These days, almost everyone wants a smart home. But many would be surprised to learn that the technology has been around for over forty years. In 1975, the X10 made its debut. This apparatus was a communication protocol designed for home automation; via radio frequency bursts, commands were sent to connected devices (an electric wiring system, for example) communicating what it wanted the device to do.
It definitely wasn’t perfect – the most significant barrier was the connection. A considerable amount of “radio-band noise” prevented a smooth conversation. The good news, however, is this is now a distant memory. Smart homes today call upon internet-connected devices frequently controlled by an app or a similar networked device. Nearly anything electronic we own has remote capabilities.
Thermostats, for example, come equipped with Wifi, allowing us to monitor, schedule, and control home temperatures. The best thing about any smart device is they can learn and pick up on homeowner behavior. For example, if you tend to switch on the heat every day at 5:30 PM, a smart thermostat responds and automatically modifies the settings. The same occurs with lighting, security cameras, kitchen appliances, and smart locks.
The smart home is undoubtedly here to stay, but there is a lot that goes into converting a home from the past into a home of the future.
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How Much is a Smart Home System?
The answer to this question is another question – how smart do you want it to be? The most successful people in the world (however you define success) are not necessarily the smartest. So, having the smartest home on your block doesn’t make you any better than Fred and Marjorie two doors down. What a smart home does, however, is make things easier. And that comes at a price.
The most common devices in most smart homes are lighting, motorized blinds, the thermostat, and security cameras. There are others of course, but these are the top sellers and the ones smart homeowners begin with on their road to higher intelligence. Although it’s not always the case, a hub is usually a good place to start. The hub serves as the central control for all your devices, and can be as cheap as $70 on up to $350.
From here, if you move on to door locks, those equipped for remote control are approximately $280 per lock. On to the doorbell, and a video system with a camera, speaker and microphone will run you $200. Motorized window blinds are a popular smart home addition, and per window, the average is $300 to $500. If the typical home has eighteen windows, you’re looking at an investment of $6,000 to $7,000.
As you can see, with everything we’ve listed here, we’re close to $10,000. The good news is that you can start small and add devices according to your budget. The upfront investment is clear, but over time a smart home is typically cheaper to maintain than one without the integrated technology.
Pros and Cons
If you’re a certain age, you’ll likely remember DVD players. After those came BlueRay and a host of other disc operated devices to listen to music, watch movies, etc. At first, they were a bit daunting; it was an entirely different technology than we were used to at the time – cassette tapes. Some resisted, others jumped headfirst, and the masses integrated themselves at a more reasonable pace. The uptake of smart home systems has been occurring in the same manner.
The cons of the system have everything to do with their technical nature. For those who don’t consider themselves techy, smart home devices can seem overly complicated. That perceived complexity hinders engagement, and even when you do purchase those electric blinds, one small hiccup and frustration can set in. It’s understandable because annoyances can occur quite frequently with new technology. So by far, the number one drawback is the initial complexity.
Second, people are very concerned about hackers. Folks are rightly worried, and anything involving placing their home in the hands of “the internet” can be worrisome. It’s important to do your own research into the security guidelines before purchasing and installing any smart home system, as this can help you avoid problems down the road. To learn more about smart home systems and hackers, check out this study conducted by William & Mary college.
Now, on to the benefits. The main perk of an integrated smart home system is user preference. Consider the following scenario: you’ve just gotten off work, and it’s the dead of winter. You’ve been away from your home all day and will be arriving at a virtual ice-box in 45 minutes. All from the comfort of your phone, you can switch on the thermostat, even prep some music on the stereo, perhaps feed your dog via a smart feeder, and upon entering the house, you’ve got a cozy abode ready and waiting.
Another pro is home automation. As we touched on earlier, automation improves efficiency. A smart thermostat and irrigation system are controlled down to the second. This ensures no energy gets wasted warming, cooling, or watering unnecessarily. Improved efficiency equates to more money in your bank account, and that’s an obvious win no matter how you slice it.
And lastly, if you have someone who is elderly in your home, a smart home is exceptionally advantageous. Remote health monitoring is big business, and the technology behind it is rapidly advancing. It can allow you to save money on home care while also giving you and your family peace of mind. Smart homes possess the capability of monitoring and alerting you when something is wrong, so you’ll never have to worry about missing an emergency.
