Crystal Clear Pool
Home Automation, Recreation

Best Robotic Pool Cleaner for In-Ground Pools

Home automation is not just about hi-tech, wifi-connected gadgets. Home automation is about making your life easier with tools that free up your time.

Before I bought my robotic pool cleaner, I spent anywhere from 3 to 6 hours PER WEEK trying to keep my pool clean for my family.

Now that I have our automatic pool vacuum, I’ve cut my pool maintenance time down to about 2 hours per week TOTAL.

Quick Reference: My Purchasing Criteria





Pool Blaster
Has its own pump
Has a turning brush
A/C Power
Filters fine particles

In my old routine, I would spend at least three hours trying to use our manual vacuum hose to remove dead algae sediment from the bottom of the pool. This was my most dreaded chore of my weekly summer-time routine.  I would try to start early in the day before the sun was in its full blazing glory searing my forehead like oven-cooked bacon.

Unfortunately, I could never get the manual vacuum to work properly. Our pool has two skimmers, one close to the pump and one on the other side of the pool. I could never really figure out which one I was supposed to use. I eventually realized that the near-side skimmer had better suction, but even when blocking the other skimmer, I could never get the vacuum to effectively pull the silt up. So, in addition to three hours of ineffective vacuuming, I also did the very tiring work of brushing the entire pool to get the sediment suspended in the water, so that the filter could remove it.

Besides wearing me out, this approach also had the disadvantage that I would end up running my pump 24 hours per day for several days before the pool would get clear, greatly increasing my electricity bill which was already substantial from the demands of the air conditioner in the Texas summer heat.  Furthermore, I was spending lots of money on flocculants and clarifiers beyond what I was buying in shock and chlorine tablets. 

Other Styles of Vacuums Were Wastes of Money

Before buying my Dolphin pool cleaner, I sank money into two other methods of getting my pool clean.

Manual Vacuums Did Not Work

First, I tried the manual vacuum. I ran off and purchased the long vacuum hose. I bought 2 or 3 different vacuum heads, and tried various methods of blocking suction from the other skimmer that I was not using for vacuum pressure.  No matter what I did, the suction and silt removal was minimal. In addition to that, I was spending hours getting the hose into the pool in just the right way to ensure that there were no air bubbles in it that would weaken the suction. And afterwards, I’d spend at least 30 minutes, just trying to wrangle the hose back into the box it came in to store it in the garage.  In between, I would sit on the edge of the pool with my feet in the water helping to guide the vacuum tube this way and that so that I could reach the distant and deep areas of the pool.

Rechargeable Pole Vacuums Are a Waste of Money

Second, I tried a lower-end electric vacuum. I spent about $200 on a rechargeable filter bag vacuum that goes on the end of your pool pole. As excited as I was about this purchase, I was soon sorely disappointed.  The pole vacuum was pretty much useless for the following reasons:

Short Battery Life

The battery only lasted about 45 minutes which was not enough time to do any major cleaning. You may be thinking 45 minutes is plenty, until you read this next point

Small Filter Bag

The filter bag was about the size of a pint glass. This bag filled up in about 5 minutes of vacuuming, and then I had to spend the next 10 minutes, pulling the vacuum apart, cleaning the bag, and putting it back together. So, all told, I got about 3 five-minute sessions of actual vacuuming done before the battery would start to peter out and need recharging.

True, the suction was better than my manual vac, but because of the reasons above, the pole vacuum was horribly frustrating, and ultimately ineffective.

After Three Years of Torture, I Decided to Spend Real Money on the Problem

As much as try to limit my expenses, I knew I had to bite the bullet and invest in a better solution.  I had two major options to choose from. I could gamble again on hardware by purchasing a high-end robotic cleaner, or I could take my wife’s advice and hire a pool service.

Hiring a Pool Service

I had numerous reservations about hiring a pool service, one of which was the blow to my pride that would come from having a probably younger, stronger man hanging out in my backyard doing the work that Daddy is supposed to do. But mainly, I could not bring myself to pay someone to clean my pool at a price that was almost the price of an entire bucket of shock every month. There were also the security concerns of giving yet another service provider access to my backyard when I’m not around as I already pay for lawn care.

So, for me, a pool service was a last resort. I was determined to find a way to keep my pool clean and useful without asking an outsider for help.

Shopping for a Robotic Pool Cleaner

Once I made the decision to buy an automatic robotic pool cleaner, I knew from previous experience that there were certain features I would need.

One, It Must Have Its Own Pump

Because I had struggled so much with my manual vacuum, I knew that the robot for me would need its own mechanism for moving water through its filter medium. The pump that runs the filter for my pool is a good solid pump, but it does not have any extra power beyond what it uses to circulate the pool water.  It simply is not strong enough to run the filter AND provide sufficient suction to pull algae from the pool floor.

There are different ways to fulfill this requirement. There are some devices that use a pump that sits outside of the pool and have a hose that connects to the vacuum head. Others, like my Dolphin, have a motor and fan inside the submerged vacuum head.  I don’t necessarily know that what I’ve chosen is better, but it definitely works.

Two, A Moving Brush

Suction is not enough. If you are going to get your pool clean of months worth of algae growth, you need to brush. But, I HATE brushing my pool. I am a middle aged father with a lot of things to take care of and I’d rather not spend hours every week brushing down the walls of my pool with 1 inch by 14 inch brush.  

If I’m going to put out hundreds of dollars for a pool cleaner, it had better clean the pool and not just get it ready for me to clean.

