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What Is a Smart Home?

If you’re wondering what is a smart home, it’s simply any residential or commercial building equipped with Internet-connected devices to help you manage and monitor a range of appliances and systems from your mobile phone, Apple Watch, and home assistant anywhere in the world.

From lighting and heating to all your multimedia entertainment, the smart home makes your life safer and easier.

Lighting

Controlling the lights at home has been central to home automation since its birth back in 1975.

Smart home lighting has come a long way since the unreliable early days of the X10 protocol.

Imagine being able to manipulate the lighting in your home whether you’re relaxing on vacation or heading home from work. Picture waking in the morning with the lights coming on at your command.

Smart home lighting goes far beyond convenience, though. It’s a technology conceived with energy-efficiency in mind.

19% of all global energy is used for lighting. According to the US Energy Information Administration, the 129 billion kWh of energy consumed for residential lighting accounted for 9% of all residential electricity. In the commercial sector, 11% of total electricity consumption is down to lighting.

Whether at work or home, smart lighting can automatically adjustments based on occupancy or the amount of daylight. This can help slash the cost of electricity to you and to the planet.

You can get remote control lighting started with a simple device like the Insteon Remote Control Plug-In Lamp Dimmer Module. You’ll be able to adjust the brightness levels of your lights from a distance using the separate remote.

If you want voice control using your favorite digital assistant, you’ll also need a suitable hub. You can then access any connected devices like your dimmer module using either an Alexa device or Google Assistant with a Home device.

Cameras

Home security cameras have been a staple part of security in homes and businesses for quite some time.

Being able to keep an eye on your property remotely is one of the primary reasons people adopt smart home technology in the first place.

At the most basic level, you’ll be able to log in to your camera and check out specific areas of your home or business when you’re away.

Advances in technology continue to iron out the wrinkles in camera functionality and sensitivity. Smart motion detectors can differentiate between residents, visitors and pets while also identifying burglars. You can arrange for the relevant authorities to be alerted in the event of any suspicious behavior.

Investing in a surveillance starter kit gives you all you need with wireless, weatherproofed cameras offering 2-way audio along with a base station. After a straightforward installation, you can then watch live and recorded video from your smartphone even if you’re on the other side of the world.

You can personalize and automate your smart home security camera by programming it to record at predetermined times. You can instruct the camera to automatically fire off a picture when it senses any motion. You’ll also be able to zoom in when you need to and to rotate and reposition photos with ease.

Access to cloud-stored footage usually starts off free with certain limitations then becomes more flexible with paid monthly plans.

Most security cameras now work with Alexa and Google Assistant as long as you have a compatible device.

When considering what is a smart home, security cameras are a crucial component giving you complete peace of mind whether you’re at the office or on the beach.

Security Systems & Access Control

Home automated security systems allow you to stay plugged into your house even when you’re away.

Elk offers a comprehensive security and home automation starter kit with the M1 Gold. With an intuitive interface and no ongoing monthly fees, this system also allows for easy expansion. You’ll be able to keep tabs on more than just intruders. This type of wide-reaching security system also allows you to control lights, thermostats and water valves remotely from your smart device.

Alongside voice and siren alerts, you’ll be notified in the event of any disturbance wherever you happen to be.

If you’re tired of hopping out of the car to open the gate and garage door, access control allows you to do from your smartphone without breaking your stride.

To grant or deny access to visitors when you’re not at home, you can get a complete access control system which keeps your door secured by a 1200 pound magnetic lock until the correct code is keyed in. From Insteon’s garage door control system with hub included through to a much cheaper keyless entry system from Skylink, choose the level of investment and technology that suits.

From saving energy through to preventing intruders, automated security systems have just as much place in the home as in commercial property. Protect your most precious asset while saving money by reducing energy costs.

For anyone with a fluid lifestyle spending lots of time away from home, staying in touch couldn’t be easier with a simple security system in place.

Home Theater & Entertainment

What is a smart home?

Well, security is paramount but entertainment is an increasingly key motivator for late adopters to smart home technology.

Home theater systems can be complex the more you build them out. With home automation, you can streamline all these platforms and processes so you can focus on your movie or favorite album.

Smart TVs let you access content through online apps and take advantage of on-demand video. More and more of these TVs are now incorporating voice and gesture recognition.

The way we’re listening to music is changing. Often, your primary music library will be on a Bluetooth-enabled device you can’t easily hook up to external speakers. With a smarthome SELECT audio receiver and amplifier, you can stream music from your phone, tablet or laptop. You can send this stream to some external speakers meaning you can set up a makeshift anywhere you have access to a power outlet.

If you need to work rather than blare music through the speakers, noise canceling headphones are a great way to make your smart homework for you in a small, wireless package.

Controlling all the inputs and outputs you need for your particular system from a single remote enables you to manage your home entertainment system without needing to perform multiple steps.

Smartphones in Smart Homes

Cell phone-only households now form the majority with 52% of US adults not having access to a landline.

You could think of smartphones as the backbone of any smart home. Your phone becomes like an all-purpose remote and you’ll control any integrated appliance without a mound of bulky plastic controllers cluttering up the coffee table.

The way in which your phone communicates with various appliances and systems in your smart home is often called The Internet of Things (IoT).

Along with an appropriate hub, any reasonably current cell phone is all you need to start exploring the world of domotics.

Thermostats

Alongside lighting, one of the most common demands from smart home customers is the ability to control the temperature from anywhere whether you’re in bed and don’t fancy getting up or heading to the airport as you remember you left the AC on full blast.

You might also have animals and plants to consider when you’re not at home. Many plants require you to maintain a temperature differential day and night while you certainly wouldn’t want your beloved pet uncomfortable when you could inch the heating up from a distance.

