With all the new technologies and faster internet, the idea of a smart home is now more accessible and affordable than ever.
However, what actually is the concept of smart home? How much will you need to turn your house into a smart one? Do you need a professional to help you? Here, we will try to answer those questions, along with the types of smart home devices you should know.
Let us begin by discussing the idea of the smart home.
What Actually Is a Smart Home?
How can we define a house as “smart”? While the idea of smart homes have evolved along with the advancement in technology, generally the concept is always about automation.
It’s not the house itself that is automated, but rather the devices and appliances connected in it. Nowadays, in this age of Internet of Things (IoT), the automation is achieved by connecting the devices and appliances to the internet over WiFi, where we can achieve at least three different types of automation:
- Smart scheduling: the devices act according to a programmed schedule. For example, a smart lamp will turn off after 11 AM every day. This can be considered the lowest form of smart home automation, usually the scheduling is programmed through an app, which can be controlled over a PC or mobile devices.
- Sensor-based: the smart appliance will trigger its actions based on data received through various sensors (motion, temperature, sound, etc.). For example, a refrigerator equipped with a smart thermostat will turn itself off after the thermostat detected a certain temperature, and will turn itself back on when the temperature is above the threshold. Another example is when the house will turn on the light (and say a welcome message) when the owner’s phone is connected to the home Wi-Fi.
- Remote control: the homeowner or other user can control appliances without touching the actual device. This can be achieved through a phone app or smart home assistants (Amazon Alexa, Samsung SmartThings, Google Home, etc.)
Another important aspect of a smart home nowadays is information. The house (or rather, the appliances and sensors inside the house) can provide data to the homeowner when he/she is away from home. A good example of this is how a smart security camera or smart doorbell can send a video information to the owner’s mobile phone through an app when it detected an intruder.
Smart Home Devices and How They Work
Here are some of the important appliances that can make up a smart home, and what they actually do:
The most basic, and often the most affordable way to transform any appliances in your home into a “smart device”. The smart plug is connected to your home Wi-Fi and can be controlled through a mobile app. So, any appliance connected to the plug can be controlled through the app. Often, the app will also provide a smart scheduling feature for automation purpose.
Probably the most important investment if you decide to invest in a smart home. Lighting cost is often the most significant aspect of your utility bill, and first, all smart lights are LEDs which is very energy-efficient. Second, the smart automation scheduling can further improve cost-efficiency.
Smart lights are usually controlled through a smart home hub like Amazon Alexa or Apple HomeKit, so it’s also important to consider support/integration to your preferred systems (will be discussed below).
Smart Home Hub
A smart home hub is essentially the main controller of the smart home, where your smart devices are connected in, and thus can communicate with each other. Your smart home hub will dictate your appliance choices, since some devices are only compatible with certain hubs. The notable choices nowadays are Samsung Smartthings, Apple HomeKit, Google Home, and Amazon Echo, but there are also less well-known brands that can function well (while being more affordable). It’s also important that nowadays, a smartphone can almost completely replace a dedicated smart home hub.
A smart security camera is connected to your smartphone through the internet. Usually it is equipped with motion sensors (and sound sensors) so when it detected any movement, the camera will send a notification to your phone. Can be integrated with other smart home devices like smart locks (so it will unlock your door when it detected a registered face) and smart doorbells.
In many ways, a smart doorbell offers similar functions to smart security cameras. When someone pushes the button, the smart doorbell (which can include a built-in camera or integrated with a smart security camera) will send a notification to your phone. You can then lock or unlock the door via the smartphone app if the doorbell has a built-in lock or integrated with a smart lock system (discussed below).
The smart doorbell can also act as an intercom, so this can be a viable solution if you can’t get to your door quickly.
The core feature of a smart lock is—as the name suggests— allowing you to unlock or lock your door from a smartphone app. Can be integrated with various smart devices like security cameras, doorbells, or even smart lights (so the lights will turn on immediately when the door is unlocked).
A connected smart thermostat’s core feature is to control your HVAC devices, including refrigerators. You can remotely set the temperature in your house using a smartphone app, or it can turn on and off HVAC appliances.
Smart Light Switch
Installing smart light switches can be a more affordable option if you need a lot of light bulbs—and thus replacing all of these bulbs with smart LED lights can be costly—. A smart light switch can be connected to several bulbs, and can be controlled via a smartphone app or via a smart scheduling.
Smart home devices are now fairly affordable, and most of them are relatively easy to install so you can do it yourself. However, some installations like smart light switches will require basic electrical expertise, and if you need help, you can contact us immediately where our team of friendly professionals can assist you.