Three, A Plug In Power Source

Some tools and devices lend themselves well to rechargeable batteries as a power source.  Devices that are used for short periods of time like electric screwdrivers and weed wackers work perfectly fine, though for the latter, I definitely suggest buying a second battery.  Devices that require long periods of operation, or high levels of torque are much better suited to using 110 volt AC power.  I much prefer my plug-in DeWalt drill and driver to the rechargeable Worx driver. I’m sure there are really good battery-operated drills out there, but I’d really have to do some research before making a purchase.  Similarly, if I ever bought an electric lawn mower, I’d much rather put up with unwieldy power and extension cords than have to stop mid-mow to put a battery on a charging station.

And after my experience with the rechargeable pole vac, I knew I needed constant AC power to be comfortable. And as weird as it seems to run a power cord from you home into a giant pool of water, this criterion has been critical to my success.

Nice To Have, It’s Own Filter Medium

One more thing I looked for in a robotic pool cleaner, was a filter medium independent of my whole pool filter.  I tend to have a LOT of sediment. This may mean that I could do a better job with my chemical balance. Either way, even when the sediment is suspended in the pool water, it takes many washes of the filter to get the pool clear and clean.  So, I wanted to add to my existing filter capacity when I bought my cleaner.  I wanted the option of starting up my pool cleaner without having to go through the hassle of disassembling and washing my main filter.

Dolphin to the Rescue!

After spending hours and hours comparing reviews on Amazon as well as lobbing tons of annoying questions at the guys at Leslie’s Pool Supply, I decided on the Dolphin Robotic Pool Cleaner by Maytonics.

The Dolphin is a hard-working and reliable device with plenty of power and a sizable filter bag. The version of the device that I purchased even has a roll-around caddy attached to the control module.  

It’s also a very smart device. Unlike many pool cleaners that randomly creep around your pool, the Dolphin remembers the shape of your pool and has an algorithm for ensuring that it cleans the entire pool.  Even better, the control module has several timed programs so that you can turn it on and have the robot start itself daily. I personally don’t use that feature as I like to clean out the filter bag after one or two cleaning cycles.

It Was a Good Decision

My Dolphin Wally
Wally has served us for 5 years

I have had Wally now for 5 seasons (pool-years).  My total cost of ownership has been in the range of about $1500.  Beyond the additional purchase price, after 3 years, my pool cleaner did break. Luckily, I was able to take him to a Leslie’s Pool Supply and they fixed him on the spot. I turned out that years of leaving Wally in the pool when he was not in use had damaged his power-control cable. After testing the cable, the technician replaced it with one he had in stock for $300.

I’d Do It Again In a Heartbeat

With the years of loyal service my Dolphin Robotic Pool Cleaner has given me, I would definitely purchase another in the event that he could not be repaired.

Home Automation

Can Your Smart Appliances Spy on You?

A refrigerator that can help you re-order food or show you what’s inside without opening the door has plenty of appeal in terms of convenience and innovation. And syncing it up with your smart home speaker can provide further connectivity within the comforts of your home. But is it possible for this smart appliance–for all its intriguing features–to be a little too integrated into your life? Is it possible that the device is spying on you? 

The answer is complex–a smart appliance is in no way designed to spy on you, but data on your habits and usage can be shared with the product maker. Hackers can also cause trouble on poorly secured networks to activate devices or listen in on your home. But with a few simple steps, and the acceptance of a small amount of risk, you can empower yourself to use smart appliances securely.

Smart Devices Are Everywhere

Do you have a TV that connects to your favorite streaming service? Or a speaker that looks up movie times for you with a simple voice prompt? You may not have even realized it, but you’re likely already a participant in the substantial trend towards outfitting a smart home. The Internet of Things (IoT)–devices connected to the internet to enhance performance and convenience–is growing at a blistering pace. According to analyst firm Gartner, it is estimated that there will be 20.4 billion connected devices in operation by next year. 

In a busy world in which time and energy are precious commodities, the trend makes sense. If a device can perform with less interventions- say, having to be in the room or in the house to start it- there is tremendous value to a parent on the go or a young professional rushing to get out the door and into the office.

With these conveniences, there are a few tradeoffs in the security of your data, and the vulnerability to hackers.But for many, these risks are outpaced by the benefits they are seeking in a smart home.

Thinking about making the smart move?

So perhaps you’re ready to take the next big step in outfitting your smart home. There are any number of appliances that promise hands-off, optimized performance. Your refrigerator can show you what’s inside without opening the door, or be used to look up recipes. Your dishwasher can be turned on remotely to run a cycle, or alert you when it’s low on detergent. 

Let’s say you decide to go with a smart microwave, so you can get alerts when your chicken is done defrosting and or start cooking via voice command. This may sound like optimal convenience, but it may also leave you wondering about the risks that come with this level of connectivity.

Can your smart appliance spy on you?

Now you’ve purchased your smart microwave and you’re ready to plug it in and set it up. Did you just introduce a device monitoring your every move into your home? Certainly not, but the implications of its connection to WiFi are a bit more nuanced. The internet is a two-way street and the accessibility these smart features open up to you, also open up your data and potentially your devices to outside parties- including product makers and even hackers.

Companies can access your data

In order to provide the convenient functions promised, there is certain data that is sent from your device to the product provider. When you get a notification that your popcorn is ready, the provider also now knows that you enjoy your popcorn break around 7:30. If your microwave has the option to integrate with a smart speaker, the speaker’s provider now also has access to this information. 

