Smart Home Buying Guide
September 03, 2020

Convenience and connectivity are everywhere now. At work, on the train, and definitely on our handheld devices. But how well connected is your home? As smart devices get smarter, they are being hailed as making our daily lives far easier and some can even help reduce energy bills. With many capable of being controlled from anywhere on a smartphone.


Want to see who is at the door without getting up? Or start heating your home remotely before you get there? This guide will help you find the products and services that are right for you.


Smart lighting


A light for every time, mood, and occasion is the draw for smart lighting. As they give you the flexibility to change the colour, brightness, hue, and ambiance of your lighting in any room. Go low for that film you are settling down to watch, or turn the lights up to finish that page-turner of a book. Get the lights on tailored for your chosen activity.


What are the benefits of smart lighting?


Products like the Philips Hue starter kit and extra add-on bulbs can set a schedule for your lights, get Siri to set a timer, or even schedule them to get brighter as you are waking up to gently ease you out of your slumber. Ditch fumbling around for the light switch in the dark and turn your lights on from your phone on the way home, or activate neon lights to get a party started.


Are they expensive? 


Light in the room and light on your wallet. Despite being more expensive than ordinary light bulbs, sensors, remote phone access, and timers can all reduce energy consumption in the long run. Many products also include LED bulbs to further conserve energy.


Are there any security benefits?


Smart lighting can be a boon for safety as well, as some lighting systems also use sensors to work with other smart systems like thermostats. So if your Nest thermostat is switched to “away mode” your lights can periodically turn on and off to deter any would-be intruders.


Other benefits


The power to control your lights from anywhere can be game-changer for everyday life. The ability to customise until your heart’s content with one or more smart bulbs can present limitless possibilities for your lighting options.


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Video monitoring and security


Surveillance can be used for a few different things, like watching over your possessions or keeping an eye on loved ones or pets remotely from your phone or laptop. Here’s a breakdown of your home security options:


Wi-Fi security cameras


An ideal option for if you’re on the lookout for a simple monitor for in-home surveillance. These stand-alone cameras are usually perfect for this purpose as they feature wireless connectivity, remote access, built-in microphones, and sensors that send you a photo when any movement is detected. They also conveniently upload and store any footage to the cloud.


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All-in-one security systems


Need something a step up from a standard surveillance camera? An all-in-one security system is that upgrade. Some of them let you stream real-time video of your home on your phone and send you alerts if any activity is detected. Some even let you remotely activate a siren to scare away intruders in case of a break-in and in case you need this footage later, it conveniently stores all footage to the cloud.


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Smart thermostats


There’s nothing like coming back to a heated home in the dead of winter. Not to mention the warm feeling of not having an inflated heating bill as a consequence of trying to maintain a warm temperature when no one is home. Timers can sometimes do the trick, but if you arrive home early it might still be too cold. 


What are the advantages of a smart thermostat?


Smart thermostats solve these problems by featuring more intuitive programming and by giving you easy access from your smartphone. Their sensors and algorithms keep track of your schedule and adjust to keep temperatures comfortable when you are home and reduce energy consumption when you are not. Some energy suppliers may even give you credits or rebates towards a switch to a smart thermostat.


The benefits of a smart thermostat aren’t all about the temperature and money saved. As the technology for these products advances, their design gets ever sleeker, while additional features also include easy installation, voice control, and monthly reports to keep you well informed about your usage.


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Networking and internet


Your smart devices and their connectivity is only as good as the hardware that flows the internet into your home. A modern family can simultaneously be using bandwidth on phones, tablets, consoles, and more, so it’s important that your internet connection is up to the challenge of keeping everyone up and running.


Getting your router up to speed


Your router is the most important bit of kit in this equation as it will allot your internet connection across all your devices, wirelessly or through ethernet ports. The latest router will improve speed, range, and security. Look for routers with at least 802.11ac standard with encryption. Great extra features also include USB and printer support, guest network access and firewalls.


Home alarms and sensors


There are other devices that take safety and security to another level that you might want to consider. Like Nest Protect, which provides your smartphone with alerts in the event that smoke or carbon monoxide is detected in your home while you are away. Or smart sensors that can notify you if a door or window is open before you get home.


Bringing it all together


Integrated ecosystems mean that different smart devices in your home can interact. Certain systems need a hub to centralise and coordinate tasks to make everything work together. When a set of commands is streamlined, this is called a “scene”. One example of this is programming a scene that commands your Wi-Fi camera to take and send you a picture each time your child returns from school safely and to keep a track of who else is coming and going. A multifunction example of scene could include setting your home to “away mode”, so that with a touch of a button: all your lights turn off, thermostat turns down, doors lock, and garage door closes. Say goodbye to wondering if everything is off or shut when leaving your home.


Apps for easy control


Most home automation products include an app that is compatible with most smartphones, tablets, or computers that will let you control your home from wherever you are. For example, the Nest app, which enables control of all Nest devices, if you have an internet connection. It means you could adjust the temperature, view your energy usage on your Nest Thermostat, get smoke and carbon monoxide alerts from your Nest Protect, view Nest Cam video footage, and more, all from one app.


The next level of automation


If you want or need your automated tasks to be more complex you can enable them with software-based ecosystems like IFTTT. This is a web-based social media app service that lets you connect different apps, websites, and devices to carry out custom tasks. With the IFTTT app you can create recipes that offer simple reminders, send notifications in the event of changes at home, like a drop in the temperature, or just log the time you spend at home or work, so you can set up energy-saving schedules.


How smart do you go?


Making the switch to this technology can seem daunting at first, but the level of convenience quickly becomes apparent. Despite the convenience, it can be an investment, so think about your needs and go for devices that you think you’ll get the most use out of. If you love a warm and cosy environment and your thermostat timer isn’t cutting it, it may be time to upgrade to a smart thermostat. Always forgetting to turn the light off? Give smart lighting a go. Tailor your products to your needs for a truly convenient home life that is unique to you.