Does a Smart Home Increase Value?
In a word – yes. A host of real estate firms have engaged in studies over home values with smart home technology compared to those without. Potential buyers are clamoring for voice control, interested in functionality, cool features, hands-free control, and location flexibility. Real estate professionals like to point to things like smart lighting options to show potential buyers in person.
These are the types of features that bring that “wow” reaction to life. And security is also another plus. Folks will pay beyond the fair market value of the smart security system if they see it in action and know they don’t have to go through the installation process and any headaches that come with it.
A smart home more than anything gives agents exciting talking points with potential buyers. It offers buyers a way to differentiate one house from another, and gadgets sell, no matter the demographic.
How Do I Make My Home a Smart Home?
The first step is to start with a device that suits your daily needs and lifestyle. Again, you can go big or small, or somewhere in between. TVs and remotes can be a logical first step to becoming a fully integrated smart home. Your home theater is likely much smarter than the rest of your house, so bringing it up to speed is not all that difficult nor pricey. The other advantage of starting with TVs and remotes is they can later serve as devices to control other smart additions in conjunction with the hub.
One of those frequent smart home additions controlled by the remote is lights. Smart home lights will change the entire ambiance of the home. Planning when lights come on, the brightness levels, and even colors are all possible with smart bulbs. There are also triggers that turn the lights on or off based on weather changes.
Once the entertainment system and the lights are in place, many will navigate toward the thermostat. In line with the lights, a smart home thermostat can heat or cool your home based on your personalized preferences at exact times during the day. It doesn’t matter if you are at home or somewhere far away, your thermostat receives controls via your smartphone (or communication with your hub). Those vacation getaways just got a whole lot sweeter!
Lastly, there’s the security system. In conjunction with smart locks, the security system is the granddaddy of them all. Cameras are simply a component, as there are companies like Abode, for example, that allow for self-monitoring while you’re away and locks with fingerprint recognition. You can even program a friend’s fingerprint for a set amount of time if you go out of town.
Do I Need a Hub?
To boil it down – a hub is a minicomputer. It’s the middleman (or woman), taking in communication from smart devices and pushing out notification via its multitude of signals. A hub connects to your home network (Internet), and through your smartphone, you can send commands. With this said, we’re going to throw a wrench into this equation. A hub is great, but you don’t necessarily need one to have a smart home.
Digital assistants such as Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa can now take on many of the same tasks that hubs do. These devices call on the cloud as a place to connect to similar authorized devices. This connection eliminates the go-between and forms virtual bridges. Now, this all sounds great, but how do you know if you should buy a hub or not?
At a very sophisticated level, hubs will give you more flexibility at a higher smart home scale. If you have your thermostat and the sprinkler system set up and that’s it, no hub is necessary. But if you want to wake up at six, trigger the lights to come on at 6:03, kick out some Beyonce at 6:05, brew coffee from 6:06 to 6:15, and have the shades up to let the morning sun come in, a hub is your best bet.
There is a ton of wizardry involved, and that is where the real value of a hub comes in. People generally start with hubs because once you begin with that first smart home accessory, the next two, three, six, ten, or fifteen are just around the corner.
To Sum It Up…
We’ve all got different lifestyle needs. If you’re reading this from a camper van in Alaska, eating out of a tuna can and pondering whether to kill an elk or simply forage today, a smart home might not be in the cards.
But for others, a smart home makes a lot of sense. On the practical side, there are savings. These come not only from using energy more efficiently (and thus paying less to energy providers), but they also arrive in the form of a higher resale value of a property.
And obviously, smart homes are just more fun. You’re controlling devices via hubs and smartphones, which allows you to have your house humming and heating at all the right times. You’ve got the music you want at precisely the moment you want it, and the house is super secure with a state-of-the-art security system. All of these things are wonderful, and it’s easy to see why so many people are jumping on the smart home bandwagon. But before you join them, make sure to carefully consider both your budget and lifestyle before taking the plunge.
Check out our article on getting started with security systems to learn more about smart devices and security.