Most users may be unaware of this tracking, or accept that while it might be odd to think about your habits being recorded, it is outweighed by the benefits of convenience. Some of the data is used to help the device perform in a way that’s even more tailored to your personal preferences, or just generally improve its efficiency on the whole. Letting your microwave take care of how long to cook a certain type of food and how much heat to emit can optimize your meal more effectively than the stop-and-start guessing game usually played in order to get the temperature and texture right.

For the larger companies supplying the home speaker devices, there is a larger benefit to them in terms of gathering data to triangulate a picture of you as a consumer who may purchase more items if tailored options are sent to you based off an identified need (microwave needs a new light bulb) or preference (might be time to stock up on the popcorn). These companies aren’t simply making money off the home speaker you bought–it’s a conduit for you to continue making purchases off their platform. And data helps them become more effective at driving you towards making that purchase, or making it as passive a process as possible for you.

But is a company spying on you in your home? The answer to that is, “No.” And while they can be often vague and difficult to fully interpret, your microwave most likely comes with terms and conditions that protect the company by outlining what information it is collecting, and if that information is being retained. While it’s not necessarily total transparency, it still provides you some information on what’s going on behind the scenes with respect to your data. You may even have options to shift settings on your appliance or home speaker to control your privacy more to your comfort level. 

Smart appliances are also a target for hackers 

While your microwave itself won’t go the way of Skynet and become self-aware to start tracking your every move, it is possible for hackers to gain access to your network if the connection is established with weak security standards. And by accessing one appliance, a hacker can gain access across any device connected to your WiFi through the network. This opens up a host of concerning possibilities, including exposure of sensitive data such as credit card information- just as though they had hacked into your computer directly. They can also mess with the devices themselves to speak to you, look inside the home, change the temperature, turn on lights or even unlock doors, depending on the connected devices you own. 

While occurrences are rare, some of these invasive acts have happened in people’s homes.  

Hacking is a real concern- but it can be mitigated by taking the time to ensure a secure setup of your WiFi connection. In fact, there are a number of steps you can take to make your smart device usage a more safeguarded experience.

You have the power to control your privacy

It bears reiterating that by the very nature of smart products, there cannot be an expectation of complete privacy around your usage. That said, the opposite is true- there is no need to assume that a company is going to use your information for nefarious means, or that hackers are lurking in your home. Still, it’s important to safeguard what you can to ensure you’re comfortable using your device securely and at a managed level of exposure.

Read the Terms And Conditions

As they say, knowledge is power. While it may be difficult to infer all the implications of what data is being collected and how it’s being used, you can still get a sense of it and use that information to decide what you’re comfortable with and what actions you want to take to limit that company’s access to your data to the extent that permissions and settings are available to do so. For instance, if the idea of voice activation gives you the creeps, avoid connecting the appliance to your smart speaker. What you lose in convenience, you may gain in peace of mind. As you can imagine, many people forgo this research step or are unaware that they have settings options available to them.

Don’t Slack on the Software Updates

You know how your phone doesn’t perform as well when you get behind on updating the operating system? The same principle applies—skipping an update means missing out on key additions and changes that may be helping to secure your appliance.

Secure your network

This is a critical step to preventing hackers from getting in and messing with your appliances or your data. Be sure to select that strongest possible network setup- typically a WPA-2 configuration, which helps password protect and encrypt your connection. Adding multi-factor identification is even better- adding a layer of protection if your password is somehow compromised. As you know, when selecting a password, 1-2-3-4 is not going to cut it. It’s important to use a mix of letters, numbers and symbols; avoid including personal identifiers; and steer clear of passwords you use for other systems. Additionally, you should change the password from the one assigned by default- which can be looked up and found on the internet.

Don’t skimp

This doesn’t mean buying the top of the line model, but going with a little known brand may render your data more vulnerable. 

So, are smart appliances worth the risks?

Ultimately, that is a question only you, the user and homeowner can answer. By knowing the risks, you can decide for yourself whether the possibility of a breach is too much to stomach, or if the low probability of a hack or exploitation (assuming the proper security precautions are in place) is simply a part of our interconnected world. Credit cards are hacked all the time, but it’s difficult to imagine giving up this ubiquitous payment method. GPS apps track and record our locations and driving habits, but many of us would find it difficult to get around as seamlessly without them. While smart appliances have not come close to reaching these levels of dominance in our daily lives, their presence is projected to continue growing substantially over time. Determining the value and relative privacy/security of smart appliances is entirely up to you. 

Home Automation

How to Set Up a Smart Home With Alexa: Beginner’s Guide with Examples

Connect Alexa to Your Home Network

Now that you’ve chosen Alexa as the center of your smart home setup, the first step in making your smart home dream a reality is to connect your Alexa device to your home network. Amazon has made connecting your device to the network very easy if you have a smartphone or tablet with the Alexa app.

Since the Echo Dot is such a common device we’ll use it here to illustrate the basic steps to connect Alexa to your home network.

How to connect the Echo Dot to your home WiFi network:

  • Find a location for your Echo Dot that has a WiFi signal, but that is not too close to a wall or window
  • Plug your Alexa-enabled device into its power adapter and the adapter into the electrical outlet
  • The light ring on the Echo Dot will turn blue, and then orange
  • On your WiFi -connected smartphone or tablet, open the Alexa app
  • Follow the instructions in the Alexa app to complete the process of connecting your Echo Dot to your WiFi network
  • Test out Alexa using the wake word “Alexa” and a command like “What’s the weather like today?”


Now that Alexa is connected to your home network, you have the beginnings of a smart home. Let’s see what we can connect with Alexa to get the benefits from your new technology.

