All You Need to Know About Smart Homes

What Is a Smart Home?  

In layman’s terms, smart homes are homes containing devices that are able to communicate with each other and automate your daily activities. These devices range from appliances and lights to televisions and security cameras. Technically, if you own at least one device that is connected to your network and can be controlled through it, you are a smart home owner.

Nowadays you can control smart tech in your home from anywhere in the world using a mobile device. These smart houses serve to simplify your daily life, save you time on miscellaneous tasks, and even save you money in some cases. Not only do they make your daily tasks a breeze, but they also make your home a safer place.

There are cameras, locks, and motion sensors you can install to secure your home. All of these things can also increase the overall value of your home. More and more homebuyers are looking to purchase homes with pre-installed smart devices.

What Are the Benefits of Smart Homes?

There are quite a few benefits to home automation, which we can categorize in the following groups:

Money

Devices like thermostats, light bulbs, and sprinklers can save energy and therefore money. Some devices can monitor energy usage, like water and electricity, which give you a better overview of where you might be wasting energy.

Security

You could say that most devices fall under this category. Many people want to make their home a safer place, which is why they might opt for say, motion-triggered smart lights, to trick burglars into thinking someone is home while on holiday, or security cameras that let you see what is going on in your home from any location.

Convenience and Comfort

A lot of smart home devices work together. You can, for example, program your door lock to switch on the lights when you unlock the door to enter the house. It’s also convenient when someone is at the door. You can check who it is with your doorbell cam and let them in using a mobile app. You can also record shows with smart televisions, play music on command, dim your lights, and so on.

Control

This is a useful one. People choose home automation in order to have complete control over their home at any time from any location—they like to know what’s happening inside their home at all times.

Is It Worth It?

In most cases, it is. In order to properly assess whether it’s worth it for you, you need to think of how much you will be saving on expenses and time.

Here are some examples of why we think it’s worth it:

Money

You can save on utility bills and water expenses by using smart devices like smart thermostats, lights, and sprinklers. In the long run, these devices practically pay for themselves.

Safety

This is one of the main reasons people choose to “smart” their homes in the first place. You can monitor in-house activities remotely and receive notifications on your mobile device. You can get notifications when a pet cat escapes or when your children come home from school. Burglars also tend to avoid well-secured homes.

Comfort

You can turn your home into a palace of comfort after a long and stressful day at work. Smart homes allow you to manage your TV, answer and open the door, dim the lights, send emails, answer calls, and more, all from the comfort of your couch.

In addition, smart hubs can help you with reminders, create grocery lists, and so on. And you can be sure when you leave the house that all appliances are switched off, so there’s no need for any double checking or finger crossing that everything will be the way you left it when you get back.

Which Devices Are the Most Commonly Controlled in a Smart Home?

The four main categories under which the most commonly used devices fall under are: lighting, entertainment, climate, and safety.

Smart Lights

Smart light bulbs are the easiest to install and use. They have features like timers, motion sensing abilities, and schedules. For example, you can set the lights to turn on when you come home from work and automatically switch off after midnight.

The lights with motion sensor abilities can switch on when they detect someone coming into a room and switch off when they exit. You can also set the lights to switch on based on the activation of another device. Like, for example, when you open the garage door, your house lights will switch on.

Smart Thermostat

These are also pretty common. They are relatively simple to install, though slightly more difficult than light bulbs. They are also able to adapt to your climate preference and schedule, which is why you can look forward to a flawless home climate.

Security

Home security systems are a rising trend in the industry as more and more people are choosing to protect their homes and families, not just from burglaries and break-ins but also from damage caused by floods, fires, and the like. Common smart home products would be smart locks, security cameras, motion sensors, and flood and smoke detectors.

Entertainment

Some people only use smart tech for entertainment, like smart TVs, speakers, and projectors. These devices can be pretty expensive and even require some installation costs in case you want built-in devices or ceiling speakers.

What Are the Elements of a Home Automation System?

The most basic system will be comprised of just three elements: smart hubs, smart devices, and then an app that connects them all. Some systems can even function with two of the three mentioned here—for example, you could instead use just a device and an app or a hands-free hub and a device.

Smart Hubs

They are the command point for all your other devices. Basically, a smart home hub connects all your devices and helps them interact with each other. However, please keep in mind that there are some hubs that are only compatible with devices produced by the same company. There are others, like Amazon Echo, that work with a plethora of third-party devices.

