Your Ultimate Guide to a Smarter Home
Smart home technology isn’t just a novelty anymore. People increasingly view smart technology as an essential part of modern home ownership. Prospective home buyers are no exception, and have turned smart home technology from a trend into a requirement.
An overwhelming majority of millennial homebuyers will pay more for houses that have smart home systems. However, you don’t have to be a millennial (or be selling your home to one) to take an interest in smart home technology. Smart home systems benefit everyone willing to take the plunge.
The advantages of smart home technology are numerous. It can make your home more environmentally friendly, save considerable amounts of money, and it brings unprecedented levels of convenience to household tasks. What’s more, smart home systems are easy to implement into your home with a little know-how.
We’ve put together a comprehensive guide for making your home smarter with some of today’s most exciting technology. Let’s learn how to turn your current house into the smart home of the future.
Different Forms of Smart Home Technology
Most smart home technology relies on the Internet of Things, or IoT. The acronym refers to a growing number of common objects with embedded computers that receive and transmit information across a network. The devices utilize networking protocols, like ZigBee or Z-Wave, to make your home truly interconnected.
ZigBee is an inexpensive, low-power networking technology that offers several advantages for smart home technology. The protocol helps power popular items like the Nest Learning Thermostat and Philips Hue smart lightbulbs. ZigBee also works on different radio frequencies, meaning it can avoid conflicts with other technology (WiFi, in particular).
At 915 MHz, it’s limited to 40 kbps of data, but also consumes considerably less power than its 2.4 GHz setting. Though at 2.4 GHz you can get up to 250 kbps of data, with a downfall of operating on the same band as your WiFi router.
Still, being able to choose a frequency speed gives users flexibility. The only issue with ZigBee is its limited 35 foot range, but that can be extended with mesh technology.
Similar to ZigBee, Z-Wave powers many less conventional smart home products, such as smart garage door openers and smart locks. It avoids potential WiFi problems by using low-frequency radio waves to transmit information between devices. Z-Wave devices also tend to cost more than ZigBee devices, because Z-Wave is licensed as opposed to open-source.
Z-wave’s last drawback is that the protocol is slower than ZigBee, with a maximum speed of 100 kbps. However, Z-Wave makes up for these inconveniences with an operating range of over 300 feet between two singular devices.
While ZigBee and Z-Wave are the big two, they aren’t the only networking options for smart home technology. WeMo devices use an innovative solution that utilizes your existing WiFi infrastructure to create their own network.
The devices use large amounts of energy because of their WiFi connection, and so most are hardwired and don’t rely on battery power. Devices like dimmer switches and smart plugs are the company’s more popular offerings.
Thread represents a newer protocol that adapts to handle both internet-compatible devices and devices that don’t use WiFi. It’s able to handle various battery operated devices, and can overlap support with the ZigBee protocol.
Lastly, there’s Bluetooth, which offers a long range, low energy protocol called Bluetooth Mesh. Its low transmission rate doesn’t lend itself to devices that use heavy data (like video), but a range of 300 feet makes it excellent for products you’ll need to control from distance—like alarm systems or garage doors.
Before you purchase smart home systems, you’ll want a centralized way to control them. Smart hubs are the best way to control multiple devices, but be advised, not all hubs are created equal. For example, Samsung’s SmartThings can connect with a large number of smart gadgets. On the other hand, Logitech products offer excellent value at lower price points, and make excellent hubs for home theatres.
Further, always remember that compatibility is key when choosing a smart hub. Select a hub that works with the smart devices you want, and the network protocol they use. It’s also important to consider that certain hubs work with different voice assistants. Hubs like the Wink Hub 2 and SmartThings offer support for multiple voice assistants, giving you more flexibility.
While voice assistants aren’t necessary for smart homes, they’re a nice convenience. The virtual assistants can control your lights, thermostat, or even your TV. Google’s Assistant and Home, and Amazon’s Alexa are the two current frontrunners for voice assistants. Alexa currently boasts an impressive variety of skills and compatibility with a large range of third-party devices, while Google’s existing ecosystem makes the Home a prime candidate for a fast-growing user base.
Choosing Smart Devices
There are thousands of smart home devices out there, so choosing the right technology for your home can feel overwhelming. Don’t worry, though; we’ve narrowed down the best choices so you don’t have to.
Philips Hue Smart Lighting
Philips Hue provides an easy way to start your smart home adventure. Hue includes standard smart lighting features like smartphone control, and also the ability to set a schedule that turns your lights on and off when you’re not home. The random lighting can help deter criminals from identifying an empty home.
The Philips Hue also allows you to choose from a spectrum of colors numbering over 16 million. You’ll never have to worry about mood lighting again.
Smart thermostats are more than just convenient—they’re big money savers. A smart thermostat can optimize your HVAC system for efficient heating and cooling. They also learn your routines and turn off your system when you’re not home. Nest is still the biggest name in smart thermostat technology, but companies like Hive and Ecobee are quickly catching up.
Smart home technology can protect your home from more than just burglars. Using devices like the D-Link WiFi Water Sensor you can detect leaks quickly and fix them before any damage occurs. The sensor connects to a cable that can send a signal to your phone if it detects water. This allows you to know about any potential flooding as soon as a leak occurs.
Remote Control Shades
Smart shades let you control your curtains remotely, and can even be programmed to open and shut on a schedule. Though the shades get quite expensive, a spectrum of options means there’s something for every budget.
Smart Home Apps
The more smart home systems you install, the more energy you’ll use. Energy saving apps like Benefyd can help control this issue. Benefyd asks questions about your energy usage, and then develops a plan to make the most of your utility budget. The app makes it easy for homeowners to monitor, and lower, their monthly utility budgets.
Keep it Simple
When you’re looking for smart home systems, start with the basics. First choose a network protocol, then pick a compatible hub and shop for the products you’re interested in. Look for devices that both cut down your expenses and make everyday tasks easier.
Refer to this guide often, and you’ll find upgrading your home is easy. Smart home systems are the future, and the future is now.