Are you interested in making your home smarter?
"Smart homes are expensive, reserved for the rich and famous who can drop £30-60,000 on technology to enhance their lives with automation, mood lighting and high quality audio systems."
That's what they'd like you to think. And that may have rang true 3-5 years ago.
But this couldn't be further from the truth now, in late 2016.
In fact if anything it's getting more and more difficult to spend £60,000 on home technology!
To coin an analogy I heard on the radio recently, "what starts off in a Mercedes eventually finds it's way into a Ford!"
What Makes A Home Smart?
Different people will have a different opinion of what a smart home is, and there is no set law of what makes a home a smart home!
Simply adding some low-cost data cabling in with your electrical wiring can provide network connectivity to Smart TV's. It can be used for power to CCTV cameras that can be viewed on your phone whilst at home or on the other side of the planet.
When we say smart home we generally mean that the home has some control capability from your smart phone with the ability to turn lights on and off, adjust your heating and control your entertainment devices.
In my opinion a true smart home is one that works for you, with automated lighting and other events that assist and compliment your lifestyle whilst remaining simple to use for the whole family.
So How Much Does It Actually Cost Then?
Smart home costs vary depending on how smart you want your home to be. You can keep it as simple as controlling your heating from your smart phone, which can be achieved from just £250.
Lighting can be controlled with various wireless products, which have now become ultra-reliable. Philips Hue lamps start from £59.99 and let you set scenes in your home from your smart phone.
Is this a smart home? Of course.
Now you can take control of heating, power, lighting and audio visual equipment. You can see CCTV cameras and check on your home from wherever you are in the world. You can see who's at your door, you can open your gates. You can lock and unlock your doors via your phone.
Heck you can even talk to your home with Amazon's Echo
"Alexa, lock down the perimeter!"
"Alexa, make me a coffee" (yes really!)
Cost.... Tens of thousands?
Not any more.
The reality is this can all be achieved for a lot less, even using a proper smart home company to install your goodies you'll struggle to run up bills into the tens of thousands now. With Z Wave products such as Fibaro, Danfoss, security products from Yale, heating from Nest, CCTV from X Vision, there's loads out there. And despite becoming increasingly smarter, and much more reliable it's all becoming more and more reasonably priced too.
In fact we're almost at the point where re-wiring a property will change forever. No longer will it just be switches and sockets!
A 3 bedroom house can be converted to a smart home for not much more than a £1000 + installation, which can be easily retro-fitted to a standard house in a couple of days. This'll give you a seriously impressive system, lighting control - dimming and scene setting, security, motion sensors to turn lights on and off automatically and of course the elusive smart phone control from wherever you are in the world!
Sounds much better right?
So It's Cheaper Than I Thought, But I Don't Want To Re-Wire My House!
A few years ago if you were considering a smart home you'd be looking at re-wiring your property to allow for the lighting control circuits, and wiring for the switches, sensors etc.
But now we have an amazing technology called Z Wave!
Z Wave is a very reliable mesh network system, many manufacturers make compatible products so you are not restricted to one manufacturer.
With Z Wave you can have switches and sensors, dimmers and relays, remote controls and smoke alarms. The list is almost endless.
All these devices are wireless, reliable, and cost-effective.
This all means that you can take a standard 3 bedroom house and convert it to a smart home with lighting and heating control from your smartphone without the need to run lots of cables around.
Small modules will be added to your lighting circuits, wireless sensors will be mounted and wireless TRV valves can be added to radiators all without needing re-decorating!
It's worth noting that some things really do need cables, but you can achieve quite a lot without wires!
Why Is The Price Dropping So Fast?
Supply & Demand and technological advances.
As more and more people switch on to smart homes, more and more products are produced and in greater volumes which naturally brings the costs down.
Secondly, home automation is no longer a dark art (at this level). It's getting really easy, some systems are as simple as plugging in a light bulb and opening an app. Even the advanced building control management systems such as Fibaro are relatively straight forward to install, and more and more electricians are getting into the industry helping the switch over.
Sure there is still an upper level of home automation that requires the highly skilled professionals, and projects certainly do run into £30-60,000 and beyond. There will always be a market for this and the systems require that expertise and years of training the installers go through to provide a first class service.
But for us everyday people, we'll not be left behind.
I'm proud to be part of the switch to affordable smart homes using Z Wave technologies and amazing products from Fibaro and various other exciting companies.
My three bedroom "normal" house in Portsmouth features a Fibaro smart home system including automated lighting, heating, home cinema, in ceiling speaker systems, wireless alarm system and Wi-Fi connected smoke alarms.
At night you won't get anywhere in the property, or outside, without turning on all the lights and setting off the alarm.
Lights turn on and off for us as we move around the home. Arriving home in the dark is no longer an issue as opening the front door triggers a scene that automatically lights the hallway and lounge to welcome us home.
High tech smoke alarms keep us safe day and night. We are notified if we leave the stair-gate open so our toddler won't attempt an un-aided stair climb attempt.
Our kitchen and bathroom radio systems keep us entertained on a daily basis, and the lounge turns into a home cinema at the press of a button.
We can even ask our kitchen to play our favourite music, via Amazon Echo.
It certainly didn't cost a fortune! It's very reliable and is so easy to use, in fact it does most things for us without any interaction. We have normal looking light switches that anyone can use without going on a training course and it's fully controllable from my smart phone, tablet or computer.
Anywhere in the world. (But mostly from Portsmouth!)
Together we'll make homes more energy efficient, safer, more secure and more entertaining. In some cases we'll even use home automation to create ability and independent living. Home automation is even working its way into care homes and hospitals helping keep people safe.
I sincerely hope that this blog helps bust the myth that smart homes are super-expensive and hard to use.