Interesting Ideas for Vacation Rental?

Hello guys!

I am a complete noob and have not bought a smart home system. I’ve been wanting to add some flair to a vacation rental. Do you guys have any input on some cool ideas that I can implement or that you would enjoy in a vacation rental. I was thinking:

  1. Lights come on when entering the bathroom
    2)Smart lock with arrival sensor

Excited to see what awesome ideas you guys have. Thank you so much

I have a vacation lake home that is decently hooked up. I don’t rent it out but family and friends stay there often. One thing I’ve noticed is that automation can be somewhat unnerving when you’re not sure whats going on. You realize less is more the first time those bathroom lights automatically turn off after x minutes on someone who tends to take x + 5 min showers. :smile: Something that seems intuitive and helpful to you might really confuse a renter… Something to keep in mind.

With that said the biggest wins for me have been wifi thermostat (ecobee), zwave door lock (yale), sonos amp power dock speakers, laundry monitor, SmartTiles for granular access.

Thermostat likely needs no explanation having house at a comfortable temperature before anyone gets there is a big win. Same with door lock, having the ability to give family/friends temporary codes and getting notification when those codes are used is very nice. Everyone has really liked the Sonos amp powering the dock speakers. People like being able to play stations they listen to at home or pandora/spotify. I keep a tablet down there that is locked down to Sonos and a SmartTiles for control. SmartTiles is setup to allow access to a subset of things like lights, window AC units, fans, but not stuff like the door lock. Finally the laundry monitor has been unexpectedly nice. Our laundry is in the basement and its easy to forget what you have going on down there. Having it text when done or turn on a light upstairs is a nice reminder.

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Oh wow!

Thank you Scott, you’re exactly right and I almost wanted to do the “smart home” thing just to do it. Now I’m rethinking it and going to put more thought into it.

Do you recommend any specific Yale? What do you think is better? The Ecobee or the Nest 3rd gen?

Thank you again, you’ve given me a lot more insight!

I have the YRD240-ZW-619 and it works great. Great battery life (well over a year in vacation property), keyless but with 9V battery contacts on exterior in case batteries in the unit die. I don’t know a lot about the Nest but from what my buddy who has it explained its focus seams to be on a very simple interface and behind the scenes brains to learn your habits.

The ecobee is more of a traditional programmable thermostat with wifi access. I think in a vacation home where you have no habits, the Nest’s learning features might prove less than helpful. For instance I setup the ecobee to basically maintain a low cost away temperature range, and then when the property is occupied I set a hold until canceled more comfortable range. Fancy presence home/away settings don’t really help since on vacation there really is no routine to plan for. My guests might spend the entire day out on the boat, or if its too hot out might retreat back inside during the afternoon hours for a nap. You don’t want them returning to a home in “away” mode and need an hour to return to a comfortable temperature

Guest exit procedure, is where the Smart Home really shines. You can have a routine to turn off all the lights, cancel the hold on the thermostat (resuming away programming), ensure door is locked, turn off electric hot water heater, re-arm SHM, turn security cameras back on (I turn them off while occupied for guest privacy). I fire that off manually since I’m never quite sure when my friends/family are actually leaving until they text me that they have. However if you had a more defined departure time, IFTTT could kick this off for you automatically based on a calendar trigger…

Other automated use cases include moisture sensors at various placed hooked to IFTTT to call me if they detect anything. During the winter I run my dock water agitator (prevents freezing) connected to SmartOutlet. There I can use various weather based triggers to only fire it when weather proves necessary, much more efficient than just programming it to run every so often regardless… As you can see there are tons of vacation property use cases just ensure you’ve always got a fall back option (for me that’s great full-time neighbors). Reliability for these things isn’t here yet to trust as much as you would any non-cloud based solution.

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I used the keyed version of this lock at a vacation rental. It was an unmitigated disaster involving fedex saturday key deliveries when the internal cable frayed. The Yale product manager personally called me and sent me a replacement and admitted that the early versions had a design flaw. The fix is questionable. Both locks are currently sitting in a junk box.

Additionally, the dead bolt needs to be installed with extreme precision and carefully monitored for going out of alignment otherwise it will eventually jam itself repeatedly against the strike plate if the door isn’t quite closed all the way.

I now only use the door handles vs deadbolts for remote lock systems involving renters.

My other general suggestion would be to build your setup SLOWLY. It might take a year or two. See what works, get accustomed to things not quite working out as expected.

Monitor first. Then lights. Then control of other devices. Do not do anything that doesn’t have a manual mode backup — that Yale lock without a key will be a nightmare (see above, but at least get a keyed version).

Add a ‘all automation off’ mode to SmartThings and setup a routine to activate it from a light switch in the house. Let people know ahead of time that if the house automation makes them uncomfortable or annoyed, that they can disable everything with that switch.

Perhaps the most important install that I’ve done has been a Pan-Tilt-Zoom HD camera in the utility room. Being able to diagnose a boiler leak (that managed to dodge the water leak sensor) and provide explicit instructions to a plumber 952 miles away was amazing. Especially when I noticed a mistake/oversight and it was corrected in the same visit. If I were doing this again, I’d probably buy several pan-tilt camera’s vs a single pan-tilt-zoom and position them such that the zoom wasn’t necessary. Being able to read analog pressure/temperature gauges has been fabulous, tho I am currently updating with digital connected versions.

Curtains motors/tracks from Dooya (Somfy China) have been awesome for the wow effect, allowing for remote thermal regulation with the southern exposure, and has saved money on fewer repairs of damaged tracks from renters yanking on the curtains instead of operating the cord pulls.