Mobile Applications

By simply downloading the app and connecting it to your hub, you can control your smart home gadgets remotely.

Devices

Here are some examples of the types of devices:

Access and Control

These would be cameras, locks, and motion sensors.

Appliances

Practically anything can be smart. Refrigerators, dishwashers, machines, and ovens, for example. There are even slow cookers and coffee makers.

Climate

These are systems that optimize your energy usage, and the top device here would be the smart thermostat.

Resources

Basically, devices that monitor energy usage and help you use them rationally. Examples would be smart sprinklers to reduce water waste or smart switches to reduce energy usage.

Entertainment

This would be smart TVs, speakers, and even projectors.

Health

These are becoming more and more common by the day. An example of a healthcare device would be a smart humidifier.

Lights

Here you have options from light bulbs to dimmers to switches and strips.

Let’s not leave out your router, modem, and internet. They often play a vital part in your smart ecosystem. High-speed internet can make sure your WiFi-reliant devices are running smoothly.

Do I Have to Make My Whole House Smart?

Not at all. You need to decide whether you want full smart home automation or stand-alone smart gadgets. Usually, if you’re a new user, it’s better to start small and ease into it. It’s easy to add on to existing tech rather than take down already installed devices, as their installation may have required some serious home remodelling. Sometimes you may just want to automate one or two tasks instead of the whole house.

Simple Setup

For people who want to automate a few tasks or just one, it’s better to go for the thermostats, smart lights, or smart locks, maybe even a smart doorbell. These are the best options when starting small to feel a difference. If you are all about convenience, then maybe smart switches are the way to go, along with some connected appliances. Basically, these appliances can tell you when you are out of juice or turn off the lights in the yard when you forgot to switch them off before leaving the house.

Hardcore Setup

There are people who opt for full home automation systems. This means everything that can be automated, is. For access to security, appliances, and comfort, you can have it all. The best part is, even if you want to “smart” your entire home, you don’t have to do it all at once. You can set a budget, start slow, and gradually build on your existing system.

Whether you automate only some parts of your home or the entire place, you will notice the time you save on certain miscellaneous tasks, and depending on the smart device, you might even notice a pleasant decrease in monthly energy expenses.

energy saving - smart homes

How Can I Save Energy with Smart Home Technology?

You probably already know that using smart devices helps protect your family and makes your home a safer place, but what you should also know is that you can save some serious money on miscellaneous expenses as well, all while helping the environment. For example, automation helps you save energy by helping you optimize your resource usage.  You could say it’s a small step for the environment but a big one for your wallet.

Basically, home automation helps you limit and control how you use your resources. Another good thing is that you also have an overview of usage, so you can see exactly how much you use and when.

There are many elements you could optimize with smart home devices:

Climate

This can be controlled by an intelligent thermostat. They are able to monitor how much energy you use in the house in order to cool or warm up your house in the most efficient way.

Lighting

Smart lights are fantastic home automation products that help you save on energy. There are options for setting timers to make sure all lights are switched off at specific times or when you are out of the house. You can also opt for the ones that are triggered by motion sensors. This option means that the lights turn on when they sense someone entering or leaving a room.

Water

This is where smart sprinklers come in handy. You can set timers to have your sprinklers turn on and off whenever you choose. This will reduce the amount of water you waste and keep your grass and plants healthy.

Are Smart Homes Affordable?

Home control systems are affordable if you opt for a simple setup; however, more complex setups with lots of tech involved can cost you a pretty penny. Essentially, the price depends on what you want. Do you want everything to be controlled by smart devices or just the basics?

We recommend you give yourself a starting budget and start small. It’s easy to add on to existing tech, so don’t worry, by starting small, maybe with smart light bulbs, thermostats, or doorbells, you can gradually move up to full control of your home if you wish.

Can I Upgrade an Existing or Older Home with Smart Home Technology?

No matter the age of your home, you can install a smart system. The majority of devices have a wireless connection, so the necessities will give you good coverage and connectivity.

There are also devices that create a mesh network, like Z-Wave and Zigbee tech. A mesh network is probably a better option for older homes that might have odd corners or thick walls, which can dampen WiFi signals.

