Your Guide To Smart Homes

Your Guide To Smart Homes

Imagine a world where everything in your house, including the house itself, could communicate with each other and be fully automatic? A home where you didn’t need to flick switches or adjust settings, it just knew how to do it all for you and paired with the other appliances and systems in your home to do it together?

This type of house might sound a little futuristic, but thanks to the Internet of Things, smart homes like this are becoming more and more common every day. A smart home is one that is automated and it can include all functions from your home security to heating and cooling.

Adjusting Home Security

This new technology allows us to save money, bring convenience into our lives, and just make things a little easier, but where exactly do we start?

Transforming your regular house into a smart home isn’t something that can happen overnight. If you were to purchase all of the latest and greatest devices available, you’d have to spend a fortune, and there’s no need to have them all just benefit.

This guide will show you what a smart home really means, the devices that are available, and just what advantages they have to offer.

What Is A Smart Home?

Smart Home Gadgets

Smart homes are known as many different things, including automated homes or connected homes. Whatever terminology you use, they all mean the same thing: a residence that uses the internet to manage, control, and automate the various appliances and systems in the home.

When the notion of a smart home first came out, people thought it sounded far too off in the future. These days, it’s common for more households to have at least one smart device at work for them, whether it’s a smart home hub like Alexa, a video doorbell, or even an automated heating and cooling system.

All smart devices are connected through something called the Internet of Things. Just as you’d assume from its name, it’s the internet connection by which all of these devices and systems communicate with each other.

To have a fully functioning smart home where your devices work together, you need to have one of these setups so that everything can send and receive data.

The purpose of a smart home is to make life easier for you, as it takes control of basic functions like changing the lighting to suit your arrival home from work, adjusting the temperature of the home when nobody’s around, or ordering food and groceries for you.

By adding this convenience, it also saves you money in all avenues like energy costs, security, and home maintenance, so the cost of the devices usually ends up paying for itself.

How To Get Started With A Smart Home Transformation

Google Smart Home Hub

Having a smart home doesn’t mean you have to be fully kitted out with every single piece of tech available, and the best approach is just to start with one thing first. Rather than looking to create a Jetsons style futuristic home, you should follow these tips to do it the right way.

Find A Smart Hub

You’ve no doubt heard of these smart hubs like Amazon’s Alexa or the Google Assistant, and these user-friendly devices are the best place to start. As you’ll read later, choosing the right smart home hub to connect everything together will make life a lot easier for you and your devices.

Think Of Your Everyday Routine

There’s no point in getting a smart thermostat if you never use heating or cooling, or investing in a smart fridge if you live in a share house. Think about what you do every day at home and what functions could be made more convenient.

Cost Saving Areas

If you’re having trouble choosing something based on want or need, think about the money aspect. Are you currently spending a lot on home security systems, heating bills, electricity and lighting, food, or any other area that could be improved with a smart device?

Start Small

Rather than leaping in and getting a whole setup for your smart home, choose just one thing like lighting or a doorbell and test the waters with it. You’ll learn about how much automation is possible and what you really prefer in a smart device so that your next purchase will be more in tune with your needs.

Home Internet

Your home internet and connectivity will have some impact on your smart home. You’ll need a wireless internet connection to get started and for some devices, there’ll be the need for even more in terms of connectivity and technology.

Do Your Research

Don’t rush in with the first appliance you see. Smart devices should be the best quality to ensure their worth, so look at reviews, read feedback, and find out what you can about the manufacturer.

The Importance Of A Smart Home Hub

Touching Smart Home Hub

As discussed earlier, a smart home hub is a great place to start when taking the first steps to an automated home. These devices will be like your central command station and you’ll connect all of your devices to them so that they can be controlled from the one place.

It’s entirely possible to work each device just through your smartphone independently, but it will be a lot more efficient when there’s one hub where you can do it all. There are also smart speaker options that are a little less complex than a hub, so depending on how many devices you have you’ll have to decide which one is best for you.

Some popular smart hubs available today including Samsung SmartThings and Vera Control VeraPlus, and speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home. However, it’s common that the speaker and hubs are now pairing up to offer even more, so figure out what suits your budget and requirements before you proceed.

A smart hub is connected through the internet just like your other devices and it helps to facilitate communication between them all. You might ask your hub to turn down the lights, put the heating on, or unlock your front door to let a guest in.

Having just one place where you can do all this is far easier than controlling each one separately, so it’s an absolute must for a first step if you’re hoping to transform your house into a smart home.

