A Smart Home is one that provides its home owners comfort, security, energy efficiency (low operating costs) and convenience at all times, regardless of whether anyone is home.
“Smart Home” is the term commonly used to define a residence that has appliances, lighting, heating, air conditioning, TVs, computers, entertainment audio & video systems, security, and camera systems that are capable of communicating with one another and can be controlled remotely by a time schedule, from any room in the home, as well as remotely from any location in the world by phone or internet.
Installation of smart products give the home and its occupants various benefits — the same benefits that technology and personal computing have brought to us over the past 30 years — convenience and savings of time, money and energy.
Most homes do not have these appliances and systems built into them, therefore the most common and affordable approach is for the home owner to retrofit smart products into their own finished home.
Most products are available in one of four protocols (the means of communication between themselves) and all of these are compatible with the internet, phone, and cell phones. These are the names for the four: X10, Z-Wave, UPB and EnOcean. Products that use the same protocol offer the ability to add products and hardware at the homeowners’ own pace and budget. The system can grow to meet the needs of a changing family as time goes on. All of these products can be selected from various manufacturers, preventing an expensive obsolescence or non-competitive pricing.
An emerging important feature of a smart home is conservation of the earth’s limited resources. More and more people are becoming aware of the ability to make their homes truly smart — and green — by utilizing home controllers integrated with all home sub-systems to increase savings by controlling lighting, window coverings, HVAC, irrigation and by monitoring usage. Many home controllers have built-in monitoring systems whereby they calculate and log usage by all connected devices, giving the home owner heightened awareness and the knowledge to make changes as necessary. These systems can even be accessed over the Internet from anywhere in the world so the homeowner can adjust consumption anytime, anywhere.
Best Devices for 2016
- Amazon Echo – If you’re looking for a central control point for your smart home gadgets, you’ll have a hard time finding a better option than Amazon’s voice-activated smart speaker, or its likable virtual assistant, ‘Alexa.’
- Lifx Color 1000 – Lifx’s second-gen smart bulbs are brighter and more efficient than you-know-Hue — and the colors look better, too. We also like the easy-to-use app, the integrations with IFTTT and Alexa, and the fact that Lifx bulbs don’t need a hub.
- Philips Hue Wireless Dimming Kit – The Philips Hue Wireless Dimming Kit is a simple, and affordable way to get started with smart lighting. If you already own a Philips Hue bridge, then filling out your home with these $15 white-light smart bulbs is a no-brainer.
- BeOn Starter Pack – BeOn’s smart bulbs don’t come cheap, but they’ll keep shining when the power goes out, turn on automatically when they hear your doorbell or alarm, and even replay your typical lighting patterns when you’re not home.
- Scout Home Security System – While Scout isn’t the cheapest DIY system on the market, we were impressed by its potential for customization. You can build the perfect security setup for your needs with this system.
- SkyBell HD Wi-Fi Video Doorbell – With 1080p resolution, SkyBell’s video quality is terrific, and integrations with Alexa, Nest, and IFTTT help it stand out in an increasingly competitive category. Free online video storage is a major plus, too.
- Nest Cam – The Nest Cam Indoor’s reliably 1080p streaming, easily installable magnetic base, and solid app set it apart from the rest of the market.
- Kuna Toucan – Kuna’s Toucan camera has a clever design, a low-key aesthetic, and cool extras like an alarm and 2 hours of free cloud storage. For the price, it’s great deal.
- Nest Protect (2nd Gen) – The Nest Protect is better-looking and more fully-featured than any other smoke or carbon monoxide detector on the market. It isn’t cheap, but it looks and acts the part of a high-end smart safety upgrade.
- Lutron Serena Remote Controlled Shades – If you’re looking for smart shades with a lot of features and flexibility, Lutron’s Serena Shades are the best bet. You can schedule them, control them remotely via an app, and even use Siri to open or close them. Just be ready for a big investment.
- Fisher Price Newborn Rock’nPlay Sleeper w/SmartConnect – For $100, the SmartConnect Sleeper is a soft, comfortable cradle that new parents can use for hours every day, and one that calms babies better than any other device we’ve tested.