What is a Smart Home System? A 2019 Guide
Author: Josh Jackman
Published: Wednesday, 17 July 2019
When you hear people talk about getting a smart home system, it sounds like a good idea – after all, why wouldn’t you want computers and robots to run everything boring or routine in your life? Well, turns out it’s just as good as it sounds. With your smart devices taking care of the washing, cooking, cleaning, bins, laundry, and more, you’ll have more time to relax, recharge, and have fun with your loved ones.
Better still, a smart home could also save you money. A US government report from 2014 found that 25% of household energy usage is unnecessary, while according to the Connected Devices Alliance – which counts the British, Canadian, and Swedish governments as leading members – “studies indicate that smart home technologies could reduce energy use in homes by almost 30%.”
For the average home in the UK, this would mean an annual saving of more than £450, according to data from Ofgem and Water.org.uk. Read on to see how you can make savings of your own, and make sure to fill in the form at the top of this page to see what deals you could benefit from.
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If you’re worried about not being able to understand or get used to having a range of smart home devices, chances are you’re already using at least one piece of non-domestic smart gear.
A report from Ofcom in 2018 showed that 78% of UK adults use a smartphone – a number which is likely to continue rising – while an increasing number of people own smart TVs (42%) and wearable tech like smart watches (20%). The knowledge and expertise you’ve picked up from using any or all of these devices should stand you in good stead when using a smart home system.
But even if you decide to take the step forward into the future and get yourself a smart home system, what does that actually mean? Before you get lost in a swirl of wondering – How do I make my house a smart house?, Do I need smart devices for everything? Will my smart home eventually rise up against me? – don’t worry. We’re here to hoover up all of your concerns like a top-quality smart vacuum cleaner: quickly, effectively, and with little to no effort from you. Let’s start by answering the main question straight away.
What is a smart home system?
A smart home system is an interconnected network which allows you to remotely control a series of devices around your property. It generally uses your wifi network or Bluetooth to form connections between smart items. So as long as you have one of these networks, and at least one smart device which you control through your mobile device or home hub (more on that later), you have a smart home system.
Benefits of a smart home
• You can save money: As mentioned above, adopting a smart home can cut your energy bills by up to 30%. This frees you to spend more money on other things that’ll bring you joy, like your loved ones, a holiday, or a holiday with your loved ones.
• Your chores should be easier: Smart home systems allow users to control utilities in their home with one portable device – so whether you want your kitchen vacuumed or your upstairs lights switched off, you can always do it from wherever you are.
• It should lead to a more pleasant life: Unless you enjoy physical labour, not having to spend so much time on manually carrying out chores and other tasks should make you a bit happier, and give you the space to do things you love.
• It can improve older people’s lives: The ease with which you can perform these tasks is especially important for older and less physically able people. As well as providing a way for these folks to remotely change the temperature or their music, a smart home system can also be used to guard against forgetfulness – for instance, you can programme the lights to switch off at the same time every night, and turn on at the same time every morning.
• You’ll be more secure: A smart home can also include a smart alarm system, which you can control remotely and set to follow any number of helpful rules, like turning off when you’re home and alerting you to certain suspicious events.
• You can have peace of mind: When you leave your home, you’ll be able to remotely check that your alarm is on, your doors are locked, your oven is off, and your dog isn’t chewing the sofa – all from anywhere in the world.
How do I make my house a smart house?
There’s no one way to turn your property into a smart home. If you want to embrace the future in the fullest way possible, you can surround yourself with innumerable devices, so that every aspect of your life is better and more convenient – or you can just settle for one item. If you can control at least one aspect of your home remotely, you have a smart home.
In terms of what you need, your wifi network is your best friend – though a Bluetooth connection will often do the same job. For most of you, this will mean your home is already fully equipped with everything a smart home needs.
So what’s on offer? What different kinds of smart home can you have? Which wonderful, futuristic items are available to you? Let’s have a look.
Types of smart home devices
• Smart home hubs: This is a portable control pad that allows you to communicate with every item on your network. It doesn’t come with every smart home system, as some rely on you using an app on your mobile device instead.
• Smart home security system: If you want to protect your home with the latest technology, you can now get cameras, smart locks, motion detectors, sensors, sirens, video doorbells, and more – then control them all with one app or hub.
• Smart thermostat: This is a thermostat that you can alter from wherever you are. Worried it’ll be too cold when you get home from holiday? Or too sweltering? No problem. A couple of taps in your app, and you’re sorted. You can also tell it to warm or cool your place before you get back home each day.
• Smart speakers: These voice-activated, internet-connected products allow you to control various devices in your home simply by speaking. You can also use them to answer your questions about today’s weather, the football scores, or the time in New York – or to simply play music. According to Ofgem, 13% of UK households used a smart speaker in 2018.
• Smart bulbs: These aren’t your grandparents’ lights, or even your parents’ lights. These are lights you can control when you’re away, protecting you against burglars and making sure you come back to a bright home. These are energy-efficient lights which you can switch off with your voice. These are lights which dim and change colour on command. Welcome to lighting 2.0.
• Smart vacuum cleaner: A relatively quiet, intelligent robot which moves across your floors, cleaning them of dirt and dust in much the same way as any vacuum – but without you pushing it. Sheer bliss.
• Smart smoke detectors: If you’re home, you’ll get two alerts that something’s wrong – one from your smoke detector’s alarm, and one from your phone. And if you’re anywhere else, you’ll know if there’s a fire at home – plus you’ll get notifications when your alarm’s batteries are nearly dead, instead of infuriating chirps in the middle of the night.
