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Insteon Serial Modem Interface: Should You Have It In Your Smart Home?

If you have even a passing interest in home automation, you’ll be well aware of Insteon.

One of the original smart home guards, Insteon has been in business since way back in 2005.

The beauty of Insteon is that on a simple level, total beginners can start fuss-free. You can get set up and running without needing to call in professional help even if you’re not at all tech-savvy.

At the other extreme, the Insteon ecosystem allows for plenty of hardcore customization such as the Insteon Serial Modem Interface, so tech lovers can max out automation and control.

What is the Insteon Serial Modem Interface and why should you care?

Insteon Serial Modem Interface

With this simple plug-in interface, you can control any
Insteon devices in your ecosystem using a PC or an automation controller.

If you’re an absolute beginner, we suggest you scroll down where we show you how to get started with Insteon. If you want to get the very most out of your existing system, read on.

With the Insteon Serial Modem Interface (SMI), you can allow PC and hardware controllers to take control of the Insteon devices in your ecosystem via the network.

Making use of simplified commands, the SMI allows devices
with programmable serial ports to send Insteon commands. This renders
third-party controllers instantly Insteon-compatible.

The Serial Modem Interface doubles up as an access point since signals are sent both wirelessly and over the powerline.

If you find yourself wanting to invest in the SMI, we recommend you check out our forum. Since no technical support is offered for developers, you can find a vibrant community in our forum always ready to help out. You can also browse through for plenty of handy hints to get you up and running with your interface in no time.

For set-up, go here to get detailed instructions.

For most people looking to get third-party controllers firing on all cylinders, this package is a must.

Take a look at the main advantages of the Serial Modem Interface at a glance.

Key Benefits

  • Hassle-free serial connection
  • No background software required with computer programs
  • Streamlined and simplified command set
  • Communicates by powerline and RF simultaneously for maximum stability
  • Direct connection for hardware devices

If you’re not ready for the level of complexity that comes with the Serial Modem Interface but the Insteon ecosystem is tempting you, we have something for you right now.

Get Started with Insteon

Here are three easy ways you can get up and running with an Insteon ecosystem today without spending too much money or requiring any technical knowledge.

Insteon Hub Central Controller

If you have ambitions beyond a device or two working independently, it’s well worth investing in the Insteon hub. Especially if you’re looking to build out an effective ecosystem delivering maximum functionality.

If you want remote control of devices or you want to use
voice control, this gateway is essential.

You’ll be up and running in minutes with this rebooted model of an enduring classic. Control is then seamless whether you’re in-app or using Alexa or Google Assistant.

Check for compatibility with other devices right here.

Insteon Remote Control Plug-In On/Off Module

If you’re new to home automation, a plug-in module is a great way to start by giving some regular appliances a shot of smarts.

Simply plug in a fan, heater, lamp or other small appliance
and you’ll be able to turn them on or off remotely.     

As long as you have the hub outlined above, you’ll also be
able to use either Alexa or Google Assistant to fire up that old lamp or heater
from across the room with voice commands.

You can also buy an outdoor version of this smart module.

Insteon Smart Thermostat

Upgrading and automating climate control is one of the most common entry points for newcomers to smart home technology. Insteon makes this very easy for you with a user-friendly and highly effective smart thermostat.

This WiFi thermostat plays nicely with all types of heating and cooling systems, and even more, complex 2-stage systems.

As long as you have a hub in place you can use your digital assistant of choice to take the helm hands-free.

To reduce your energy consumption and electricity bills
while ramping up the comfort and convenience factors, an Insteon thermostat
might be the wisest investment you make this year.

Final Word

Well, whether you’re a smart home beginner or you’re an old
hand, Insteon has something for everyone. While the Serial Modem Interface is
not for the casual hobbyist, if you’re committed to home automation, it gives
you a great deal of added flexibility.

Don’t forget, bookmark our blog for all the latest smart home news.

Also, if you find a new Insteon device tempting but you’re still uncertain, we might help you decide…

Sign up here for our email newsletter and we’ll give you a whopping 20% off your first order here at Smarthome, so what are you waiting for?

The post Insteon Serial Modem Interface: Should You Have It In Your Smart Home? appeared first on Smarthome Blog.

Why You Should Have a Smart Switch In Your Home

Developments in smart switches mean you now control the atmosphere and visibility in your home far more intelligently than ever before.

There are many different approaches you can take to smart lighting.

Plenty of questions will crop up along the way, starting with why you should consider upgrading the intelligence of your light switches in the first place.

