By now you have probably heard about smart hubs such as the Google Home and Amazon Alexa.  We all know that all you need to do is speak and they answer back, they turn the lights on or simply tell you the weather. Have you also heard about smart plugs, allowing you to turn things on and of whether you are home or not? You have also probably heard of devices such as Hive and other thermostats that can be controlled by your phone.  We would like to explain some of these devices and let you know their pros and cons.

Smart Thermostats

Smart thermostats are one of the latest trends in the smart home world. Also controlled by an internet-connected device, smart thermostats allow you to turn your heating on/off and adjust temperature.   Another feature of some smart thermostats is that they monitor how much energy you are using from day-to-day.

Pros:

  • With the ability to turn off the heating when you have already left the house for work, your household bills will be considerably lower. According to MISD106-Group5’s WordPress blog, most households save up to 20% on their bills.
  • The ability to access your heating system from anywhere on your phone makes controlling your thermostat easy.
  • Turn you heating up when you are out the house eg leaving your heating on low if on holiday and then turn it up in the taxi on the way home from the airport.
  • To see how much energy is being used with your new smart thermostat, simply just have a look at your app to see the results.

Cons:

  • Is your existing thermostat compatible with your new, smart thermostat? Check with your installer before you book anything! Some older systems may need to be checked if they are compatible with your smart thermostat.
  • Like most smart devices, smart thermostats aren’t always at a low-cost price.
  • You need to have WIFi reaching where your boiler is or it will not work.

 

Home hubs


One of the most popular ‘smart home’ gadgets: home hubs are a voice-controlled, easy to use device which can do nearly everything.  Whether you ask the smart hub to dim the lights (smart light bulbs), turn on or off devices that are plugged in with smart plugs, put a playlist on Spotify, or just ask the weather home hubs are simple to use and have a variety of manufactures to fit your preferences.

Pros:

  • All home hubs are hands-free devices, which means you can use them whatever else you are doing eg cooking, bathing the kids or watching TV.
  • You can also connect multiple hubs, however, is it limited on what brand your smart speaker is. Want to play music in a few rooms of the house? No problem, just link all of your smart speakers together for a continuous play of music.
  • Most smart speakers – such as the Amazon Alexa – also recognise each voice of the people in the household individually. Which makes individually identifying a person and their preferences more personal.
  • If you have multiple devices eg Amazon Alexa you can use them as an intercom so reduce shouting!
  • They are great at searching the internet for questions and often have Easter eggs that will entertain both young and old for hours.

 

Cons:

  • Devices such as the Lonovo Smart Display have had complaints about low speaker volume. Although this isn’t on every smart speaker device,
  • The prices of smart speakers vary depending on the manufacturer. For example, Google’s HomeMax is £399, whereas Amazon’s Echo is £55, a considerably lower price than Apple’s speaker, however with both getting considerably good reviews. Before buying your smart speaker, always look for reviews and consider the best one for you. (are we sure of these prices?)
  • Some smart speakers will have to be plugged in to function. This may become a problem if you want to bring your speaker around the house with you.
  • You have to check what other smart devices you already have or want before committing to ensure compatibility.

 

Video doorbells


These devices give you the practicality and usefulness of seeing who is at your door, even if you are not at home. Alarmingly burglars often ring the doorbell first to check if anyone is home.

Pros:

  • Two-way communication is one of the main features of a video doorbell. With the visitor and the occupant able to talk back and forth, conversation is simple.
  • Weatherproof video doorbells are always readily available with any manufacturer. So, there’s no need to worry about the pouring rain or windy snow this December.
  • Video doorbells also detect motion at your front door and will send alerts to your phone when it senses any. So, you can be sure that nothing sneaky is happening outside your home while you’re at the office.
  • A simple way to add to your home safety and never again open the door without knowing who is there.
  • Enables you to answer the door and tell the person you are coming.

Cons:

  • Customers should be wary of is the price. With prices ranging from £30-£100 and over, it’s difficult to know which is the best model to buy, and for the best price.
  • You need a strong wifi signal by the front door in order for the doorbell to work.
  • Some doorbells will need to be removed to be charged this can be annoying especially if someone comes to the door when you are charging the bell.

Smart lightbulbs

Smart light bulbs are a functional and practical way of turning your lights on and off, by scheduling, and customising their activity, usually via the use of an app. How about using your smart speaker to control your smart lights? Well, you can do this as well. It’s as simple as asking your Alexa or Google Home Hub to dim the lights.

Pros:

  • Depending on where you put them, these smart bulbs can act as a form of security for your home. Are you going away on holiday? Schedule your outdoor lights to come on during the night to ensure your home is safe.
  • Contrary to belief, smart bulbs can last just as long as a traditional LED, and some models have a longer life expectancy than the average light bulb.
  • Most smart bulbs manufacture’s having apps so the user is able to control their home lighting from anywhere. From changing the colours, making the lights brighter to scheduling the activity of the lights, you have all the control of these smart bulbs from your handheld device.

Cons:

  • Unfortunately, high-ended brands are a lot more expensive than a smart bulb from stores such as Curries or Argos. With bulbs from Lifx going for £40 per one and Hughes selling them at £30 a piece also, turning your home into a smart home is something that you need to plan accordingly.
  • The set-up of smart bulbs can be complicated, and those who don’t have experience in setting up such devices can find it difficult to set it up and get it correct.
  • To use the bulbs the light switch needs to be on therefore even if the bulbs are off they are still draining power.

 

To conclude, smart homes seem like a wonderful, effortless series of devices, that make everyday lives of families easier. With technology constantly developing and improving, it seems like smart homes will only be getting smarter.  However, there may also be a few factors to consider when thinking of transforming your home into a smart home such as cost and understanding how to use the devices.  Remember with all these smart devices you will need to have seamless wifi throughout your house so that they all work as well as ensuring that your internet does not lag.
For a quick solution to this, call First Contact on 0161 740 7400, to talk to one of our knowledgeable team members about arranging a site survey for a wi-fi distributor.

 

Don’t know what a wi-fi distributor is? Read our previous blog called Wi-Fi – It’s Not Just For Christmas.

For more information on how to make your home smarter, please call our office on 0161 740 7400.

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