Easiest to install during building, smart home systems may raise the price of a new build but can save money in the long run. From heating which knows when you’re home to security systems which can text you if there’s a problem, futuristic technology is here today, making our lives safer and easier. Once the preserve of cartoon characters like the Jetsons, today even new builds designated as affordable housing are designed to be ‘smart’.
What is a smart home anyway?
We’ve had visions of smart homes for years, and the general consensus is that a smart home is one that does things for you, including anticipating your needs, to make your life easier, more comfortable and generally more pleasant.
In 1933, the Chicago World’s Fair had a “Homes of Tomorrow” exhibit and throughout the 20th century, people imagined smart homes where everyday tasks could be performed at the touch of a button. Many of these visions have already come true (dishwashers, online banking, online shopping, voice command systems like Alexa…) so today we consider a ‘smart’ home to be one which lets you automate, voice activate or remotely control household functions such as lighting, heating, cooking and security systems, often using a smart phone or tablet.
What smart home features are available now?
Companies around the world are constantly developing new “smart” features and clever makers and app designers are connecting existing kit to their smart phones. Here are a few areas where smart home products are already on the market:
- Voice activation – from Alexa to Siri, there are a number of tools which can take orders and make things happen when you talk to them, such as playing a song, switching on lights, closing curtains or heating a room.
- Security systems – options include remote monitoring, such as viewing your security camera footage on your smart phone, automatically switching systems on or off, and remote activation / deactivation.
- Open or lock doors – see who is on your doorstep and remotely unlock and open doors using your smart phone.
- HVAC – coming home to a house that’s too hot or cold is a nuisance. Smart systems can work on a set schedule, adapt to who is home, be switched on or off remotely and more.
- Energy monitoring and use reduction – from plugs that switch off automatically when you should be in bed to gas meters that text you when you’ve used more than expected, there are lots of options to help you save energy.
- Lighting – switch the lights on with a hand clap, ask Alexa to run your “romantic” mood lighting or install a bulb that liaises with your security system to switch on and off when you’re on holiday… the options are endless.
- Shopping – if one-click ordering online isn’t convenient enough, you can now put a button next to a product and click it when you run out to have more delivered to your door. Great for things like nappies and loo roll.
Benefits of smart homes
If a smart home doesn’t make your life easier, it’s not working properly. Apart from the convenience factor, common benefits of smart homes include:
- Reduced energy costs – smart switches turn off gadgets and lights when not in use.
- Reduced heating and cooling costs – smart systems learn your behaviour patterns, are switched on and off remotely or react to your presence to only heat and cool your home when needed.
- Increased safety – connected alarms let you (or your chosen response centre) respond to alarms and alerts, such as a smoke detector going off, even when you’re not home.
- Increased security – break ins and vandalism can be detected quickly and responded to appropriately, even if you’re not home, thanks to remote monitoring.
- Improved accessibility – voice activated and smart phone controlled tasks often make life easier for people with physical or mobility problems while smart home reminders and alerts can help people with memory problems and other issues.
- Great when you’ve got kids – change the heating schedule while doing bed time, set the TV to automatically switch off after an hour, teach your kids to ask Alexa how things work… the options are endless and growing as parents discover new ways to make life easier at home every day.
Why builders and landlords love smart homes
It’s fairly obvious why a smart home is better once you’re living there, but why would builders and landlords invest in these features? As it turns out, energy saving, remote monitoring and alert functions make living easier for tenants and landlords alike, which means that smart homes have a strong market value making them attractive to builders and property developers. In addition, smart homes are often more energy efficient and more environmentally friendly, which can attract lower taxes or higher subsidies from government programmes.
Landlords tend to most value remote monitoring and alert functions in smart homes. For example, some may choose to have their properties connected to security centres which receive alerts if a door or window is breached and can send out a response squad or alert the police. Other monitoring options include remote leak monitoring, smoke, carbon monoxide and fire alarm alerts, flood alerts and energy usage. Landlords running vacation rentals may also want to be able to turn off services such as heating and lights without actually visiting the property to reduce costs between guest stays.