Prepping your new home for smart devices
By: Yelekal Mengistu
This is what you need to create your smart home.
You hear it everywhere, the jig is up: yes, smart devices are the trend and better yet, they are here to stay! For a while now, self connecting devices have asserted their dominance on the consumer market.
But are they really home friendly? In this article, we will see why and how you should perp your home for a smart automation set up.
1) Where smart devices matter
The immense chatter about the growing smart home industry has prompted even the non-tech savvy to invest in those devices. Mostly, the inclination towards smart devices is supported by the fact that the smart phone has developed into an extension of our body. We depend so heavily on our cell phones that our lives are shaped around them.
Access to different types of apps, through the internet, is seamless nowadays. Checking the weather, looking at the stock market or ordering food has become an effortless task through our smart phones. It is this avenue that has enticed smart device manufacturers.
Building around that easy access, smart devices become operable with the touch of a finger. Bearing in mind that there are more complex installs regarding smart devices, something as simple as an LED light bulb can be the object of a simple home automation process.
LED light bulbs like the eufy bulb are simple and easy to install
These are encouraging signs for first timers, those who want to taste some of that good smart home life. Like the light bulb, manufacturers have a 'ready-to-go' selection where you literally plug it in and the action begins.
However, the majority of these devices need set up and if you're not a DIY person, perhaps it's best to get yourself in a position where you can become a novice DIY guru.
2) Wifi network wireless strength
People often forget that smart devices put a huge strain on your wifi wireless network. The more device that are installed on the network, the more load your wifi is having to take.
A strain on your network will run your system very slow, commands will not be picked up as fast and most of the times a router reset is needed to clear up the bandwidth.
Most people have found out that up to 20 devices working simultaneously is not harmful to your wifi speed. Devices such as smart plugs, LED light bulbs or your Amazon Echo Dot have been found to be a little sensible when it comes to crowding your network.
So what needs to be addressed here? The amount of devices plugged in or the wifi bandwidth capacity? Well it all depends on what you're looking for. Both points are key to provide your home with a fast and reliable wifi connection.
Routers like the ASUS Blue Cave are powerful enough to host multiple devices at once
What we need to realize is, yes adding more smart devices will slow the connection down but we forget that we already use other devices that we no longer call smart like our TVs, computers, laptops, smart phones, tablets and more household electronic items that depend on our home wifi network.
Adding to the existing band of products creates a strain in itself. Always have that in mind.
Furthermore, it is noteworthy to mention that exchange video data has a huge impact on the bandwidth. This video door bells move a large chunk of data when they are operating. Same goes for many of your home streaming devices at home.
Needless to say. it seems like we're telling you to stay away from video technology. Well not quite: you can enjoy and divulge yourself in the latest Ring doorbell or some other video intercom platform, just remember what and how many smart devices you need in your home, otherwise, their presence will just jeopardize the activity of the other important devices you already have in place. Doesn't bode well for your internet connection either.
3) Prioritizing your smart home devices purchases
This is probably the most important first step when prepping your house for home automation. "What should I get?" should be the most pertinent question here. Well, a smart home project usually has the following components: smart light bulbs, smart switches, motion sensors, door/window sensors, smart thermostats, IR activated smart cameras and depending on how outlandish you want to get sometimes a robot vacuum cleaner.
Now all these are noble choices, although it could sometimes been seen as following the heard 'since x and y have this, ten I should get this too'. To break off from this erroneous notion, think about what would be an upgrade to your current systems whether it would be security, entertainment or just lighting. What is going to make your life easier? Ask yourself this very question.
When you have a satisfying answer, then you should look for a sustainable product or brand that caters specifically to your needs.
For example, some thermostats offer geofencing, a GPS powered technology that tracks where you are, analyzes the temperature surrounding you and programs that into your smart thermostat. This enables you to ease in to the appropriate pre-set temperature when you get home. But imagine if you live in a an area or country where the temperature is evenly spread out between the indoor and the outdoor. Then temperature adjustment according to your position is meaningless. Obviously, the smart thermostat was installed to combat temperature variations which can still manifest itself between day and night.
Be that as it may, a smart, albeit less power consuming version of smart thermostat can be bought. The consumer advice being given here is 'Don't take all the advertized features as being an upgrade for your home'. Some features are good but they just seem to add up to the glow offered by manufacturers. Smart decision on you smart device purchases can save you money and offer simple solutions to some of your day to day inconveniences.
Staying in the smart Thermostat subject matter, it is particularly noteworthy to point out why many people are skeptical when buying a smart thermostat. Part of its appeal is the ability to control the device remotely and smart scheduling features give it an autonomous feel, leaving the thinking to the thermostat. The skepticism arises from the installation process. We often wonder if the thermostat is compatible with our house set up, do the wires match, do I need a metal plate, how will it impact my HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system?
What we recommend in these situations is to first know the ins and outs of your home HVAC system and then make a decision based on that research alone. Good news is, most HVAC systems are very similar unless you live in a very old house. Obviously, key points need to be checked for the installation. A great article written by Daniel Wroclawski on ConsumerReports.com gives a 'How to guide' on installing a smart thermostat. He explains the simplicity behind the job, adding that the wiring is the probably the single most area of slight concern.
He says "We recommend using a C-wire since the most straightforward way to provide power to your smart thermostat". The C-wire or 'Common wire' runs constant 24V juice throughout the thermostat. Old thermostats didn't need this set up because they were simple 'ON/OFF' devices. Most systems have C-wires tucked behind the old thermostat. If the C-wire is nowhere to be found, you can simply buy an 'add-a-wire' adapter, adding as another component to thermostat.
But rest assured, most smart thermostats have C-wire adapter power extender. ecobee is well known for providing this extra adapter to fill your needs. The rest is an easy set-up of connecting the wires and placing the head plate. In a short time, you have your smart thermostat!
While compatibility can be a huge factor in deciding which smart device to get, ask yourself this question: How do I make my home living better with smart devices?
Look at it this way: there should be three main stratospheres to look for when prioritizing your device purchases:
1) Home Security
The Roomba i7 is one of the best robot vacuums in the market
If you're looking to pounce on the smart home device trend, the good outweighs the bad. Despite recent reports on device hacking, getting a smart home device is a great investment with long term benefits.
Although it seems easy to be overwhelmed by the huge attraction of the plethora of smart devices on the market today, knowing what matters and the underlying need is essential when making a purchasing decision.
Looking at the three levels of needs is very important. Smart devices provide a thick layer on your home security. The development in such products such as video intercoms, fingerprinted door handles, smart door locks, gas leak detectors and surveillance cameras have brought about a great deal of focus on how we keep our homes safe.
Being home means we feel the need to have the most convenient environment. And to that end, smart home devices offer just that. New LED light bulbs come with a controlling mechanism through an app. If your forget to turn off the lights, you can do so through your app on your phone.
Thirdly, we figured, it's not just to accomplish a function or to counter a potential disaster, but smart devices can be fun to own and operate. The robotic vacuum cleaners like the Roombas and Proscenics are there to help out with the cleaning. Having them running around the house is definitely part of the enjoyment of owning smart home devices.
Know also that your home deserves a great wifi system to cope with the load of devices that you are thinking of installing. It's a greater concern when you know that your laptops, TVs, smart phones, tablets etc. already occupy a great share of the bandwidth. So make sure you get the best wifi system and get what you need to lower the moderation.
A typical setup will require of smart light bulbs, some smart door security locks, doorbells or a combination of both. Sensors, IR sensitive cameras and a few smart thermostats. Make sure to read the manual of all the devices before you buy them. In some cases, they might be compatible with your home wiring or general set up.