What Is a Smart Home?
A smart home refers to a convenient home setup where appliances and devices can be automatically controlled remotely from anywhere with an internet connection using a mobile or other networked device. Devices in a smart home are interconnected through the internet, allowing the user to control functions such as security access to the home, temperature, lighting, and a home theater remotely.
- A smart home allows homeowners to control appliances, thermostats, lights, and other devices remotely using a smartphone or tablet through an internet connection.
- Smart homes can be set up through wireless or hardwired systems.
- Smart home technology provides homeowners with convenience and cost savings.
- Security risks and bugs continue to plague makers and users of smart home technology.
- Though full-scale home automation may cost thousands of dollars, smaller individual products costing less than $100 can get homeowners started on smart home products.
How Smart Homes Work
A smart home’s devices are connected with each other and can be accessed through one central point—a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or game console. Door locks, televisions, thermostats, home monitors, cameras, lights, and even appliances such as the refrigerator can be controlled through one home automation system. The system is installed on a mobile or other networked device, and the user can create time schedules for certain changes to take effect.
Smart home appliances come with self-learning skills so they can learn the homeowner’s schedules and make adjustments as needed. Smart homes enabled with lighting control allow homeowners to reduce electricity use and benefit from energy-related cost savings. Some home automation systems alert the homeowner if any motion is detected in the home when they're away, while others can call the authorities—police or the fire department—in case of imminent situations.
Once connected, services such as a smart doorbell, smart security system, and smart appliances are all part of the internet of things (IoT) technology, a network of physical objects that can gather and share electronic information.
Security and efficiency are the main reasons behind the increase in smart home technology use.
Smart Home Systems
Smart homes can feature either wireless or hardwired systems—or both. Wireless systems are easier to install. Putting in a wireless home automation system with features such as smart lighting, climate control, and security can cost several thousand dollars, making it very cost-friendly.
The downside to wireless systems is you likely need strong Wi-Fi coverage and broadband service throughout your entire house. This may require you to invest in range extenders or hardwired wireless access points. Wireless smart home systems are generally more appropriate for smaller existing homes or rental properties due to their smaller size.
Hardwired systems, on the other hand, are considered more reliable and are typically more difficult to hack. A hardwired system can increase the resale value of a home. In addition, hardwired smart home systems can easily be scaled; therefore, it is often the default method when designing a new build or performing a major renovation.
There is a drawback—it's fairly expensive. Installing a luxury and hardwired smart system can cost homeowners tens of thousands of dollars. In addition, you must have space for network hardware equipment including ethernet cables.
How to Create a Smart Home
Smart home products now allow for greater control over heating devices including when products are turned on, turned off, and controlled. Smart products may be armed with temperature or humidity sensors to automatically turn on or off if certain criteria are met. This line of smart home innovations also extends to air conditioners.
Often with the use of a mobile phone, table, or custom remote specific to a product, lighting products now enhance the capabilities of homeowners. Lights can be switched on and off, placed on a schedule, or set to change based on sunrise or sunset times. Like some more traditional products, lights can often set to change based on motion. Smart bulbs can communicate over Wi-Fi and display statistics or metrics to your phone.
This lighting category may also contain smart home products that control or prevent light. Automatic blinds may be installed and set to close based on sunrise schedules. Alternatively, electronic curtains allow users to manage their blinds using a handheld device.
One of the more fun aspects of smart homes, many entertainment products are now heavily connected to each other and can be controlled with a single remote. Television and speakers now have greater capabilities to be played on command using applications, including being maintained on a schedule or being voice-controllable.
One of the most reasonable aspects of a smart home is the enhanced security capabilities. Many products now have camera capabilities that track motion, capture video, or allow for live video feeds. This may be installed to sync with a ringing doorbell or set to display on certain areas of your property. These videos may allow for video-calling with the individual at your door, including audio capabilities.
Many smart homes are also refit with modern security kits. This includes motion sensor detectors when individuals should not be home, home monitoring, notifications and alerts of suspicious behavior, and the ability to lock doors or windows remotely using a phone.
A very large section of smart homes relates to digital assistants or home hubs. These products are often interacted with using your voice and can take commands, field questions, organize your calendar, schedule conference calls, or provide alerts. Though not specifically related to one's home, these digital assistants provide a broad range of controlling smart assets, their schedules, and their statuses.
Smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors not only sound an alarm but can be synced to your phone to alert you should you be away from your property. These devices can often be set up to send emergency notifications to specified contacts.
