Norman Knight: Turning our C-average house into an A+ abode

Becky tore an article from a recent Good Housekeeping magazine she thought I might be interested in reading and laid it on the table.

It was by “Experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute” and it challenged readers to “Upgrade your Life with a Smarter Home.” My wife was correct: I did find it interesting. I’m just not sure how much of it is applicable to our lives.

First off, we live in a house that we likely could not make all that much smarter, no matter how hard we tried. That’s because the most basic requirement for a smart home seems to be good Internet service. The article assumes the reader has a level of Net juice that would support all the gadgets and gizmos the “Experts” suggest I need to raise the IQ (Internet Quality) of my home. The thing is, our house is in a part of the county that some would consider an Internet Desert.

Sure, we have this thing called a “Hotspot” or “Jetpack” that we pay a monthly charge to get a kinda, sorta, Internet service. I wouldn’t call it “high speed” exactly, and it works only intermittently, but we usually are able to read emails and pay some bills online. We remain hopefully optimistic that the little white flags that have been placed up and down along our road are precursors of a promised fiber optics system at some indeterminate date. Until that bright day arrives, we continue to live our lives in our C average house. Our humble abode may not be the sharpest crayon in the box, but we love it just the same.

The Experts tell me that when high-level Internet capability is achieved, Becky and I should consider some devices that will make our house smarter and our lives better. When they say “better” I think they mean “easier,” and when they say “easier” they seem to be saying, “Let robots do the work for you.”

They promise we can set a smart cooking range to use temperature probes to adjust the oven so Sunday dinner will be ready when we get home from church. A coffee pot can be programmed to be ready when we get up, and we can check with the smart refrigerator who will let us know what foods we are getting low on. As we leave the sanctuary, I will tell the smart thermostat via our smartphone to begin warming up or cooling down our smart house so we will be comfortable when we get home.

On the outside, our smart house will need to have Wi-Fi enabled sprinklers which use real-time weather data to adjust the amount of water needed for the lawn. Never mind that I haven’t watered a lawn in years. Now, it will be possible to do so. I can also program my robotic lawn mower to cut the grass based on the growing season. I really don’t mind mowing, but, hey, if is the smart house thing to do, fine.

One of the first devices they say I should consider is a smart speaker. This means installing Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant so as to direct the smart home controls. One Expert, a cybersecurity professional, warns it is important to install safeguards to keep intruders out of all the smart devices you will be adding to your smart house. The Expert reveals, “Alexa is listening all the time — but so is your smartphone. We give up some privacy when we bring these connected gadgets into our lives.”

That leads to a question I need to consider: What am I willing to give up to have a smart house? The peaceful morning ritual of preparing the coffee? The joys of watching food transformed into a meal I participated in preparing. The personal satisfaction of taking care of my home? The security of knowing unknown ears are not monitoring my every word?

Maybe we should just stick with our C average home. It may not be smart, but, still, we love it just the same.