Smart tech and your home

At APM we love technology which makes life easier, cheaper and more eco in the long run. That being said, smart technology can feel like a minefield of options and too overwhelming/ complicated to install. So, we’re sharing what we’ve learned so far, what works well and what to look out for in the future.

Key considerations

Cost versus Value

  • Firstly, write down your goals/ requirements so you can refer back to this.
  • Next, find out the approx. cost- it may be cheaper than you think as prices come down as the technology develops.
    • Ensure you get prices from a reputable supplier
    • Factor in installation and maintenance costs- including any app subscriptions
  • Once you have a quote, refer back to your goals and requirements- would these be met and are the benefits worth the cost?

Battery versus Wired

  • Battery powered options have really opened up the smart technology market as they can be installed into existing buildings easily without requiring extensive electrical works.
  • However, there are downsides to battery installation-
    • The batteries need regular changing/ charging which in some cases need to be done by a professional
    • If the battery runs out, the smart function stops working (always at the worst times!)
    • Use of non-rechargeable batteries is bad for the environment (and re-chargeable options are not currently as good- the technology needs to improve)
  • Where possible, we still advise using a wired system – if you consider your smart technology needs at the start of planning a renovation project (i.e. well before you start on site), any wiring/ upgrades and specialist equipment can be invisibly installed during larger works.
  • In some situations, solar power can be used to power fittings/ remotes (assuming the charger faces the right direction and gets enough sun).

Longevity

  • As with everything related to tech, think carefully about whether the product/ technology you’re planning to install will be suitable for years to come OR is easy to upgrade. Ensure anything installed (especially inaccessible parts like cables in a wall) are as future proof as possible by selecting 1st fix which will work on a multitude of platforms and is supported by a company which is well established should you require future maintenance/ replacement parts. Speak to your supplier and electrician for advice. 

Types of Smart Technology widely used in homes

  • Lighting/ switching- either app controlled or smart switches with lighting scenes.
    • Lutron have excellent wired or wireless options
    • Alternatively, Philips Hue do smart bulbs which you can retrofit to existing light fittings
  • Window coverings- again these can be app controlled or with small remotes- particularly great for large/ hard to reach windows. Additionally, you can set automatic timers connected to your lighting system- making it look like someone is home even when you’re away.
  • Heating- set schedules and adjust settings on your phone (without needing to move from under your warm blanket!). Smart thermostats also learn how quickly your house heats/ cools and your preferences- allowing them to optimise your energy use whilst ensuring the house is comfortable.
    • Nest is an APM favourite- see Liz’s detailed review here
  • Security-
    • Alarms- burglar alarms have come a long way with so many options on the market- for wired, battery, monitored, bells only etc. Many offer systems you can control from your phone- useful if your pet accidentally sets off the alarm when you’re away.
    • ‘Ring’ doorbell- this doorbell connects to your phone so when you’re out, you can communicate with whoever is at the door- particularly useful if you want them to leave your package somewhere really specific!
    • Smoke alarms- these can be connected to wifi so you never have to worry again that the house has burned down while you’re on holiday (or is it just me who does this?!)
  • Other-
    • Pet doors- you can track your pets’ movements and set schedules which allow certain pets in and out at certain times. Also microchipped pet doors are highly recommended in cities to stop other pets or wild animals from sneaking into your home.
    • Google Home- this works much like an iPad with larger speakers, and is quite similar to an Alexa or Siri in obeying commands – you can set a timer, play music from Spotify or look for recipes with the command ‘Hey Google’ or ‘Ok Google’. All of these can be controlled by asking or tapping the Google home directly, or through the phone app:
      • You can add a Google doorbell, which works much like the ‘Ring’ doorbell above, and connects with your Google Home to display (while also notifying you through your phone), who is at the door.  (You’re then able to leave generic messages such as ‘please leave on the step’.)
      • You can go further with the Google Home by connecting small tech wonders throughout your home, such as intelligent lighting (we like the Phillips Hue bulbs (dimmable, offer different tones of light, and available as a regular E27 fitting for most lights)).  These allow you to control lighting through your phone or Google Home.
      • Wifi-plug adaptors (such as the Tapo plug) can be connected to your Google Home, and fitted to useful things such as an electric blanket…very useful for turning on when you’re wrapped up on the sofa and want to get right into a warm bed!
    • Wifi-kettles- a lovely little piece of luxury for your home, a Wifi-enabled kettle such as the iKettle can be controlled through your Alexa or Google Home, with both apps telling you how full the kettle is, while also allowing you to alter temperature to heat to. Again, very useful for tea-preparation when you’re wrapped up on the sofa.
    • Sockets with built in timers or inbuilt USB charging ports- saves you needing to find the adaptor- now you only have to find the cable…
    • Solar panels (or PVs) are arguably the most useful ‘smart’ home technology, allowing you to use renewable energy at no ongoing cost to power some of the energy requirements in your home. Read more about these and other Sustainable options for your home in our recent journal, here.

If you need help with your renovation (with or without smart-tech), contact us now!

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