You have likely heard a lot about the connected home lately. Devices that close the garage door automatically or lock the front door tend to make waves at first, then you stop hearing about them. They seem like neat toys at first and annoying gadgets you have to babysit constantly after that.

However, I recently installed an app on my iPhone and used two connected home gadgets that, so far this summer, have saved me 6.5 hours of work. When I installed them on June 1, I decided to keep track of how much time the devices actually save me.

First of all, the app I'm using is called Iris by Lowe's. That's right, it's from the home improvement store. It works on my iPhone (and Android), and it uses two faucet timers from a company called Orbit. You don't need an in-ground sprinkler system to use it. There's a hub you connect to your home router' I found I also had to add the Iris Smart Plug as well for a good signal. (It even works with Amazon Alexa for voice control.)

Here's what's so ingenious about this setup.

Because I'm an avid gardener, I wanted to see if there was a way to trigger two sprinklers automatically--and avoid having to ever go out into my yard, turn on the hoses, watch as they watered, then turn them off. I know that there are faucet timers that can trigger watering without an app, but I wanted more flexibility. Gardening pros will tell you not to zap your garden with water when the sun is out in full, which can cause a shock for young plants or seeds and cause other problems for full-grown plants.

I used the Iris app to set up a schedule for watering to occur right after sunrise and right before sunset, but then I've tweaked it about once per week (which takes maybe five minutes). So for the last 40 days, skipping the manual process, I've saved at least 10 minutes per day (five minutes of manual watering in the morning and in the evening). Looking at the entire summer, I estimate I'll save at least 20 hours of work using connected gardening this way, and about 6.5 hours so far.

What I like so much about this system is that I don't have to think about it at all. The garden waters itself. I don't even need to use the app, because once the timers are configured (or adjusted), I just let them do their thing. Each day, I glance at the garden to see that it looks wet and that's about it. I know the sprinklers are timed to water for about 20 minutes. On hot days, I sometimes adjust the setting to go a little longer or water an extra amount later.

The connected home is somewhat of a trend--I know many people who install doorbells, video cameras, and garage door openers and then get tired of using the apps. Eventually, artificial intelligence will take over in the home. It already has with a system called Vivint that can disable your thermostat when you're not home, all without ever having to use an app.

I'm excited to see where this all leads. Someday, our homes will water the garden, turn off the lights, change the temp and perform many other tasks without us ever tweaking any settings. They will just know what to do.

For now, I'm content to save time watering. It's working perfectly.

Published on: Jul 12, 2017