How smart is your home?

Technology is undeniably important in our everyday lives. We are always connected, but are we using technology to its full potential in the home? In this article, we'll outline some of the ways that technology can be incorporated into the home to make an everyday task easier, faster and more fun.

smart home panoramic image
Article: Philip Saich

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.
The number of UK households with some form of smart home technology stood at around four million in 2015, a 30% rise on the previous year. That was 14% of the population, and it’s estimated that the popularity of smart devices has now risen to the extent that today one in four consumers in the UK owns at least one such gadget, while two thirds express genuine enthusiasm for the idea of smart technology.

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, and 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 such as a Nest thermostat can learn your schedule and adjust accordingly to heat your home more efficiently and cost-effectively. But the most popular use of smart technology among UK consumers 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 the in-built speaker enables 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 doubt in the planning.
As Kelley Malcher of Surrey builders 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 fix 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 over-estimate 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.

‘To help our clients, I regularly attend home shows and read articles on TrustedReviews and TechRadar to keep on top of the latest technology. The recent Home Building and Renovating Show at Sandown Racecourse was very informative and inspiring, with larger companies such as Amazon, Apple, Samsung, Phillips and Sonos setting the pace. We believe that we are on the cusp of another digital revolution as consumers adopt more and more smart technology, and it’s our aim to provide help and guidance to our clients in this fast-moving area.’
Refresh Renovations UK are Surrey builders offering design and build services. To discuss your home improvement project, please get in touch today using the enquiry form listed alongside, or if you would like to submit a more comprehensive enquiry, you can do so on the Get In Touch page.

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