Over the last few years in particular, the popularity of smart home technology hasn’t just grown – it’s positively exploded. According to one recent study, there will be some level of smart home automation in about 53.9% of homes in the United States by as soon as 2023. The same source indicated that 81% of consumers who responded to a survey said that they’re actually more likely to purchase a new home that already has smart home technology installed inside.
Also considering the fact that revenue in the smart home market is projected to reach an enormous $28.8 billion by as soon as the end of 2021, it’s easy to see how this is one trend that shows absolutely no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
At the same time, simply getting started with a smart home of your own can often feel like an uphill battle among consumers.
It’s a term that’s nothing if not flexible, meaning that in execution, this technology can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For some, it’s as simple as installing a smart thermostat to take better control over the temperature of an environment.
Others want to be able to automate everything: from their security system to lighting to window shades and absolutely everything in between. Both of them are viable options, but require very different approaches when buying equipment.
Likewise, there is a very real difference (both in theory and in execution) between a whole house ePlatform like Control4 versus buying items piecemeal down at the local big box store. The former leverages a single smart home operating system to connect virtually all of the technology in a house together. These let users control everything from specially designed apps and terminals. The latter gives you more flexibility in terms of which brands you choose to go with for which devices, but it may lack that single “ecosystem” to bring everything together to truly function as one.
Still, buying the devices you need to build the smart home you’ve always wanted for yourself isn’t necessarily as difficult as you feared it might be. If you’re wondering which smart home devices you should buy, you simply need to take a look at the various categories of items that are available. Then pick and choose those accessories that will make the biggest impact on your life.
A Smart Hub
A smart hub essentially acts as the “brains” of your smart home, tying all of the devices together in a way that allows you to control them via a single app or platform. Amazon, Google, and Apple’s HomeKit are three of the most popular smart hubs available on the market today. When buying individual devices, however, you will need to make sure they’re compatible with whichever smart hub you’ve chosen to purchase. Just because something is Amazon Alexa compatible doesn’t make it HomeKit compatible, for example.
Or, you could choose to go with a “whole house” platform like Control4, as mentioned above. You’ll have less choice when it comes to individual accessories, but you’ll also have the confidence of knowing everything is built to work together by design.
When it comes to smart cameras, you have two different options available to you. The first is a professionally installed system, like the kind available from Play Home Technology. Here, a professional will help you design a custom system that works best for your unique environment, ending with an easy-to-use surveillance system that you can use to monitor your home from any location on Earth with an active Internet connection.
Or, you could choose to buy individual cameras yourself via a platform like Nest. This gives you the freedom to buy one or even a few cameras at first, slowly adding on from there as your needs change or as you want to increase coverage.
Automated shades are another great way to embrace the smart home revolution, and are one that allows you to save a significant amount of energy as well. Options available from providers like Lutron can be programmed to automatically open and close based on your routine. In the winter, you could open the shades at certain times of day to take advantage of the sunlight and to warm specific areas of your home. In the summer, you could close the shades during the day and block heat to control heating and cooling costs.
For many, automated lighting is one of the “main draws” of the smart home platform. You could integrate your lights into “scenes” that change automatically based on certain conditions. One scene could dim the lights if you’re about to sit down to watch a movie with the family, for example, or another could turn on all the lights along the path you use to get from the bedroom to the kitchen in the morning.
Lutron is just one example of a company that offers this kind of residential solution. They have options for single rooms (meaning you can just replace dimmer switches, other wall switches, or bulbs) or whole home solutions that even integrate with Lutron thermostats for HVAC control as well.
Pool and Hot Tub Control
If you own a pool or hot tub in your home, adding this level of control is a great opportunity to get the most from your investment. Many options deliver an incredible level of automation to existing pools and spas, allowing you to both monitor and control everything from the pump to the heater to the lights right from an app on your phone.
A lot of people use smart thermostats as their “gateway” into the larger smart home concept, and indeed this can bring a number of benefits to older homes in particular. Even modest options like those available from Nest still allow you to set precise schedules based on your activity and even on the motion in certain rooms to heat or cool in a more energy efficient way.
More advanced options like those from Aprilaire also offer a variety of additional features like humidity control, fresh air alerts, air cleaning functionality and mobile app compatibility so that you can control your HVAC system while you’re away.
Music Systems and Whole House Audio
Whether you’re the type of person who entertains regularly, or you’re just a die-hard music aficionado, smart music systems and whole house audio are certainly one of the more “fun” additions to any smart home.
With smart speakers in every room of the house, you can listen to all of your favorite songs (and other audio content like podcasts) in literally any room, or even out on the patio. Likewise, you’ll be able to control other aspects of your smart home like your thermostat using voice commands in a far more effective and convenient fashion.
As security is always at the top of a homeowner’s mind, smart locks are definitely another option you’ll want to consider as you build your own smart home. In addition to being inherently secure, they’re also convenient in that most of them use a numerical keypad in addition to a keyed entry system. So rather than making a key for your neighbors, you could give them their own unique code to get into your house. This also lets you see who is coming and going as well. You can even check the status of your lock right from your phone to make sure you remembered to lock the door in the morning before you went off to work.
Smart mirrors are a relatively new entry into the smart home market, but they’ve already proven to be quite popular. They let you do everything from charge your phone to play music to get skin assessments (depending on the model) and more. They’re also designed with perfect illumination in mind, making them perfect for an area like your bathroom.
Smart Garage Door Openers
Smart garage door openers are also very convenient in much the same way smart locks are in general. You can open and close your garage door using voice commands, and you can even check the status of the device right from your phone. Depending on the model, you can even have it open automatically based on geo-location commands, meaning it will always be open right when you get home.
Smart Lawn Irrigation
Smart lawn irrigation is yet another opportunity to leverage the smart home concept to save as much money as possible as a homeowner. Not only can you water your yard and plants using the exact amount of water they need to thrive, but you can also automatically adjust your watering schedule based on the upcoming forecast to prevent over watering.
Security and Home Monitoring Accessories
Security and home monitoring accessories can include everything from cameras (like the kind outlined above) to motion detectors, window and door sensors, and similar types of devices. They’re perfect for not only general safety, but also for keeping an eye on kids who may be home alone or to help watch over elderly family members who may be spending time by themselves.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors and Monitors
Finally, we arrive at smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and monitors, an important addition to any smart home. Not only do these include all the basic functions of traditional smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, but you can also get alerts right to your phone if something goes wrong, allowing you to instantly get alerted about a fire or other issue even if you’re not there.
Likewise, if smoke is detected in a room you can integrate these with other smart home devices through automation to increase safety. If a fire breaks out, you could have all the lights go on in your home automatically to help you and your loved ones get to safety, for example.
In the end, it’s clear that you certainly have your fair share of options available when it comes to smart home devices. The most important thing to understand is that not all the above may fit into your current vision. Not everyone is going to need all the items on the aforementioned list. If you live in an apartment, you’d have little use for a smart garage door opener, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy smart thermostats or automated shades. Overall, the key to putting together the perfect smart home involves starting not with the devices, but instead with the home itself.
Only by carefully considering your needs, and how automation and intelligent accessories may be able to make your life more convenient, will you be able to work your way backwards to the items that make the most sense for you. Don’t make the mistake of starting with the devices and hoping you’ll be able to find a way to integrate them into your life. More often than not, you’ll wind up with something that is technically cool but that is functionally “mildly convenient” at best.