What is a Smart Home? A Guide to Home Automation

In a smart home, smart appliances and systems control features such as entertainment, heating, lighting, security and surveillance.

The purpose of a smart home is to make life easier and more convenient for the homeowner by automating or simplifying manual tasks. In a smart home, smart appliances and systems control features such as entertainment, heating, lighting, security and surveillance. These appliances and systems connect and communicate via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, often through a central hub, and are controlled by means of a smartphone app, voice commands, or automation.

Also known as home automation, these interconnected smart appliances form a part of the Internet of Things (IoT). A smart home offers a high level of security and smart appliances tend to be much more energy efficient than standard “dumb” appliances, while smart app control gives you full control of your home, wherever you are.

This article covers

Benefits of a Smart Home
Why doesn’t everyone have a Smart Home?
What kinds of Smart Appliances and Systems are out there?
What are the most popular Smart Home products?

Image of Smart Home control with smart appliance icons around it.

Benefits of a Smart Home

A smart home doesn’t only make life much more convenient, it also offers great benefits. One of the main reasons why people start looking into smart homes in the first place is to have more ease of control and security for their home.

The smart home system gives the owner full control through an app, voice commands and automation. Smart security can let you know who is entering and leaving the home, or speak to whoever is at your door via a video feed doorbell. You also have full control of your home no matter where you are, and can even let someone in remotely. Smart security camera footage can be viewed in real time on your smartphone, to keep an eye on your children and pets or when you get a security alert.

Some smart home systems offer big savings on electricity bills. The stand-out in terms of saving money is smart thermostats that are much more energy efficient than standard thermostats. Smart sprinkler controllers can save water (and money) by monitoring the weather and adjusting irrigation schedules and duration. Smart robots can take care of cleaning your floors and mowing your lawn, all while eliminating air pollution and reducing noise pollution, and saving time and labor costs in the process.

Smart homes also create a safer environment for elderly people, making it easier to carry out tasks at home. Automation and voice commands are easy to use for all ages and can help families stay connected and close.

On top of all these benefits, smart homes make entertainment easier and more fun than ever. Entertainment on demand is a great benefit, whether you are hosting a party or simply having a family night. Smart speaker systems allow you to have music playing in every room of the house. And now you can simply tell your smart tv what you want to watch, and it will stream it for you.

Family movie night

Why doesn’t everyone have a Smart Home?

Even though smart home technology has been around for a few decades, its adoption by consumers has been relatively slow. Many people have a hard time figuring out new technology or are concerned about the security of their home and whether it can be hacked. Furthermore, a reliable internet connection is crucial to a smart home, which may rule out its suitability in some rural areas.

These are all valid concerns – not everyone wants or needs a smart home. The old chestnut, “don’t fix what ain’t broke,” comes to mind. As regards the threat of hacking, the best way to mitigate this is by opting for devices with built-in security and protecting your accounts with strong passwords.

Aside from these concerns, another barrier is the cost. Incorporating wireless smart tech into your existing home could cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousands of dollars. If you are building a new home, it might be a better option to wire in smart home functionality from the start. While this will cost much more than the wireless options, wired systems can increase the value of your home and are considered to be more secure.

Smart home technology is not a new concept, but smart products are becoming more popular due to constant improvement and innovation. Some smart appliances and systems can be difficult to set up and tech companies are working very hard to make their smart home products more user friendly.

 A smart home mobile app being used in a modern kitchen.

What kinds of Smart Appliances and Systems are out there?

Nearly everything connected to electricity in your home has a smart alternative. Appliances like smart lighting, smart door locks, smart cameras, smart doorbells, smart fire/carbon monoxide alarms, and smart security systems allow you to secure and monitor your home wherever you are.

Smart kitchen appliances can free up your hands by stirring the pot for you. Smart fridges can tell when you are low on essential groceries and order them online. Smart induction hobs can ensure that you never over or undercook meat again. Smart toasters can give you perfect toast in half the time. Robot vacuum cleaners and mops can clean up a mess as fast as it’s created.

Smart blinds can close on a fixed schedule or by app control and voice command, removing the need for pull cords making them safer for children. Smart beds can be adjusted in a number of ways to help you get a perfect night’s sleep. Smart taps and shower heads can ensure the perfect water temperature for each user every time, be controlled with voice commands, and reduce water wastage.

Outside, smart sprinklers can keep your lawn and plants healthy with the perfect amount of water. Robot lawn mowers will mow your lawn much more frequently than you do, leaving you with a greener, healthier lawn with the added benefit of causing no air pollution and much less noise pollution.

Smart TVs and speakers take entertainment to a whole new level. Smart speakers offer a host of different features: on demand music, news, reminders, routines and scheduling, weather reports, and timers.