Why Switch to a Smart Light Switch?

If you’re still unsure about the
benefits of smart home technology, lighting makes a great starting point.

You can get going with as little as a single smart bulb or you can go all-in with a smart switch.

While convenience is a strong motivator for many to switch to smart light switches, there are far more benefits to smart lighting than ease alone.

Core Benefits of Smart Lighting

  • Enhance security by controlling when the lights come on or off even if you’re away from home
  • Intuitive controls work seamlessly with your existing home WiFi network
  • Save money on your utility bills by programming your lights with energy-efficiency in mind
  • No need to overhaul the lighting system in place, simply work around it and inject it with some intelligence
  • Also, you can enjoy the convenience of reading until you’re ready to sleep, then ask Alexa to hit the lights or wake up in the morning without needing to fumble in the dark for the light switch

If you’re sold on the idea of smart lighting, the first distinction you need to make is between smart bulbs, smart plugs, and smart switches.

Keep It Simple: Smart Bulbs and Plugs

Replacing your old bulbs with smart new ones might seem like a no-brainer.

  • Smart Bulb: With smart bulbs, you’ll can control your lights remotely using your smartphone and even change the color of the lighting if you want to improve the ambiance for your evening BBQ or poolside party.
  • Smart Plug: If you decide on a smart plug, you simply transform your existing lighting so you can switch it on or off from anywhere using your smartphone. Smart plugs have a WiFi chip that allows them to communicate directly with your router and WiFi network. Some smart plugs also allow for basic tracking of energy consumption. You can also use IFTTT (If This, Then That) applets to allow your smart plug to receive instructions from other devices in your home.

The main advantage of this rudimentary
approach to smart lighting is the fact it’s a question of plug and play with a
very low barrier of entry. If you don’t like the new set-up, there’s very
little lost.

On the flip side, you need to make certain the bulbs you have in mind will slot into your existing light fixtures. As a rule of thumb, the majority of smart bulbs have an A-shaped bulb unit and an E-shaped base. If you have more exotic fittings like candelabras, smart bulbs won’t be a good fit.

So, if you’re looking to make a real impact with your smart lighting, though, a smart switch will offer you enormous scope.

Amp Up Your Home’s IQ With A Smart Switch

In some ways, nothing much changes with smart switches, since you’ll still be able to control them from the wall just like you always did.

The bonus with smart switches is the added functionality you’ll enjoy. Some come with remotes that enhance manual manipulation and you’ll also be able to dim the lighting when the mood dictates.

On the other hand, another key benefit is that smart switches work effectively with your existing fixtures, even if they’re unsuitable for a smart bulb.

Installation is permanent and also more involved, but the results make this extra effort worthwhile.

Wired or Wireless Smart Switch?

Now, if you decided that smart light switches are your best bet, you need to determine whether to go wired or wireless.

A wireless smart switch makes perfect sense if you’re renting. You won’t need to carry out any work on the wiring and switching that is already in place. Many smart switches come with a magnetic mount, meaning you won’t even need to physically fix it on the wall. Although the selection of wireless switches is limited, there are still options from the major industry players.

If you’re a homeowner, wired smart switches call for the current switches to be swapped out. In return, you’ll be rewarded with a fully integrated method of controlling your lights.

Often, circumstance dictates whether you’ll choose wired or wireless smart switches. There’s no right or wrong answer, just what works best for you.

Neutral Wire/C Wire

You need to understand your
home’s wiring before launching in.

Most regular light switches and outlets use two wires:

  • Live
  • Neutral

Internet of Things devices, in
common with most electronic gadgets, run on low-voltage DC power.

If you want to add smart switches, you need at least one more wire to hook up to the DC power. This is called a common wire or C wire and enables a signal to be sent to any of your IoT devices.

Unfortunately, approximately 50% of North American homes don’t have this C wire, so how can you get around that to achieve your smart lighting goals?

  • Choose smart switches that don’t require an additional neutral wire.
  • Add wires into your existing wiring, but this is costly and creates a real mess. This is the best method if you are remodeling and the wiring is already exposed.
  • Smart bulbs sidestep any problems with wiring and grant you control at bulb level.
  • Go for smart LED lights with battery-powered switches.

With the wiring issue addressed,
you need to think about what communication protocol best meshes with your smart
home.

Protocol: Z-Wave or Zigbee?

As with all aspects of your smart
home, there’s never a single clear-cut path that’s best, simply a case of what
works best for your situation.

