Imagine it has been a long and difficult day at work. You come home to find the porch light on and your garage door opens automatically as your car pulls up. Inside the lights are on, temperature is a perfect 72 degrees, your favorite music is playing, pets have been fed and your dinner has been started. Welcome to your smart home!
What is a “smart home”?
“Smart Home” is the term used for a home that has devices such as security systems, lights, thermostats, computers, entertainment systems and even appliances that can communicate with each other and can be controlled from just about anywhere in the world using the Internet, blue tooth and your cell phone. The true smart home will even anticipate your needs. If a device uses electricity it can be put on the network. Smart home technology is available today for not only brand new homes but for older homes as well and for virtually every budget. There are 100s of products to choose from and more are coming to the market daily. There are products that unlock doors as you get close, light bulbs that you can program to change color and brightness, cameras that let you view your home from anywhere in the world and motion detectors that send an alert to your smartphone. Smart home technology is making our lives easier, safer and saving us money by making our homes more energy efficient. Here are a few widely available and relatively inexpensive products that you can install yourself to start you on the road to a smarter home:
One of the simplest and least expensive ways to incorporate smart technology is with a “smart outlet” The The Belkin WeMo Insight Switch, which goes for around $50, is one such device. You simply plug it into any electrical outlet and then plug in your lamp, tv, coffee pot etc. These outlets use your home Wi-Fi network and enable you to use your smartphone to turn the outlet on and off whenever you choose and wherever you are. Are you at the airport and wonder if you turned off the coffee maker? It’s not a problem as long as your coffee maker is plugged into a smart outlet, you can just use the app on your cell phone to turn it off. Belkin also has a motion sensor available for an additional cost that will alert your phone if motion is detected or if it not detected for a period that you can specify. This might be especially valuable to an elderly person living alone and those that care about them.
Home Security is a big reason many people begin to look into smart home technology. The iSmart Alarm has several different packages starting at around $200 which include motion detectors, contact sensors and a panic siren. Your cell phone is alerted if the system detects an intruder.
The Nest Thermostat learns your schedule and automatically adjusts its settings based on your preferences. It also keeps track of your energy usage. You can control the temperature from your smartphone wherever you are so if you are going on vacation you can turn the heat down and save. Nest also makes a security camera and a smoke/CO detector that will alert your phone if it goes off. Many other products work with Nest from keyless door locks to Whirlpool appliances. A Lutron app will turn on the lights if it detects the smoke detector is activated.
For all of the positives of a smart home there are also some negatives. One of the biggest downsides is that the different platforms used by different systems don’t communicate which each other. This means you might need to use several different apps to monitor and connect to your home. Several companies are working on this connectivity issue now. Wink and Samsung’s Smart Things both have several major manufacturers -( Belkin, Honeywell, Sonos, Yale, Logitech for Smart Things and Philips, Honeywell and GE for Wink) who are offering compatibility with their products.
Google ( the owner of Nest) and Apple are also trying to solve the connectivity problem. Both companies are working on creating a common language that any device, no matter who manufactures it, can talk to . Google is using a form of its Android platform and the Apple HomeKit is already built into its iPhone operating system. Right now there is no clear leader in the field so it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few years.