What is a smart home and how do you make it? How does it improve your house/life?
A smart home is a set of technical solutions that aim to make life more comfortable, simpler and safer. A smart house or apartment is equipped with a number of devices that use the latest electronic technologies to control and automate different tasks normally handled by humans.
The pros and cons of smart homes
Control and managing
One of the big advantages of smart homes is that you can manage all devices from one place: – your phone. You only need one app with many functions. Comfort has definitely a key role in creating a smart environment in your home. You can turn light and music on and off by voice commands or with the help of sensors. Easy handling is also a great help for disabled people as well.
There are some alarm systems on the market to protect your property, to look after your family and make your home safer. In general these devices scare a potential burglar off.
Baby cams or dog cams are also very helpful. You can check that everything is all right with your sleeping children without disturbing them, and in case of a pet cam you don’t have to have any worries about your furry friend.
Saving energy and costs
For most owners the driving force behind creating a smart home is saving energy and money with the smart home systems. Building a smart home is expensive at first, however, in the long run it saves a lot of cost. If you can control remotely what temperature your home should have while you are away for a trip, or sitting in your office and working, it will definitely have a big impact on your utility bill.
Smart homes are considered to be disadvantaged by their dependence on the Internet and the need for professionals to build and maintain them. However, this can be to the advantage of the owners as they can always be sure that they can live in a safe home that meets the modern standards. Professionals keep up with the constantly evolving technology of this field thus helping to keep the smart home updated.
What do you need to make a smart home?
The meaning of smart home is constantly expanding. It began with smaller changes, but today almost everything became smart: multimedia devices, lawn mowers, refrigerators, etc.
Most of the smart home tools have their own apps to control their functions. What they have in common is that all devices can be used as stand-alone units. The user can’t make any changes to the system which also means they can’t ruin the whole system and the energy saving and comfort levels. With Wi-Fi communication a lot of information can be carried, but its disadvantage is the significant power requirement of devices, so usually they need a main power source.
How do you protect your devices?
Internet-connected devices are becoming cheaper and more accessible to everyone. These tools make our lives easier, but unfortunately caught the attention of online criminals too which poses a security risk. Once they have their way into your network these people with malicious intent can have access personal information or through the connected network they can spy on you and your family.
To avoid this there are some steps you can take:
The first is to change the default network, internet and individual device password and enter a new one. It’s also useful to create a new code from time to time.
Then, you should enable two-step authentication which is an extra security system added to your account even if your account has its own password.
For a better safety it is also important to upgrade and update your devices. The newer a device is, the more advanced its security system and constant software updates filter out and fix security vulnerabilities.
By using a VPN (short for Virtual Private Network), you can ensure that your computer can no longer be tracked.
Where to start?
New home constructions are already being built with smart infrastructure, however, even with old buildings, it is possible to turn them into smart houses.
Professionals recommend you should go step by step from smaller, simpler products (light bulb, smart thermostat) to more complex and mostly high-cost products (door and window control system, complete lighting system), because it can happen that you don’t like the system of your first smart product and you switch to another manufacturer.
Another important task is to decide, which control system you choose – The three big smart home systems are Alexa, Google Assistant and HomeKit.
Alexa is a product of Amazon, probably the most widespread digital helper. It works with the Alexa app and with an echo speaker for voice commands.
Google Assistant is for Android powered smart homes. It has also a speaker which is called “Assistant” and an application as well from which devices can be controlled remotely with a smartphone.
HomeKit is Apple’s smart ecosystem. Its smart assistant is Siri and works with Apple products. The smart speaker is called HomePod and the assistant is activated with the words “Hey, Siri”.
Which are the best/well-known/most sold products?
Among smart speakers and displays the Amazon Echo family and Google Nest products are customer’s favorite and most recommended ones. They have an attractive neat design and you can choose from different types to find the product best suits your needs.
Smart TV’s are not just TV’s – they are entertainment centers for the whole family. You can surf on the internet, play games and learn on the biggest screen of the whole household. The most popular ones are the LG OLED, Samsung smart LED and Philips LED devices.
Security and safety
Cameras are probably the best-selling smart safety products. The market leaders in this field are Ring and Arlo. Arlo Ultra for example can take real 4K video recordings, has a zoom technology, a motion tracking technology, color vision and is completely wireless. The 5-piece alarm security kit of Ring includes a base station, a keypad, a contact sensor, a motion sensor and a range extender which makes it a perfect starter kit for smaller homes.
Another well-known group of security gadget is smart bells, like the product range of RemoBell, NestHello, Ring and Arlo Doorbell. Smart bells show real time view of the space in front of your front door, so they give not only an extra protection from a possible burglary, but thanks to the built-in microphone you can even pick up a package while working.
The 2nd generation smoke and carbon monoxide detectors of Nest are real life savers. They can distinguish between steam and smoke but they alert you through the app immediately in case of there is an emergency in your home.
One of the best door locking systems are from Weiser. Their products are available in different finishes and with their keyless entry and remote access possibilities you never have to worry about forgetting to lock your door.
Nest thermostats are controllable by phone. There are 2 main types, one can learn your temperature preferences, the other one not, but you can add everything manually. The big difference is their price: the first one is double the price.
Wi-Fi enabled smart thermostats of Ecobee work with a room sensor and can really do a lot for energy savings. These ENERGY STAR® certified small devices learn your routine and gives recommendations for heating and cooling in your home.
Lights and plugs
The most popular light devices are Yeelight smart bulbs, the Philips Hue series and Lutron’s switches. All of them are cost and energy efficient helpers in creating a smart home.