Wi-Fi, Zigbee, And Z-Wave: Choosing The Right Connection

If you’ve ever read some discussion board or product reviews on smart devices, you can easily feel pretty lost with all of the jargon. One of the most confusing aspects of the whole thing is what protocol you’ll connect your devices on, or basically what type of connection you’ll use to help them communicate.

When you’re buying a new smart device, you’ll need to check its compatibility and see which of these protocols it works with. Without the right criteria, your device simply won’t link up to your Internet of Things and be almost useless as a smart system. These are the most common choices and what they offer:

Wi-Fi

White Wifi Icon

Your wireless internet connection can be used when you have just one device, but if you’re looking for more speed and less interference, it’s better to upgrade to one of the other protocols.

Zigbee

Zigbee Logo

This is an open source protocol and some might argue less secure, but it does allow for better updates and advancements. The main benefit it has over others is that it’s the fastest with a current data rate of between 40-250 kbps.

Z-Wave

Product Logo

This is a closed source protocol controlled by a private entity and the better choice for people who favor security over all else. While it’s still fast, it’s not as fast as Zigbee, but it does have the added bonus of slightly more compatibility with devices.

What Smart Home Devices Are Available?

If you think about what parts of your home could do with automation and how you might benefit from more convenience, you can almost guarantee that someone has thought of it first. We’ve made significant process in what kinds of systems and appliances are now available as smart devices, so there’s never been a better time to get started.

What smart device you need or want will depend on a few factors. You’ll have to consider your requirements, budget, long term plan, and safety requirements, so with those in mind, you can check out the current list of smart home devices.

Smart Outlets

ConnectSense Smart Outlet

Look around any room of your house and there’s no doubt you’ll see an electrical outlet or two. While they’re certainly helpful at powering up our home, when it comes to being smart they’re anything but.

A smart outlet is a replacement for your old outlets and it’s one of the easiest pieces of smart tech to install and use. With a smart outlet plugged into your standard one, these are just some of the benefits that you’ll enjoy:

  • Automatically disables any damaged or faulty appliances that might be plugged in
  • Sends through a warning to your smartphone about a changing condition of an appliance, like overheating or fire
  • Turn off electrical appliances that aren’t being used so that you can save money
  • Be controlled by a smartphone signal so that you can control the power supply from virtually anywhere in the world

Smart Lighting

Smart Light Bulbs

We use lighting all through our homes and not necessarily only when it’s dark. Without realizing it, our energy bills can increase quite a bit just through the use of lights, so if you’re able to gain some of that control back with smart lighting then it’s a great place to start.

Smart light bulbs can be controlled with an app, but rather than doing this with each individual light in the house, your smart hub is the best way to do it. Some of the benefits of these amazing lights include:

  • Ability to adjust the color of the light and its brightness
  • Turning on and off lights anywhere in the home with remote access
  • Having a schedule for lights to be turned on depending on when you’re arriving home or leaving, or if you’re going away on vacation
  • Automatically detect when you’re close to home so that lights can be turned on
  • Syncs with other devices like security systems or home theaters so mood lighting can be automatically set depending on the movie you’re watching

Smart Home Security

Using Doors Smart Lock

Security measures are nothing new around the house but this new generation of smart security devices and applications certainly are. Whether you want basic protection or a complete suite with remote surveillance, there are plenty of different devices with their own benefits to offer.

  • Smart doorbell: This will show you live video and audio of visitors to your door or alert you if there’s movement outside. You can let people in from the remote access, have a two-way conversation, or even alert authorities
  • Smart locks and doors: These doors and locks can be controlled through your hub or smartphone. They can open, close, lock, and be controlled from wherever you are, giving you peace of mind that you’ll never forget to shut the door
  • Complete Systems: It is possible to get a complete smart security system that offers cameras, sensors, locks, and more, all working in conjunction with each other. These can be reviewed by yourself or accessed by a third party who keeps an eye on your house for you

Heating, Ventilation And Air Conditioning

Wifi Thermostat

There aren’t many homes across America that don’t rely on their HVAC system to keep them comfortable. However, rather than adjusting temperatures for yourself, or waiting for the house to cool down when you get home, a smart HVAC system does it all for you. These are just some things that smart thermostats are capable of:

