CONTRIBUTORS Phillip Saich, Jason Burgess
It might still sound a little far-fetched, but the concept of the smart home is moving from the stuff of sci-fi novels to reality thanks to a range of intelligent apps. And with technology evolving at an alarming rate, it’s actually more affordable and attainable than you might think.
Research indicates that the category appeal for smart devices among consumers is divided among five key areas: health, domestic appliances, energy and lighting, entertainment and connectivity, security and control. There’s little doubt that smart technology can be beneficial, but there remain a number of barriers to its adoption. These include the perception that smart technology is expensive to install, that it opens the property up to potential security breaches, and that it can represent an invasion of personal privacy. Of most concern to consumers, however, is that they have insufficient understanding of smart technology to make an informed decision and that going smart is expensive.
In essence, it’s possible to automate your morning routine, from waking up with gradually rising lights and news updates on-demand to enjoying freshly percolated coffee and warm bread. You can open and close your curtains, keep an eye on the health of your plants and control your heating. You can even remotely lock your front door if it slipped your mind when you were heading out. Not only that, smart devices can learn your schedule and adjust accordingly to heat your home more efficiently and cost-effectively. One of the most popular aspects of smart technology is in the home monitoring arena, as homeowners embrace the idea that smart devices can alert you to emergencies in your home when you’re out and about.
A connected doorbell includes a camera that allows you to see whoever is outside your house on your smartphone or tablet, while built-in speakers enable you to chat with them, even if you’re not at home. An intelligent entertainment system, meanwhile, can record your favourite shows ready for your return. A robot vacuum cleaner can take the strain out of the housework, a smart washing machine can automatically start a washing cycle and your fridge can sense that the milk is running low and place a top-up order online. In essence, there are very few areas of home life nowadays that can’t be enhanced or automated with smart technology, but the key to success is without a doubt in the planning.
As Kelley Malcher of Refresh Renovations observes, although most smart technology can be retro-fitted, a little forethought can go a long way when embarking on a new build or an extension.
“In our opinion, it’s definitely worth spending a little more money on the electrical first when building a house or extending your home”, comments Kelley. “Adding more cat 6 cables and plug points than you think you might need can go a long way towards future-proofing your property. With technology developing so quickly, it’s impossible to predict exactly what types of smart technology you might want to install in the future, so for us it’s better to overestimate the requirement.
‘We also understand that the whole idea of smart home technology can be overwhelming, so we tend to break it down into four distinct categories: temperature and air quality, lighting and ambience, music and audio-visual, and safety and security. Using smart technology to optimise the property’s temperature will ultimately save money on energy bills, but it’s important to plan. You might have smart central heating, smart air conditioning, and smart electric blinds, for example, but if they are not connected together via a single application, you could be facing large utility bills as they will all fight against each other. Setting levels is also important, as having smart electric blinds will inevitably keep a room cool, but it’s important to avoid the heating kicking in when it's 30 degrees outside just because the blinds are working too well.”
It is exciting technology that is moving fast and should be factored into any renovation. Yet before any purchasing decisions are made, homeowners should think long and hard about why and how they want to use the technology in their home and what functions are important to their overall quality of life. There is plenty of cheap Wi-Fi gadgetry on the market, which makes it tempting to overstock a home with digital clutter without first considering a few fundamentals - an initial one being whether or not you should opt for a hard-wired or a wireless smart home.
Wireless technology is less invasive, convenient to buy and easier to install than wired technology, so if you are only renovating one or two rooms then this is probably the solution for you. The downside is wireless users sometimes experience delays through interference, range and bandwidth issues. Just streaming a movie while the children are net-surfing can be enough to max out some homes’ wireless networks. From a security viewpoint, Wi-Fi can easily be hacked into. Many Wi-Fi smart products are proprietary therefore only able to be integrated into specific protocols. Beyond that, a lack of technical support, product obsolescence or even forgetting a password can leave homeowners out in the cold.
If you have got the walls off then hardwiring really is a prerequisite for establishing a seamless, automated home experience. Wiring offers stability, security and reliability that is hard to beat. A hard-wired infrastructure offers a safe and dependable custom-built platform that integrates multiple appliances and each standalone system (power, lighting, lighting control, security, entertainment, heating and cooling) into an automated ecosystem.
If you are serious about transforming your house into a smart home, get a custom installer involved early in your renovation plans to save dollars in the long run. Budget will govern what can be achieved so if dollars are tight, start simple.
From security and heating to solar monitoring, manufacturers are continually adapting to the home automation market, which means improved quality, increased choices and homeowners getting more bang for their buck. Recent game-changers like Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service (AVS) has really upped the ante as far as controlling an integrated home goes. Now the whole house can open up or close down from near or far with just one instruction. It does not get more futuristic than that.
Want to know more? Get in touch with the renovation experts at Refresh now to find out what they can do for you and your home.