You bought a smart home- Now What?
You have finally closed on your dream home. You have taken the final walk-through with your real estate agent, and you both have confirmed that all is on the up-and-up.
Or is it . . . ?
You may be in love with that new stainless steel fridge, and laundry is going to so much easier with the appliances on the second floor. Groceries are a cinch; no more 4 story walk-up! These are the things that get your attention. So what are you forgetting?
Many homeowners have installed SOME type of home automation while upgrading. When it's time to move, the homeowner usually takes the easy things with him (or her); leaving in-wall switches and installed panels to confound the new homeowner. The first night in the house, the moving trucks are there, your helpers are milling about, boxes and furniture are flying through the halls. Then, either the lights go on, the lights DON'T go on, or, the siren from the alarm system starts to blare. Making friends with the new neighbors has never been this easy.
For the first two items, there's usually some good news. Lights acting on their own usually means the previous homeowner left the panel or gateway in place, and it's running a scene (aka automation or timer). It's annoying, but a little tracking down usually allows one to find the gateway, contact the manufacturer, the real estate company, or the previous owner for some help.
However, from the panicked emails I've gotten from new homeowners, a siren blaring (usually at midnight, after the real estate agent has gone to bed) holds no good news. At all. Unfortunately, there is little someone in my position can do. Actual questions include (paraphrased and sanitized for my G-rated audience): 'Can you give me the secret universal password for this alarm panel so I can shut it off?' Or, 'I know I'm supposed to get an account for this alarm system, but if I give you my address can you just turn it off and I'll call you in the morning?'
I can tell when someone is desperate when they hit all of our emails with a question. As much as I'd love to help, a secret universal password would probably not be secret for very long, especially if I gave it over an email to someone I don't know. And since I don't know the type of panel in the home, the service provider the previous homeowner employed, or even what protocol (radio) we're talking about, I'd say unplug everything you can and deal with it at another time. But isn't there a better way? I have asked a few real estate agents to give a statement for this blog. Unfortunately I have not gotten a response. But now you know to bug them about those 'little white boxes all around.' From the tone of at least some of the emails and tickets I get about this, the new homeowner knows there was something he/she was supposed to do, but wasn't sure what it was.
If you have been caught by surprise and either the real estate company gave you no warning (or the homeowner is MIA and an honest attempt was made with no success) the first thing you'll need to determine is the KIND of radio you're dealing with. There is Z-Wave, WiFi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, and 319/345 MHz sensors. See if you can pull off a cover and get a model number. Maybe you did, and discovered it's all Z-Wave and that's why you're here? What's next? A good conversation starter is discussing your wants and needs for a smart home. Since this is a one-way street and I can't talk to you, I recommend reading my Getting Started with Z-Wave guide to see what works best for you. It also explains the various radio frequencies and how to make other devices talk nicely.
If you discover that you bought a new hub/gateway and still are having trouble, your devices may still be paired with the old MIA gateway; use your new one to exclude them first then try again. If you happen to read this blog before you close, share it with your real estate agent before you're panic-emailing panel manufacturers at 2am.
If you find a panel and not a controller, see if you can get the name of the service provider in your area. A good agent will tell this to you; probably while you're staring dreamy-eyed at the refrigerator or already mentally soaking in the hot tub. Call them up and find out; maybe using a few points from the text above.
Are you a real estate agent who would like to share a funny story or advice on this subject? You, or anyone else with questions, can reach me by clicking the tab in the lower-right corner and leaving me a message.
All the best, and congratulations on your purchase of your new home.