Hive Not Hives!

When we first moved to our new house in Llanfoist I knew I had a looming problem, basically as the alpha male of the family (although many would dispute this) I couldn’t admit in front of my family that I had no idea how the central heating controls worked. It wasn’t that David Wilson Homes hadn’t supplied training (twice) where I nodded sagely that I understood, nor that they failed to supply user manuals for the controls in our utility room and master bedroom, it’s just that I found them incomprehensible.

So “manfully” soldiering on through this most recent cold snap I couldn’t help notice that more of the immediate family had taken to wearing thick sweaters indoors, that even Molly and Hamish looked cold and that a number of sore throats and sniffles were emerging from myself and Debbie.

Now careful readers of this blog will be aware that practically every room in the house now has an Alexa device from Amazon and that we have at the last count 3 smart plugs and 3 smart bulbs from TP-Link that can be voice and app controlled, but it was the onset of Black Friday (a good name considering the damage caused to our joint bank account) and the 25% reduction in British Gas Hive solutions that decided me to take the plunge into further “Smart Home” territory!

Now you can buy the units for Hive hot water and multi zone from Amazon and British Gas for DIY connection yourself but I certainly don’t recommend it unless you are an accomplished electrician. Even our certified British Gas installer found the chez Shores wiring a tad confusing and so despite being told it would be 90 minutes to 2 hours to install it actually took the poor chap nearly 4 hours to get it all working, but to be honest it’s been worth it!

We now have a Hive hub plugged into the back of the Vodafone router, which connects to a master receiver in the utility room and one next to the hot water tank on the first floor, with an intelligent thermostat in our entrance hall and one in the master bedroom and two apps installed on my iPhone 6 and iPad mini where I’m currently drafting this post…

What’s my take on the system 2 days in?  Well, it’s definitely not going to save me any money on my energy costs as I finally can control the heating in both zones not just by app but by voice using the two Hive “skills”, especially after realising that the simplest command is “Alexa, set downstairs to 21 degrees” (or “upstairs” for the first and second floor radiators.

As a result we are all now as warm as toast but the system is burning gas at an alarming rate now I know how to control it! Still definitely worth it to restore my “man credibility”and before the “Black Friday” discount window ends I’ve just ordered 2 door/window sensors and a motion sensor from Hive to further explore the tech possibilities of their smart home solution!

Hive Not Hives!

Reverb

Now I’m a big fan of Amazon’s Alexa and own the first generation Echo which plays music and radio in the kitchen and occasionally acts as a timer and controls the nearby lamp.  The three 2nd generation Echo Dots spread round the house are in our bedroom, living room and snug.  The bedroom device is largely used for radio, news and a clock.  The living room to turn the lamp and the plug controlling the TV, Bose speaker and BluRay player on and off (but not Sky+ & Vodafone router) while the snug device controls the lamp and plays me TMS on Radio 5 Live Sports Extra!

Now being a retired “gent” funds are not as plentiful as they once were and I can’t justify buying more Echo Dots for the top floor of the house where the two iMacs reside (den and guest bedroom).  Fortunately for my bank account I read the other day about an app called “Reverb” which you can install on iMacs and iPhones that act as a software only Alexa device.

Now there are some limitations as Amazon only allow you to play music through Alexa when there is a hardware device present.  Also the listening for the wake up call “Alexa” is disabled and you have to hold a mouse click on the “blue ring” to activate it’s capability.  This can be a blessing when mischievous Phillip Scofield activates devices with glee across the UK whenever they on his TV program “This Morning

reverb
Click, listening, thinking, verbal answer!

Still, it’s free and despite some negative reviews on the app I think it’s great on my 2 iMacs and iPhone 6!

Reverb