When you think about how to build your smart home, you need to make four early decisions: Do you want a simple or a sophisticated system? Do you want a system that is designed for comfort? Or do you want one that emphasizes safety in the house? The articles linked in the previous three questions will help you to answer them. In this story, we answer a fourth important question, along with a related question: would you like to do the work yourself or hire a specialist? And if you use the DIY approach and include security features, would you like a professional to oversee them?
Manufacturers of smart home devices have made it extremely easy to do the work themselves, even if you are not an enthusiast. But there is something to say for hiring a professional. It's no different than designing your own garden or hiring a landscaper to decorate your home or consult with an interior designer.
Professional surveillance services can call first responders on your behalf if a burglary occurs with some systems having a fire alarm. They are available with both DIY and professionally installed systems. We examine the pros and cons of each approach and help you decide which one to use for your environment, comfort and readiness to get your hands dirty.
Smart Home veterans are familiar with this option as it was the only one available in the early days of smart home technology. In short, this first approach involves the purchase of smart home equipment – either in the form of a kit, such as the iDevices Smart Home Essentials Starter Kit (which includes a variety of Wi-Fi-based indoor and outdoor units and lighting products). or buy a smart home hub, such as Samsung SmartThings, and add compatible devices piece by piece.
The advantage of the DIY approach is that you only pay for what you need. If you want smart lighting in several places in the house, with a Philips Hue starter kit you get two to four bulbs in color or white and the bridge you need to control. Philips has recently added a number of outdoor luminaires to the series. And if you decide later that you want to add more lights, or you want to extend your network with smart plugs, door locks, or something else, you can do so simply by buying and installing additional devices.
Because you're not # 39; s trapped on a particular platform, you can buy and combine different gear brands instead of having to return to the original seller and its walled garden every time. If you want to use a language assistant, such as Google Home or Amazon Alexa, to control your equipment, most vendors also allow it.
That is, if you add more than one Smart Home item – more than just smart bulbs for example – you should start with a well-rounded hub that supports many third-party smart home devices. Although a hub is not essential, it offers the convenience of a single app to control everything – there is only one interface to master, unlike one for each product family.
Our current top picks, Samsung SmartThings and Wink Hub 2, are replete with features They offer hundreds of smart home devices from a variety of vendors an out-of-the-box support and are constantly expanding that support through push updates. Even if you only want a single security camera or a smart speaker, it makes sense to add a hub to your network. Once the smart home bug bites, you do not want to start over with other hardware. And if you accumulate a lot of equipment before investing in a hub, you'll find that adding the hub back into the network is much more complex than adding it.
This approach works Naturally, you have a drawback, as you've probably noticed while reading the last few paragraphs. Configuring your own hub and adding devices piece by piece is the most complicated way to set up a smart home environment. While hubs like Wink and SmartThings have made great strides in simplifying the user experience, this experience can not be fully controlled by them when third-party devices come into play.
You will not know how easy it is to add one specific device on the network – and in my experience it can often be rocky – and if you get into trouble, you may need assistance from the Hub provider and the device manufacturer. I do not want to overstate the problem, but if you're a tech novice and need a lot of hands, the DIY approach could be a challenge you just do not want to deal with.
: This is the most cost-effective and flexible approach for the smart home, but also puts most of the time and know-how demand.
Self installation, professional surveillance
If you feel comfortable with your own equipment, but you want to have the peace of mind that comes with the knowledge that a person monitors the security aspects of their smart home around the clock, you or the police can contact if a burglary is suspected options. In some cases, the equipment you buy will be similar or even the same as the hardware we've already discussed, but you'll pay a subscription fee for services.
Security monitoring is optional with some smart home systems, including Samsung SmartThings, as it is with some security-focused packages like Ring Alarm and SimpliSafe, which do not offer smart key elements at all. Professional monitoring is a compulsory element of some other DIY options – Frontpoint is an example that TechHive editors have experience with – and a surveillance plan is part of your shopping. If professional monitoring is important to you, make sure that it is available with the product you want to buy. Wink, for example, does not offer professional monitoring with any of his packages, including his safety-related Wink Lookout package.
You also want to evaluate how open any system is: some companies maintain walled gardens where you can only add their branded equipment, while others run certification programs that license third-party accessory compatibility or at least verify. It is rare to find a service provider offering a monitored security service that supports an any-goes approach in this regard.
The cost of professional surveillance typically includes a cellular backup service for the central hub, so if your power and / or broadband service is running out (unless, as with SmartThings, the hub does not support a mobile backup), your system will stay with you connected to the internet. But it can be very difficult to compare prices. That's because some service providers, such as Frontpoint, subsidize hardware costs and make those costs over time by signing a long-term contract. This is not necessarily a bad thing because you do not have to pay for everything in advance, but it can make it difficult to determine how much it really costs.
Ring's optional professional surveillance service may be the cheapest on the market for 10 months, a price that includes cloud storage for an unlimited number of ring surveillance cameras. This is a monthly contract that you can cancel at any time, but Ring Alert currently does not support smart home devices (aside from the lights on some of its surveillance cameras). Nest Labs charges US $ 29 per month for professional monitoring of its Nest Secure system and lowers it to $ 19 per month if you sign a three-year contract. Nest Secure is also somewhat limited in terms of support for smart home devices, although it supports a smart lock. The professional monitoring of an Iris by Lowe system costs $ 14.95 a month without a long-term contract. Of these three, Iris by Lowe & # 39; s supports a variety of smart home products, but is not one of our favorite systems.
Conclusion: : With a monitored system, you get more security and you can save a lot of money by installing the device yourself. However, make sure that the system supports all of the smart home features you want, and make sure that you understand the terms and limitations of each contract you want to sign.
Professional installation and monitoring
You can Get the best of both worlds: A sophisticated smart home with professional surveillance that you do not need to lift your finger to install or service. Just call a service provider and they'll send you a technician to do everything for you.
This segment of the industry has grown rapidly in recent years with Vivint (Vivint Smart Home), ADT (ADT Pulse) and Comcast (Xfinity Home) among the largest nationwide players. While these services are not as costly as the build-to-order smart home systems that people like Control4, Savant, and Elan bring into the homes of movie stars, professional athletes, and other celebrities, they're not as customizable as they are these systems. They choose from a limited selection of products that, with a few exceptions, such as the hub and / or the control panel, do not differ significantly from the DIY solutions discussed. And you probably will not know how much it will cost – before and every month – until you get the full-court press from a salesperson.
After all, you're also expected to sign a contract, and like a cable box, you may not own the equipment you're paying for. Cancel the contract and you will receive a premature termination fee. Do not renew the contract and the system will come to a standstill, even if the vendor does not send tech to reclaim everything.
There is still a lot to say that a professional has installed your smart home / home security system and should break something-come back to fix it. As with everything else, you know exactly what you are getting into.
The Quintessence : A professionally installed, professionally managed smart home / home security system is the easiest way. It is also the most expensive.