Monitor every little thing
Burst pipes, broken sump pump, a fire? The potential for damage is high at the cottage, where help is far away, and it’s months before the next visit. That’s where a team of sensors steps in, to monitor variables inside: basement moisture, sump pump functioning, presence of smoke. The sensors link to a system tied into a landline or a cell signal. When conditions change—the temperature falls below a threshold, the power goes out—the system sends a message. For self-monitored systems, this means a pre-recorded call or a push notification to a smartphone. But, “if you’re in the city four hours away, what are you going to do?” asks Bob Dixon, an insurance broker specializing in cottages with Mason Insurance Brokers in Welland, Ont. That’s why he recommends professional monitoring for all cottages. Usually part of a broader alarm system, the service often pays for itself with five to 15 per cent discounts on insurance. Professional monitoring starts as low as $20 a month, depending on your area.
Spy on your visitors
Whether it’s to deter burglars or vandals (hey, it happens, right?) or just to see what critters stop by, remote cameras are both handy and easy to set up. There are two general styles: wired and wireless. With either it’s possible to set up a network of cameras with different views and angles. With a Wi-Fi connection, either through a smart device or an onsite computer, you can see what’s going on from any computer or phone. A live view can show how much snow is on a roof or if a tree’s down on a deer fence. And connected motion-sensitive cameras can send a message when anything moves in their range, whether it’s a raccoon or something more nefarious. The presence of cameras can deter crimes and may help solve them, says Corporal Curtis Peters of the RCMP’s southern Alberta district. “With most cottages being remote, there are rarely witnesses,” he says. “Security footage often becomes the only evidence.” Depending on the size of the cottage and property, one camera might be enough. The more cameras, the more they may act as a deterrent, but larger systems add cost and complexity. The Nest Cam Indoor, at $250, is one of the simplest for DIY installation and use. Edmonton’s Action Security Cameras, meanwhile, quotes a five-camera system, fully installed with tutorial and support, as starting at around $3,000.
Then, welcome winter!
You closed up the cottage at Thanksgiving. Now you want to squeeze in a winter visit. Easier and cheaper, thanks to tech. “New systems can get quite sophisticated,” says Sharron Lawson, the VP of sales and marketing at Alliance Security, a company that specializes in alarm and monitoring services. “You don’t pay for heat or electricity when you’re not there, but the cottage won’t be freezing and dark when you show up on Friday night.” The key is to install smart devices. At their most basic, these systems are Wi-Fi–connected thermostats (e.g., theNest or Geo Cosy) controlled with an app. But some systems also work as hubs, telling multiple appliances when to turn on and off. Do it manually on the app or set up pre-programmed geofences—start-up messages signalled by your location. Working with the app and your phone’s GPS, a geo-fence tells the thermostat to turn up the heat when you’re, say, 150 km from the cottage, so it’s warm when you arrive two hours later. At 50 km out, it tells the hot-water tank to fire up. And then, when you turn into the driveway, the porch lights turn on. Lawson calls it “the smart home at the cottage.” And as for shovelling that snowy driveway? Sadly, there is no device for that yet.