• Smart plugs: A smart plug allows you to turn household items which aren’t technically smart into smart devices, simply by connecting them to your network. These newly smart objects won’t suddenly gain new powers, but you will be able to switch them on and off from anywhere. This could be useful if you want to make a coffee from your bedroom, or check whether you remembered to turn off your hair straighteners.
• Smart kitchen appliances: You can control any number of kitchen processes with smart technology. If the kitchen isn’t your favourite place, you can make it more welcoming with smart items including coffee machines, tumble dryers, dishwashers, fridges, bins, blenders, microwaves, ovens, cookers, baking equipment, and more.
The top devices to create the best smart home system
Smart homes are all the rage. A survey for Smart Home Week found that 57% of British homes now contain a smart device – like a phone or tablet – that controls its appliances. But which are the best? The top of the top? The ones that won’t let you down? It can be difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff, but we’ll help you choose the products that will help you create the more enjoyable, more secure, easier life you want.
Best smart home kit: Maybe you don’t want to buy smart items piecemeal. Maybe you want to make the switch all at once – just rip off the band-aid and leap in at the deep end. If that’s your desired course of action, you can’t go wrong with a Samsung starter kit (£92). As well as the SmartThings hub – one of the best smart home hubs on the market – it also comes with three sensors and a smart plug, which is a good place to start with your smart security system and your experience of smart tech.
Best smart home security system: One of the best reasons to get a smart home system is to provide you and your family with a feeling of safety and security. If you want to get the best of the best in this field, Verisure (currently £149 initially, then £42.90 per month) is the ideal choice. It’s monitored by a team of professionals all year round, and comes with two photo detector cameras, four door or window sensors, and a 105dB siren, all of which you can control through your mobile device.
Best smart thermostat: When you’re looking to buy a piece of smart gear, you want it to be intuitive, stylish, reasonably priced, and capable of improving your life in tangible ways. The Nest Thermostat E (£199) ticks all of these boxes, allowing you to easily adjust the temperature from your mobile device without going broke. You can even programme the device to warm up your home when it sees you on your way back.
Best smart speaker: Smart speakers are growing more and more popular, with the number of owners doubling in 2018, according to Deloitte – and we can see why. For less than the cost of a new video game, you can get a wireless, highly effective speaker, which also allows you to control your smart home and find out anything you want without using your hands. Or at least, you can if you buy an Amazon Echo Dot (£39.99). This wifi and Bluetooth-connected Alexa product is the perfect first device for your smart home system.
Best smart bulbs: Lighten your load by getting bulbs which you can switch on and off with a word or a tap, from wherever you are, manually or automatically. Your best bet is the Philips Hue starter kit (£49.99), which contains two or three bulbs and a control panel called the Hue Bridge. You can control these using Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, or Microsoft Cortana – that’s right, all of your favourite virtual helpers are on hand. And with 16 million colours to choose from, the only problem will be choosing the perfect shade.
Best smart vacuum cleaner: The PureClean PUCRC26BUK (£69.99) is by far the best option if you’re at all concerned about value for money. For at least £100 less than its immediate competitors, it’ll clean your floors – whether they’re tile, hardwood or short carpet – and travel under most sofas and beds with its teensy height of 2.9 inches. This model also avoids getting clogged with cat or dog hair, is allergy-friendly, and comes equipped with sensors which stop it from running off the edge of the stairs.
Best smart plug: If you’re looking to broaden your network to include non-smart devices, the Belkin Wemo Insight Switch (£49.99) is a great option. Not only does it allow you to add anything that has a plug, it also gives you insights about your energy usage (hence the name). As well as switching your newly smart products on and off, you’ll also be able to create rules for the devices, so they can operate more efficiently for you.
Best smart kitchen appliance: The Drop Scale (£59.95) will make your cooking experience miles better. In conjunction with its app, the scale will keep your measurements on point while guiding you through any one of its hundreds of recipes. It can also adjust recipes to make bigger meals, change its instructions based on alterations you want to make (peppers instead of mushrooms? Sourdough instead of white bread? Tofu instead of lamb?), and power off when you’re not using it.
The 3 main takeaways about smart home systems
Now that we’ve explained the nature of a smart home, its advantages, and which devices to create one with, you’ll hopefully be feeling ready and raring to make the leap into the future of domestic life. But before you jump headfirst into a better world, let’s go over all of the most important tips and tricks you need to know before getting into the smart market.
1. Shop within your budget
Getting a smart home system is already going to cost a pretty penny, and though it will almost certainly be worth it, you should still make sure that you can afford the upgrade. If doing it all at once is too much for you, then that’s fair enough. If you go all in on the products listed above, you’ll be spending north of £600 – so there’s nothing wrong with taking it one step at a time.
2. Analyse your needs
Buying smart devices isn’t always about basic needs, as much as getting items which will make your life better – but nevertheless, think about what will have the most impact. If you hate cleaning more than anything in the world, a smart vacuum could be your pathway to bliss. If you’re fed up with choosing between sky-high energy bills and coming back to a freezing home, you might want to look at getting a smart thermometer. You’re a unique individual, with unique, individual needs. Remember that.
3. Consider whether you need your new smart devices professionally installed
Though most wireless items will be pretty easy to set up, other devices are less simple. If you know someone who can install the more complex gear for you, perfect – but don’t hesitate to pay for an expert to do it instead. The last thing you want to do when you’re entering the world of smart homes is to destroy your home on the way in.
Finding a smart home system for you
You’re ready. Having consumed our extensive guide, you should have no problem selecting the right smart home system, with the right price, capabilities, and level of security to fulfil your needs.
For all the best options, simply fill in this form to receive a tailored quote. You can then run through them, order the best one, and relax, safe in the knowledge that you've taken the right steps towards securing a better, easier future.