Click here for more help with your Alexa device

Let Alexa Control Your Lights

One of the easiest things to set up in your new smart home is Alexa-controlled lighting. Amazon sells a wide variety of smart light bulbs, lamps, and even electrical outlets that allow you to control the lighting in your home through the Alexa app and your Alexa device.

Set up the Philips Hue Smart Bulb Starter Kit

  • Place the smart bulbs into the light fixtures you want to control from Alexa
  • Turn on power the to bulbs
  • Connect the Philips Hue Bridge to a power outlet using its adapter
  • Use an ethernet cable to connect the Hue Bridge to your wireless router
  • Download the official Philips Hue app to yours smartphone
  • Go through the setup instructions on the smartphone app


With Alexa controlling lights in your home, the benefits are numerous. Now you can turn on the lights in your home when you’re carrying groceries using Alexa’s voice command system. You also have increased security with the ability to turn lights on and off through your smartphone’s Alexa app, even when you’re out of town

Install an Alexa Compatible Thermostat

One of the benefits of setting up a smart home with Alexa is having full control of your home environment down to the very temperature the house.

Set up the Nest Learning Thermostat

  • Connect Nest Thermostat wires like you would with any other thermostat
  • Connect Nest to your WiFi network using the control ring to navigate menus
  • Answer Nest’s setup questions to improve the thermostat’s efficiency
  • Adjust the Nest to your desired temperature


Programming and controlling your smart thermostat like the [Product Name] gives you the power to ensure that your home is always at the right temperature for your family’s activity level and time of day. Save money and be more energy efficient by turning the temperature up during warmer months when you’re away from home at work and school. Then, have Alexa cool down your house before you arrive. Work with your body’s natural rhythm, and wake up more naturally by having Alexa increase the temperature in the minutes before your morning alarm.

Get Alexa Talking to Your Smart TV

Your Alexa-connected smart home would not be complete without integrating entertainment. Alexa can connect to your smart TV, and if you don’t have a smart TV, Alexa integrates very well with the Amazon Fire Stick which can be used with any TV with an HDMI input.

Many new smart TV’s support Alexa almost right out of the box. Essentially, once you connect your smart TV to your home network, you can connect it to Alexa through the smartphone app using the manufacturer provided Alexa skill. One thing to note, smart TV’s like the LG referenced below allow you to control channel and volume selection as well as turning off the TV, but will not actually turn the TV on.

Check out this Smart TV: LG 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart TV (2018 Model) 

With your smart TV connected to Alexa, you can use voice commands to find programs for you and your family to enjoy.

Connect Rooms Across Your House with Echo Dot

If you have multiple Alexa devices, you can even use them to communicate between rooms of your house like an intercom system.  By using the “drop-in” feature to turn on two-way communication between Alexa devices, your family can stay connected without having to use your “outside voices”. The “drop-in” feature is available with any of your contacts who have the permission enabled for you on their own Alexa device, so the kids can drop in on Grandma whenever they like. At home, it can also help you calm your little ones who may need to hear your voice in their rooms on stormy nights.

Implement Access Control with Smart Locks

One of the most innovative and forward-looking features of the new smart home is automated access control. Smart locks add futuristic capabilities to your home with the ability to unlock your door as you approach and lock automatically when you leave. Never wonder again, “did I lock the doors when I left home?” because smart locks allow you to know using your smartphone that your door is closed and locked. Alexa-connected smart locks often add the additional benefit of locking and unlocking doors by voice command and passcode.

Set up the August Smart Lock Pro + Connect

  • Install the August Smart Lock on the inside of your existing deadbolt lock
  • Some Schlage screws may not be long enough for the August Smart Lock
  • You can contact August directly to get longer screws
  • Plug in your August Connect WiFi Bridge
  • The WiFi Bridge is required for Alexa integration or remote access via smartphone
  • Using the Alexa App, download the “August Smart Home” or “August Home” Alexa Skill
  • The “August Smart Home” skill allows you to command Alexa directly
  • The “August Home” skill is a “custom skill” that requires you to say “ask August to…” before commands, but adds extra functionality of the “Door Sense” feature if installed


Smart locks like the above offer amazing features like automatic unlock with proximity of your smartphone as well as granting access to others remotely, even on a temporary basis, making them ideal for people with out-of-town guests, or temporary tenants like AirBnB.

Enhance Security with Alexa Compatible Cameras

Smart locks are only one aspect of a comprehensive home security system that can be implemented in a smart home with Alexa. In addition to controlling who enters your smart home, you can also monitor your home inside and out with Alexa-compatible security cameras.

With the Amazon Cloud Cam Indoor Security Camera you can:

  • Monitor areas of your home through the Cloud Cam App
  • Download and share clips caught by motion detection
  • View live streams from baby’s room or elderly loved ones


There is a wide variety of security camera options. Make sure you determine which features are important to you before ordering.

We’ll be working on writing a buyer’s guide to help you make those decisions. Bookmark this page for later to see just which cameras we recommend.

Smart security cameras can be used to monitor the perimeter of your home, keep track of little ones, or even help protect your deliveries from Amazon!

Go Beyond with Smart Plugs

With all of the available smart devices, you can connect and automate many household functions. For many of your household devices that don’t have specialized smart devices, you may consider using smart plugs. Smart plugs allow you to control power to your not-so-smart appliances allowing you to power them off and on based on the schedule you choose or even by voice command.

The Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug by TP-Link  is one of few smart plugs that work directly with Alexa without the need of a brand-specific hub.