Lutron’s switches are easy-to-install replacements of traditional switches, extend bulb life and allow the light sources in the house to adapt to the light conditions outside.
Philips Hue smart lights are especially loved because the adjustable colors and intensity of the lamps can make every moment special. For having this you only need to install a hue bulb, connect bridge and download the app.
For devices in our homes that are not smart yet you can use smart plugs to make them remotely automatized. Smart outlets of Belkin’s WeMo and TP-Link are well-known and affordable gadgets to monitor energy usage. There is a great range of models with voice control and even with energy monitoring.
With the Wi-Fi precision cooker from Anova you can control the cooking process from anywhere with your phone and it guarantees perfect results with an extremely easy way of use.
Because cleaning is not a favorite task for most people Roborock and iRobot Roomba hoovers are real hits. The small devices clean the whole house without human interaction and when they are ready with working, they get back to their station for charging and with the automatic dirt disposal they can even empty themselves.
Smart refrigerators – just like LG’s SmartThinQ range – are able to identify the contents of your fridge and helping you make more accurate purchases at the groceries. They also play a significant role in reducing energy by setting the right temperature and learning how to use it.
Not only refrigerators but also stoves are available in smart configuration: You can control temperature and cooking remotely and most of them have special cooking features as well for a much more precise cooking experience. Front runners on the smart stove market are Bosch, LG and Siemens products.
Moen smart faucets brings using of tap water to another level. You can control water with your voice or hand movements in different ways and you can get the exact temperature and volume you need.
Real connoisseurs can even purchase a smart smoker from Bradley Smoker to make their favorite meat and cheese dishes. With the help of the application, they can even remotely check the temperature and smoke level required for a perfect result.
Nanit Plus is the number one smart baby monitor. With its great image quality, sleep tracking and breathing monitor they’re very useful features for parents.
Motorola Halo is an easy setup baby monitor with a handheld monitor. It has soothing lullabies, multi-color night-lights, motion detection and a sharp camera.
The Owlet monitor Duo is a one of a kind device for the safety of your baby. With the smart sock you can track heart rate, oxygen level and sleep trends, but its camera offers HD video as well to get a complete picture
The security camera Arlo has also one device for toddlers: Arlo Baby. The cute looking baby monitor have multi-colored night-lights and can play lullabies and can detect motion and sound.
The US company, Worx’ smart lawn mowers are light-weight, quality products that are easy to assemble. They do a great job mowing grass and some models are also equipped with a mulching feature as well.
Watering the lawn by hand is a tiring and time consuming work. With underground sprinkler systems you can save money and water but have a beautiful green landscape around your home. And good news – it’s really easy to make them smart, because you can use the existing water system and wiring. Smart systems of Rachio or Orbit monitor weather, soil conditions and the water use of plants to schedule watering to the actual conditions. Their system operates on your Wi-Fi network through an app and some models even through Alexa.
If you want to keep an eye on your fur baby, Furbo Dog Camera can be a great choice. You can talk and let toss treats to your dog from anywhere and the devices alerts you if your pet is barking or in case of any home emergencies.
Wireless Whiskers is a very advanced pet feeder, who can separate allowances for more pets. It monitors which animal is in front of the bowl, which helps a lot in case of you have animals on special diets.
PetSafe is a pet feeder for dry and semi-moist food run on Alexa. You can ask your Echo device to feed your cat or dog even if you’re not at home, and you can schedule feeding times on your smartphone.
With Petzi you can even take pictures, or with PetCube you can check your pet through a wide angle camera while you’re away.
Water damage is one of the highest home insurance claim, but if the leakage can be detected in time, you can reduce damage and costs as well. You have to place the sensor in a location where there is a risk of water leakage, e.g. by the washing machine or at the bathroom. In case of danger, the sensor usually warns you with an LED light and sound signal, and sends you an alarm to your smartphone.
Fibaro is one of the market leaders of this field. The Fibaro Sensor is a wireless water leak detector that also has a built-in temperature sensor.
Another great choice is the whole product range of Alertlabs. The Canadian company offers many different options for smart sensors, valves and water monitoring systems for homeowners, companies, schools, restaurants, etc.
What happens when the internet stops working?
The fact that certain parts of the house can be controlled remotely and automatically does not preclude traditional functions. However, some features can’t work without internet connections.
What happens in the event of a power failure? Is the system still running? Are the settings retained?
In case of devices with little power consumption, an uninterruptible power supply, is used for the systems – the same as in computers. Uninterruptible power supplies can be purchased in a variety of capacities, so devices can work for hours or even days without power.
If there is no signal strength and therefore no mobile internet and no Wi-Fi, can I control the system via a computer?
Yes, if the computer you’re using has a stable internet with an Ethernet cable, you can control your smart system without any problem by logging into your account.
Data connection is necessary to the remote access. If your smart phone or the hub device connected to the smart home network, the system could be still controlled.
What is a smart home?
A smart home refers to a convenient home setup where appliances and devices can be automatically controlled remotely from anywhere with using a mobile or another networked devices with internet connection. In some cases, the building is built from the outset to be a smart home. Some newer houses are built from the start to be a smart home. In these cases the home is designed for that and all the smart devices are installed by a professional.
How to start with a smart home?
It is advisable to consult with a professional for this, perhaps some installations are required in advance. But in general you only have to choose a device that you like and install it.
Which smart device should I buy first?
Different devices can make your life easier, safer, and more comfortable or save you some money. Choose the product that best meets your expectations about smart homes.