The battle for your smart home has been set with three big players: Google Nest, Apple HomeKit and Samsung. All three are taking a different approach but have the same goal – to become the brains, hearts and guts of your home.
Nest was well on it’s way as a stand alone company with a singular product that transformed the home automation industry. The Nest thermostat. They took an otherwise nondescript product that had not been innovated on for years and flipped it on it’s head. The Nest is a true “smart home” product as it’s settings are learned and it has the capability to communicate with other home automation devices under their Works with Nest family of products that includes brands such as Whirlpool, Chamberlain, Jawbone, Dropcam and Mercedes-Benz.
Nest has a comfortable lead in the smart home space with an easy to understand product that is simple to install. They’ve also got the millions of Android smart phone users who are also part of the Google ecosystem.
Apple HomeKit contains enormous promise but they’ve delayed release. The latest iOS update on the iPhone has a HomeKit setting but they haven’t officially rolled it out. Apple has announced an impressive roster or manufacturers who are in board and can’t wait to get started. Apple also has sold a ton of AppleTV units which could become the hub of their smart home system (similar to Nest). Apple doesn’t rush products and you can bet that when they finally launch HomeKit it will be the most polished home automation system available. That in itself is one reason why Apple might win the battle as it’s all about ease of use. No one wants to fumble with things. Smart home products should make living easier. That’s it and it’s what Apple does so well.
Samsung is the only contender that builds both smart phones and large appliances which places them in a unique position. They will rely on some extent to software from Apple or Google to communicate with their products but appliances are where buyers will see the true future of smart home devices come to play. From pinging you when clothes are dry to identifying which part is broken and needs can be ordered automatically. The CEO of Samsung will be doing the keynote at CES this year and CES has dedicated an entire show area for home automation products.
2015 is going to be an amazing year for this industry. Hold on tight and we’ll keep you posted on the latest technology that will help you decide which to system is best for you.
Last year we visited the Butler Street Foundry, a metal shop located on the Southside of Chicago in the shadow of Comiskey Park. We met the owner, John Lamonica, at a Craftsman event and besides being an artisan metalworker he also works closely with kids and inspires them to learn how to weld and shape metal. At his shop he gave me a crash course with the plasma cutter which is an amazing tool.
John was gracious enough to give me a tour of his metal shop which was an ode to how metal working has been done for centuries. The shop served as one of the key rebuilding centers after the Great Fire in 1871. There were no computers or digital machines in sight and the heavy machinery was all operated on hydraulic systems.
The highlight of this tour was getting a peek into the wood shop which functioned as a small addition to the metal work but had ceased production in 1947. Fortunately for me the wood shop had never been cleared and according to John, almost everything was left as is.
These photos don’t do this place justice and I can still smell the musky scent of a variety of wood and years of dust and dirt. One of my favorite photos is of a 48-star US flag that still hangs from the wall near some front doors which had been replaced but still bear a Chicago tax stamp from 1930.
Here are some photos from the metal shop.
As parents we have been in a constant mode of buying, selling and trading all types of gear for our baby who is now a toddler. As he’s outgrown things we wanted to find an alternative to selling them on Craigslist and as we seek gently used toys and one-of-a kind family items we wanted to find items that our neighbors have available.
So instead of just taking our chances with Craigslist again, we launched Built by Kids Classifieds. We believe this is a safer alternative to Craigslist and a great way to connect with your neighbors and community by sharing items you want to find a good home for, as well as finding things nearby that your friends and fellow parents have available.
This community works best among a small/large group of friends and neighbors but you can also widen your search and seek out hard-to-find items from anywhere in the US.
Here’s our storefront (we’re calling a corner) with all of our items listed. If you’re in West LA we can meetup somewhere or you are welcome to pickup in person.
Our Radio Flyer Rocking Horse and Penny Skateboards have had the most views so far and I know will go fast. We’ve also listed our David Netto designed crib which is perfect for the modern family.
If you’ve got other household gear that you want to sell, you are more than welcome to do that. We’re not just limiting to kids gear. Furniture can be cross promoted to Apartment Therapy Classifieds and art under $1,000 can get listed on Cheap Art Classifieds.
