Calm Empty Cabin Anxiety with Technology

As we prepare our cabins for the winter ahead, many of us are left wondering how we will find our cabin after the spring thaw. A number of devices are available to leverage your Internet connection to remotely monitor your cabin while it awaits your return.

WiFi-connected cameras can provide unparalleled peace of mind as well as glimpses of our local wildlife. Blink and Ring, famous for their ubiquitous video doorbells, are two notable brands – both owned by Amazon. Various models are available for indoor and outdoor use with power options ranging from utility power to battery and solar. Some can replace your outdoor lights eliminating the need for new wiring. Video clips are only uploaded to the cloud when motion is detected so your Internet connection won’t be unnecessarily saturated. This off-site storage protects the video should the cameras themselves be damaged or stolen.  Motion alerts on your phone will inform you of visitors, regardless of species.  Note that indoor cameras should be covered or disabled when the cabin is occupied if they are installed in bedrooms, etc.

Burglar alarms used to require extensive wiring, professional installation, a hard-wired phone line and a monthly monitoring fee.  SimpliSafe up-ended the market with their homeowner-installed Internet-connected alarm system.  Ring and other manufacturers followed suit with competing products.  These systems use battery-powered wireless sensors throughout your cabin which report to a central hub device.  The hub uses your Internet connection to notify you if a sensor is tripped.  Besides the usual door, window and motion sensors, smoke, carbon monoxide, freeze and flood sensors are available to alert you to other threats.  Professional monitoring is available as an option – the cost is often offset by a discount on your home-owners insurance.

Smart thermostats allow you to pre-heat your cabin, should a winter-time visit be required.  Google’s Nest brand popularized smart thermostats.  A number of traditional thermostat manufacturers such as Honeywell have upgraded their product lines to include WiFi connectivity.  For those with baseboard heaters, Mysa makes a line voltage thermostat to control them.

Your propane tank level can be monitored remotely with a device from Tank Utility.  Your tank must be equipped with a Remote Ready (R3D) gauge which has a slot to hold a sensor. If you don’t have a compatible gauge, your propane supplier can install one for you.  The Tank Utility smartphone app shows the tank’s current level, graphs usage over time and, most importantly, alerts you if your tank gets below a pre-set value.

You can help protect our community’s water supply by installing a water monitoring device with an automatic shutoff valve like the Flo by Moen.  The Flo is installed by a plumber between the water meter and your cabin’s plumbing.  It can detect leaks and automatically close its valve to stop them.  While it is not a replacement for shutting off your water at the street when leaving your cabin, it can be remotely shut off if you leave in a hurry and forget to turn off the meter box valve.  Real-time monitoring via a smartphone app can tell you if a cabin guest fails to take your conservation message to heart.

The cloud services that run most of the devices mentioned will alert you if they lose contact with the sensors in your cabin, which indicates an Internet and/or power outage.  Trico will also alert you to outages if you sign up for an online account and install their SmartHub app.  The free app can be used to report outages and view your bill as well.

With a properly-selected array of smart home devices, you can detect and correct cabin calamities as soon as they occur, avoiding spring-time surprises.  You may even turn a four-legged neighbor into a social media celebrity.

Author: matthew