What is a smart home and why do I need one?
Ok, I’ll admit – although quite adept at using technology, having a lot of ‘smart’ gadgets and appliances never really appealed to me. Until I tried them. And now there is no way I can go back to the past because I feel like I’m living in a smart home future and it’s incredible.
The most obvious benefit of having smart devices is the convenience. Home life has massively changed in the UK over the past 50 years. Life is much busier (so I’m reliably told) meaning that little changes that save us time can make a big difference. I’m not by any means suggesting that you run and throw away all of your perfectly working appliances and get brand new ones, but certainly do your research into smart energy before you purchase new items.
With a young family, like lots of you, safety is paramount. Lots of the smart devices I recommend below are security based and I honestly couldn’t be without them now.
And don’t forget to get your smart energy meter installed by your energy supplier too. It’s at no extra cost and the information from these meters will allow our energy system to become so much smarter. For example, it will be able to more accurately anticipate peaks and troughs of demand, and better integrate renewable sources of electricity. This all contributes to making the system much more efficient and reducing waste. We all want to do our bit for a greener world so smart meters are a small step that we can take to help Britain reach its goal of being carbon neutral by 2050.
And besides all the serious reasons, smart devices are just FUN! I’ve genuinely enjoyed playing about with the apps and setting it all up.
So, which devices do I recommend?
The market is absolutely filled to the brim with smart devices. It’s a bit of a minefield so here is my round up of the products I have tried and tested in my own smart home.
I’ve never had smart watch so wasn’t really sure what to expect with my new Fossil watch. During the first few days, my wrist seemed to vibrate every 30 seconds. Slowly I began to turn notifications off for most stuff on my phone, except the Ring doorbell (more on that later), phone calls, messaging etc. It’s particularly handy for when phone is in bottom of my handbag. Similarly, it’s great if I’m at work and don’t have my phone on me. I love that I can see if I get messages through from my daughter’s school, for example.
I’m also looking forward to using the Google Fit aspect of it more, as although I’ve been paying attention to the pedometer, I’m definitely not using it to its full potential yet. In terms of design, it is quite chunky but I love how you can personalise the dial and I’m also planning on buying a new strap to make it a bit more feminine too. I need to spend a little more time getting to grips with it but it doesn’t seem as though it will be too difficult to control music with it either. The only other major thing to note is that it needs charging every couple of days but I just do it overnight so this hasn’t been a huge issue for me.
The Ring doorbell is absolutely one of my top recommendations. We have installed a Ring Video Doorbell 2 and it was fairly pain-free to get it up and running. We did have to play around with it a bit once installed. As we live on a busy road, we were getting notifications whenever someone walked past. But once we had reduced the sensitivity of the sensor, it worked perfectly. It really is incredible to know that even away from home I can see what is going on outside the house.
There’s a two-way microphone and speaker as well, which made me think how brilliant it would be for elderly relatives, as they wouldn’t even have to answer the door until they’d seen/spoken to the visitor. The crystal clear images, combined with the instant mobile alerts ,mean that I would 100% recommend this to everyone. And because I’m super snazzy the notifications come to my smart watch too. Check me out!
So, between Canary and Ring, I feel so much safer at home (and when we’re away from home too!). The Canary Pro is an all-in-one security system, with HD video and microphone; the images are even amazing in the dark! Download the app to your phone and can sound a siren or contact 999 directly. It really does give peace of mind, should something terrible happen. There is also a built in climate monitor (temperature, humidity and air). However, the very best bit is that you literally just plug it in and you’re good to go.
A smart kettle is an absolute luxury but I love it. Picture the scene… Sunday morning and you’re snuggled up in bed. Stay warm and cosy while you put the kettle on from your phone. Come downstairs ready to make a nice, hot cup of coffee straight away. Dreamy. It can even be voice enabled on your phone and has a baby bottle setting. It’s definitely not a necessity but if budget allows, it is so handy (and loads of fun!).
But what about the downsides?
The only downsides I can see really are the set up of different devices in a smart home. None take too long but they’re not always as simple as plugging in and away you go. There are also a lot of different apps to download so I’ve made a folder. Keeping them together makes it much more manageable to check notifications. They can take time to get your head around; I’m definitely not using all of the smart home devices to their full potential yet. For example, I haven’t yet linked them to our Google Home Mini yet but hopefully they’ll all run seamlessly. Overall, the tiny downsides massively outweigh by the positives of having a smart home. I can’t see the novelty wearing off any time soon!
For more information about smart homes, check out Smart Energy GB, who are campaigning for a smarter Britain!