We’re closer than ever to living in homes that cater to our every need, thanks to a host of internet-connected devices. But what if you wanted some of the conveniences of a smart home without always being online? Privacy concerns, security issues, or just a simple desire for a less connected life are making people look for smart home functionalities that don’t require an Internet connection.
Sometimes creating a smart home without an internet connection is referred to as a dumb home. However, we disagree with this assessment and believe that a dumb home can achieve most of the benefits of a smart home with less cost, less complexity, and greater control over your privacy.
In this article, we’ll explore the core components of a smart home and how you can recreate these features using devices that aren’t connected to the web.
Smart Home Lighting
Smart Home Version: Smart bulbs and lighting systems can be controlled via your smartphone. They offer functionalities like dimming, color change, and even programmed sequences.
Offline Alternative: Dimmer switches, remote-controlled, and dusk to dawn LED lights can offer a comparable experience. They don’t need an internet connection, and you can control them via physical remotes or they work without any intervention at all.
Dusk to Dawn Light Bulbs
Many smart homes are designed with connected panels that turn lights on and off at specific times. However, the most common use case for exterior lighting is to turn on automatically when its dark outside. You can achieve the same result with these low-cost dusk to dawn LED light bulbs.
Dusk to Dawn lights have a built-in light sensor and turn on when it starts to get dark outside. These models are LED meaning that they use very little electricity when they are turned on and have a lifespan many times greater than traditional incandescent bulbs. They come in 60-watt or 100-watt equivalents and have options for soft white or daylight colors.
Remote Control Light Bulbs
Remote controlled light bulbs come from a number of brands with different equivalent wattage. These Color Changing bulbs come with a remote control and are equivalent to 40w bulbs offering soft lighting in a multitude of colors that can be adjusted with a click of the remote control.
Remote Control Light Socket Adapters
If you want more control over the specific bulbs being used, try these remote-control light socket adapters. One end screws into a standard light bulb socket, and the other end accepts standard light bulbs. The bulbs are controlled by a remote that has a range that should cover an average sized house.
We like the versatility of these because it allows you to mix and match different bulb brightness, warmth, and colors. The only drawback is that the adapter adds distance between the normal socket plug and the new socket preventing an adapter plus bulb from fitting all applications.
Remote Control Smart Plugs
While there are different styles of lights that are hard wired into your house that come with a remote control, we would recommend starting with remote control plugins like these. They come in a 5 pack, boast an extra long range and allow you to plug in any lamp, light or other device.
They can be controlled with a single remote and offer an extra long range allowing you to control lights and devices from other parts of the room.
Smart Home Version: Think Nest or Ecobee—smart thermostats that learn from your behavior and can be controlled remotely.
Offline Alternative: Programmable thermostats may lack the ‘learning’ aspect but can be set manually to adjust the temperature at different times of the day.
Touch Screen Programmable Thermostat
A programmable thermostat is a must have if your house has central heat or air. While models like the Ecobee and Nest connect to the internet by WiFi a programmable thermostat can perform the essential duties of reducing energy when you or your family are not home, and automatically changing the temperature on an expected arrival time.
They don’t automatically detect when you are getting near your house to dynamically change temperature, but it’s a feature that we do not find utilized as often as you would think if you have standard working hours like most people do.
Honeywell is one of the biggest names in thermostats and their products are considered to be reliable with no need for a phone app interface or internet connection.
Smart Home Version: Cameras like Ring or Nest Cam allow for remote monitoring through an app.
Offline Alternative: Traditional security cameras can record to an internal memory or a connected DVR. While you can’t check the feed remotely, you can review it whenever you’re home.
Closed Circuit Security Cameras
Smart security cameras that connect to cloud services are frequently frowned upon due to the opaque privacy policies surrounding them. Depending on the service, you may not know who can gain access to your data without your knowledge.
Closed Circuit Security Camera Systems like this one give users the ability to record and monitor their homes while storing the recordings locally on a device with a hard drive. They can be more of a challenge to setup than the wireless models, but you know exactly where your data is being stored at all times.
Smart Door Locks
Smart Home Version: Digital door locks that can be controlled via an app or even by voice command through devices like Amazon’s Alexa.
Offline Alternative: Electronic door locks that require a code for entry offer similar security benefits without the need for an internet connection.
Keypad Entry Systems
People love smart door locks because of the peace of mind the afford. Especially if you have ever found yourself locked out of the house without your keys. Kiwkset is one of the biggest names the United States for home locks. This particular model has a keypad that can be programmed with a number combination, allowing you or people you share the code with to enter your house without you being present.
The keyless entry pad doesn’t require Wi-Fi and provides superior privacy by not including a microphone or camera that are integrated into the most popular smart door locks.
Models like this are also great for operating an AirBnB or short term vacation rental.
Smart Home Version: Devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home offer voice-controlled convenience for a variety of tasks.
Offline Alternative: While there’s no full offline replacement for these devices, specific voice-activated systems can control things like lighting or music without requiring internet access.
You may have seen The Clapper on a light night TV commercial over the years. The Clapper was first released in 1986 and is considered by many to the be one of the mass market home automation devices sold in the United States.
While it doesn’t have the versatility that an Amazon Alexa or Google Home Assistant might have, you can plug devices into it and turn them on with a clap of your hand. The two plugs work independently of each other. Two claps to turn on one device and Three claps to turn on the other.
We are big fans of The Clapper, and even in today’s world it can bring a smile to your face when you clap to turn a lamp or record player on and off.
The Benefits of an Offline Smart Home
Setting up a smart home without a connection to the internet has a lot of benefits. The primary ones being more control over your data, less phone applications and passwords to remember, in many cases improved reliability of the products, and not having to worry about smart home devices becoming obsolete when companies decide to shut down connectivity.
Let’s look at some of the other benefits in more detail.
People concerned with protecting their privacy and reducing the amount of personal information that tech companies have access can rest easier knowing that their smart home has no connection to the internet. There are many devices available that give you the benefits of a smart home without giving external companies access to your home or the ability to listen or watch.
We don’t believe that tech companies necessarily want to use the data that they have access to for unscrupulous purposes but there have been a number of widely reported cases of data breaches or companies overstepping their self imposed boundaries.
With no internet connection you won’t have to worry about home functionalities going down due to a poor internet connection or service interruptions when a cloud provider change their service. Beyond that, we typically see simpler systems as more reliable ones because they have less opportunity for failures. Traditional smart home devices not only have to function on a physical level but also require software updates and bug fixes over time which can reduce overall reliability.
Offline alternatives often come with fewer features but are generally easier to set up and use. Most people understand how to use a remote control, but smart phone applications and home control tablets can have a lot of different settings that can be difficult to navigate.
Ease of Replacement
Most tech companies and smart home companies want you to purchase products within their ecosystem. They do this to sell more of their own products and sell subscriptions to keep all of the devices running. While many people love the simplicity that this model offers, it can be a pain when a component of the ecosystem breaks and you want to replace it with another brand.
Some of these concerns still exist with smart home devices that are not connected to the internet, but it is generally easier to swap out and replace components off when they’re not all trying to communicate with each other.
A smart home promises unprecedented levels of comfort and convenience. However, if you’re among those who are skeptical about having all of your devices connected to the internet, there are plenty of offline alternatives to consider.
They offer many of the same conveniences without the associated privacy concerns or difficult of use related to connected devices. By carefully selecting the right devices to suit your needs, you can build a home that is both smart and secure, online or off.
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