Get Smart About Weather

Reader Contribution by Jennifer Tuohy and Home Depot
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Forecasting technology allows us to take proactive steps big and small when it comes to weather — from making minor temperature adjustments in our homes, to avoiding the path of a major storm. Now, with advancements in smart technology, we can not only see what’s coming, but we can monitor and prepare ourselves and our homes for weather events in extraordinary ways.

From cellphone apps and personal weather stations to smart lightbulbs and thermostats, you can use smart tech gadgets to stay ahead of Mother Nature, all from your smartphone. Here’s how.

Smart Thermostats and Temperature Sensors

Install small, battery-powered temperature sensors in strategic locations in your home and tie them into a smart thermostat using a Z-wave-powered smart home hub. They’ll allow you to control the climate down to the room, and they can alert you to sudden changes in temperature (like when a door is left open and cold air is rushing in). You can set up a smart home routine to trigger your thermostat to go into eco mode if one sensor reports a sudden drop in temperature, helping you save energy.

Some smart thermostats can even adjust automatically based on upcoming weather. They anticipate your needs based on previous usage patterns, and when a forecast indicates a sudden rise in temperature is coming, they can start pre-cooling your home.

Personal Weather Station

A backyard weather station can provide you with specific weather data for your location’s micro-climate. These sensor-laden devices track local rainfall, wind, air pressure, and even UV levels in real time, right in your backyard, giving you a hyperlocal weather forecast. Ideal for the weather geek, these devices are smart enough to generate forecasts and can work with smart devices in your home to adapt to the weather. For example, they can alert your smart thermostat for a temp adjustment or tell the irrigation system when to water the lawn.

Cellphone Apps and WEAs

Drawing from nearby professional weather stations, weather apps on your smartphone can also provide local weather forecasts for your area. Set up weather alerts based on your location, turn on location tracking services, and your phone will keep you updated about the weather where you live even when you’re not home. You can get alerts for shifts in weather like sudden thunderstorms or a heat wave that’s on its way.

The most important weather alerts are the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs). These alerts are part of a public safety system that targets your phone based on your location to alert you of imminent weather dangers, such as flooding, tornadoes, or other life-threatening weather events. This system also sends out Amber Alerts and Presidential Alerts. Nearly all smartphones have WEAs installed. (If you’re not sure, check with your cellular provider.)

Enabled by default on iOS and Android cellphones, WEAs can be turned off in settings (although it’s advisable to leave them on). To check if they are enabled, got to Settings > Notifications on an iPhone, or go to Emergency Alerts in your Android device’s text messaging app.

IFTTT

Another excellent way to harness the power of smart technology to monitor the weather is with a service called IFTTT (If This, Then That). It’s a simple, free way to automate regular tasks, such as checking the weather every morning. Create a free account at ifttt.com or download the app to your smartphone and create “applets.” With this service, you can do things like:

get a notification when the UV index is high

receive a reminder to cover your plants when the weather is about to drop below freezing

receive a morning wakeup call with a weather report

You can also use IFTTT to control devices in your smart home to act when the weather changes, which can be convenient as well as really fun. For example, you can:

set your smart lights to change blue when it starts to rain

set your thermostat to kick on if the outside temperature drops below a certain level

tell your smart sprinkler not to water the day before rain is expected

Smart Sprinkler Controller

One of the most effective connected devices to respond to the weather is a smart sprinkler controller. These devices use a WiFi connection to pull weather data from the Internet and local weather stations. They then use the data to determine when and how much to water your garden or lawn. These smart devices can save a homeowner thousands of gallons of water a year, according to the EPA, which certifies them with its WaterSense label.

Staying on top of the weather and its potential impacts on your life and property is easier than ever with smart, connected devices. They can use their intelligence to forewarn you about dangerous weather so you can prepare and adapt from anywhere.

Jennifer Pattison Tuohy is a freelance writer and editor covering the intersection of sustainability and technology for Xfinity Home. She writes about the smart home, mobile phone technology, consumer tech, small businesses, and green living for a variety of newspapers, magazines, and online publications.


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