Just like controlling the lighting in your smart home, automating temperature regulation can also result in sharp savings by optimizing your use of the heater or air conditioning.

Independent studies have shown that a Nest thermostat used under real conditions saved householders up to 12% on reduced heating bills and 15% by eliminating wasted cooling. Now in its third generation, the Nest Learning Thermostat displays the temperature so it’s easy to read from across the room. If you see a green leaf on screen, the temperature you’ve chosen is saving you energy. Auto-scheduling puts paid to the days of tediously programming smart thermostats. This unit learns your preferred temperatures and does the hard work for you.

Insteon offer a much cheaper remote control wall thermostat but you’ll need to invest in the hub if you don’t want to use the keypad. Make your phone or tablet your remote control and automatically control everything within your Insteon thermostat system from the duct dampers to ceiling fans. You can even use your Apple watch to fine-tune the thermostats in your smart home.

Since smart thermostats come with integrated WiFi, you’ll be able to make adjustments and check out energy reports remotely, ideal if you’re often away for extended spells.

Blinds

Decades of sci-fi movies showing curtains and blinds opening and closing at the push of a button mean this small but convenient feature is often a minor component of a modern smart home.

There’s a very low barrier of entry to smart blind control. Insteon’s simple remote control module is the smallest such device on the market and will fit unobtrusively into most boxes. You can keep your existing switches and install the micromodules behind them. Management via the Insteon hub and your smartphone becomes your remote control. Suitable for opening and closing 110-volt appliances, you’ll be able to activate your projector screen or unfurl the blinds without leaving your seat.

As with lighting, it’s not just convenience but security that comes to the fore with smart blinds. If you’re away on vacation, curtains and blinds that remain in position for a fortnight are an open invitation for any potential burglars. Automating this element of your smart home allows you to make it look like someone’s at home even if you’re sunning yourself in the Caribbean.

Appliances

More than 40% of Americans own at least one smart home device with 3.4 devices the household average according to a ReportLinker survey. Topping the list of preferred devices, 20% of the respondents owned connected appliances.

You can automate many kitchen appliances to make your life easier without getting bogged down in technology. Perhaps you’d like your coffee maker to ready your morning shot of espresso saving precious minutes in the morning?

If you’ve got a large family, keeping track of expiration dates inside a crammed fridge is challenging. Smart refrigerators can automate this tracking keeping food waste to a minimum. These fridges can also formulate your weekly shopping list and create recipes determined by what ingredients you’ve got in place.

Household appliances can generate a significant amount of noise. Attaching a noise filter is a smart way to fight back.

The best form of attack is defense so why not prevent any disastrous washing machine leaks before they happen with a valve shutoff kit?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is most commonly is most commonly used when we’re talking about WiFi-enabled appliances we don’t usually associate with the Internet whether that’s your washing machine, your fridge or your dryer. You’ll be able to interact with most of these appliances using an app on your smartphone and you’ll enjoy remote access as long as you remain online.

If you’re wondering what is a smart home, a complete home filled with devices and appliances working in total harmony is perhaps the holy grail of automation.

Irrigation

You can extend smart home technology out into the garden using a range of devices. Keeping the garden pristine is hard enough anyway so why make it harder?

If you’ve got large expanses of grass to keep watered, a sprinkler system is a great way to save water. To give your lawn the inch of water it needs in dry conditions, it requires 62 gallons of water. Since it’s difficult to gauge how much you’re using with a hosepipe, sprinklers help you to keep consumption in check. This is great in principle but what about if you forget to switch it off when you go out for the day?

Orbit Irrigation has a simple, cost-effective faucet timer so you can exercise complete control over the frequency and duration of watering times saving your bank balance and the environment.

Household appliances can generate a significant amount of noise. Attaching a noise filter is a smart way to fight back.

Melnor offers a more robust aqua timer valve allowing you to handle multiple zones apart from your spigot. This integrates seamlessly with existing sprinklers and hoses. If you want wireless control through your smartphone, you’ll need a control unit which you can buy separately or as part of a comprehensive kit.

It’s not only outdoors where you can employ smart irrigation. If you’ve got lots of high-maintenance houseplants, you won’t want them neglected when you’re away from home. Automated dripping systems will keep your plants hydrated if you’re not there to water.

If you want to make sure hanging baskets, potted plants and boxes of plants also stay refreshed, a Claber basic irrigation kit gives you adjustable irrigation so you can save time and money.

You can also instruct your sprinkler system to be triggered by motion so your sprinkler can act as another arm of your home security system.

Cable and Structured Wiring

One of the biggest variables in smart homes is connectivity.

Many home automation products don’t call for new wires and you’ll be able to easily retrofit them into your existing home.

It goes unsaid if you do need to work with electricity, you should call in an electrician unless you’re qualified to carry it out yourself.

Insteon and X10 protocols will send any commands over regular electrical wiring so you won’t need more cabling.

If you’re using smart home equipment controlled over powerlines, you won’t need to worry too much about wiring either. You can control groups of lights using a series of in-wall transmitters while whole house surge protection safeguards all your home electronics in a single powerful unit.

You can reduce chatter on your Insteon and X10-carrying lines by isolating any non-automation loads and keeping white goods on a single phase of your system.

When you’re wiring your smart home for data, choose a spot for a central wiring hub where you can run cables from the different rooms in your house and accept external cabling whether for your satellite, phone, or cable TV. Locating this hub near your home theater system allows you to feed in the necessary speaker and video cables.

Think about cooling for any equipment racks you have for your home theater system. The processors and components kick out a lot of heat so you’ll need to combat this.

If you’re building a new smart home from the ground up, you should consider adding sub-distribution boards on different levels so you can future-proof your install to some extent.

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