Ever since Sandy, or maybe it was Hurricane Irene, I've been thinking about buying a portable generator sufficient to run our sump pump, our freezer and refrigerator, and a few appliances in case of a lengthy power disruption.
My brother-in-law, an engineer for an electric utility, loses power more often (eight days for Irene, six for Sandy) and has a bigger house, so he is advising me on what I need to buy and the work my electrician must do to make the transition from one to the other seamless.
This column will not be a treatise on generators - that information is available online. I only mention them because Cassie Eberle at Consumer Reports sent me something about connected homes and the new smart technology that began with a treatise on generators.
Apparently, this is the "Year of the Connected Home."
According to a survey of nearly 2,500 Consumer Reports subscribers, almost 20 percent of respondents with smartphones or tablets already use them to remotely control some aspect of their homes, and nearly 70 percent of those who don't voiced interest in doing so in the future.
Already, my family remotely prints documents from smartphones to two wireless printers at home, and we monitor the dog cam at Camp Bow Wow when we are on vacation, to check on Emmy.
This isn't new, of course. I've been writing about home automation for at least 20 years, chapters in each of my books are devoted to it, and I've given some local examples of it in that time.
One involved a Center City resident who could set the thermostat of his central air-conditioning system in a heat wave while he and his family vacationed in Moscow.
And there was a fellow in Burlington Township a couple of years ago who could see, via his smartphone, who was at his entryway, disarm the alarm, and unlock the door.
A couple of years ago, ABI Research, a provider of technology-market intelligence, reported that in the five years ending in 2017, the home-automation market will increase at a compounded annual growth rate of 60 percent.
In its recent study, available in this month's issue, Consumer Reports found thermostats, security systems, blinds, lighting, and door locks are the home items readers most want to manage remotely.
There are potential pitfalls, however, including WiFi vulnerabilities that could compromise security and privacy issues related to the sharing of information by these gadgets, the magazine said.
I thought I'd share this interesting information:
For generators - in this case, not portable, but made by the same manufacturer I am favoring after much study - one Internet-enabled product is the Generac Mobile Link for $280, whose remote monitoring system will e-mail or text the user or servicing dealer if a problem arises during the unit's periodic self-check. Service after the first year is $12.50 per month, $100 for the year. Among stationary generators, the device works with two Consumer Reports recommendations: the 7kW Generac 6237 ($2,250) and 13kW Generac 6241 ($3,500).
Whirlpool's Duet matching washer and dryer (each $1,500) have an app that allow users to track their laundry's progress - even turn the machine on and off - while they're doing other things. The dryer also has a duct-blockage indicator, which Whirlpool says improves performance and efficiency.
Consumers can get great performance for hundreds less by forgoing the smart features and regularly checking the vent, Consumer Reports said.