If you love your low-tech roof heat trace cable but want to upgrade it to 21st-Century connectivity before winter arrives, you’re in the right place. And the good news is that making your existing home’s deicing system “smart” won’t mean you have to take out a second mortgage to do it.
From your roof heat trace thermostat to your refrigerator, nearly any electrical appliance can run through a WiFi network with the proper hardware. The convenience and peace of mind that come with the ability to control your home remotely are priceless. Say you’re in Cancun for Christmas, and you see that your house is right in the path of an oncoming superstorm. All you need to do is grab your phone and turn up the heat on the inside while activating the roof heating elements for the outside.
Our heat trace products experts suggest you can easily make your heat cable, as well as many of your other home’s amenities, “smart” without spending thousands of dollars. It’s important to note, though, that not all smart devices work with the same hubs, such as Apple HomePod, Samsung SmartThings, or Amazon Echo. When you’re shopping for different devices to control your home, it’s a good idea to pick as many as you can that will work together under one hub and one app.
Roof and Pipe Trace Heating
Let’s start with the areas of your home most vulnerable to foul winter weather – your roof and your pipes. If you have heating cable for your gutters, downspouts, and interior pipes installed and operating, then you already have a breaker and likely thermostat set up along with it. All you have to do now is purchase a smart WiFi switch to go digital.
The critical thing to remember here is that your switch amperage needs to match your breaker amperage. Don’t go cheap on a WiFi switch that maxes out below your breaker amperage. At best, you risk your heat cable turning off or failing, and at worst, overheating and catching fire. For example, HeatCable.com offers customers a controller that can handle up to 32 amps at either 120 volts or 240 volts, more than enough for even the highest-rated self-regulating heat trace cable or constant wattage heat tape. For that, you’re going to need a WiFi switch that supports the higher-than-average amperage of mechanisms like water heaters or pool pumps.
While installation is pretty straightforward, you’re dealing with a high-voltage breaker, so you might consider asking a heat trace cable professional for help getting everything connected properly. Once everything is set up, one touch of the app will turn the system on or off, let you know if the breaker fails or if something’s wrong with the cable, and even measure your cable’s energy usage. No more ice dams. No more frozen and burst pipes.
Interior Heating and Cooling
A programmable thermostat relies mainly on predictive technology, e.g., the ability to schedule heating and cooling based on what you think you’ll need. On the other hand, smart thermostats give you the ability to create more sophisticated schedules based on usage history, temperature sensors, motion sensors, and geofencing. Geofencing builds a perimeter around your home and adjusts cooling and heating dependent upon your home’s occupants moving in and out of that perimeter.
While top-rated devices like the Ecobee SmartThermostat and the Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd Gen.) go for around $250, the Wyze Thermostat costs just over $100. The unassuming Wyze doesn’t have nearly as ‘sexy’ a design as the Nest or the Ecobee, but it boasts quite a few of the same bells and whistles as its expensive counterparts and supports more types of HVAC systems than the Nest.
Smart thermostats come with step-by-step installation guides and are pretty simple to set up. Depending on your wiring, the install should only take you about 20-30 minutes, and you’ll be good to go.
Lighting and Appliances
What if you’re not yet ready to turn your entire home into a smart home or invest in a smart hub, but you still want your lighting and a few of your appliances to work remotely on a smart system? Let me introduce you to the smart plug or smart outlet. These babies let you turn virtually any device into a smart device.
A smart plug looks and works much like a small, rectangular adapter. It’s plug-and-play technology at its best, in that you plug it into your existing outlet and then plug the lamp or appliance into the smart socket. Download the associate app on your phone, and voilà, you now have remote connectivity for all your “dumb” devices, like vacuum cleaners, battery chargers, refrigerators, space heaters, lamps, and coffee makers.
Some of the best uses for smart plugs are with lights and appliances. Want to set up a timer for your interior lights while you’re away? How about programming your motion detector to turn on the light when you walk into the room and turn it off when you leave? Or perhaps your doorbell camera picks up someone loitering suspiciously around your front door and alerts you while you’re still at work. With a few taps, you can turn on the television in the family room and a couple of lights upstairs to make it seem like someone’s home.
Your brand options are pretty vast, too, ranging from the single Kasa Smart WiFi Plug Lite at around $10 to $30 for the single Philips Hue Smart Plug that works on a system with smart light bulbs. Multi-plug WiFi power strips are also readily available for under $60.
All in all, whether you go all in or just dabble a little here and there, going “smart” translates into a tremendous amount of added convenience. Check back on our website for more tips on heat trace cable and other things to keep your home safe and secure.