I have a pretty long checklist of things I do when we leave our house and one of them is setting up a few light timers. But if you watched Home Alone, you know that simple light timers are pretty obvious to burglars.
I have tried a couple more complex options, and the latest one is the WeMo light switch from Belkin. They have a variety of products like this but they all have WiFi built in which means you can control them from a variety of devices.
I installed one in our house and everything was really simple to get going. The hardest part was that they only support Android and iPhone. Ken had loaned me an older Android device but it wasn’t able to run the software so he came through again and loaned me Galaxy S3. That worked fine and setup was a breeze. You basically put the phone on the same temporary WiFi network as the light switch and then the phone passes along the regular house WiFi credentials so the light switch can get on the network with all your other devices.
From there you can schedule the light switch from your phone or from the IFTTT website. Side note, if you haven’t played with IFTTT, it’s fun to check out. IFTTT stands for “If This Then That” and they are positioning themselves as a way to get more value out of your Internet of Things devices. For example, I set up a “recipe” that says “If I hold down my WeMo light switch for 5 seconds, call my phone.” (It’s a convenient way to find a lost phone.) Or maybe you want it to turn on the house lights when you get close to home, turn down the heat when you leave, or flash the lights when you get to your Fitbit step goal.
WeMo is a nice way to get into home automation without making a big mess of your house or having to explain it to your house guests. This light switch is still a regular light switch. You don’t have to know anything about it to work it, but it has a bunch of extra capabilities that I can use if I want to geek out a bit.
The one complaint is that this only works with lights that have a single switch attached to them. They don’t (yet) have a solution for 3-way circuits. Hopefully that comes because it would be really nice this on some of our 3-way circuits.
You can pick this up from Amazon for $37.