Join now and please share with other families and moms in your community. Thanks!]]>
Window and door styles vary. Make sure you are aware of the terminology when you are shopping, so you can find exactly what you are looking for.
Pella has provided this handy guide for choosing window and door styles that will complement your home’s architecture and give you the performance you need.
Remember to choose a window or door that will look good from the inside as well as the outside of your home.
Entry door glass options
Photos courtesy of Pella Windows and Doors.]]>
Now that winter weather is here, you may find yourself in the midst of an ice storm. Besides creating incredibly hazardous driving conditions, ice storms are also dangerous because it doesn’t take much ice accumulation to bring down tree branches, power lines and cause other damage to property.
Although you can’t completely safeguard your home from an ice storm, there are several steps you can take to minimize damage, most of which call for adequate, properly installed insulation.
+ Protect against frozen pipes by ensuring that pipes are insulated and all holes and cracks are sealed. Experts also recommend leaving cabinet doors open, which will allow your home’s heat to warm the pipes, and also leaving your faucets at a slow drip.
+ Properly insulate and vent your attic, which won’t only help with your home’s energy consumption–you’ll also prevent ice dams, which can cause roof damage during and after a winter storm, as well as water leaks inside your home.
+ Stock a few supplies in the event of a power outage, which can frequently occur during an ice storm. Bottled water, blankets, non-perishable snacks and candles/matches are great to have on hand, and can get you through a few days without electricity.
+ As a back-up, make sure your homeowner’s insurance includes coverage for this type of scenario. Even though you can’t completely protect your property, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that if damage does occur, your insurance plan can provide for coverage of repairs.
Do you have additional tips for protecting your property during winter weather? Let us know!
Heated gear is more popular than ever, which is why Milwaukee Tool expanded their lineup of M12 heated apparel this year. We checked out all of the gear when we visited Milwaukee Tool this summer and we couldn’t wait for the temps to drop before trying it out.
The heated camo hoodie is similar to last years model, but the biggest difference is that it’s now machine washable. This makes a huge difference and will probably motivate the last hold outs to get on board. The camo pattern is tried and true Realtree Xtra which makes it ideal for fall, winter and early spring hunting.
The hoodie comes with an M12 battery or you can use the same M12 battery that powers your tools. It simply plugs into the jacket and is kept out of the way in a back pocket.
The camo hoodie is extremely comfortable and lightweight and is easy to stash in your car or truck for the times when the temps really drop.
This jacket is also suitable if you aren’t an outdoorsman and will keep you warm wherever you are. If camo isn’t your thing, Milwaukee tool offers various heated coats in red, gray and black.
More info here.]]>
I’ll admit: I’ve never had much luck with keys. So I jumped at the chance to test the Kwikset Kevo smart lock, which uses an iPhone instead of a key. Here’s what I think.
Hits: Easy to install and it’s good to know that if all else fails, you can still use a regular key. Kevo works well and comes with the brand’s pick resistant, bump-proof design. The fob is handy for those without smartphones and the lock tracks who accessed the lock and when.
Misses: The lock’s aesthetics (on the inside) might not be for everyone. There were a few instances when the lock has a mind of its own. Synching operations could be easier.
Uses: Any door that needs a dead bolt, thought Kevo is not available as a handle set.
If you’ve installed a regular dead bolt you shouldn’t have any trouble with Kevo. There are a few extra steps because of the wiring, but they’re not complex. Once assembled, powered up and activated, the locks works well. Sync it to your iPhone (right now Kevo is only compatible with Apple’s 4s, 5, 5c, 5s, 6 and 6 plus), via Bluetooth and you can lock and unlock the door while the phone is on you. That’s a great feature if you approach the door with your hands full or if your kid bolts to the door ahead of you because Sheriff Callie is on because they can open the door by tapping the lock. Speaking of kids—and others in the non-smartphone sect—you can give them the fob that comes with the kit. It works the same way as long as it’s within 2 to 4 feet of the lock. Additional fobs can be purchased and the lock knows when the fob is inside so someone can’t let themselves in if the fob is on a table in the entryway.
