Before you start building an intelligent home, you must first decide whether comfort is more important than security. Many of the systems you see when you go shopping will emphasize one or the other, even if they offer elements of both.
If you are more interested in the fun and convenience of modern home technology, having light B. with voice commands, or having a sprinkler system that works in harmony with the local weather – you will need a smart home system.
But if you're more interested in pausing, in a disaster like a fire or a water pipeline, you're comfortable with a home security system – perhaps with a service that can send first responders on your behalf.
We've created two stories to help you understand the basics of each type of system so you can decide which system is right for you. This focuses on smart home systems. If you are more interested in a home security system, we encourage you to read this other story.
The Basics of a Smart Home System
While security-minded hubs have a ruthless dedication To protect your home, smart home hubs such as Samsung SmartThings and the Wink Hub 2 are true all-rounders. They serve as mediators between smart home devices and your home network (and thus between you and your smartphone) and help coordinate automation, scheduling, and device interaction.
You can buy a smart home hub yourself and purchase components via a la carte, or in some cases you can buy a starter kit consisting of the hub and a handful of devices. Starter kits are easy because you do not have to think much about what you need. On the other hand, a kit can put you with a product or two that you do not necessarily want. This may be one reason why some vendors, including Samsung SmartThings, are moving away from prepackaged kits.
The list of smart home devices that can control these hubs is exhaustive – and growing – but these are the key points:
- Smart Bulbs: In Many Smart Home Environments Lighting is the killer app that starts everything. These will always be from the LED range and are available in both white and color, both are dimmable.
- Smart Plugs: Insert them into your wall outlets and you can control lights (turn them on and off and dim) and small appliances (eg fans and space heaters).
- Door, window and motion detectors, which can light intelligent lights to illuminate your path, also trigger an alarm in Smart Home Systems that also have security features.
- Intelligent Thermostats: These can only pay for themselves quickly if you benefit from the energy savings that can be achieved by heating and cooling your home.
- Smart Speakers and Digital Assistants: Normally, you do not get Amazon Echo, Google Home, or other smart speakers as part of a DIY package, but these digital assistants are so useful that we consider them an integral part of the smart home.
Beyond the Smart Home Basics
The above list provides a good starting point, but if you've lived in a smart home for a while, you'll want some of these extensions Intelligent products to make your stay more comfortable.
- Intelligent locks let you know their status, lock and unlock remotely, and do not require keys – just tap your PIN on the keyboard or present your smartphone.
- Flush Switches: Smart bulbs are great – at least until you turn off the switch that gives them power. It does not matter what commands your Smart Home Hub sends you, they stay off because their radios are not receiving power.
- In-Wall Fan Controller: While some newer ceiling fans can be controlled with Alexa or Google Assistant voice commands, it's much less expensive to change the switch that controls them than to buy it and get a whole new fan to install.
- In the Wall AC Jacks: Smart plugs do in an emergency, but their wall wart designs are not the most attractive things you can have in their living rooms.
- An intelligent garage door opener can be remotely closed and can inform your smart home system at any time about its current status.
- Smoke and / or Carbon Monoxide Detector: When a fire breaks out while nobody is at home, what good is a standard siren? Smart models can often be incorporated into your HVAC system so that no smoke is circulated into any room and fresh air is produced when carbon monoxide is detected.
- Security cameras that let you see what is happening in and around your home and that can capture forensic evidence in the event of a break-in.
- Water Leakage Sensors: Leaky faucets, overcrowded toilets, and failing water heaters can cause thousands of dollars in damage to your home. Place these sensors in hazardous areas and you will be immediately alerted to the presence of water where it should not be. Some can even be integrated into smart valves that shut off the water automatically.
- Motorized blinds can darken your home theater for movie time or block the morning or afternoon sun that heats your home and makes your air conditioner work overtime
- An intelligent sprinkler controller takes into account hyperlocal weather conditions and soil moisture so it does not unnecessarily waste your lawns irrigated.
Although you can set up a smart home without a hub, you get a lot more from your system when you install one. Why? Because the true power in a smart home comes from the cooperation of all products. For example, you could use your smart home hub to:
- Control all the lighting in your home, even when you're away on vacation.
- Program the lighting in the bedrooms to flash and shut down your HVAC system when smoke is detected.
- If a significant water leak is detected, turn off the main water valve.
- If the living room gets too warm, lower the blinds automatically.
- Brighten up lights and turn on music. Get up in the morning.
- Disable the alarm system when an authorized user enters the correct PIN on a Smart Lock.
The sky is the limit and comes with automation and interactions like these are half the fun of living in a smart home. In addition, tools like IFTTT (If This Then That) further extend these ideas and allow you to easily create "applets" that enable collaboration between different devices, even if your hub does not officially support them. (An example would be if the color of your intelligent light bulb changes to red when the pollen count outside rises to a level that could trigger a severe allergic reaction.)
The Best of Both Worlds
If you want a smart home system that can also be used for home security choose one that supports at least door, window and motion sensors ; that has a siren in its center (or allows someone to be added); and that offers either personal or professional supervision.
Whichever system you embark on today, you know that you are not bound to it forever, provided it's based on the most common wireless models: Wi-Fi and either Z-Wave or ZigBee. No vendor masters all of these standards, and many of today's hubs use all three.
While it may be a bit of a hassle to pair dozens or dozens of sensors and other devices with a new hub, if something better catches your imagination in a few years, it will not be impossible.
Did you decide?
If, after evaluating all this information, you have decided to invest in a smart home system, you can check out our top tips in both categories and see our recent reviews here. If you want to learn more about security systems first, here is just as much a story about them.