Do you remember imagining the “house of the future” – whether on The Jetsons, or at Disneyland, or on any number of movies or promotional programs? Did you expect it would do all sorts of things for you? From vacuuming your carpet, to mowing your lawn, to making your meals, you likely envisioned an idyllic lifestyle where you could sit back and let technology take care of you. Well, the future is now, and smart homes are not only attainable, they’re growing in popularity every year.
For all their convenience and luxury, smart devices do have some drawbacks. From high upfront costs to security concerns, upgrading to a smart home might not be for everyone. Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages before deciding if a smart home is right for you.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SMART TECH
A smart home, as the name suggests, is powered by smart devices. These are electronics, appliances, and other gadgets that you can control, automate, and customize – usually remotely. Smart tech is typically controlled via your smart phone and/or a hub. You’ve likely heard of the major players in the market: Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google Assistant. Whichever your preference, the house of the future is only a tap (or command) away!
THE BENEFITS OF A SMART HOME
It’s Convenient & Comfortable
The biggest benefit to smart devices is that they make life more convenient and comfortable. With some upfront installation and programing, a smart-equipped home takes out some of the daily annoyances and chores related to running a home.
There is a lot you can automate, from adjusting the lighting, to changing the channel on your TV via voice command, to asking your smart assistant to look up a recipe. You can also tackle chores like watering your lawn, vacuuming your house, or making a grocery list. While some of these tasks enable an easier lifestyle, others are life-changing, especially for those who may have physical limitations.
Would you like your coffee to be ready and waiting when you wake up in the morning? What about bedroom blinds that open up automatically? Does a fridge that can detect its contents and expiration dates sound good? And what if you could never touch a vacuum again? Imagine the possibilities.
You Save Time
If you’re a busy person – perhaps you’re a parent, a caretaker, or you have a demanding career – you are very familiar with the challenge of finding pockets of time to dedicate to chores and other home-related activities. Sometimes, even getting up to make the coffee can feel like precious minutes taken. Imagine no longer having to dedicate a weekend morning to yard work because the smart mower does it for you. Or not having to make a trip to the grocery store after work because your fridge put in an order for delivery.
Cutting out a minute here and 10 minutes there adds up to more time to sleep in, relax on the couch, socialize, or work on that big project. Time is money, and you’re getting some of it back to use in more productive ways that enrich your life, instead of draining it.
You Save Money
Speaking of money, a big selling point of a smart home is that it saves you money in the long-run. Yes, it can be expensive to set up, but it can also be one of the best investments you’ve ever made for sustainability – both financial and ecological.
Smart lightbulbs don’t use nearly as much energy. Plus, they perfect the amount of light your living space requires, based on the activity, time of day, and number of people. The same goes for smart thermostats. According to Nest, households with smart devices save an estimated 15% on cooling costs and 10%-12% on heating costs in a given year. You could be cool and comfortable in the Charleston heat without feeling guilty about the energy bills, because you’d save over $130 a year. Smart home upgrades are attractive to home buyers as well, and can increase your asking price when it comes time to sell your home.
THE DRAWBACKS OF A SMART HOME
You Rely On Wi-Fi
If you’re excited about the prospect of introducing smart tech into your life, you’ll need strong, reliable Wi-Fi. If your internet is down, so is your house, and you’re back to doing things manually. Fiber internet is recommended because it offers superior speed and stability. Be sure to shop around for the providers in your area that offer the best service at the best price.
A lot of smart devices are sold as a security upgrade – especially smart doorbells and cameras. But because they are inherently reliant on Wi-Fi connections, that can also be a weak security point. For example, Amazon has recently introduced a feature called Sidewalk that, when enabled, allows anyone walking down the street to connect to your network. That poses some security concerns, as not everyone wants to share their broadband.
In addition, any device connected to the internet can be hacked. Perhaps you’ve heard stories about baby monitors or video cameras being accessed by outsiders. Intruders can pull relatively benign tricks like messing with the lighting or thermostat in your home, or more serious ones such as accessing your locks. Always be sure to utilize the utmost security on your network. Also be sure to check your privacy settings according to how much of your personal information you are willing to share in return for functionality.
A smart home is definitely an investment with upfront costs that can be significant. But as the technology becomes more commonplace, more companies produce this type of tech. This increases competition, options, and affordability. In the meantime, the range of products currently available varies greatly in price, so look around to find what fits in your budget.
While some dream of owning a smart home that’s just short of having a live-in maid, it’s not for everyone. While it certainly has a lot of advantages – you’ll love that smart fridge when you forget your shopping list at home – it can also pose some legitimate concerns.
The technology is still young, so there are security issues you need to be wary about. You will also need reliable Wi-Fi, and some upfront investment. But if you do decide to go for it, you’ll enjoy long-term savings on your energy bills and a lifestyle upgrade.
What are your thoughts on a smart home? Tell us in the comments below what concerns you and what smart tech you can’t live without.