We live in a world where people will gleefully connect anything from their toilet to their dishwasher to the internet. But does making your whole apartment “smart” actually give you any benefits besides being able to tell your friends you can remotely flush your toilet?
As that question’s wording probably implies, I was skeptical. But the Hive Home — a smart home brand that powers tens of thousands of homes in the United Kingdom and was released in the United States and Canada this past summer — gave me some hope for this this type of tech.
I was set up with the “Hive Home Welcome plan,” which lets you “adjust [your] heating and air conditioning, light, and appliances from wherever [you] are.” This kit comes with eleven individual products that are controlled through the Hive app.
- One Hive Hub: You hook this up to your router to make everything else work.
- Four Active Lights: Light bulbs that you can turn on, off, and dim from either the other room or from your office.
- Two Active Plugs: These outlets plug into your wall sockets so you can power things from afar.
- Two Window or Door Sensors: These stick-on door sensors will send alerts to your phone if a specific window or door is open.
- One Motion Sensor: That will let you know if there’s movement in your home when there isn’t supposed to be.
- One Smart Thermostat: This will let you toggle your heat or A/C when you aren’t home.
There isn’t an upfront cost for all of this stuff, but you have to sign a two-year contract that will run you $25 a month for two years. That’s a total cost of $600.
The initial setup process was a little intimidating. Each one of the the appliances listed is individually packaged with its own manual. At first glance, I thought I would need to set aside a whole afternoon just to get started, but it was surprisingly easy.
Once I had downloaded the app and connected the the Hub to my router I set about making my apartment smart.
I started with the light bulbs, which I thought would be the most useful because I constantly forget to switch off lights. Pairing them to my phone was a breeze. I screwed them into three different lamps, searched for them on the app, and in a few minutes they were ready to go.
Everything else has a similarly simple setup process, other than the thermostat, which I didn’t get to try because it would have required me to drill into my wall. That’s a luxury I don’t have with my rented Brooklyn apartment.
Once you have everything ready to go, the app’s home screen should look something like this.
For the next few days I tried to incorporate all of these interconnected devices into my life. A lot of the things the kit came with would definitely be more useful for people with larger homes.
For me personally, the light bulbs were the biggest selling point. They gave me the ability to monitor what lights I had forgotten to turn off after leaving my place, which made me a little more responsible when it comes to energy consumption.
My roommate is constantly yelling at me about leaving my lights on. These smart bulbs allowed me to check from work if I left any of them on. Of course I did. If I could replace every bulb in my place with one of these I would definitely put a dent in my electric bill.
Hive’s lights also gives you the option to dim your lights, which saves energy. It also creates ambiance. You can use this feature to program your lights to turn on at a specific time, as sort of an alarm. I tried this one morning and I ended up oversleeping. So it might not be the best wake-up call for us heavy sleepers.
This item was the most useless in the bunch for me. I used one of these for the outlet that I plug my toaster into. It might save you energy to turn off stuff you leave plugged in, but I would have been better off just unplugging my toaster.
This might be pretty useful for indoor Christmas lights though. You can program the outlet to turn on for a specific time, so you don’t have to keep unplugging your string of lights day in and day out.
You’re still plugging an outlet into an outlet. It’s like the old Xzibit meme.
Door/Window Sensor, Also Good for Snack Monitoring
One day during the week my roommate worked from home, so I stuck one of these in a cabinet that we keep snacks in as an experiment. I got several push notifications throughout the day and promptly removed it once I got home.
In larger homes this could be used to check if you left your backdoor or windows open while you’re gone. My apartment is on the smaller side and my windows don’t open all of the way, so snack monitoring was the next best thing. Probably not an ideal way to use this gadget.
Motion Sensor Shows My Bedroom is Peaceful
I put this in my room and expected it to be pretty similar to the previous sensor, but it has yet to notify me about any motion in my room. I guess that’s a good thing.
The Hive light bulbs helped me curb my careless habit of constantly leaving my lights on, but I found the others more difficult to work into my day-to-day inside a week, but they could be woven into your routine if used for longer. Every living situation has its own quirks.
If you live in a larger suburban-styled home, you’ll make use of most the Hive Home’s offerings. It’s not be ideal for apartment dwellers, but if you have a large house — one that’s likely using a lot more power than my relatively small place — this could give you more piece of mind about your energy use, especially if you’re away for long periods of time.