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12 Incredibly Clever Tech Hacks That Will Make Your Home Smarter

To USB, or not to USB?

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There are so many smart appliances on the market, we’re starting to feel like our houses don’t even need us anymore.

These hacks put the love back into your relationship with the barn you call home and come in varying degrees of technical difficulty, from “plug in and bask in the glow of your success” to “I’m not afraid to program a tiny computer and/or get out my glue gun.”

1. Harness the ~magic of Bluetooth~ to synch a vintage-style phone to your cell.

amazon.com

Hack: To sync your cellphone so that you can receive personal calls on a beautiful olde timey receiver, set up an Xlink Bluetooth gateway device in your house and run a cable to the retro handset. Then, connect your cellphone to the Xlink over Bluetooth, and you can receive calls like an elderly aristocrat. (Video demo here.) Fancee!

Get a retro handset in multiple colors for $41.17+ and a Bluetooth cellular gateway for $69.99 on Amazon.

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3. Program an LED lightstrip to allows you to rise with the sun.

Fueled / Andy Novak

Hack: To program your LED lightstrip to simulate a sunrise, you will need a mini computer (such as a Raspberry Pi) that you can program to work with an iPhone app. Programmer Andy Novak explains how to patch it all together here.

Get an LED light strip for $27.99 and a Raspberry Pi computer kit for $49.99 on Amazon.

4. Or you can get a smart lighting kit that does the legwork for you.

YouTube / JrTech / Via youtube.com

Hack: Just connect to Bluetooth and install the app on your phone. The lights are fully programmable, making this an easy project for even those of us prone to smashing our smartphone screens on the reg.

Get it at Walmart for $199.99 or at Best Buy for $179.99.

5. Bonus hack: teach your Amazon Echo to turn on a light show when the right song comes on.

amazon.com

Hack: Using the website IFTTT (“if this then that”), you can connects different gadgets and software so that, for example, if [your favorite clothing brand posts on Instagram], then [you get an email]. IFTTT has a channel devoted to Amazon Alexa with a bunch of presets, so that you can easily program your Echo to change the color of your smart lights when a new song plays. It will look a bit like: if [Prince plays on Spotify] then [make my purple lights flash with the requisite solemnity]. Find more Alexa hacks here.

Get an Alexa on Amazon for $99.99.

6. Control your blinds with your phone.

YouTube / Yaniv FourTwoSeven / Via youtube.com

Hack: First, you need to create a smart device that attaches to your blinds. Developer Brian Harms used a hobby servo (similar to what's used in remote-controlled cars), a horn clamp or “servo horn,” and laser-cut gears (plastic cogs for the horn and the curtain rod) to create a little machine that replaces your spinning the rod that usually opens the blinds. Once you’ve built the device, you need to connect the smart device to your SmartThings app, allowing you to program it to, say, close the blinds when the sun sets using IFTTT. Find step-by-step instructions at Inverse Innovation.

Get a hobby servo for $21.03, a horn clamp for $9.49, and assorted plastic gears $7.00 on Amazon.

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7. Use a remote-controlled smart plug to eliminate the panic of leaving an appliance on.

keewifi.com

Hack: Set the smart plug up using WiFi. Install the kisslink home App on your phone, and you can control the smart plug from afar. The face on the outlet might look terrified, but it’s actually at peace.

Bonus hack: You can connect the smart plug to your Amazon Echo, allowing you to control your Christmas lights, electric blanket, whatever you plug into it, using voice commands through Alexa. More details here.

Get a pack of two smart plugs on Jet for $39.99.

8. Keep your most important belonging safe with a non-surgical tracker.

instagram.com

Hack: Using Tile to track devices isn’t a hack in and of itself, but it’s a ~pet hack~ if you attach it to your pup, cat, or iguana. Any pet from a shelter comes with a microchip inside, but Tile provides a more dignified way to track your doggo through time and space. Download the app to instantly see where your true love has frolicked off to.

Get one for $25 or four for $70 at The Tile App.

9. Protect your charger cords from fraying with a super-simple trick.

YouTube / myoldreteacher / Via youtube.com

Hack: Take the spring out of a ballpoint pen and wrap around the ends of your power cord. (via YouTube / myoldreteacher)

Get a box of 12 retractable ballpoint pens on Amazon for $7.44.

10. Simplify the WiFi process for your guests with a QR code.

etsy.com

Hack: Put away the wooden spoon with the WiFi password and network name attached, you’re not a cafe. Go to this website to generate a QR code you can just stick on your wall for guests to scan. Or, if you're feeling really whimsical, you can get a cross-stitch of your code on Etsy.

The only downside is you have contributed to the renaissance of the QR code. (via Pocketlint.)

Get a custom QR code cross-stitch at Stitches for Inches on Etsy for $15.

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11. Up the production values on your selfies by using your earbuds as a remote

Liron Segev / YouTube / Via youtube.com

Hack: Say goodbye to reams of chin portraiture by popping your iPhone on a shelf or counter at a good, slightly-above angle, then click the shutter by hitting the volume control on your earbuds.

You have been losing money every time you didn’t avail yourself of this hack.