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Smart Home Guide – A Guide to Creating a Smart Home

Only a few years ago, the idea that devices in your home could react to your presence was a concept straight out of the realms of science fiction. Today, the future has been brought home with a large range of smart home and home automation products that can be used to control different aspects of your every day life. Whilst the idea of a smart home may seem complex at first, generally with a little bit of forward planning you too can automate various devices in your home, quickly, easily and cost effectively.

What is a Smart Home?

A ‘smart’ home, simply put is the ability to control various aspects of your home, such as lighting and heating, for example, when you are not physically there or automatically through understanding and learning your routines. The devices in a smart home are designed to be controlled remotely. Another phrase that is used interchangeably with ‘smart home’, is ‘home automation’. The key requirements of a smart home are an internet connection and a computer, tablet, or even mobile phone, that can be used to control the devices.

Smart home devices connect to your home WIFI or Ethernet and then become networked together, allowing the user to control them using their smart phone, or tablet. Some smart home devices are voice activated too, negating the need to control them with the App. Devices such as internal lights can be turned on or off with apps, your voice or can even be set to turn on automatically when movement in the room is detected. This is home automation at a very basic level. Devices today can be connected to a wide range of devices in your home, from watches, to beds, ceiling fans and garden sprinklers. Today, literally your imagination is the barrier to what can be automated in the home!

Benefits of Having a Smart Home

There are a range of benefits to using home automation devices. One of the key benefits is convenience. Being able to remotely access devices in your home allows the user to do a multitude of different actions. For example, you may have your central heating set to turn on at a certain time of the day. This is a very typical set up with a traditional thermostat set up. However, the difference with a Smart Thermostat is controllability. Perhaps you have been caught up in work for a few hours and you will be home late? Imagine being able to access your central heating system remotely with a click of the button and delay the heating going on until later, saving energy and in turn saving you money. In terms of what can be done with smart home devices in terms of convenience, the sky is the limit.

There are security benefits to be had too. Many people, when they go down the smart home route decide to install security devices in their home. These security devices can be programmed to do a range of different things, to providing the home with remote access technology so that you can be alerted to any security issues that might occur, or to allow you to check in on your home when you’re not there, to being able to turn on lights and devices to make it appear that a person is at home, there are a range of devices that you can use to improve the overall security of your home.

Accessibility is another advantage of installing smart home devices. Whilst being able to control lights and electronic devices by voice command may appear to be a bit of a gimmick when it comes to improving the lives of disabled people, smart home devices offer practical solutions to some of the everyday problems that they face.

Some of the Main Obstacles to Smart Home Technology

Whilst the sound of a smart home sounds fantastic on paper, there are a few pitfalls to watch out for. Firstly, Smart Home products are controlled via your internet network, so depending on how well that is working in your home, will determine how well the Smart Home tech will work. For example, do you have any ‘dead’ WIFI spots in your home? If you can’t get a good signal in some rooms in your home then the Smart Home technology will not work reliably, which in turn will become very frustrating quickly, if devices do not switch on or off when you expect them to.

The solution to connectivity issues is to ensure good central placement of your home network router, so that WIFI signal is spread evenly around the home. Whilst there are ways of extending your WIFI network around your home, these systems can be a little unreliable and also add additional expense.

Alternatively, the potentially better solution is to hardwire the connections with Ethernet cabling but again this can be expensive to do, and is not always easy or practical in an older home. The good news is that some modern homes are now built, hardwired with Ethernet, simplifying the whole set up.

Another consideration is to do with your power supply. Some Smart Home technology is battery operated, but for the most part, devices will require a plug socket. Many homes simply do not have enough sockets and if they do, they are not always in the right place! Therefore, some costly re-writing might be required since you will not want cables trailing across the floor, or having to use extension cables.

One solution that is fairly cheap to implement is to switch power sockets with those that have USB sockets build into them. A double power socket can come with an additional two USB sockets installed meaning you can power up to four devices without the need for additional extensions, or you can power two USB devices without removing the flexibility of having standard power sockets. Both big advantages when power sockets are at a premium. Make sure you use CE approved sockets, since cheap non-approved sockets are readily available, and are to be avoided, and it is also recommended to get a professional electrician to carry out any work you wish to do with your home electrical circuits. 

Once you have picked the type of product you want to control smartly, have ensured that you have good home networking, and sufficient power then you are ready to move forward and start creating your Smart Home. Getting these three steps sorted in advance to purchasing any products will save you from a potential headache.

Discover the world of Home Automation – How to Start

Trying to ascertain what the best way to start a smart home is can be difficult since there are so many different systems available, and all with some many things that can be done. Therefore, the best way to start is to decide what it is exactly that you are trying to do and then work backwards from there. Three of the key areas that people tend to want to gain more control over in their home is with lighting, heating, and security.