Set up your Kasa Smart Plugs

  • Plug the Kasa Smart Plug into an outlet accessible to the appliance you want to control
  • Download the Kasa app to your smartphone
  • Set up your TP-Link cloud account
  • Connect your TP-Link account to Alexa
  • Now you’ll be able to name your smart plugs and assign them to groups
  • Try controlling your smart plugs using Alexa voice commands like, “Alexa, turn off living room lamp”


The benefits of smart plugs are numerous. Increase security by turning lights off and on while you’re away from home. Have the peace of mind that you didn’t leave the iron on by always plugging it into a smart plug that you can check remotely via your smartphone. Save energy and possibly even lower your electricity bill by scheduling appliances to power down when not in use.

Enjoy the Process

Setting up a smart home is a process that can take time: time to make decisions as to which home automation features you want to implement and how you want to do it. If you’re like us here at Home Plus Tech, the process of setting up a smart home is a fun one. And though installing all of these smart home devices can get pricey, you can prioritize which features are most important to you and your family and implement those first. The best place to start, we think, is with your Alexa device.

Click here go to Amazon and see an extensive list of smart home technology that works with Alexa!

Home Automation

What’s the Difference Between Cat 5 and Cat 6? It’s Not Just Speed

Basic Differences

  • Bandwidth (Speed)
    Cat5e is rated up to 1 GB/s while Cat 6 is rated up to 10 GB/s (at shorter run lengths)
  • Cost
    Cat 6 generally costs twice the price of Cat 5 per unit
  • Crosstalk
    Due to the design of the Cat5e cable, it is more prone to crosstalk between the pairs of wires which in long runs can slow down performance
  • Future-proofing
    With its higher bandwidth, Cat 6 may support more functionality as network technology improves

Which one is best for you?

Imagine that you’re sitting at work in the middle of a huge project that needed to be done yesterday. Now imagine that in the middle of your uploading the project and
boom, your server goes offline and the entire project you spent the last 4 months on has vanished. While this ideally has never happened to you and never will, this is a very real possibility.

This is the very reason that your Ethernet cables do make a huge difference for your modems, servers and ISPs. Utilizing the right type of Cat5 or Cat6 Ethernet cables
can create much better performance that includes both higher speeds, as well as a reduced amount of ‘crosstalk’. So what is the difference between Cat5 and Cat6?
This article is going to explore what each type of these cables is and which one is better for your individual needs. But first things first:

What is ‘Crosstalk’?

All electronic equipment and the related cables (and even Cat5 and Cat6 cables) are going to emit an electromagnetic signal when being used. Crosstalk occurs when
you have lots of different cables that are all next to each other and can start to interfere with each other. While this may not sound like it will be that big a
problem, it can actually increase the amount of errors and lost packets that occur. That’s why your version of cat cables is so important. When the correct ones are
used, they can help limit the impact of any crosstalk from occurring through various methods, some of which include an improved shielding and even using a unique
twisted cable design.

Cat5 Cables

With Cat5 cables, there are separated into 2 different categories:

  • Cat5 cables
  • Cat5E cables

In recent years, most Cat5 cables have pretty much become obsolete. This is due largely in part to the limitations that Cat5 cables had when compared to the more
advanced Cat5E and Cat6 counterparts. While the Cat5 cables were considered to be very efficient being able to handle upwards of 10/100 Mbps with a 100MHz
bandwidth, when you compare this to the newer Cat cables, it is still significantly slower.

Cat5E cables, also known as Cat5 Enhanced cables, became the industry standard in cables roughly 15 years ago. They offer you speeds up to 10x’s faster than regular
Cat5 cables, as well as an increased ability for traversing distances with a lower rate of crosstalk. To put it bluntly, Cat5E cables simply outperform the obsolete Cat5

Cat6 Cables

Similar to Cat5 cables, there are also two different types of Cat6 cables as well:

  • Cat6 cables
  • Cat6A cables

While Cat6 cables haven’t been around as long as Cat5E cables, they have become the primary type of cable that is used to backbone networks, as opposed as being
used to run individual workstations. This is due to one reason and one reason only. Cat6 cables are able to handle as much as 10 Gigabits of data at a time when the
bandwidth is limited to 164 feet. Anything outside of that and Cat6 cables will fall to just 1 Gigabit of data, the same as Cat5E cables.

Cat6A cables are the newest version of the Cat6 cable and utilize thick plastic casings that work to help greatly reduce any crosstalk from occurring. The biggest
difference between theCat6 and Cat6A cables is that the Cat6A cables are able to maintain their 10 Gigabit speeds for 328 feet, doubling that of the Cat6 Ethernet

If you are looking for a cable that will last longer and be ‘future proof’, then the Cat6A is the one that you are going to want to use. The exception being that this
type of cable is usually overkill when it comes to most commercial and residential properties. For these type of applications, either the Cat5E or the Cat6 cables will be
more than enough to be sufficient.

Benefits of Ethernet In The Home

While you may love Wi-Fi for how convenient it is, it does have several downsides as well. If you have ever used Wi-Fi you have probably experienced having to watch
the website you wanted to visit load little by little, bit by bit for what more than likely seemed like forever. If that wasn’t enough, you have probably lost your
connection altogether as well in the middle of your favorite Netflix movie. To sum up Wi-Fi, it is unreliable.

While Wi-Fi is very convenient, what you may not realize is that with an Ethernet cable, you can have a much more reliable and much faster connection, just by
plugging it in.

