These days, smart technology is everywhere. You can get smart versions of just about anything, from your front door to your cooking appliances to your HVAC equipment. If you’re thinking about investing in some smart home technology, this guide will help you get started.
What Is a Smart Home?
A smart home is a home that incorporates one or more smart technologies. That could be something simple like a smart thermostat that automatically adjusts to your preferences or it could involve a whole range of connected devices and technologies to help automate your home’s systems to operate them remotely.
The primary benefit of a smart home is convenience. A fully automated smart home might know when you’re expected home and turn the heat up so it’s warm when you arrive. As you approach, the smart home turns on your porch light and unlocks the door so you don’t have to fish for your keys. Many smart home systems incorporate machine learning, which means the longer you use it, the better it understands your habits and can anticipate your needs.
How Does Smart Home Technology Work?
Smart home devices and appliances generally rely on the internet, using wi-fi signals to connect to your phone, a central hub or other devices. Some solutions are controlled manually through an app, while more sophisticated systems use algorithms to automate just about anything you can think of.
Types of Smart Home Technology Devices
If you want to make your home smarter, there are many types of devices you can consider. Here are just a few:
Smart speakers can refer to connected speakers that allow you to stream and control music and other audio throughout your home. But many of these speakers are designed to connect to and control other devices as well — and that capability is being used by more and more smart home device manufacturers. As a result, smart speakers often serve as de facto smart hubs, letting you use voice commands to control nearly anything in your home.
Smart plugs are a quick and relatively inexpensive way to give your existing appliances some level of smart functionality. Turn them on and off remotely or according to a schedule you can set and adjust easily from your phone or computer, or connect them to a smart speaker and control your appliances with voice commands.
Smart plugs can even help with security when you’re travelling. Plug some lamps, a radio and other non-heat-producing appliances into your smart plugs and have them turn on and off to make it seem like someone’s home.
Smart lighting is another common entry point for people just getting into smart home technology. You can get smart light bulbs that connect directly to your control app or hub, smart switches and dimmers that turn regular light fixtures into smart fixtures, or complete smart lighting systems that don’t need normal switches at all. Depending on the setup you choose, you can adjust the brightness, colour and temperature of your lights, have them come on and off according to a set schedule or other conditions, or just be able to turn them on and off without having to get up and flip the switch (for example, through voice commands). And most smart lights are LED-based, making them more environmentally friendly than standard bulbs.
Programmable thermostats are great, but smart thermostats take savings and convenience to a whole new level. These devices are equipped with presence detectors and machine learning algorithms, so they can provide the heating or cooling your family needs based on when you’re actually home. With the right sensors, some smart thermostats can even deliver heating and cooling to specific areas of your home, depending on where you are. When you really take advantage of their capabilities, smart thermostats can cut down your heating bill by quite a bit.
Smart Locks, Cameras, Doorbells and Garage Door Openers
Smart technology can help you make your home more secure by managing who gets into your home. Smart cameras and doorbells let you monitor activity around your home and see who’s at your door even if you’re away. Smart locks and garage door openers save you the worry of forgetting your keys, and can even enable you to let others in if you’re running late.
Smoke, water leak and carbon monoxide detectors are all very useful — even life-saving — for letting you know something’s wrong. But if all they do is sound an alarm and you’re not home, their usefulness can be diminished. Smart smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors can send alerts to your phone and to other designated contacts, activate emergency lights to help you find the exits, and offer integrated smart speaker features.
Similarly, a smart leak detector can send a phone notification so you can take action even if you’re away. If you also have a smart lock system, you can let someone else — like a licensed plumber — into your home remotely to handle the issue right away and prevent damage.
Smart Home Technology Tips
If you’re ready to start making your home work smarter for you, here are a few tips to get you off on the right foot.
You don’t have to convert your entire home in one shot. Think about what you’d like to be able to do, such as turning your lights on with voice commands, seeing who’s at your door without having to open it or letting your kids in when they forget their keys — or what you’d rather not have to do at all, like worry about your thermostat. That will give you a good starting point for your smart home project.
If you think you might want to eventually connect your whole home, make sure you give some thought to interoperability when choosing your first smart home devices. Not all devices talk to each other and some depend on specific hub systems to work properly. Choosing compatible devices from the start will ensure you can easily build your system out later.
Get a Smart Hub
Some smart home devices work independently, but others work best through a central smart hub. A hub can coordinate multiple devices, accept and carry out instructions for a wide range of tasks, and just generally streamline the management of your home. While you can get a dedicated hub device, most of today’s smart speakers can serve that role and provide additional functionality.
If you don’t have a hub or if a few of your devices aren’t compatible with the hub you have, IFTTT (If This, Then That) is widely supported, which allows you to create additional actions based on set conditions.
Think about privacy
Which system you choose may depend at least in part on how you feel about your data privacy. All smart home devices collect data about your home and the habits of the people who live in it, so there’s really no way to 100% guarantee your privacy. But different companies handle it in different ways, so it’s worth having a close look at the data collection, use and security policies of the companies you’re considering. That way, you can make an informed decision about what you’re comfortable with when it comes to your data.
Invest in Quality Wi-Fi
Most smart devices operate on wi-fi, so to get the most out of them, you need to make sure your network is strong and reliable and reaches every corner of your home. You may need look into signal boosters, extenders or mesh devices to deliver the signal needed to power your smart home devices.
And don’t neglect security. If someone can hack your wi-fi, they can also hack your smart devices. Make sure you have a strong password, and avoid using public or unsecured networks to control your smart devices when you’re away from home.
Let Your Home Take Care of You
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to creating a smart home. If you want some additional guidance on smart technologies, an Enercare Smarter Home®™ technician can get you started with a curated package to take care of the essentials.
You take care of your home — with smart technology, it can return the favour. Fill out the following form if you’d like to chat with us about building the perfect smart home for your needs. One of our team members will get in touch with you soon.
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