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4 easy ways to make your rental home smarter

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Landlords, huh? All you want to do is bring your rented home into the modern era, but these party animals won’t let you change your locks, upgrade your light switches, or even pull out those 50s wall outlets. They give you some bullshit about liability, about how your lease prohibits you from rewiring things, and how they really don’t want you attacking anything with a screwdriver. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to add some smart things to your home that won’t upset the landlord or risk electrifying you. Here are a few choices to make your rental space smarter.

All items selected here (except one) work with Amazon, Android and Apple devices. That’s because they work with the holy trinity of smart home systems: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit. And because they don’t require professional installation or permanent wiring, you can take them with you when you move.

SMARTER LOCKS

Most landlords won’t let you change your locks (no surprise, they might have to move in in an emergency). But you can still make your locks smart. The SwitchBot Lock fits over the back of your deadbolt lock, allowing you to unlock or lock the door on command. SwitchBot also offers the wireless keyboard touch, which allows you to open your locks with a fingerprint or keycode or NFC tag. You can control the lock remotely, let friends in when you’re gone, or get notified when someone comes by, like your landlord wants to poke around. The downside is that it’s a rather obvious device that snaps onto the back of your door. A combo pack of the lock, the hub that allows you to control it remotely, plus the fingerprint keyboard will cost you $169.99. There’s even an app for your Apple Watch, so you can open the front door in a jiffy. (Luxury!)

If your landlord doesn’t mind you leaving? part of the lock, the August WiFi Smart Lock could work. This replaces the rear part of the lock with a motorized mechanism that allows the old keys to still work, but you can also open the lock remotely or with the optional keyboard. A bundle of the Wi-Fi Smart Lock and the keyboard will cost you $234.

SMARTER SWITCHES

Most of the rental properties I’ve lived in had electrical systems I could euphemistically describe as retro, with old-style toggle switches looking dated even in the ’90s. If it’s not broken, most landlords think, why fix it, even if it was installed in the Reagan administration? You might assume that these clunky old light switches would be impossible to control remotely, but you’d be wrong. The Adaprox Fingerbot Plus can flip these old-school switches automatically, using a motor to replace your finger. The best place to start is the $89.99 Pro Kitwhich includes two Fingerbots, the hub that controls them, and the toolkit that allows it to be mounted and operated on various types of switches.

If your light switches are a bit more modern, such as the larger rocker type, the redundantly named switchbot bot can turn the light on with the push of a button and turn it off with a pull, assisted by a sticky pad that attaches to the switch. This one $29.99 device still leave your light switch accessible, so you can still use your fingers to turn the lights on if you want to go a little primitive. However, you need the SwitchBot hub to control it from the outside.

SMARTER SOCKETS

Do you want to control everything that plugs into a socket? Attempted ConnectSense Smart Socket 2. This one $40 device plugs into a two-socket outlet that plugs in your devices, and voila, you can control it both over the Internet and with your voice. Plus, the ConnectSense app also lets you check how much power your devices are using, and the Smart Outlet 2 also adds a USB port to charge your devices. It’s a bit on the bulky side though, so consider the $20 Smart Connect EZ Lamp Controller if you only want to control one device, or if you have wall sockets with one socket. If you want to control more than two devices, Kasa Smart Wall power strip HS300 has six outlets, each of which can be controlled separately via the Kasa app and with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. However, there is no support for Apple HomeKit. plus this $47 power strip has three USB ports for charging.

SMARTER CURTAINS and BLINDS

Curtains may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a modern smart home, but they can be a part of it just as much as anything else. How about curtains that open automatically in the morning and close again in the evening, making it seem like you’re home when you’re not? The SwitchBot Curtain Rod 2 fits in your curtains and opens and closes them with a small, quiet motor. Do you prefer blinds to curtains? soma produces devices that can open and close blinds that use beaded cords or tilt rods; but at $149 each they are on the expensive side. Plus, they don’t support Apple HomeKit directly, although they do offer free software that integrates with HomeKit with a little hacking.

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