Some of the benefits of using a Cat5E or Cat6 Ethernet cable include:

  1. Speed – An Ethernet connection can be up to 10 GB/s with a Cat6 cable. The maximum speed for any Wi-Fi is only 866.7 Mb/s.
  2. Latency – Latency is the delay in the signals traveling back and forth from your router to your computer or other wireless device. Latency is generally
    much lower with an Ethernet cable when compared to Wi-Fi.
  3. Interference – With an Ethernet cable, you have a very secure and reliable connection. More than likely, not many issues will arrive. On the other hand,
    Wi-Fi is extremely susceptible to different types of interference. This interference then leads to your Wi-Fi signal being lost.
  4. Security – Since Wi-Fi is not very secure, there is more chance of being hacked. With an Ethernet wired network, the only way to get in is to having
    another device physically plugged into the router.
  5. Energy Efficient – With a Cat6 Ethernet cable, you will be using less energy than if you were using a Wi-Fi connection. Less energy consumed means that
    you will be lowering your energy bill and reducing your carbon footprint.

With Ethernet cables being much fast, more secure and even more energy efficient, they can be used more reliably for things like:

  • Security Cameras
  • Intercom Devices
  • IP Phones
  • Extended Wi-Fi Ranges

Which Cable Do You Need – Cat5E or Cat6?

Now that you know what Cat5 and Cat6 Ethernet cables are, which one is the best one for you and your individual needs? While the obvious answer would be to go
with the Cat6 cable, this may not be the best choice for you. While there is never a ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to networking, there is a right fit for what
it is you are trying to specifically accomplish.

If you are going to be a residential user, then the Cat5E will be able to handle just about any type of needs that you may have. This works out great for you as the
Cat5E cables will be able to accommodate any type of speed that your residential connection will be able to provide for at least the next few years. And for whatever
reason you do decide to upgrade later down the road, it will not be too expensive or difficult for you to do so.

If on the other hand you just happen to be a commercial user that is in demand for both a faster Internet, as well as faster internal speeds, then your needs are going to be completely different. If you are going to be doing a lot of audio and video editing or processing on network computers, or if you rely heavily on the ability to be able to transfer files from one computer to another very quickly, then Cat6 cables that
have a high Gigabit networking are going to be much better for you. By using the Cat6 cables in this situation, you will not only be future proofing yourself, but you will also be able to more efficiently satisfy your current needs.

What About Cat 7?

Category 7 cable, also known as Cat 7, is used when performance up to 600 MHz is required. An example of why you would require a Cat 7 Ethernet cable is to wire
your smart home. While Cat 7 cables are able to handle an extreme amount of workload and still be very quick and efficient, most commercial and residential
users will not require an Ethernet cable with this kind of capabilities.

While your internet needs are going to be different from others, if you are looking for a connection that is secure, faster, more reliable and will be able to handle any
increases in internet speed over the next few years, than using a Cat 5E or Cat6 Ethernet cable is what you need to do. With so many more pros than any Wi-Fi
network, you will be doing yourself a huge favor.

As for whether a Cat5E, Cat6 or Cat6A is the right cable for you will depend upon what you are using your network for. But you can rest assured with one thing, when
you use a Cat5 or Cat6 Ethernet cable, you will have a much better experience.

Home Automation

How to Measure Electricity Usage by an Appliance

When was the last time you were doing laundry and thought to yourself, ‘it’s going to take a ton of energy to get my underwear clean’? While most people don’t think about how much electricity their appliances use, you should be aware of how much energy they are actually using. This is important as it can lead to your electricity bill being much higher than it should be. Although it doesn’t seem like most appliances will use that much electricity, you would be surprised how every appliance, no matter what size, will add-on to your bill.

By taking a few minutes and figuring out which appliances uses the most energy in your home, you can simply use it less or even unplug it when you’re not using it. Every little change that you make will help you get your electrical bill to be less expensive.

As difficult as it sounds, it is actually fairly simple, although time consuming, to calculate the amount of electricity your appliances use is actually pretty simple.

How to Calculate Your Appliance Electricity Usage

To calculate how much electricity your appliances are using, you must first find the label that lists how many watts it uses. This can usually be found on the actual appliance and if not, then this information will definitely be in the user’s manual. The next thing you need is a rough estimate of how many hours per day you are using this appliance. Once you have these two numbers, you are ready to figure out how much electricity your appliances are using in just 4 simple steps.

Step #1: Multiply the appliances wattage by how many hours per day it gets used. This will give you the total wattage used per day.

For example: 100 watts x 5 hours = 500 watts per day

Step #2: Next is to convert the daily watts to kilowatts. This is done by dividing the watts per day by 1,000.

For example: 500 watts per day / 1000 = .5 kWh per day

Step #3: Once you know how many kilowatts your appliance is using per day, you need to find out what that adds up to per month. To do this, multiply by 30.

For example: .5 kWh per day x 30 days = 15 kWh per month

Step #4: It’s know time to figure out what this is costing you per month. Find your most recent electric bill and find how much that you are paying per kWh. Know multiply this number by the KWh per month number from above.

For example: 15 kWh per month x $.10 per kWh = $1.50 per month

Now keep in mind that these numbers were made up to show you the process and how it can be used to find out exactly how much each appliance is costing you per month in electricity. The only thing to keep in mind is that you are more than likely not using all your appliances the same amount of time every day. This means that your calculations are going to be off, unless you keep an extensive log of exactly how many hours per day appliances were being used.

If sitting around tracking how often and how long all the appliances in your house are being used doesn’t sound like a fun Saturday night for you, there is a much easier way. This easier way is to use something called smart plugs.