If you’re only interested in a
smart lock, some simple smart bulbs and perhaps a speaker, you won’t run into
too many issues with communication standards.

If, on the other hand, your smart home includes garage door automation, smart switches throughout, and other layers of smart home security, you’re likely to encounter Z-Wave and Zigbee.

In the simplest terms, both Z-Wave and Zigbee are radio protocols calling for a third-party hub, so your smart devices can communicate with your cell phone. Bluetooth and WiFi-enabled devices, by contrast, can communicate directly with no need for translation.

While Z-Wave and Zigbee are not compatible with each other directly, you can bridge this protocol gap with hubs and smart speakers, so it’s becoming less of a divisive issue.

The Strengths of Z-Wave

While there’s no single solution,
the Z-Wave protocol does have one significant advantage over other protocols.

The 900 MHz frequency occupied by Z-Wave isn’t shared by many other devices. Zigbee, Bluetooth, and WiFi all share the same 2.4 GHz frequency, so there’s often a great deal of network interference.

Beyond this, Z-Wave can be rolled
out as a mesh network. The more Z-Wave devices you have, the stronger the
signal becomes.

Digital Assistants: Compatibility

If you already use Alexa, Siri or
Google Assistant, check the smart switches you’re considering are compatible
with your favorite digital butler.

Once you’re used to barking commands like “Turn off all the lights” as you head out the door or you have your lighting fully assimilated into your morning routine, you’ll fully appreciate the sheer convenience of managing your lighting through your cellphone or by voice activation.

Dimmers or On/Off Switches?

With all the basics covered and your route to smart lighting in your home fully illuminated, there’s one more decision to make.

Should you choose a dimmer or a full-bore on/off switch?

As always, it depends on you and what you want. We’ll outline three of the best smart switches in each category, so you can see which would work best for you.

Three Of The Best Dimmer Switches

1) Insteon Remote Control Dimmer Switch

If you’re looking to remotely
control your light switches from anywhere without spending a fortune, this
no-nonsense dimmer switch is ideal for all regular paddle-style switches.

You won’t need a C wire, so it’s great for older homes without this additional neutral wire neatly removing a common barrier of entry to smart switches.

If you want to use your favorite
digital assistant, you’ll need an enabled device along with the Insteon hub
that will come in useful for far more than just your light switches. If you
plan to extend the boundaries of your smart home, a hub is a crucial
investment.

If you don’t feel the need for a hub, you just set up a virtual 3-way circuit and pair your switch with a keypad, a motion sensor or another Insteon switch. Taking this route requires no further investment.

Control is streamlined so you can use a single tap to control multiple devices. You can customize rates of dimming and schedule with ease, even if you’re not the biggest tech-lover. Adding Insteon sensors adds further depth to your home’s security and functionality.           

Key Benefits

  • No neutral wire needed so ideal for most homes
  • Get voice control using Alexa or Google Assistant through an Insteon Hub
  • Easy to bolt on temperature control and remote access by camera

2) Leviton Decora Smart WiFi Dimmer

A highly convenient wireless
approach to smart light switches, the Leviton dimmer allows you to get going
with no need for a third-party hub.

All you need is the Leviton app
available for both iOS and Android, and you’ll be able to dim your lights from
your phone or using Alexa. For voice control, you’ll need an Echo device then
get your digital helper to dim the lights on demand.

There’s a broad spread of wall plates
available to coordinate with any décor and there are a number of color change
kits to choose from. You can customize every element of your smart lighting
experience with Leviton.

Ideal for LED lights and a simple
way to get started with smart lighting, you will need a C wire to get going.

Key Benefits

  • WiFi connectivity so no hub required
  • Great with low-wattage LEDs
  • Full Alexa control using enabled devices

3) HomeSeer Wall Switch

If you’re looking for a Z-Wave
smart switch that will work with SmartThings, the HomeSeer wall switch is an
excellent choice for all types of lights including LEDs.

You’ll get all the reliability
you’d expect from Z-Wave communication and stress-free integration with other
smart home appliances.

While you can use any controller,
the proprietary HomeTrollers will deliver a superior experience and allow you
to harness the full functionality more easily.

This switch comes into its own
when you incorporate it into your HomeSeer ecosystem. Use the paddles to set up
multiple events and tap in combination to trigger a range of events.

Despite some minor blowback about flickering, the HomeSeer switch performs strongly with LEDs and makes an affordable, effective way to upgrade the intelligence of your light switches.

