There's never been a better time than NOW to start your Smart Home journey as the industry has matured an incredible amount during the last few years! With thousands of Smart Home devices available from hundreds of different manufacturers there's no part of your home that can't be turned from dumb to Smart.
That said, there can still be pitfalls and obstacles along the way, so this guide will offer some hints and tips to help you navigate your way to your perfect Smart Home!
1) Start small, think big!
We know that starting out can be daunting, so we always recommend that you get going with a small area to begin with, say by adding some control to your home’s lighting.
There are many options when it comes to starting your Smart Home, so it’s important to make some good, solid decisions before you get going. For example, it’s possible to control lighting using some simple-to-install infra-red light switches that work on ‘line of sight’. These switches provide you with both remote and local control, however, you do have to be in the same room. Different options are available if you want to switch your lights on / off if you are in another room or you aren’t at home: it depends what you want.
The crucial thing to remember is that wherever you choose to begin, go for a strategy that won’t limit your options in the future.
At Vesternet we believe that devices based on Z-Wave and Zigbee technologies offer the widest selection, compatibility and interoperability. Choosing a Smart Home Controller such as those offered by SmartThings, Athom, Fibaro or Hubitat for example, allows you to start with a small number of Smart Home devices and gradually add to the system over time to incorporate hundreds more!
These Smart Home Controllers can also be expanded to integrate many other technologies, for example Sonos, Philips Hue, Hive, Tado, Visonic and Nest. And don't forget they will also be able to work seamlessly with your chosen Voice Assistant too.
2) Who's the boss?
At Vesternet we believe that succesful Smart Home design needs input from all the family in order to create a user friendly system that works well for everyone.
One person in the house might think it cool to be able to collect environmental data such as temperature, humidity and light level for every room in the home and create flashy graphs, but it’s unlikely to get an enthusiastic reaction from everyone.
Much better to implement some easily controlled mood lighting, for example some RGBW based LED strips that can be set to an infinite range of colours! Add a multipurpose sensor to turn lights on automatically when somebody enters the room and everyone is happy. And the geek of the house can get a fix too, as the sensor will also provide environmental data for those all-important reports!
3) Too many chefs spoil the broth!
Advances in wireless Home Automation technologies are leading to their implementation in multiple areas of the home: Lighting, Heating, Security, Entertainment, Comfort and Energy Saving can all be given the “Smart Home” treatment.
Unfortunately, the proliferation of different technologies could result in the installation of many separate control systems covering light switches, buttons, touch screens, PCs, smartphones and tablets. Who wants to have to use a dozen different web User Interfaces (UIs) or Apps to run their Smart Home?
At Vesternet we believe that it’s important to invest in Smart Home devices that are capable of offering a unifying experience. That’s why we recommend simple, wireless devices based on the Z-Wave and Zigbee technologies as they can be both self-installed or professionally installed and can cover all the different areas in your home.
A Smart Home Controller from SmartThings, Athom, Fibaro or Hubitat will then tie all these Smart Home devices together into an easy-to-use web, smartphone and tablet UI.
4) Measure twice, cut once!
We can’t emphasise enough the importance of good research and planning and this is especially important for those just starting out on their Smart Home journey.
Use your favourite internet search provider to find out as much information as possible about any proposed Smart Home Controller and Smart Home devices. Participate in forums and discussion groups, don’t be shy!
Learn from the mistakes that other people have made and avoid falling into the same traps that they have. It’s much better to first ask some simple questions than to spend a small fortune on something that may never do what you want it to do.
Vesternet are the only Smart Home supplier to offer free pre-sales advice – use and abuse this fact! We’re here to help you in the initial planning phase and answer your questions to assist you with making good choices. There’s loads of useful information on our website too, all accessible by clicking the "Learn" link on the menu. The sections in here are stuffed full of guides, resources, tutorials, application notes and much more.
And remember, the only stupid question is the one that is never asked!
5) Cutting corners increases costs!
Nobody likes spending more money than they have to and with the cost of living increasing every year, we’re all feeling the pressure to cut costs or perhaps to do things “on the cheap”.
Unfortunately, when it comes to Smart Home technology, cutting corners can end up costing you more money in the long run!
For example, if you’re decorating rooms anyway, why not spend a small amount of extra money fitting deeper electrical pattresses (back-boxes) at your light switches?
Or perhaps while you’re having some other electrical work carried out, why not ask the electrician to run a Neutral wire to your light switches too?
These simple things shouldn’t add much to the work that's already being completed and can make installing Smart Home devices easier in the future, or give you additional options when it comes to choosing a technology.
In life we all quite often apply the “get three quotes and go for the middle one” strategy when considering purchases. The same can also be applied to your Smart Home and it’s worth considering going for the middle ground in many cases.
For example, a Motion Sensor that also has temperature and light level data may cost a little more, but in the long run you might be able to use those extra functions to control your Heating or Lighting automatically. So spending a bit more in the beginning could save you money in the long run!
6) Don't run before you can walk!
You wouldn’t attempt to run a marathon if you get out of breath walking to the shops, so don’t jump in at the deep end with your Smart Home either!
If you’re just starting out, Vesternet recommend that you begin with a simple project like controlling a few lamps from a remote control. Or if you want to get stuck in and take control of your entire lighting system, break the project up into manageable chunks first by implementing it a room at a time.
Taking it a step at a time really helps you get to grips with the technologies involved, gaining experience and confidence as you go. There’s no point in buying a myriad of devices and wondering what to do with all the stuff when it arrives!
Systems that are complicated to use and maintain will never get used to their full potential and will create resentment and bad feeling in the long-term.
At Vesternet we believe that while it’s important to create a reliable, stable and resilient Smart Home, it should also be one that allows critical systems like Lighting and Heating to function independently in the even of any issues with the system. Wherever possible, the smarts and control should be layered on top of the basic functionality to provide additional comfort and convenience.
Systems that have a Star Trek-like command and control system may be a huge technical achievement, but nothing will kill the spirit of your Smart Home quicker than a failure in one part that completely takes out a crucial part of the house. Could you really suffer without heating on a cold winter morning because your central control PC crashes and refuses to turn on again?
At Vesternet we believe in the KISS principle - “Keep It Simple, Stupid!”. Your Smart Home should make your life easier, not harder.
Getting Help and Advice
We hope that you found this guide useful and will use these hints and tips to guide you in your Smart Home journey. If you need any further help or advice, contact Vesternet and we will do our best to answer all of your questions.