A smart plug is a plug that goes into an outlet between your appliance and the electrical outlet. Smart plugs are good because they can track how much power your appliance is using throughout the day. This is important, as there are several benefits of monitoring your appliances power usage.

Benefits of Monitoring Appliance Power Usage

While it may sound like it is a bit ‘penny-pinching’ to monitor how much energy your appliances are using, there are actually several other benefits of monitoring your appliances power usage with smart plugs.

For starters, smart plugs will help you become aware of how much energy that you are actually using. This is just good to know so you are able to make a conscious decision to help reduce your carbon footprint if you decide too.

Another benefit of monitoring your appliances power usage with smart plugs, is that you can get a guestimate of how much you are going to be spending on energy. This can help you budget for that particular bill and if you wanted too, you can even set monthly or daily energy usage goals for yourself and your household.

Besides knowing how much your electricity bill is going to be, knowing how much power your appliances are using may help you decide to not use those high-energy appliances as much. For example, instead of throwing your pajamas in the dryer every night before bed, you may decide to wait until you have a full load that needs to be put in instead. This will not only save you money, but it will prevent you from wasting an extensive amount of extra energy as well.

Lastly, monitoring your appliances power usage with smart plugs can help you make energy-efficient changes to your home. Since you know how much you are spending on electricity, you can now take some positive steps to help reduce your power usage or add some sustainability to your home. This can be as simple as replacing regular light bulbs with LEDs, upgrading your washing machine and dryer to more energy efficient versions, or as extensive as understanding your power needs for a solar battery bank.

While the benefits listed above are the main benefits that you can utilize smart plugs for, they also have many features that can help you make your life much easier.

Additional Benefits of Using Smart Plugs

While smart plugs are an excellent way to measure power usage of appliances, they can also be used to make your life easier, as you can now get Wi-Fi smart plugs. This means that you will be able to directly connect to your computer or mobile device with the right app to track your power usage. And if that weren’t enough, you can even use the app to set timers for appliances and turn them on or off as well.

This means that there is no more waiting for coffee to be made. You can set a timer to have the radio or television go on in the morning before you even wake up. Have your hair iron pre-heated so you don’t have to wait for it anymore. The possibilities of what you can control with a smart plug are endless.

Other than helping make your day easier, smart plugs are also a great way to deter would-be robbers. If you know that you are going to be away from the house for a few hours or even a few days, weeks, etc., you can turn on lights from your phone or even set the smart plugs timer to go on at certain time. This will make it look like someone is at home, even when they are not.

Probably the best benefit of smart plugs is that they can make you dinner. If you are going to make something in a crockpot or similar appliance, all you have to do is add the ingredients and turn on the crockpot when you want. This will ensure that you have a fresh, hot dinner waiting for you when you get home.

Smart plugs are one of the easiest ways for you to monitor how much power your appliances are using. They do all of the calculations and keep track of the number of hours the appliance is used as well. Now combine that with all of the extra benefits that smart plugs are able to provide and you have a win-win situation. With smart plugs, leaving the light on, wasting all of the extra energy is now a thing of the past. With smart plugs, you will not only know exactly how much power you are using, but you will also have the ability to simplify your life as well.

Suggested Products

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably interested in taking the next step in measuring and monitoring the electricity usage of the appliances in your home. Here are a couple of products available for order on Amazon that can help you achieve that goal.

Etekcity Wi-Fi Smart Plug


The Etekcity Wi-Fi Smart Plug works with popular smart home hubs like Amazon Alexa Echo and Google Assistant. It allows you to not only monitor energy usage, but also control power to home appliances giving you control through your smart phone.


Newforshop Electricty Usage Monitor

If you don’t need smart phone control or smart home hub connectivity, the Newforshop Electricity Usage Monitor is a lower-tech way of measuring electricity usage by an appliance. With its large LCD display, it can provide the metrics you need to make decisions about power usage and updating appliances.


Home Automation

Home Automation Project Done Right: Meet Amazon’s Alexa

Do you want to come home and have someone take care of every little thing so you can just relax?

Echo Dot 2nd Generation

I know I dream about enjoying such life. Although ‘dreamt’ would be a better word as I’ve already achieved it through a smart home automation project. And now, I’ll share how Amazon’s Alexa, smart home hubs, and a collection of smart devices make this living possible.

My key to carefree, and pretty much hands-free, living is Amazon Echo. Amazon’s intelligent assistant, Alexa, is the one that can run your home through Echo and an array of smart devices. It integrates with a variety of hubs including Insteon, SmartThings, and Wink, as well as gadgets, like Sensi, Philips Hue Lights, Belkin WeMo, Ecobee, etc.

Simply put, Alexa has the capability to connect and control your house’s lighting, thermostat, security, outlets, and almost all electronic gadgets. With Volkswagen and Ford promising to integrate Alexa in their new vehicles, you’ll soon be able to do this while on the drive home. I think it’s an incredible boost for a home automation project. This way, you’ll get to set up the house all comfy and waiting for you.

Now, you can tell me that the apps that go with smart gadgets can do ‘remote control’ without Alexa. You are, of course, correct. But, think of the risks you take to activate the apps. Let’s be honest, you’ve used your smartphone while driving more than once. And every time can be the last. Once fully developed, Alexa will allow you to control your smart home remotely without distracting you from the road.

Don’t forget that Alexa can also help you buy from Amazon simply by talking to it, play any music on command, remind you of events, and keep you updated on latest news. With functionality like this, it will become your best friend in no time.

So, let’s get down to business. Here’s how relaxed your life in a smart home can be with the help of Alexa and some automated gadgets.

