How To Turn Your House into a Smart Home: A Beginner’s Guide

There is no doubt we are living in rapidly changing times. Advances in technology over the last twenty years mean children are as likely to learn from a tablet as a book, many of us just need an internet connection to work our jobs remotely and we monitor our health and wellbeing with fitness trackers no bigger than a watch.

Whether you’re a home owner or a renter, the appeal of the smart home is strong. You can unlock your front door with your smart phone, walk into your home as the smart lights turn on automatically, and ask your virtual Google assistant to make you a cup of tea. And a robot vacuum ensures the house is spotless even when you’re away, as your smart thermostat will dial down the air conditioning or heat to keep costs down, and you can monitor all of this from your phone with indoor and outdoor security cameras. Sounds almost too good to be true, but it’s easier than you think. Many of these tips are actually simple improvements that will increase the value and liveability of your house.

We look at some of the most popular smart home gadgets and how they can best be used to effectively turn your home into a smart house:

1.  Smart Energy Meters in Ireland

Smart energy meters are currently being installed in every home in Ireland. This is an initiative that started in Autumn 2019 and will continue until the end of 2024. To date, over 800,000 smart meters have been installed across Ireland by ESB Networks. A smart meter is a device that allows your electricity and gas consumption to be measured in real time. So this is a step in the right direction towards a smart house that you won’t even have to pay for. Some benefits we are likely to see are:

  • Increased awareness of the electricity you use
  • Time of use energy pricing; you are charged less for energy used in low demand hours
  • No more need to submit meter readings
  • A better understanding of what devices use most energy and this will all result in savings on energy costs over a year.

2. Use Smart Plugs to Automate Your Old Tech

Before you start buying dedicated smart home products, keep in mind that you can use a smart plug to easily transform ordinary devices such as lamps, fans, and coffee makers into smart devices that you can control with your phone. Simply plug them into a wall outlet, download the app, and connect your non-smart device. Now, you can use a smart plug to add any functionality that isn't already there—so you can't make your white light bulbs change colours, for example. But you can get them to turn on an off at designated times. Some smart plugs support voice commands and can even tell you how much power you use over a given period.

3. Install a Smart Thermostat

A standard thermostat allows you to control the temperature in your home, usually by adjusting a dial on the wall. A smart thermostat provides you with complete control over your home heating no matter where you are through an app on your phone. The thermostat can be set to adjust over the day, higher in the mornings, lower while you are out at work and increasing when you return home. Smart thermostats will also adjust according to the weather and show you exactly how much energy you have used. You never need to worry about leaving the immersion on again in your smart house – once you have your phone, internet connection and a smart thermostat you can switch it off from anywhere in the world. Anything that can help to increase your BER rating is a winner in our books.

4. Illuminate Your Home with Smart Lighting

Smart lighting has become even more popular than ever before, and for good reason. Automated lighting allows you do so much to make your home life more convenient and safer. One of the most obvious benefits is the ability to switch the lights on or off remotely, using your phone or even voice activation. Another benefit is scheduling. With smart home lighting, it’s so easy to set a schedule for your lights. You can have each light (or group of lights) to turn on or off at specific times. You can even set them to turn on or off at random times when you’re away so that burglars won’t realise that no-one’s home. Motion detectors offer even more security options. Lights can be activated when a sensor detects motion, which is very handy to let you know if there are any unwanted guests creeping around outside your house late at night.

They also add energy saving benefits too. The use of dimmers when full brightness isn’t needed will quickly add up to a reduced electricity bill. And you can turn off lights you’re not currently using. There’s really no point in lighting a room when no one’s in it, so these lights can just turn themselves off.

5. Get A Smart Robot Vacuum Cleaner

Over time the humble vacuum may become a thing of the past as robots take over this chore. A small cylinder, not much bigger than a dinner plate can roll around our house while you sleep, making sure floors are spick and span when you wake up. This smart device will map your home on its first run and many will allow you to draw no-go areas so it doesn’t knock over your priceless Ming vase! Like other connected devices you can operate your robot cleaner through an app on your phone. Many will find their way back to their charger once they have finished cleaning.

6. Install Smart Doorbells and Smart Security

The connected world has seen home security come on leaps and bounds. Although many of us are still reliant on traditional methods of home security, this is one of the most commonly adopted smart home trends. There are monitoring systems available both professionally installed and monitored or ones you can install yourself. These work with motion sensors and cameras, allowing you see what’s going on inside and outside of your home right on your phone. And these smart doorbells have the added advantage that you can accept packages even when you aren’t home, which is great news for those of us who’ve wasted days waiting inside for deliveries to arrive.

Tip: Read our 10 Important Home Security Tips

7. Smart Home Devices Integration

Once you have installed all these smart devices, what’ll be most important is how well integrated they are. From a pure integration standpoint, more smart home devices are starting to communicate with one another. For instance multiple rooms in your home can be outfitted with Google Assistant speakers that can function in a group instead of individual units. A Philips Hue lighting system can control the lights in your entire home and can follow specific routines that you create to turn the lights on or off across the household according to your schedule and needs.

And moving on even further, when a smart refrigerator detects you’re low on milk (or snacks) it can add it to the shopping list stored on your Amazon Alexa. Connection is key when it comes to expanding the smart home system.

Ease of use continues to improve, too. You don’t need to be tech-savvy to set up many smart tech devices. In most cases if you have a smartphone, a Wi-Fi connection and an outlet, you have all you need to connect together a string of devices. This makes the barrier to entry lower for smart home tech across the board, ensuring this rapidly expanding sector will continue to do so.

Smart Technology and Your Home Insurance Premium

Smart homes and the increased volume of data that they can provide may help your insurance company make more accurate calculations of risk, resulting in lower premiums. Smart devices minimise the risk of damage and lower the amount of claims policy holders make. Smoke detectors, water monitors (that can detect leaks as they happen) and monitored alarm systems are some of the most common smart devices insurance companies want customers to install in their homes. Especially if you have a monitored system, this is one thing that is sure to drive down your insurance premiums. We previously covered things that will change your insurance premium in the future and created an infographic on how IoT is impacting insurance premiums.

If your home insurance is up for renewal, whether you have a smart home or not, get an online quote today.

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