Automated irrigation systems have had the ability to be programmed for a while. Now, smart irrigation systems field climate and environmental conditions an factor those traits into existing water schedules. Smart irrigation systems monitor moisture-related conditions and strive to conserve water.
When budgeting for smart home products, consider any required or necessary labor/installation costs from professionals.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Smart Homes
Installing a smart home technology system provides homeowners with convenience. Rather than controlling appliances, thermostats, lighting, and other features using different devices, homeowners can control them all using one device—usually a smartphone or tablet.
Since they're connected to a portable device, users can get notifications and updates on issues in their homes. For instance, smart doorbells allow homeowners to see and communicate with people who come to their doors even when they're not at home. Users can set and control the internal temperature, lighting, and appliances as well.
For the cost of setting up the smart system, homeowners can benefit from significant cost savings. Appliances and electronics can be used more efficiently, lowering energy costs.
While the smart home offers convenience and cost savings, there are still challenges. Security risks and bugs continue to plague makers and users of the technology. Adept hackers, for example, can gain access to a smart home's internet-enabled appliances. In October 2016, a botnet called Mirai infiltrated interconnected devices of DVRs, cameras, and routers to bring down a host of major websites through a denial of service attack, also known as a DDoS attack.
Measures to mitigate the risks of such attacks include protecting smart appliances and devices with a strong password, using encryption when available, and only connecting trusted devices to one's network.
As noted above, the costs of installing smart technology can run anywhere from a few thousand dollars for a wireless system to tens of thousands of dollars for a hardwired system. It's a heavy price to pay, especially since there may be a steep learning curve to get used to the system for everyone in the household.
Are often more convenient than traditional methods of scheduling, controlling, or accessing products
May enhance security due to notifications or alerts
Offers multiple ways of performing a certain task (i.e. lights can be manually turned on or scheduled)
May result in long-term cost savings when considering efficient energy use
May pose security risk as products are connected to networks and can be hacked
May require additional work for homeowner to track additional passwords and monitor product security
Are often more expensive than their less smart counterpart products
May result in steep learning curve, especially for those not technologically-savvy
Home Much Does a Smart Home Cost?
On one hand, more and more smart home products being brought to market will continually put pressure on manufacturers, competition, and product prices. On the other hand, these incredible innovations are continually expanding what they are capable of and may be assessed price premiums. When considering smart home products, perform a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether the price exceeds the convenience.
According to HomeAdvisor, it may cost up to $15,000 to fully automate a four-bedroom, three-bath home. Average total home automation costs is just under $800, though fully-connected luxury homes may run into the six figures.
In general, a smart home can start by being very focused on a specific product or room. This strategy allows individuals to invest in smart technology for minimal capital. Consider the following options priced at less than $100 as of September 2022:
- Google Nest Mini, the home audio and assistant device
- Amazon Smart Plug, a method of automating appliances
- Ring Smart Doorbell, a video-enabled camera for home security
- Wyze Thermostat, a digital, wireless, programmable heating device
On the other hand, larger smart home technologies (with more capabilities) often cost thousands of dollars. For example, Vivant's Premium Plus Package for home security cost over $2,300 at writing. Alternatively, the LG 30.8 cubic foot Door-in-Door smart refrigerator could be had for a little over $7,000.
What Is In a Smart Home?
Smart homes can choose to have smart speakers, lights, thermostats, doorbells, or home hubs. Smart technology can also extend to kitchen appliances or outdoor or landscaping equipment. New innovations are continually evolving what is in a smart home.
Why Is a Smart Home Important?
A smart home is important because it allows a household to become more energy efficient. In addition, it allows a household to save time and perform tasks more efficiently. A smart home is important because of the convenience it provides over traditional methods of performing tasks.
Can a Smart Home Be Hacked?
Yes. Because home automation often requires a live network connect, home automation systems can be hacked if the security protocol of the smart home product has inadequate security protocols. In addition, individuals must take additional care to not share or disclose sensitive log-in information as these devices may require a password or personal device access to control.
Is a Smart Home Worth It?
Investing in a smart home is a cost-benefit analysis that often requires an upfront investment to equip your house with the appropriate products. In addition, there is the cost of needing to train yourself and become competent in understanding how to use the products. However, the benefits of saving time performing tasks as well as potential utility cost savings may make a smart home worth it.
The Bottom Line
Leveraging innovation and technology, smart homes make it easier to do things. Whether it is controlling applications using your phone or scheduling products to perform tasks at certain times, smart homes have revolutionized the way individuals do things, consume energy, and interact with their home products.