Alexa Home Automation Project Ideas

Opening the Garage Door

Alexa welcomes you home by literally opening the door, which saves you time and effort. Using this system also boosts your security as you’re at your most vulnerable if you leave the vehicle to open the door manually. Remote controls are rather easy to hack, so that device alone doesn’t give you much protection.

Alexa-operated smart garage door, on the other hand, is much more secure. It’s also easy to set this system up, so you’ll be able to do it yourself. Take a look at a detailed installation guide for devices with IFTTT controllers here.

Turning On the Lights

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of stubbing my toes and getting painful bruises from run-ins with my own furniture. Therefore, the first step of my personal home automation project was to install smart light bulbs. Connecting them to Echo and by extension Alexa took this ‘creature comfort’ to a whole new level.

All I have to do now is to say ‘Alexa, turn on the hallway light’ and voila, I can comfortably get inside. It’s the same for every room where you have smart lights installed. You also get to not only turn them on and off with Alexa, but change the color as well. In addition, this system allows you to group smart light bulbs for easier management. For example, you can set up a group for a room or stairway.

Remember that over 800,000 people in the US get hospitalized due to fall-related injuries. Those 65 and older are at a higher risk of receiving highly traumatic injuries even from a simple fall. Voice-controlled smart lighting goes a long way in reducing the risks of falling on your own property.

Here’s a very easy-to-follow guide for connecting Alexa to Philips Hue bulbs. Note that some bulbs work with Alexa directly and others require a hub to connect. Check out compatibility of devices before buying.

Turning on the Thermostat

A smart thermostat must be on your home automation project list because it does not only make your life more comfortable. This device can save about $145 a year in energy bills.

Alexa makes controlling your thermostat so easy, you’ll never be too lazy to use it. This means maximum economy and benefits for the planet. Amazon Echo is compatible with a variety of smart thermostats. Check out set up instructions for the most popular ones here.

Controlling Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans, are similar to thermostats in that they help save money on more efficient in-home temperature control. A smart application of a good fan lowers the need to use heaters and air conditioners. Therefore, be sure to include this device into your home automation project.

Alexa can not only turn the fan on and off but also control its speed. If the device has an integrated smart light, your ‘virtual home manager’ will be able to control it as well. Click here to get instructions on how to manage a ceiling fan with Alexa.

Controlling Appliances and Gadgets (Special Note for Kitchen Assistant)

The beauty of using Alexa for your home automation project is that it’s compatible with a great number of devices. They include, but aren’t limited to, TV and stereo systems, kitchen appliances, alarms, etc.

The basic instruction for connecting Alexa and a TV/Stereo is here. Follow a similar pattern for any other appliance.

Personally, I’m very fond of using Alexa in the kitchen. It helps you to:

  • Make a grocery list
  • Convert measurements
  • Control timers
  • Manage connected devices now you can literally order your coffee maker to brew you a cup of espresso)
  • Offer recipes (a feature that helps me greatly when I’m out of ideas, check out the Allrecipes skill)
  • Provide suggestions on food+wine combinations

All in all, Alexa will help you become a true chef or at least prevent you from burning down the kitchen.

Using Smart Outlets

Smart outlets are usually overlooked when one plans a home automation project, which is a huge mistake. In fact, they should be the first thing on your list because these gadgets make any device smart.

Well, they don’t make your old electric appliances really ‘smart’ because the outlet cannot add any special features. However, they can control the powering up and down of the device, which is the key to more energy savings.

The best thing about using these gadgets is the scheduling feature. It enables you to literally plan ahead everything your home does. This includes enforcing bedtime for kids by cutting out power in their rooms. The countdown timer feature ensures you don’t forget and leave any device running.

Go here to see Alexa compatible smart outlets on Amazon.

Turning On the Alarm + Extra Security Features

Never underestimate the power of installing extra security measures. There isn’t such a thing as being too safe, especially with our crime rates climbing up all the time. Amazon Echo and Alexa con work together with numerous security devices, including locks, alarms, and cameras.

You definitely must have some of those as over 40% of jailed burglars admit they would avoid a home with visible security features.

I also count motion sensors and light timers into security system devices as they can scare away some wannabe criminals. You can check out specialized Alexa features (skills) that will boost your home’s security here.

Locking the Smart Lock

If you don’t have a smart lock on your home doors yet, I suggest you go and fix it right away. That’s my personal favorite for a home automation project because it’s such a huge boost to safety. The exact level of safety and convenience depends on the gadget itself. You can check out Alexa-compatible smart locks here.

Alexa will be able to lock your doors, engage deadbolts, and update you on the status of the lock. This completely solves the problem of worrying over whether you remembered to lock your door in the morning.

Running a Smart Home with Alexa: Final Words

Do bear in mind that for all its talents, Alexa cannot take command of just any device. Your home automation project will have to include some smart home hubs and automated devices for Alexa to work with. Tie all of them together with Amazon Echo and you’ll be able to control those gadgets with voice alone.

Personally, I love that this ‘smart home manager’ integrates with so many different devices. It allows me to run my own house with minimal fuss and maximum efficiency. If that’s what you are after, the Echo+Alexa combo from Amazon might be just the thing you need.

These days, smart homes are becoming commonplace. The popularity of these systems grows extremely fast, from 47 million connected devices in 2015 to the estimated 477 million by 2020.

Alexa and Echo show us why these gadgets are getting more popular. They take the idea of a smart home and push it to its limits. An Alexa home automation project is sure to make your life much more comfortable. It will even help you save some money and help the planet through efficient energy management.