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In just a few years, smart homes have gone from science fiction to a reality that’s accessible to almost any homeowner with a smartphone. And people love them: recent studies show homeowners are interested in smart home technology, and new home buyers ask their realtors to look for smart home tech integration.
Why are smart homes so popular?
Smart homes give you an unprecedented degree of control over things like your home’s lighting, security, and temperature. For example, you can crank up the air conditioning from your phone while you’re taking the train home from work, you can use smart camera technology to see what’s going on in your home — even if you’re out of the country, and you can even teach your smart home system to turn off the lights and A/C when no one’s in a room.
That touches on another big advantage to smart homes: energy efficiency. With smart monitoring, you’ll never waste money on running lights or heat in an empty home.
But while all those features are great, arguably the biggest one is the simple quality-of-life enhancement that comes with a smart home. Using your phone or a voice-activated smart speaker to put on a movie, call a friend, or start dinner is incredibly convenient — and pretty cool. And because these features are so desirable to buyers, they’re sure to maximize your sale price the next time you sell.
Read on for a straightforward guide to smart home conversion.
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Select an ecosystem
Before you get into the components of your smart home system, you’ll want to decide what brand of smart home system you want.
The three main brands are Amazon, Apple, and Google. Die-hard users will probably choose whichever one they’re already familiar with. If you have no preference, each brand offers slightly different strengths and weaknesses:
- Amazon has the most options for smart home products, as well as the most affordable.
- Apple offers a smooth, well-designed interface, but it doesn’t have a huge amount of different third-party equipment to choose from.
- Google has the best voice-activation interface.
Install a hub or two
Your primary method of controlling your smart home tech will probably be your smartphone. But what about when you’re gone, you have guests, or you’ve lost your phone? Imagine your guest needing to use your phone to turn on the lights or heat in the guest bedroom — not very convenient!
Smart hubs are small tablets or consoles through which you can control your smart home. Most also have integrated speakers, which can come in handy when you issue voice commands away from your phone or smart speaker.
Make sure your Wi-Fi is up to it
Since these devices will be interconnected online, you’ll want to have the right wireless system in place.
First, you’ll want to think about which frequency you want to use: the 2.4 GHz, which has a longer range, or 5 GHz, which is faster. Your choice will depend on the size of your space and the location of your router relative to your devices.
You’ll also want a top-of-the-line router to connect your smart home. Many perform worse when a lot of devices are connected to them simultaneously, so make sure you get a router that can handle all your traffic.
Get a good smart speaker
Voice activation is a huge part of the smart home experience, so you’ll need a smart speaker, (such as the Amazon Echo) to field your commands. With just a word, you’ll be able to control your lights, television, thermostat, music, and even appliances.
While Amazon is arguably the leader in the field right now, Google is close behind, and Apple’s smart speaker comes with higher privacy standards than the other two providers.
Take control with a smart thermostat
While you may not think of a thermostat as ripe for innovation, smart thermostats are arguably one of the most important advances that have come out of the smart home revolution.
A smart thermostat (for example, the popular Nest) can turn off your heating and cooling when you’re not home and target the areas you’re actually using when you are home. Many of them are also voice-activated, so you can turn up the air conditioning or heat with just a word. When you think about it, the benefits are huge: your home will be more energy-efficient, and your utility bills will significantly decrease.
Upgrade your lights
Smart lighting is another popular smart home feature. For full control of your lights, you’ll need to replace your light switches with smart switches and dimmers that you’ll control through an app or a smart hub. Smart plugs also enable you to turn lamps on and off (and even dim them) through an app.
If you do make the move to smart lights, you’ll definitely need to install a few hubs around the house — otherwise, no one will be able to turn lights on and off without access to your phone.
Install a camera (or a few)
Smart cameras can give you visual access to your home from wherever you are. In extreme cases, like a break-in, you’ll have video of the incident.
If you’re concerned about home security but not ready for full surveillance of your home, start small with a smart doorbell, like the popular Ring model. Smart doorbells integrate a wireless doorbell, lights, and a camera. So you’ll know who’s at the door before they ring the bell, or see what happened to those disappearing packages.