests the best of both worlds and to make your life easier.
This also applies to any service staff you might need to clean your rental or conduct any repairs. The added advantage of this with a coded system is that you can keep an eye on the time they spend in your house and make sure it tallies with hours billed!
5) Warm Things Up With a Smart Thermostat
Smart thermostats can come in useful whether you’re using your holiday home exclusively yourself or taking paying guests.
If you have a holiday home somewhere particularly warm, ending a long car journey by entering a room that feels more like a sauna than a lounge is really not the way to kickstart your holiday. Equally unpalatable is stepping into a house you use for skiing in the mountains only to need to keep your coats on while the heating takes its sweet time to kick in.
Neither of these scenarios will ever unfold again if you smarten up your thermostat. Tweak the temperature remotely as you head to your holiday sanctuary and you’ll arrive with the temperature exactly the way you like it. Your hardest job then will be deciding what movie to put on as you relax and ease into your break.
If you rent out your home, you can also help guests troubleshoot any problems with climate control through remote access. One caveat we would slip in is that it’s not sound business practice to interfere from afar if you see the temperature ratcheted up. Respect your guest and build any rampant power consumption into the price rather than being tempted to intervene and dial back the heating!
Thinking of unexpected bills, though, you can certainly make sure all the heating or cooling is switched off when your guests leave so you’ll be able to recoup your investment by maximizing energy efficiency while guests are around and minimizing wastage once they’ve left. With Nest Learning Thermostat, for example, the integrated motion detectors can sense when a room is unoccupied and adjust the temperature accordingly.
However you choose to use it, for business or personal reasons, a smart thermostat is a mainstay of any connected home.
6) Smart Lighting
If you have a rental property and you want your guests to get the warmest of welcomes, you can make sure the lights are activated as soon as they set foot inside. You can extend customized lighting throughout their journey inside with mood lighting to reflect the character of specific rooms adding a wow factor unachievable without smart lighting.
Just like with smart thermostats, intelligent lighting will turn itself off when your guests leave. Those periods with all lights left blazing away soon mount up over the course of a year of rentals, even if it’s only one guest in ten that forgets to switch them off when they depart.
Beyond that, smart LEDs are intrinsically much more economical than regular lights anyway so you can rapidly recoup your investment while making your vacation home even more attractive.
7) Video Doorbell To Stay Connected At a Distance
Do you have a holiday home in a small village where you’ve developed a social network? If so, you can stay in touch even when you’re back at home and keep track of who’s paying you a visit letting them know when you’ll be back in town.
Another advantage of video doorbells is they act as a security camera and entry system rolled into one. Being able to maintain a remote connection with your holiday home even if you’re only there a couple weeks each year gives you peace of mind worth far more than the modest price tag of a video doorbell.
If you rent out your property with strict limits on the number of guests and prohibitions on parties, a video doorbell can help you stay abreast of comings and goings. The only thing we’d slip in here is that you should make this clear to guests on your listing so they’re not faced with unexpected privacy concerns upon arrival. And while it’s morally sound to respect their privacy, don’t be shy about protecting your investment either.
8) Simplify Clean-Up With a Robot Vacuum
Vacuuming is a chore that nobody really enjoys, but it’s a necessary evil.
What’s absolute, not necessary is to clean up manually when you can pick from a wide range of robot vacuums to get the job done for you.
With most smart devices and appliances, you can generally buy in with confidence at pretty much any price point. We’re not in the business of urging you toward pricier products as a rule, but in the case of robotic vacuums, you really need to dig a bit deeper if you want the job done properly.
So whether you want to clean up after your holiday or get things ready for incoming guests in a holiday rental, automating your vacuuming is an easy way to make your life that little bit more convenient without breaking the bank or hiring a maid service.
9) Outside in The Garden
If you’ve got a holiday home you seldom visit but you want to keep the grounds neatly maintained, there’s a little substitute for hiring a gardener.
That said, you could certainly consider an in-ground sprinkler system if you want to make sure the grass stays lush year-round. Auto-scheduling in line with prevailing weather conditions can help you save water while also ensuring you arrive for your much-needed vacation to be confronted by a rich lawn, not one that’s been parched through neglect.
And there’s one final thing we’ll mention when it comes to automation outside…
10) Poolside: Robot Pool Cleaners
If you’re lucky enough to have a pool in your vacation home or holiday rental, keeping on top of maintenance will probably be awkward if you’re not actually living there.
As with other professional services, you can hire a pool cleaner for sure and that probably makes sense for most of the year.
How about when you’re there on holiday yourself, though? Do you want your days interrupted by a crew arriving to take your business? Get yourself a robotic pool cleaner and you can keep on top of things yourself without needing to lift a finger.
We’ve only really scratched the surface today with automating your vacation home. Hopefully, you’ll already have some of these bases covered and you’ll also now have a few more ideas on how to make your property safer and your life easier.
Come back soon as we’ll be looking later this week at how to get your smart home ready for your holidays, preparing things so you can head off to the second home you now have fully automated as well!