First choose what function you are looking for, and then decide what additional functionality you might be interested in. For example, some of the key benefits of smart home technology are designed to save you money, or streamline certain activities, by making them easier to do via automation. Knowing what your main motivation is when it comes to deploying smart home technology is key to ensuring you do not waste a lot of money by picking the wrong system.

Another key consideration is that different home automation devices may not be compatible with one another. It’s not ideal if you must use one smart phone app to control your lighting and a completely different one to control your home security devices. This soon becomes more of a hassle than it is worth. The solution to this is to invest in smart home products that are compatible with each other. This is why it is important to start with a good understanding on what you are trying to achieve and what additional features you might be interested in at a later date.

The good news is that there are a number of different systems available on the market which can be interconnected to one another and be controlled via one App. Whilst there can be some interoperability issues between systems a lot of smart home products are now compatible with each other to some degree.

Summary of some of the key Smart Home solutions

Smart Lighting – This is one of the most popular way of kicking off a Smart Home project. Smart lighting allows you to control when and how your lights come on in the home. Some smart lighting solutions allow you to change the colour and hue of the light in your room too, which can be great for mood lighting. Automating when lights can come on, for example when you walk into a room can also save you money, since lights will not be left on burning energy unnecessarily.

Smart Heating – Another product type that many people start their smart home project with is by adopting smart heating products. Two of the key advantages to Smart Heating is the ability to control your heating from anywhere and for the smart heating system to save you money in the long run.

The reason a smart heating system, such as a smart thermostat can save you money is because they are typically self-learning, which means they start to learn your routines and patterns. Another reason they can save you money is that they will show you how much money you are spending on your heating in real time, and generally when you can see your expenses, you automatically tend to curb them. For example- you’ll switch your heating off when you are not there and not just let it run.

A Smart Thermostat such as the Nest Thermostat can do a lot of clever things, such as adjust itself when it senses that people are home, or it can sense changes in the overall temperature in the home and adjust itself accordingly. The Nest Thermostat can also be connected to third-party Smart Home devices too, such as some Smart Lighting products meaning that you get a fully joined up solution controlled from one place.

Smart Security – One smart home area where people can generally see some great benefits, is with smart security systems. Quite a lot of homeowners have traditional security devices installed in the home, but there’s no point in having CCTV cameras installed around the house if you’re not alerted when there is an anomaly, nor is an alarm any use if there isn’t anyone to take notice of it. This is where Smart Security comes into its own. With a smart security system, you can do lots of useful tasks, such as remotely viewing your home via security cameras and you can even connect your home security set up to your door bell, which will show you who is at your door on your smart phone, even when you’re not there! Smart security devices can alert you directly when an event is triggered, meaning you can take immediate action. More great advantages of having a security system installed is that many insurance companies will give you a discount on your home insurance, since your home is more secure. When you have Smart Security devices installed you can also program devices to do certain tasks when the devices are tripped off, from turning on or flashing lights, to sounding alarms- the sky is the limit.

Smart Protection – Whilst not the most interesting of Smart technology areas perhaps, Smart Protection is a fairly new category of Smart Home devices that take control over some of the protection areas of your home such as smoke and CO2 alarms. On the surface this may not seem particularly important to have controlled smartly, but these smart devices give you some notable benefits. For example, they can self-test, to ensure that their batteries are fully charged and functioning. People tend to forget to test these devices, but as a matter of your own personal safety, they should be checked on a regular basis. With Smart Protection devices, you don’t have to worry. You’ll be alerted if there is an issue. Other great advantages to Smart Protection is that they can be connected to other devices in your home too, and these devices can communicate with one another. For example, if your CO2 alarm goes off, a smart protection device could turn off your boiler, which may be the likely cause of the problem. This doesn’t just save you time and money, but could end up saving your life!

Start with A Single Purpose Product

Here at Mr Central Heating we supply Nest Smart Home products to our customers. The reason we stock Nest products is due to the simplicity of installation and the huge amount of flexibility the system provides a home owner looking to create their own smart home.

Nest offer three different product categories, Nest Protect, Nest Thermostat and Nest Home Security. A user can pick one product type initially and the start to build out their home automation system. The beauty of Nest products is that firstly they are self-learning, meaning that over time they learn your routines, and adapt accordingly, and secondarily, they are highly compatible with other devices on the marketplace. So, if you’re looking to install smart lighting, by picking a device that is labelled ‘works with Nest’, you’ll know that your devices will be able to talk to one another. So, when you want to expand to different smart home technology you’ll be safe in the knowledge that one app will suit all. 

View a range of Nest Products available at Mr. Central Heating