Picture the scene: a guest arrives at your ski cabin, opens the door, and is greeted by water rushing down the stairs. There was a power outage, and the pipes froze and burst, but nobody knew. A similar scenario happened at SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson’s vacation home. “We found it totally destroyed by moisture,” he told ReadWriteWeb. “The electricity went out, and the pipes froze and burst. The electricity came back on, and the water ran through the walls, ceilings and floors.”

It's your worst nightmare as a property owner, and traditionally has been one of the hardest things to control, especially when you can't be there on a regular basis. However, now you can be there at all times—virtually.

Thanks to those burst pipes, Hawkinson founded SmartThings, which provides a platform for Internet-connected sensors, lights, locks and other gadgets that let you know what's going on inside your property, even if you're on the other side of the planet. SmartThings, which was bought by Samsung last year, is one of a slew of companies making this type of smart home control easy and affordable, allowing us to keep our properties safe and secure.

We've already discussed how smart home technology can protect your home from theft in the first half of this two-part series. In this article, we'll look at how you can find smart solutions for almost every aspect of managing and maintaining your vacation rental.

How Will Smart Gadgets Help Your Vacation Rental?

By incorporating smart home technology in your vacation rental you can:

1. Lower Your Utility Bills

Installing smart lighting, thermostats and other remote-control climate and electricity devices can cut your energy usage significantly.

2. Prevent Problems from Becoming Disasters

Small battery-powered and Wi-Fi-connected sensors can be placed strategically around your property to monitor water, heat, motion and climate, giving you advance warning of potential issues before they become much bigger problems.

3. Manage Property Access

A smart door lock gives you complete control over who enters your house and when. This is perfect for guests, but also incredibly useful if you need to give repairmen or cleaners access remotely.

4. Impress Your Guests

When controlled by a smart home hub, the smart devices in a rental property can be programmed to turn on the lights, adjust the temperature and play music when your guests first open the front door, creating a unique welcoming experience that is sure to delight and impress.

Create a Smart Vacation Rental: What You Need to Start

The great thing about today's smart home solutions is that there are many DIY options you can buy off the shelf at your local home improvement store. This means you can start small and easily expand your smart system, without any large, upfront investment or professional installation.

Top Five Smart Gadgets and Systems

1. A Connected Thermostat

A basic Wi-Fi-controlled thermostat costs under $100, and lets you reduce energy use when the property is empty and pre-warm or pre-cool before guests arrive. You can also opt for a smart thermostat that does more than control your HVAC system. A smart thermostat can now interact with other smart devices in your home. For example, the Nest Learning Thermostat will automatically shut off the heating system if the Nest Protect Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector is triggered. Both will send alerts to your smartphone, so you can check in on the house remotely and see what is going on. For larger properties, consider an EcoBee Thermostat, which has remote sensors you can place throughout the house to monitor the temperature in every room.

2. Smart Smoke Detectors

Wi-Fi connected smoke detectors such as the Nest Protect or the Kidde Wireless Interconnected Alarm are a must-have for any vacation rental. They install the same way any other smoke detector does, either wired in or battery operated, but with the additional step of connecting them to a smartphone app so you receive an alert on your phone whenever they go off. The alert will also tell you what is wrong and which room the problem is in, as well as give you the option of shutting off the alarm. You can then use other smart devices, such as cameras or thermostats, to check in on and control the home remotely. Additionally, both these devices have voice alerts that will let your guests know why they are going off, be it for smoke or carbon monoxide.

If ripping out all your old smoke alarms for new smart ones is a bit too much for your budget, there is another option. The Roost Smart Battery turns your existing alarm into a smart home device. Simply pop it in, download the free app and get alerts delivered to your smartphone if your alarm sounds, wherever you are. The battery is guaranteed to last for five years, and the device doesn't need a smart hub to operate.

3. Water Leak Sensors

A water leak is potentially one of the most damaging disasters your property can face, but unlike fire, it is much less easily detected when no one is in the property. Enter smart sensors. Place these pocket-sized devices anywhere on your property where a leak may occur—bathrooms, the basement, under a dishwasher, next to a washing machine or beside the water heater—and be instantly alerted on your smartphone if they get wet. Most water sensors, such as the SmartThings Water Leak Sensor or the Insteon Leak Sensor, require a compatible smart home hub in order to connect to the Internet, so these work well as part of a whole smart home solution.

However, if you are solely concerned about water leaks, the Wally Water Leak Detection system is an all-in-one solution that monitors water leaks and changes in humidity and temperature. This can not only save your home from water damage, but can also help detect the potential presence of mold in your property. This Wi-Fi connected system also comes with a hub included, so you don’t need any additional smart home products for it to work.

4. A Water Heater Monitor

Speaking of water, there's another potential disaster waiting to happen in your vacation home: a broken water heater. Nothing will ruin a guest’s stay quicker than having to take cold showers. Be alerted to potential water heater malfunctions, including leaks, by installing a water heater monitor. These devices also let you control the water temperature remotely, helping you save energy by keeping it low when no one is at the property. The only consumer model currently available is Rheem's EcoNet Home Comfort WiFi Module. This works with select Rheem Performance Platinum gas and electric water heaters, making it a worthwhile investment for rental property owners if you own one, or if you are upgrading your water heater.

5. Smart Lighting

There are a lot of great options for controlling your lighting remotely. From bulbs that change colors to ones with Bluetooth speakers embedded into them, lighting hasn't been this exciting (or this competitive) since Edison. For a vacation rental, smart light switches are the easiest solution. These simple-to-install devices replace your existing switches and allow you to control your lighting either remotely through the smartphone app or from the switch itself. This is important for guests, as you don't want them to have to download an app in order to control the lights when they arrive.

By replacing your analog light switches with smart light switches, such as the Lutron Caseta Wireless Dimmer or Belkin Wemo Wireless Light Switch, you can remotely turn all your lights on and off, saving energy when the home is unoccupied. Additionally, smart light switches let you schedule the lights to turn on when the property is vacant (a useful security feature) and can be paired with compatible smart home devices, so the lights turn on when the smart lock on the front door opens.


This is just a sampling of all the things connected devices can do to improve the safety and security of your vacation home. Once you start incorporating these devices into your property, you will quickly learn all the cool and useful ways that smart home solutions can help you manage and protect your property—and make your guests stay that much more comfortable and happy.

This article was written by Jennifer Tuohy, a gadget enthusiast who provides advice for homeowners on securing and protecting their property with smart home technology. You can find a variety of the smart security products that Jennifer talks about in her article at The Home Depot.