Smart Speakers

Smart speaker on a table in a sunlit room

The most popular smart products by far are smart speakers. It is also a great place to start for those who are setting off on their smart home journey. Amazon Alexa and Google Nest speakers lead the field. They are the most compatible with a wide variety of smart home appliances and are fast becoming the preferred means of hub control for smart homes. 

Smart TVs

Remote pointed at a smart tv

Smart TVs hardly need any explanation – you either already have one or wish you had one. Smart TVs allow you to stream your favorite shows through your favorite streaming service without the need to connect your laptop, tablet or phone. By connecting to Wi-Fi you can surf the web and YouTube using your remote control or keyboard, while some newer models offer voice control and Alexa compatibility.

Smart Thermostats

Wall-mounted smart thermostat showing the temperature and humidity

If you care about not wasting energy and keeping your heating bill as low as possible, smart thermostats are an affordable way to greatly improve the efficiency of your home heating.  Smart thermostats heat up or cool down your home as fast as possible; some even learn how your home heats up to increase efficiency. These smart appliances can also sense when you are home and will adapt to your routine so that your house is the perfect temperature every time you arrive home. 

Well known thermostat brands include Ecobee, Honeywell, Nest, Emerson and Lux.

Smart Lighting

Smart light bulb out of its box next to smartphone and wifi router

No longer do you have to fumble in the dark looking for a light switch – smart lights can be switched on, off or dimmed by simple voice commands to your smart speaker or via an app. There are two main ways to incorporate smart lighting into your home. The first being Smart bulbs which connect to your Wi-Fi or communicate via Bluetooth. Well known smart bulb brands include Philips Hue, TP-Link, LFIX and Zigbee.

Another way, is to install smart light switches and dimmers which can replace your existing “dumb” switches. Popular smart switch brands include Ecobee, Leviton and Lutron.

Robot Vacuum Cleaners and Lawn Mowers

Robot vacuum cleaner busy cleaning a wooden floor

When it comes to convenience, few things are more appealing than a robot cleaning your floors and mowing your lawn for you. These kinds of appliances don’t come cheap, and considering the engineering that goes into them it is no surprise. If you have a busy schedule or have children who love to leave a mess, brands such as iRobot, Ecovacs, Eufy, Neato, and Bissel offer a wide range of robot vacuum cleaners and mops.

Popular robot lawn mower brands such as Husqvarna, Worx, Ambrogio, Stihl and many more offer products for every size and shape of lawn.

Smart Security

smart security camera against a white background

For most homeowners, excellent home security is an absolute must. Standard alarm systems do a good job, but smart security solutions allow you to cover every aspect of your home security that you might feel has a weakness. In addition, door and window alarm sensors can alert you when someone is trying to gain entry and video doorbells mean you can speak to whoever is at your door simply by using your smartphone. Smart locks allow you to monitor who enters and leaves your home and to let people enter when you are away. Moreover, smart cameras can be viewed in real time on your phone, wherever you are.

Smart security system brands include Vivint, Simplisafe, Frontpoint, Ring, Abode and many more.

Smart Hubs

Apple HomePod speaker and hub

A Smart hub is a means for all your devices to communicate with each other. Whether or not you need one will depend on how many smart devices you have and whether or not they are compatible. Popular smart hubs include Samsung SmartThings, Logitec Harmony, Hubitat, and WInk.

Smart speakers are becoming very capable smart hubs in their own right. Smart speaker hubs include Apple HomePod, Google Nest Hub, Amazon Echo and Echo Dot. A cloud-based alternative to smart hubs is IFTTT, short for “If This Then That”, where you can set up routines and create your own unique automation called applets.

Smart Pet Care

Smart pet doors will allow your pets to let themselves in and out of your home. This works by recognising their RFID microchip, and keeps any unwanted creatures out. Some smart pet doors also offer app control. Popular brands of smart pet doors include Petsafe, Plexidoor and Sureflap.

Auto-feeders can also dispense the exact amount of food your pet needs when it is time to feed them and can be controlled by an app, or your pet’s RFID microchip. Self-cleaning litter boxes, such as Cat Genie, AutoEgg and Petsafe, take the hassle out of cleaning up after your feline friends.

In conclusion

Smart homes are undoubtedly the way of the future. Year after year our lives become more integrated with technology; all our information is already on our phones and in the cloud. Before long, smart home appliances and systems will become the norm. Continued research and innovation will eventually make smart home technology accessible and affordable for more households across the world. Until then, smart homes will continue to set the standard for energy efficiency, comfort and convenience.

What to do next?

If you found this article informative, we invite you to come and have a look at our smart product comparisons and reviews at missionsmarthome.com

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