Introduction to Home Automation

What is Home Automation?

Home automation is the process of creating what is called a smart home or a connected home.

Imagine turning lights on and off, boiling a kettle and adjusting the temperature of the house – all from the comfort of your armchair or bed. Control of home automation can be set automatically or changed remotely, and is most commonly done through a hub and an app on a smart device.

Two terms used interchangeably, but actually separate, are home automation and smart homes.

Home automation is when the homeowner sets commands with triggers – such as having lights come on at certain times.

A smart home is the next step, and triggers these commands itself based on certain criteria – for example a thermostat adjusting itself to keep the atmosphere consistent without any manual interference.

What can I control?

The current range of products for home automation covers all sorts of rooms and tasks. Below, we’ve put together a quick guide to some of the best products and how they can help out at home. 

Keep an eye on your bills

One of the main advantages of automated homes is their ability to monitor power and water consumption. If you’re looking to cut down on the cost of living without making any major compromises, home automation is your answer.

To keep your heating costs down, you should seriously consider investing in a smart thermostat. It will tell you how much energy you are using to heat your home, and how you are using it, to help you make shrewd decisions regarding your consumption. With smart home technology, your thermostat can notice when you’re away and automatically turn the heat down. Remote control through smart phones means you can keep the heat low during the day, then turn it up on your way home and return to nice warm house. You could save between 10 and 15 per cent on heating and cooling using a smart thermostat.

Look at installing smart LED bulbs to cut down on the electricity costs of lighting your home. The Philips Hue Smart LED bulbs operate on just 9W of power and last up to 15,000 hours. Although they have a higher initial cost, LED lights often return on their investments within a couple of years.

Smart switches let you monitor the amount of electricity your appliances, such as your gaming console or plug-in lamp, are using. Some models offer their findings in both watts and currency, showing you how expensive your devices are to run. You can also remotely turn lights and other devices off when you’ve left a room, or program them to turn off at certain times – cutting power usage down to the absolute minimum.

How does home automation keep me safe?

One of the key strengths of home automation is in its application to home security. Gone are the days of nuisance burglar alarms and worrying while away. Affordable technology means you can keep your house safe and stay aware of everything going on in and outside it at all times.

Thanks to connectivity, you no longer have to rely on neighbours hearing your burglar alarm and acting on it. You can be alerted in person, by your phone or smart device, no matter where you are in the world. Some smart CCTV kits will even let you look through their cameras via your connected device. With 1080p video quality in some of the better models, you’ll get a clear shot and be able to act fast in all instances.

You can use home automation to deter intruders in the first place, switching lights on and off according to pre-set times, or remotely through an app. Connecting your devices together will give you a comprehensive view of your property and a better way of defending it. If you’re away, for example, you can program the lights to come on when someone crosses a barrier on your perimeter at night, deterring them from trying to break in. You can also use external CCTV cameras to see who was visiting, and keep an eye out for them in the future.

Some home automation devices include sensors that can read and evaluate air quality. They can pick up on mould, tobacco smoke, cleaning products and more pollutants in the air and show how clean your environment is. By monitoring levels over time, you can establish whether a room has sufficient ventilation – ideal for people with respiratory or health problems.

Have fun with home automation

Outside of the practical applications, home automation also offers the sheer excitement of living in the home of the future.

The previously mentioned Philips Hue Smart LED bulbs offer some great visual effects. They cast light from a choice of 16-million shades of colour and tones of white – from medical white to vivid fuchsia. Each bulb can be programmed to shine in a different light or shade, so your room can be lit in multiple colours. You can also build a colour scheme from an image of your choice, getting the lights to match a feature painting or build a palate from your favourite holiday snaps. The colours can also be programmed according to the incredible ‘If This Then That’ feature. Want your child to stay in bed in the morning? Teach them to lie there until their bedroom light turns green at a time of your choice. Want to limit your time at the desk? You can program the lights to change colour when you’ve spent too many hours sitting, encouraging you to get up and away for a break. You can also dim the lights when a film starts, just like in the cinema, or program them to turn blue when it starts to rain: the possibilities are endless.

Where do I start?

There are hundreds of smart products on sale and in development, so choosing where to start can be a bit daunting.

Fortunately, many modern products are ready to go upon purchase. You can be controlling your electronics and running a part of your home remotely as soon as your new device has left the box. It all depends on which part of your home you’d like a little computerised help with.

We’ve had a look through the range available, and come up with three sound choices for where to start.

Choice one: for us, making the home safe and secure is the best priority. You can soothe any niggling doubts when you’re away for extended periods of time, and react quickly and effectively should anything go wrong.

Choice two: we think the second greatest advantage of smart tech is in its money saving potential. By making some sensible purchases, you can slim your monthly bills down by a significant amount.

Choice three: go for flash. Sure, we’ve lived without texting our fridges for centuries – but can we carry on now we know it’s a possibility? Tech lovers with cash to splash can afford to upgrade their home in wild and wonderful ways. A full home automation, with every modcon available, will set you back thousands – but affordable baby steps can take you into the future faster than you can imagine.

There’s really no wrong answer, but if you want some more advice before you make your decision, or fancy a few tips as to what device will best suit your needs, send us a message and we’ll help you out!

Home automation offers some fantastic advantages, and is likely to grow in prominence as more technology is developed. Now is great time to dip into the market and start learning about what is becoming one the biggest breakthroughs in recent years.