The Connected Home - What Smart Devices Are Essential?

Is your home smart? That is, can you remotely control your appliances, thermostat, lights and other devices with the touch of your cell or tablet? “A smart home is a home that is equipped with features that allow it to be controlled and monitored through technology,” explained Walter Bennett, a handyman from Dallas, Texas. “A smart home can provide insights into the user's activity and provide information about the home environment. These benefits can make life easier for the user and help improve their home's efficiency.”

Smart homes allow you to control parts of your daily life through digital devices and software. Many “believe that smart homes will become increasingly common because they offer many benefits,” said Bennett. “For instance, they can help people save energy and money and make our lives easier by automating tasks.”

Smart devices can also provide security. Things like motion detectors and security cameras discourage others from trespassing and can protect your home from theft or vandalism. Smart homes ultimately improve your lifestyle, allowing you to simplify tasks, stay connected and entertain guests with just a touch of the screen or merely the sound of your voice.

About 37 percent of U.S. homes own such devices, according to Statista, with smart home sales potentially hitting $47 billion by 2025. Are you connected yet? If not, here’s six essential things every homeowner should consider:

connected home operated by cell phone

Photo by Moritz Kindler/Unsplash

Smart Thermostat Can Save Homeowners Money

A smart thermostat can reduce electric bills significantly, according to Bennett. It will automatically adjust your temperature by regulating your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), which can save you money. Smart thermostats can learn your household patterns, and can tell if the house is unoccupied and make accommodations.

“A smart thermostat can be controlled using an app on your phone,” explained Edward Jones, managing editor and founder of the home improvement and garden publication, HomeCareHow. “… There are ones that will also notify you if there are any problems with your home’s temperature.”

smart home thermostat
Photo by Dan Lefebvre/Unsplash

Smart Lighting Brightens Your Life When Needed

With smart lighting, your lights will automatically adjust your lights depending on the time of day or even while you’re participating in certain activities such as watching TV or reading.

You can also conserve electricity by installing smart light bulbs. This allows you to activate the motion sensors so that you can instruct the smart light bulbs to switch on and off automatically without human intervention. You can also use Wi-Fi for control and accessibility.

Tristan Perry, owner of Smart Home Point, a website and YouTube channel, also said that smart lighting allows you to adjust color temperatures to match the time of day to improve mood and sleep.

“In the past decade, more and more electronic gadgets (including smart phones) have started to include ‘night light’ (or ‘blue light’) type features, which change the color of a screen to a more yellow-color instead of the bright white/blue light,” he said. “This is based on the increased awareness that having too much white/blue light in the evening and night time can impact people's ability to sleep, and by extension their overall mood.”

connected home lock security system

Photo by Sebastian Scholz Nuki/Unsplash

Smart Security Systems Keep You Safe

Smart locks can help you save money on your energy bill and time by remotely locking or unlocking your door. Smart security systems can detect intruders, loud noises or unusual activity and send alerts to your cell phone. A smart security camera, for instance, can connect to your home WiFi and provide a live feed of what’s happening. Some systems will even alert you if there’s unexpected activity.

Smart doorbells like the Ring have become popular, offered Perry, and allows homeowners the ability to speak with visitors and delivery couriers without opening the door.

Smart Appliances Reduce Your Energy Use

Smart appliances like smart irons, toasters, or coffee makers can help you save energy by reducing their energy.

If you aren’t in the market for new appliances, a smart plug can upgrade them. “It will allow you to control your items while you’re away through your smartphone,” said Jones.

Smart home device

Photo by Thomas Kolnowski/Unsplash

Can You DIY a Smart Home?

There are some potential pitfalls when creating a smart home, including integration with other devices and platforms, lack of interoperability and security concerns, according to Bennett. Some people are also unfamiliar with the technology needed to make their homes smarter.

“Traditionally, people have needed to hire someone to put in smart appliances,” said Bennett. “This is because the installation process can be complex and requires a degree in electrical or electronics engineering.” As technology developed though, smart appliances became easier to install. Most smart appliances come with an app or a website for users to use when setting up their devices, and the hardware is typically easy to install, as long as the required wiring and other installation components are present.

Some jobs are best left to professionals. Luke Lee, managing partner of Ever Wallpaper, advised  that, “You will need technical knowledge and skills to install smart thermostats and smart light bulbs efficiently and effectively.” Experts can inspect your HVAC systems, for instance, and they can add C-wires if needed. They can also move the location of the smart thermostat.

Are Smart Devices Secure?

There are also concerns about the devices that run your home’s daily functions breaking down or becoming compromised. Leonard Ang, CEO of iPropertyManagement Leasing, has heard horror stories about people becoming locked out of their homes when the smart lock stops functioning — for instance, if the Wi-Fi or power goes down. He suggested combatting these issues by keeping tech support information in an accessible place so you can reset the lock — and some smart locks have backup physical keys as well. It is also good to keep an analog-only place to enter your home, such as a back or cellar door, or a window.

The possibility of hacking can worry people, said Patrick Sinclair, founder of All Home Robotics. “It's POSSIBLE to hack ALL devices connected to a network; it's just not probable,” he said. While turning your lights on and off constantly to bother a homeowner might amuse a hacker, it’s really not worth the effort.

One way to combat hacking, according to Perry, is to stick with trusted companies. Big U.S. companies mostly sell smart home products, he said, pointing out that Amazon owns the camera-doorbell, Ring, for example. “So if people stay with fairly well known smart home brands that puts them in a better position to prevent hacking than if they buy loads of no-brand smart products.”

Feature photo by Thomas Kolnowski/Unsplash

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