Smart Houses: What are they?, and should you build one?
If you’re one of those people who always worry if you’ve turned off the gas, or the lights and, at times had to actually turn back to check if you have, then, you will love a “smart home”.
A “smart home” is a term that’s used to describe a dwelling that has appliances, air conditioning, lighting, computers etc. that can be controlled remotely either thru a scheduled time or thru an app, remotely from any location. In the most advanced type of smart home, a centralized system run by a computer monitors your house the same way as you do. So, for example, if it gets too cold in the house, it will automatically turn on the heater. Or, a sensor can monitor the light levels and closes or opens the blinds, as well as turns the lights on or off depending on your preset preference.
How Does It All Work?
The smart appliances and devices that you will purchase for your house all run on a protocol which is just tech talk for the language that these machines run in to communicate with each other. At the moment, machines that have different protocols can’t ‘talk’ to each other. You can think of this as machines talking different languages – one machine ‘talks’ in Italian, and the other in English. With no translator available they are not able to understand each other.
At present, there are three protocols that dominate the smart devices market – Z-Wave, Zigbee, and Wi-fi. Zigbee and Z-Wave work through a mesh network. These kinds of protocol need only a small amount of power to work so this can work with devices that run on batteries.
Another protocol that the devices run in is Wi-Fi which is more power intensive. But this kind of protocol doesn’t need any additional hardware and devices that use this protocol can ‘talk’ to each other in a standard way.
Currently, these protocols cannot communicate with each other, but for sure, in the very near future, companies that make these devices will find a way to standardize these protocols so that they can work seamlessly with each other.
The Cost of Turning a Regular Home into A Smart Home
You don’t have to build a new house from the ground up to have a smart home, but you do need to purchase smart devices to make your house smarter. But, how much does it cost? The answer is, it depends on how far you want to go because truthfully, the sky is the limit to how ‘smart’ you want your house to be. The trick is that before you go purchasing these products, you need to know your end game. Take a moment to sit down, and figure out the things that you want to be ‘smart’ in your houses, and you can build on that. The cost can be as low as $1000 and can go up to infinity depending on the brand and model of the products that you want to buy. But the most important thing to remember is that at this point, the industry still has not come into some sort of consensus on how to make devices that run on different protocols talk to each other, so it’s a good idea to make sure that all the devices that you buy can communicate with each other. Otherwise, it won’t be a very smart home.
Should You Start to Build a Smart Home?
Building or retrofitting your current house so that it becomes a smart house is a preference. To help you decide whether or not owning a smart house is for you, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of owning one.
1. Energy Efficiency
Smart houses have proven that they can help the house to be energy efficient. Just as the purpose of a punch list in construction is to make a record of all the things that need fixing, a smart thermostat allows you to program in advance what kind of temperature based on the time of the day. Really advanced smart thermostats take note and learns your behavior and adapts to the temperature that you like even without having to input a schedule.
Of course, energy savings will largely depend on the device that you choose and its ‘smartness'. With this said, manufacturers say that you can shave anywhere from 10-15 percent off from your heating and cooling bills.
With smart houses, you can easily monitor your house even if you are not there, and some systems can even be set up to monitor if an unauthorized person comes into your house. But being safe doesn't end with just physical safety, smart devices can also make sure that you are medically safe by reminding you of your medical appointments, and medicines that you have to take. Currently, there is research in voice-activated smart assistants to be able to detect mood changes in people just by listening to their voices. This kind of smart technology can help the elderly live independent lives.
Having a smart home is like having an extra hand or two to help you with the daily task of managing a house. Imagine waking up every morning with the coffee already made or coming home to a warm ( or cool) house. You no longer have to worry if you remembered to turn off the gas because your house will make sure that it is.
1. Different Protocols for Each product
Smart devices that are available in the market now are built with different protocols and this can limit the type of devices that you can install in your house especially if you want the devices to talk to each other. While this is, for sure, a temporary inconvenience because in the future, because at the rate that technology is evolving, it won’t be long before manufacturers come into an agreement to what protocol to use so that things work seamlessly.
2. Upfront Costs
While smart devices can save you money in the long run, it can be expensive to install. But, again, as technology progresses and smart homes become the norm, smart devices will become affordable to anybody who wants it.
3. Learning Curve
Smart homes are great, but controlling it and using it to its full capability takes some time to learn. And, depending on how receptive you are to technology, it can be challenging at first to learn how to make sure that everything works just the way you want it.
Technology has embedded itself in our lives and has become a part of it. Nowadays, we depend on technology and treat it as part of our normal lives, and at the rate, things are evolving, it looks like that smart homes are set to become the new norm in the very near future.