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    Smart home technology has skyrocketed in recent years. With the rise of off-the-shelf devices like Amazon Alexa and Philips Hue more people than ever are introducing smart features into their homes.
     
    However, a smart home means far more than just an Alexa on a kitchen surface. In this blog, we’ll answer 20 of the most common questions our specialists are being asked, week in, week out.
     

    Jump To

    1. What is a Smart Home?
    2. What Do Smart Homes Do?
    3. How Do you Make your Home Smart?
    4. What are Smart Home Devices?
    5. How Do I Make a Smart Home with Alexa?
    6. What Smart Home Devices Work with iPhone?
    7. Can Smart Home Devices be Hacked?
    8. How Do I Make my Smart Home Devices Secure?
    9. Is There an App to Control All Smart Home Devices?
    10. Do Smart Home Devices Slow Down WiFi?
    11. How Much Bandwidth Does a Smart Home Use?
    12. Are Smart Homes Worth it?
    13. How Much is a Smart Home?
    14. What is Smart Home Security?
    15. How Do I Integrate my Smart Home Devices?
    16. Does a Smart Home Save Money?
    17. How can I Design a Smart Home?
    18. How Many Homes Have Smart Devices?
    19. When was Smart Home Technology Introduced?

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    What is a Smart Home?

    A smart home is a network of internet-connected devices that control specific elements in the home, such as lighting, sound, temperature control or curtains and blinds. These systems are designed to automate the everyday lives of the homeowner. Often controlled wirelessly, smart home technology adds elegance, style, convenience and charisma to a property and can usually be controlled from a central panel or any internet enabled device.
     
    A well designed smart home is not about adding complication, the technology should make tasks easier and more intuitive. For example, the system can be programmed  that entrance hall and driveway lights come on automatically when you arrive home at night is a simple procedure that makes life easier, safer and more comfortable.
     

    What do Smart Homes do?

    The general purpose of a smart home is to automate the everyday in ways which are personalised to you and your specific needs. This can include anything from turning all the lights off when you leave your home, through to automated blinds that wake you up using natural lighting in the morning. 
     
    The beauty of a smart home is that if you can imagine it, a specialist installer can usually bring it to life, making your possibilities endless. From seamless speaker integration through to ultra-precise heating control, smart device integration can transform the lived experience in your home or business, allowing you to live more comfortably, effortlessly and in style.
     
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    How Do you Make your Home Smart?

    Making a smart home goes well beyond simply installing a smart device such as an Alexa or smart switch. In order for a home to be deemed as truly “smart” you need to be integrating two or more features (lighting, sound, security etc) into a centrally controlled system. 
     
    Integration is the key to unlocking the full potential of your property. Your smart devices should work in tandem to increase the functionality of your home, whether that’s through smart lighting and automated blind compatibility or outdoor cinema, smart surround sound technology - the integration opportunities are truly limitless.
     
    If you’re looking to build a smart home, it’s never worth sacrificing your experience with a third-rate installation or DIY job. Fully integrated smart homes are complicated systems that require a great deal of experience and understanding to design - a single mistake can throw your entire system out of balance. 
     

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    What are Smart Home Devices? 

    There is virtually no limit to what can be labelled as a smart home device, assuming it can connect to a wireless system. The scale of smart home devices ranges from the typical smart speakers like Alexa and Google Home, to much more advanced systems like smart security packages and entertainment centres.  
     
    Of course, if you’re looking for a true smart home, you’ll want to hear about the more advanced stuff. When we speak about this technology professionally, we mean the systems that automate a home with endless convenience.

    How Do I Make a Smart Home with Alexa?

    Smart speakers such as Alexa are a great stepping stone into the smart home world, offering basic functions including voice control over lights and appliances. When Alexa is used in conjunction with Amazon smart plugs you can control a number of devices in the home through Natural Voice Commands. Alexa can also integrate with Lutron lighting systems to allow you to control your lights in your home with your voice.
     
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    What Smart Home Devices Work with iPhone?

    Virtually any smart home device is compatible with the iPhone when a smart hub such as Control4 is introduced. Control4 is a home control system that brings together all of your smart home devices into one easy-to-use control panel, allowing appliances and home features to work together seamlessly through an automated system.
     

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    Can Smart Home Devices be Hacked?

    It is possible for smart home devices to be breached by hackers to target personal information, however there are measures in place within the more specialist devices to protect your privacy. The more basic and “DIY” your device, the more likely it is to be hacked. Think cheap video doorbells and off-the-shelf CCTV cameras. 

    Having a robust home network and WiFi system is key to reducing the risk of hacking. Lower the risk of your smart home being hacked by choosing a trusted installer, only using industry approved technology and ensuring that regular software updates are complete.

    How Do I Make my Smart Home Devices Secure?

    1. Network and infrastructure cabling is a crucial component to a secure, reliable smart home.
    2. Purchase devices from trusted brands.
    3. Get advice from a smart home installer. 
    4. Complete any required software updates. 
    5. Conduct regular password changes and use two-factor authentication.
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    Is there an App to Control All Smart Home Devices?

    There are a wide range of smart home control hubs that can control the entirety of your smart home devices, which generally include an app to seamlessly control home technology. Control4, Crestron, Amazon Alexa, Apple Homekit and Google Home are the big players in the industry.

    At Chris Lewis we primarily work with Control4, an industry leading provider of smart home technology. Control4 offers thousands of integrations with the majority of the major manufacturers, at a very reasonable price point. Control4 allows all of the individual technology to be controlled from a centrally managed internet enabled device, like an iPhone, tablet or wall-mounted panel.

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    Do Smart Home Devices Slow Down WiFi?