  • Detecting smoke, fire or carbon monoxide in the air and notifying you and emergency services of the risk
  • Automatically adjusting its temperature to a comfortable level based on outside weather conditions
  • Using sensors to find out what each room of the house needs in terms of temperature
  • Turning off energy supply to parts of the house where nobody is, thus saving power
  • Learning your schedule to know when you’ll arrive home or leave and adjusting temperatures to suit
  • Pre-programming that lets you plan out the ideal temperature for the next week
  • Remote access so you can adjust or turn on/off the HVAC system
  • Potential to save between 10 – 25 percent from your annual energy bill depending on the product
  • Works with all kinds of systems like fans, air conditioners, heaters, heat pumps, humidifiers, and dehumidifiers

Other Smart Home Devices

Robotic Vacuum

Every day, we’re seeing more and more smart home devices being released. Not all of them are a necessity for a more comfortable way of life, but they can be a lot of fun. These are just some of the other devices you might want to consider when building your smart home.

Cleaning And Maintenance

Robotic vacuums, robotic pool cleaners, and robotic lawn mowers are now common smart devices used in homes. Other forms of maintenance include automatic feeding and watering of garden beds as well.

Door And Window Sensors

A door and window sensor can be linked to your thermostat to detect when temperatures are rising, or automatically draw the blinds and close shutters at certain times of the day.

Smart Beds

A smart bed can help you improve your sleep by detecting your regular sleep cycle, adjusting your mattress and temperature, and giving you health statistics.

The Must-Have Features Of A Smart Home Device

Couple Using Smart Home

The smart home market is a big one and it’s not uncommon for people to be confused when they’re shopping for their very first piece of tech. while you can’t guarantee that everything you buy will be the best, there are some things you can look for that will make the search easier.

Connectivity

Look at how compatible the device is with your other appliances, your protocol, and your smart hub. Everything needs to work together or there’ll be no fluidity in your smart home.

Setup

Some may not be bothered by a lengthy setup and others will, so it depends on your personal skill level and whether you’re willing to pay for setup. For beginners, you might want something that connects to Wi-Fi and uses battery power, while others will go for a hard-wired device that needs professional installation.

Cost Saving

There are plenty of smart devices that have been made to save money, and if this is one of your goals you’ll want the exact figures. Good brands are able to specify what kind of savings you can expect using their product so go for the most economical where possible.

Positive Feedback

Look for reviews on the company and the specific product. You can check out tech sites and see what other customers say to find out how it will really fit in your home.

Brand

There are some leading brands when it comes to smart stuff and you can generally trust the larger ones. Learn all you can about a brand’s reputation if you haven’t heard of them before, because you’re trusting these devices with your home security.

Warranty

Smart devices are electronics, and you want to know any purchase you made is going to be covered by a warranty period of at least 12 months. The more expensive the item, the longer the warranty should be.

What To Avoid When Buying Smart Home Products

Taking Money From Wallet

Knowing what you want is definitely important, but when you’re buying something like a smart home device there are some things that are definite no-no’s as well. Keep a lookout for anything like this when you’re shopping around and avoid it at all costs if you’re unsure.

Not Secure

In the past, products like webcams and baby monitors have been the victims of hacking. Try to avoid anything that’s going to show your personal surroundings if you’re unsure of the security of a product.

Too Futuristic

Anything that claims it can do crazy things, is probably not telling the truth. People get easily caught up in bold promises about smart devices, so avoid products that seem too good to be true.

High Price

Smart devices are an ever-changing technology and new products are being released all the time. Avoid buying the most expensive just because you think it’ll be the best. There’s a good chance you’ll be replacing it in no time at all.

Unknown Or Suspicious Manufacturer

Your smart devices will connect to your home internet, and that’s a lot of trust to put into a device. Only go with reputable brands that have genuine feedback available to view, otherwise, you could be putting your home and family at risk.

Choosing The Right Devices For A Smarter Home

Smart homes used to be a thing of science fiction, with a kitchen that could cook you your own meals and a car that would drive itself. While we may not be there just yet, there are so many great devices that can really make life a lot easier, and hopefully save you some money in the process.

Starting your smart home transformation will take time, and unless you have a never-ending budget, it’s best to go slow. Learn what things your home needs and then shop based on that so that you don’t end up with too many pointless gadgets.

We’ve already found some of the most efficient and cost saving smart devices around, and even have some helpful buying guides to steer you in the right direction. If you’re ready to take your home into 2019 and beyond, check out our top picks for the best smart devices to help you achieve your dream.

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