Kevo comes with two digital keys that you can share with any compatible iPhone, letting in a contractor or a family member stopping by while you’re not home. The app logs what key has access the lock when and who owns the keys.
I installed this on the pre-hung door between my kitchen and garage. I mention pre-hung because the door came with beefy weather stripping so when the dead bolt extends it’s not perfectly lined up with the latch. It’s not a big deal, all I have to do is pull on the door to compress the gasket, allowing the bolt to seat properly. On a few occasions someone with the fob has passed by the door and the lock has extended on it’s own. Synching the phone to the lock isn’t hard but the instructions aren’t great (YouTube has a few video tutorials). But this isn’t a smart home lock—you can’t open and close the lock from your computer.
Final word: The lock works well and if the aesthetics on the inside aren’t a concern, this is a good option for those who want to do away with keys. More about the Kwikset Kevo on their website.
If you’ve come to the realization that you need to replace some or all of the windows in your home, you may be surprised by the myriad of options available. Window technology has changed a lot in the last ten to twenty years and this window tech has made our homes more energy efficient than we could have ever dreamed of.
There are a few glass options to be aware of, but the number one variable is how energy-efficient the window is. Pella shares a few facts about ENERGY STAR® requirements and what to look for in an new replacement window.
U-Factors measure the insulating value of windows and other fenestration products. The lower the U-Factor, the better job a window does of keeping out heat and cold (This is different from R-value which measures insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it). A low U-Factor is important in all climates. In Southern climates where air conditioning is important, choose a window with a lower solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) to reflect the sun’s heat away. Compare efficiency ratings before you purchase a window to help lower heating and cooling costs and make the most of your investment.
An easy way to choose energy-efficient windows is to look for products that meet ENERGY STAR® requirements. TheENERGY STAR® program was created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy to help consumers identify windows and other products that save energy. Performance requirements for windows are tailored to meet the specific needs of different climates. For example, in Southern climates in the U.S., a low SHGC is most important. In Northern climates, a low U-Factor is most important.ENERGY STAR® certified windows assure homeowners the windows they choose are the most appropriate for their area in terms of energy efficiency.
Most high-performing windows today have Low-E glass. This thin film coating improves thermal efficiency (insulation properties) and helps block the sun’s heat rays and damaging ultraviolet rays. Read more about Low-E coating in the Glass types and options section of these tips.
After you decide which glass type is best for you, you’ll want to determine the window material used to make the window sash and frame. The most popular options include:
Keep in mind that different climates require different window technologies and materials for optimal performance. Be sure to check with the experts at your local window store to determine the best options for you.
Photos courtesy of Pella Windows and Doors.]]>
Wagner is one of the top names when it comes to paint sprayers and they continue to innovate with products that feature more power, performance and utility for the homeowner.
They recently introduced the Wagner FLEXiO 890 indoor/outdoor hand-held sprayer kit. It’s suitable for all projects around the house and combines their iSpray nozzle, detail finish nozzle and X-Boost Turbine, that brings pro level performance to your home projects.
We’ve done a quick walkthrough of the product as well as a real world test as we painted an exterior wall. We found the case which contains the compressor, hose and two sprayers to be very convenient and easy to use. Setup of the unit was very straightforward and the dreaded cleanup was a cinch.
We like that it comes with two nozzle sizes. One for broad surfaces and the other for small projects and fine finishing. During our test we were impressed with how quiet the unit was. It’s really just a low hum and the weight of the sprayer isn’t too bad. The wall we painted was small but we can imagine how fatigue could set in for larger projects, so shaving any weight would help reduce that, which it seems like they did.
The Wagner FLEXIO 890 is available for $189 at your local home center.
Here’s another quick video of the Wagner in use.]]>
If you’ve got a corded circular saw in good condition but is gathering dust, convert it into a table saw by building one from scratch.
Yes, you can buy a great table saw for under $500, but for the price of a few pieces of scrap lumber and hardware you can build one yourself. In the video above, a skilled home woodworker has taken the novel idea of converting his corded circular saw into a table saw.
Every piece of this saw is custom made, from the mounting brackets to the rip fence. He’s even set up the saw to cut at various depths and angles. Check out his web site for photos and instructions on building this table saw.