    The short answer is no, but this depends entirely on who you have trusted to install this technology. If cheap, clunky, self-installed technology is used throughout the home, your WiFi will undoubtedly be affected - but when working with a trusted installer your speeds should remain unchanged as a robust WiFi network with Mesh technology will be installed.

    How Much Bandwidth Does a Smart Home Use?

    Most smart home devices don't require as much internet speed as you may think. Now there is no formula to determine the bandwidth requirements of a smart home, but most common smart assistants and thermostats do not affect bandwidth. Whereas security cameras - which require continuous data transfer - will demand a larger bandwidth.

    Ultimately, a fully formed smart home with security features in addition to entertainment could potentially slow down the speed of your WiFi, so this is something to consider during your smart home installation. 

    For fully optimised smart home WiFi, we always recommend switching to a smart meshed network system. You can find everything you need to know about this technology here: chrislewis.co.uk/blog/best-wifi-system-smart-home.

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    Are Smart Homes Worth it?

    Yes. If you are looking to improve your overall home experience, smart home automation can boost style, comfort, wellbeing, security, energy efficiency, and much more. Smart technology can solve problems you frequently encounter to enhance the comfort of your home, making it extremely personalised to you and your family’s needs.

    Some might argue that the cost of a fully formed smart home is steep, but when you take into account the improvement to your daily life, it’s worth the investment. Not to mention, many smart home features can save you money in the long run - like ultra-precise heating and lighting controls which reduce energy consumption and reduce your carbon footprint.

    How Much is a Smart Home?

    A smart home could cost anywhere from £1000 to £150,000+, it really depends on your expectations and specification of your home. For example lighting within one area can cost up to £1,000 to have professionally installed and sound systems on the lower floor could cost similar.

    If you’re looking to simply introduce smart technology into one room of your home, this could cost as little as £400 to £600, although we wouldn't necessarily describe one isolated room featuring smart technology as a smart home.

    We would define a smart home as a centrally controlled system with at least two features such as lighting and heating. There are lots of ‘off-the-shelf’ DIY home automation setups on the market, but if you’re looking for a custom smart home, tailoring to your specific requirements and desires, these just won't cut it - nor meet your expectations. 

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    What is Smart Home Security?

    Smart home security offers homeowners a proactive system to protect and view their assets in real time, which can be monitored from anywhere in the world. When thinking about smart home security, Ring doorbells just don't cut it. Think perimeter monitoring, facial recognition and alarm systems that can be set and unsent remotely. 

    It’s easier than ever to design a smart home with a security-first approach, enabling remote control of smart door locks, lights, alarms and video surveillance to monitor your smart home from practically anywhere.

    In essence, a smart home security system combines the features of traditional legacy security measures like burglar alarms, CCTV and access control to offer complete, concise control over your home - and a range of groundbreaking benefits.

    Using the app on your smartphone or tablet, you can retain control over your home through push notifications and alerts for each time an alarm is triggered and take the necessary action to prevent an incident occurring on your property - enabling a proactive approach to security, rather than a reactive one.

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    How Do I Integrate my Smart Home Devices?

    The simplest way to integrate your smart home is through Control4. Systems such as Google Home or Apple Home Kit do allow for integration, but not on the scale those looking to create a full-integrated home are usually seeking. 

    By working with Control4 you can bring multiple brands such as Lutron, Sonos, Meridian and Honeywell into the same control system. A feature that is NOT available with most off-the-shelf options.

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    Does a Smart Home Save Money?

    Yes, a smart home can save you money in the long-term. Features such as automated lighting and blinds can lower your energy consumption by working in partnership to leverage natural light and reduce the amount of artificial energy (heating & lighting) used across the day. 

    Smart irrigation systems can save money on water bills by watering to a schedule that uses the exact amount of water required for a specific area. For example, sprinkler systems can be scheduled to water a specific time of day, most likely later in the evening where the temperature will be cooler, allowing for optimum absorption and minimal water wastage.

    Furthermore you can save money on your home entertainment. Rather than having a Sky subscription with 4 multi-room boxes you can have one or two boxes in a central rack and choose which screen these display on, duplicating video feeds across multiple screens if you like.

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    How Can I Design a Smart Home?

    To achieve the true smart home experience you will require the services of a trusted installation company with extensive experience and industry knowledge in the world of smart home design. There are 1000’s of products on the market and it takes hours and hours to research what is right for you. Employing a specialist with experience designing and selecting these products can save you hours of research.

    Generally it takes at least six weeks to complete a smart home design. This is because there are many decisions to make and other trades to coordinate with. Smart home design involves a lot of components coming together to work in harmony, it goes far beyond just purchasing smart devices and linking them together through an existing network.

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    How Many Homes Have Smart Devices?

    Over 15 million UK households now have a smart home device, but with the rapid surge in popularity of this technology the exact figure is not known. Surprisingly, what is known is that 24% of people in the UK invested in three or more smart devices since the beginning of the first UK lockdown.

    When was Smart Home Technology Introduced? 

    After many advances in technology during the 90’s, smart technology as we know it today began to quickly develop in the early 2000’s, due to increased demand from consumers. With smart homes quickly becoming more affordable to the everyday individual, smart home technology began to appear on the shelves.

     

    Have any more questions? Get in contact with us today and we'll get them answered!

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    Tom Clarke
    I design, specify and support clients during new installations, system upgrades and ongoing support of their Smart Technology – even if we were not part of the original commissioning. My background is high-end Hi-fi systems but due to the bespoke multi-discipline offerings from our partners, suppliers and manufacturers, I pride myself on a personal and practical service that turns complex systems into simple recommended solutions.