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A Digital Checklist for Your New Home

A new home is the perfect chance to get your digital life in order.

Moving to a new home is the ultimate reset. You get to rid yourself of stuff you don’t need, you get to set up your closets the way you always wanted to, you get that uncluttered office space you always wanted. While you’re reading up on your feng shui, brushing up your KonMari method, and taking a line of credit out at the Container Store, you might well miss out on the most important aspect of a home reset: your digital life.

After all, the modern home is more than just walls and a roof. It’s a connected space, a collection of electronics ranging from a home theater to smart speakers to a robotic vacuum cleaner. Making the most of your family’s home means making the most of how you set up all of that tech. Before you plug anything in, you should have a solid plan of attack. These are the factors you should consider as you connect everything in your new home. 

 WiFi and Internet

  Find WiFi Weak Spots

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Odds are that your home will already have an obvious location to set up your modem and router: wherever your ISP ran the cable. If you have a choice, pick a central location that’s not against a super-thick or metal wall.

Once you do turn on your service and plug in your router, do a walk-through of your home. Matt Mahar, vice president of cameras and video at Vivint Smart Home, says, “Every home is going to have weak spots. I would download Speedtest on my phone and walk around my house to figure out where some of the less fast spots are.”

 Eliminate Your Weak Spots

Once you find the areas where your WiFi is lacking, Mahar recommends setting up a mesh WiFi system that includes nodes positioned at those weak spots. “They’ll be able to intelligently switch the devices for what channel makes the most sense,” so your 4K streaming TV uses the fast 5 GHz signal, while the less demanding smart speaker in your daughter’s room connects to the 2.4 GHz signal. That means everything works a little bit better.

 Set Up Ethernet Hot Spots

It may seem retro at this point, but wired Internet connections can still play a valuable role in your digital home. If, for instance, your smart TV is positioned next to your router, you’d do well to plug it in directly. Louis Wood, owner of the home security company Defend It Yourself, says that “any and all traffic you can keep off your WiFi network will help its speed.” And if there are remote areas of your home where, even with a mesh network, you still have WiFi issues, Ethernet is a way to get a blazing fast connection without worry.

It can definitely be a pain, but there’s no better time to install new wiring than when your house is empty. If you do opt for cabling, Wood recommends running CAT5 or CAT6 Ethernet cables, the latest official versions of the technology.

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Your Television, Computers, and Electronics

 Mount Your TV in the Right Place

Despite the ubiquity of tablets and other connected entertainment devices, the living room television is still the focal point of the home entertainment system — and often your home. Regardless of the type of TV you have, you should consider the best place to put it in your house. Figure out the room that you want your family to spend their time in: generally, rooms closer to the kitchen, those with more space, and those less isolated from the rest of the house are a good fit.

Next, consider the light. If you have windows that face directly east or west you may not want to put your TV in front of them without proper window treatments, as getting blinded by sunlight as the sun rises or sets is no one’s idea of a relaxing time at home.

When you do identify a suitable location, mounting your TV is a great way to give it a finished look. Wood says you should mount them as low as your furniture will allow, as mounting them too high can cause neck strain. And before you get a mount, make sure that it comes with hardware that’s compatible with whatever the wall is made of.

 Have a Space for Your Computers, Phones, and Tablets

Whether you have an office with a desk or a kitchen table where you get after-hours work done, you need to set aside a place to store your computers, phones, tablets, and other electronic devices. Make sure it is not in your bedroom (this will lead to bad habits) but that it is near a plug (to charge overnight) and, preferably, in a place that is out of sight or that locks to limit damage done if your home is broken into.

Energy Efficiency

 Find Your Vampire Appliances

Something else you should consider is vampire power loss, which is way cooler as a name than it is as a concept. Vampire power loss is the energy used by appliances when they’re plugged in but not being used. The Department of Energy estimates that vampire power loss can add an extra 10 percent to your monthly bill. Their solutions? There’s the behavioral stuff like unplugging when you can, getting the kids to turn off the PlayStation instead of leaving it paused for hours. Then there’s the equipment. Plug your stuff into power strips and you can flip a switch instead of unplugging. Make it an advanced power strip and it will turn off power to idle electronics automatically. And if you’ve got the budget for it, consider upgrading any older appliances — the biggest energy consumers in your home — to Energy Star models

 Save Energy With Smart Devices

Your first electric bill might not have come yet, but it’s never too early to think about how to keep them small. A great place to start? A WiFi-connected thermostat that’s easy to install and makes more informed decisions about when to turn the HVAC system on and off.

And if you’re really committed to energy efficiency, consider adding a monitoring system to your electrical breaker. These can detect energy usage by appliance so you can figure out why your bill spiked last month. Smart plugs are another way to monitor the energy usage of individual outlets and are cheaper and easier to install. Making informed decisions that lower your bill is easier to do when you’re actually informed.

 The Backyard

We know you’re not going to forget your backyard (that’s where the grill lives, after all), but it’s important to make sure you get the right gear to make it a true outdoor paradise.

 Speakers

You can get portable stuff — a Bluetooth speaker, for instance — but if you want the best backyard possible, it’s worth it to invest in high-quality, weatherproof tech. So when you go shopping for that proper sound system, make sure it can handle the rain and while you’re at it, get one that pumps out immersive sound that a portable Bluetooth speaker just can’t match.

 Lighting

For lighting, there’s always water- and shatter-proof outdoor string lights, for a look that’s way classier than Christmas lights. Additionally, consider throwing smart bulbs into the already weatherproof fixtures mounted to your house. You can turn them off with your phone, saving you a trip when you realize as you’re about to go to sleep that you might’ve left them on. Upgrade to the color-changing models for a true party atmosphere out back.

 Outlets

While it seems basic, making sure that there are waterproof covers on your exterior outlets, and that they’re securely shut, is super-important, assuming you’re trying to avoid being electrocuted.