Natural disasters, such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires, can reek havoc on homes, causing extensive damage that's expensive to fix. Notable storms such as the hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, along with the recent Louisiana flooding of historic proportions, have urged builders to turn their focus to storm proof homes with added security measures after seeing the damage caused by Mother Nature. But while homeowners may not be able to completely combat the full forces of a raging storm, having a connected home with smart security features may help keep homes safer when a natural disaster strikes, or at least help by offering an assessment of damage.
Here, BUILDER talks with Mark Hester, Director of Schlage Residential Electronics, a door and locking hardware company, about how smart home products and connected security systems can keep homeowners aware of what's happening at their home during cases of extreme weather—and help them assess any damages after the fact—while they're staying safe elsewhere.
How can smart home technology systems increase home safety during storms or other natural disasters?
Connected home products give homeowners the ability to understand what is going on with their home while they’re remote and individually safe from the storm. If doors or windows become unlocked, or if something happens and a door is open, homeowners can get a push notification that that’s happening. If water sensors, motion detectors, and remote cameras that are part of the smart home set up, you can understand what’s going on around your home. Whether that’s remote cameras, like this outdoor security camera from Nest, to see what the wind might look like or water, smoke, or carbon monoxide detectors and sensors that will trigger a notification if something goes wrong or provide you with status about what may or may not be happening to your home during your storm, smart home systems would certainly be a benefit for someone who is trying to prepare their home for a storm and monitor their property while remaining safe themselves.
What kinds of automated products would be helpful in the aftermath of storm damage?
If there is damage to the home, then products such as water sensors that could alert you if your sump pump was overflowing for example, motion detectors or alarm systems that would provide you with notifications regarding glass breakage or open doors and windows, and carbon monoxide or smoke detectors that would detect if there is a fire going on and can notify you will help with decreasing the amount of damage, are all helpful products. In those instances no news is good news, so if a lot of sensors aren’t triggering then you know that while you may not be able to see every square inch of your property through your cameras, you know that at least critical areas are safe or undamaged.
What are the best products for a resilient automated home? In other words, what would you tell builders that they should be installing?
For starters, door sensors, whether that’s detectors or actual door position sensors, can notify you if something has happened. Our company has products that will identify that there’s brute force and send a notification that there’s been tampering. The same can be said if a rock or a tree branch has hit the door, and in the context of a storm the homeowner would understand that wind or large object has hit the door and caused that to trigger. One of the things that I would say too that has been in place for a long period of time in new construction is connected smoke detectors—I say connected not as smart, but as in if one goes off in a bedroom then every smoke detector goes off to identify that something is going on in the house. Having those connected smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors become smart connected detectors adds that next layer of capability of understanding what’s going on from a remote environment.
Can having a connected home save homeowners money on insurance costs?
I think that’s something that’s starting to evolve. There are some specific insurance carriers out there that advertise discounts for qualified home monitoring and automated systems. I wouldn’t say that its pervasive at the moment, but we think that trend is likely to continue. It’s similar to discounts that were first offered if you had a smoke detector or security system, anything that is going to provide the homeowner with a better understanding of what is going on with their home from a safety perspective. It means homeowners can say, “my house won’t burn down completely because I receive notifications if a smoke detector goes off.” That’s something that’s going to be important to insurance carriers, the fact that’s there’s an early warning. I think we’re going to see the insurance companies acknowledge the early visibility of those kinds of events, which ultimately minimize their loss and translates to discounts for homeowners.
Here’s one for the builders: how could smart home security technology help protect home sites during the construction process?
I think that’s definitely an opportunity and frankly we’re still trying to figure out the details. But loss prevention is an issue with new construction. For years we have provided what we call “construction keying,” which is a method for builders to be able to secure the perimeter of the home they’re building and still allow access to contractors. At night or over weekends you want to minimize shrinkage within the structure. I think it’ll be interesting to see how smart home products can also assist in minimizing the overall shrinking and security of the structure during the construction process. I think we’ve got a couple ways to do that that are still in product development but we are certainly looking at how to make the smart home not just good for the end consumer, but also help provide builders with more peace of mind relative to their project during construction.