8 Wi-Fi tips you should be using but probably aren't

Mar 22, 2015 at 9:00 p.m. ET

You home Wi-Fi could be working so much harder for you.

That sneaky little signal can power everything from your thermostat to your baby monitor and help you control almost every aspect of your home life from a smartphone or tablet. Here are eight things you should think about putting on your home Wi-Fi network for amazing results.

1. Beef up home security

Home Wi-Fi networks can run all sorts of new security services that will do everything from monitor doors and locks to give you access to real-time home surveillance wherever you are. There are also cool features that let you check in on kids at home after school and even open doors and garages. Check out Wi-Fi-enabled security cameras and door locks that can be activated from the network at your local home improvement store to get started.

2. Use your smartphone as a remote

When it comes to putting your home appliances on your smartphone to give you one universal Wi-Fi-enabled remote control, you’ve got a couple of options. First, you can buy a switch that makes any power source accessible from your smartphone, giving you control of everything from the iron to the lights, right in your pocket. These littleBits smart home switches are also pretty neat.

The second option is to purchase specific “smart” home products that already have home networking capability built in. That way, to gain control of the appliance, like a thermostat or home monitor, you just need to download the device’s corresponding application to your phone or tablet.

A third option is to contract with any number of new "smart" home security services to have them come over and give your home a “smart” makeover. Companies like ADT will now get your home up on the network and give you smartphone access. Pretty slick.

 3. Create your own personal cloud

By downloading and installing simple personal cloud software onto your home laptop or PC, you can create your own personal, private cloud storage system and ditch services like Dropbox for good. There are a several choices of personal cloud software including OwnCloud, LogMeIn and BarracudaDrive.

Aside from being able to share files between devices on your home network in a snap, your personal cloud can store sensitive data and you don’t have to worry about being hacked. If you want to store large amounts of data and don’t necessarily want to leave your computer on and accessible to the network all the time, you can opt for Network Attached Storage (NAS), which is essentially a big storage drive that stays online to share files. Here’s a great video for a step-by-step of how to set up your own cloud at home.

Once you've got a personal cloud all set up at home, load your music and movies on there to share media throughout your home across devices.

 4. Print wirelessly

Setting up a wireless printer is easy, super-convenient and gets rid of those messy printer cables. The other benefit is that once you’re printing over your home Wi-Fi network, you can print from any tablet, phone or notebook on the network.

 5. Talk to your appliances

Smart appliances are all the rage. If you’re wondering what’s so “smart” about a dryer, it just means that you can control it over a Wi-Fi signal. Never check on a load of laundry again. A smart dryer will send you a message on your smartphone or tablet when the load is ready. Need to preheat the oven? With a smart oven, Wi-Fi signal and an app on a smartphone or tablet, you can preheat remotely or even set the oven to cook a particular recipe. Nest is one popular platform for running household appliances, and was recently acquired by Google to power the company’s future generations of smart home connectivity.

6. Save energy

You can monitor and control your home’s temperature and energy usage by installing a smart thermostat that is connected through your home Wi-Fi signal. You can even cool or warm the house remotely so you can come home to an ideal temperature every time. One your home thermostat is connected to your Wi-Fi, you can also compare the inside temperature to the outside and program automatic adjustments no matter the weather.

7. Monitor your baby

Forget about those old walkie-talkie baby monitors and nanny-cams stashed in stuffed animals. Today’s high-tech Wi-Fi-enabled remote-view baby monitors give you real-time sound and video of your kiddos no matter where you are.

8. To care for aging parents and elderly

We’re all getting older, and new Wi-Fi-enabled technology can help the aging maintain their independence longer. By putting Wi-Fi-enabled tracking devices on the elderly, you can manage their location. Wireless Wi-Fi-connected pill dispensers monitor whether medications are being taken as prescribed. And caregivers of aging parents can also have the peace of mind that even when they’re home alone they’re connected to family whenever they need help, with Wi-Fi-enabled emergency panic buttons.

This post was brought to you by XFINITY Internet.

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