If you want even more home control, upgrades can always be made—there is no limit to the number of devices you can have and use.

How Long Does It Take to Install a Smart System?

This completely depends on what you are installing, as well as how many devices you’re installing. Usually, it won’t take more than a few hours to install some devices, unless you are putting in a more complicated smart home system.

For example, smart light bulbs take a few minutes to install: take the old ones out, screw in the new ones, connect them to the smart app, confirm the settings, and voila! You are ready to go.

Smart speakers can take longer to install depending on the type and quantity. Built-in speakers and ceiling speakers take more time because they involve extra work around the house.

Thermostats can also take a little bit of time—they require some wiring. It’s nothing you can’t manage alone, though we do recommend professional installation to ensure 100% success.

It’s not just the smart homes technology wiring and installation that can take up some time, you might want to also spend time on placement. Take the time to look for prime spots to install your purchase, like motion sensors, speakers, and so on. Of course, we recommend you do the scouting before you purchase your smart tech to save time. We also recommend professional installation, as it goes faster and they can provide expert advice on prime locations.

Smart homes - increasing value of smart homes

Do Smart Home Systems Increase Home Value?

Yes, they do. More and more home buyers prefer to purchase homes that already have smart devices installed. Of course, you should ask your real estate agent for an estimated selling price that includes the smart devices to make sure you are making the most of your investment. However, 81% of buyers claim they would rather purchase a smart home.

There’s a high demand for automation, and it keeps on rising. The main reason is voice control. Studies have shown that 72% of people in the US who own smart devices want voice control capabilities. According to a survey, we discovered the three leading reasons people opt for voice control: hands-free capabilities, remote control, and practicality.

People of all age groups are choosing to use smart tech to enjoy the best home automation perks, which will improve their quality of life and save time and money. To be more precise,  Millennials (58%), Gen X-ers (50%), and Baby Boomers (26%) have smart devices with voice control. Considering this, automating your home can increase its overall value, as more and more people are choosing to buy homes with pre-installed systems.

Can Smart Home Systems Be Used for Businesses?

Yes. However, businesses require a more sophisticated automation system. Usually, businesses focus on security, climate control, and energy saving—though they sometimes also invest in smart tech to help them discover floods or leaks beforehand, saving on damage costs.

In the long run, it improves their bottom line. A lot of businesses invest in AI technology, and therefore also in smart tech. It’s also common for businesses to invest in motion-sensor triggered devices, both to save on energy and for security purposes.

Remember, the demand for smart technology and automation in businesses is increasing more and more, so hurry up and get your smart tech before prices rise to fit this demand. Don’t be fooled by the “home” in home automation—these companies want to turn a profit, and they will grab the right opportunity when it comes.

security - smart homes

Is My Information Secure if I Use Smart Devices?

Some automated devices use excellent bank-grade encryption. On the other hand, some devices can’t even change a default passcode. Essentially, your security depends on the devices you use and how. Due to these potential risks, people turn away from automation, concerned that someone will hack their home, compromise a lock, or spy on them. This has been a top concern and will surely continue to be one in the future.

Here are some tips to help you choose a secure system:

Research Before You Buy

Read about the product, and look at smart home systems reviews. Manufacturers using the latest security practices are the best choice. Find out about these practices and learn their encryption standards.

Data-Collection Practices

Some smart devices collect more data than they should, so be sure to check that the devices solely collect the data they need in order to function in the home environment. It’s also a plus if you can find out about data storage, processing, and usage.

Third-Party Apps

A lot of devices for smart homes function solely through their companion apps, but there are some that allow third-party app developers to create their own apps, which can sometimes have troublesome loopholes. We recommend you stick to the ones that don’t require involving a third party.

Network

Guard it with double and triple password protection, guest-access networks, firewalls, and even parental control. In some cases, owners can also set up a separate network for their smart devices—a lot of newer modems and routers allow for this option. This is extremely important because it can end up being the weakest link when it comes to smart homes.

Happy Thoughts

All of these smart device and home automation companies know about the potential security issues and are always working on them to better improve their security. Their main goal is to keep your home safe, as it obviously directly concerns them. They work with white-hat hackers in order to find and develop the best measures to protect their clients and provide them with the best smart home systems. Even though their motivation might be self-serving, it does play to your benefit.

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