Key Benefits

  • Z-Wave protocol for rock-solid communication
  • Trigger multiple events in your HomeSeer
  • Works with incandescent, CFL and LED lights

Three Of The Best On/Off Switches

1) Insteon Remote Control On/Off Switch

If you want to control your lights going on and off and not just being dimmed, the Insteon On/Off Switch is super-simple to install and allows plenty of flexibility.

Insteon’s ToggleLinc Relay lets you control any non-dimmable lights and fans in your existing smart network. In its most basic sense, you enjoy that on/off functionality, but there’s plenty of room for expansion.

Use an Insteon remote controller to hit the lights even if you’re in bed. Adding an Insteon hub will allow you to introduce an element of programmability. If you want to use Alexa or Google Assistant, all you need is the requisite device and that all-important hub.

Installation is nothing to worry
about and the Insteon Remote Control On/Off Switch is a quiet and effective way
to seize remote control of your lighting.

Key Benefits

  • Turn lights on or off remotely with 80% less noise
  • Scene lighting simplifies controlling lighting throughout the house to a single command
  • No loss of settings in event of power failure

2) GE Z-Wave Wireless On/Off Smart Switch

If you’re already invested into a
Z-Wave-enabled smart home, the GE Z-Wave smart switch lets you control all
hardwired light sources in your house through an appropriate Z-Wave gateway.

This switch allows you to work with the lighting already in place, but adds remote access and wireless scheduling.

With even more pace and 400% more memory than Z-Wave Classic, this Z-Wave Plus device has all the reliability you’d expect from this protocol, along with a range suitable for even larger homes.

This smart switch does call for in-wall installation, but this is not complex. The body is fairly substantial, so make sure your box is deep enough.

If you don’t want to start
rewiring and you’re looking for a way to integrate your lighting into your
Z-Wave smart home, this GE on/off switch is a must.

Key Benefits

  • Z-Wave Plus offers more speed and memory than Z-Wave Classic
  • Use with almost any type of light bulb
  • Impressive range up to 150 feet

3) HomeSeer Z-Wave On/Off Switch

This HomeSeer On/Off Switch is Z-Wave enabled and lets you control the lighting in your home with any controller. We recommend using HomeSeer’s own HomeTroller for best results.

While it might seem like little
more than a gimmick, the multiple colors available for the LED indicator can
actually come in surprisingly handy. Simply using red for open doors lets you
see at a glance if security has been breached.

You’ll need a Z-Wave hub, so this smart switch is a good fit if you have a hub already or you plan to build out your smart home, in which case a hub will be an essential anyway.

As with all the best smart
switches, controlling the HomeSeer is extremely intuitive. You simply tap in a
number of configurations to trigger commands.

With straightforward installation
and a great range of control, this smart switch is another home run from
HomeSeer.

Key Benefits

  • Multiple colors for status indicators so you can streamline monitoring your smart home at a glance
  • Z-Wave for dependable communication
  • Very easy to install

Final Word

Deciding on the most appropriate
strategy to boost the IQ of your home’s lighting is something worth spending
time on.

If you’re frank about your needs and you consider both your home as it is now and how you’d like it to be, you’ll end up with the right equipment.

Once you’re clear about what you want your smart lighting to achieve and how to integrate this with your existing set-up, you’ll soon notice a sharp upswing in convenience, while saving money on your electricity bill month to month.

Don’t forget to bookmark our blog for all the latest smart home news and come back soon as we have a busy month lined up. We’ll be looking in more depth at the communication protocols we mentioned today and exploring them in more depth.

The post Why You Should Have a Smart Switch In Your Home appeared first on Smarthome Blog.

Ring vs. Nest: Smart Video Doorbell Edition

Ring vs. Nest: Smart Video Doorbell Edition

When you’re looking for a smart video doorbell, two names push firmly to the forefront: Ring and Nest.

Since inventing the video doorbell back in 2013 and starting off on Shark Tank, Ring has become a $1 billion company purchased by Amazon. While continuing to offer multiple variants of the classic doorbell, Ring has expanded to offer all facets of smart home security including a stunning new range of smart lighting.

Nest’s past is equally heady and it’s future comparably exciting. Founded by a pair of Apple engineers back in 2010, Nest also began storming the scene in 2011 with Nest Learning Thermostat. Fast forward to 2019 and Nest, having been purchased by Google for $3.2 billion, is now rebranded as Google Nest.

So, when you’re looking for a video doorbell, our first pointer remains the same as always: keep it personal. It’s perfectly fine to seek advice from friends and family. By all means, research thoroughly and note what other consumers are saying. Ultimately, though, you should focus clearly on your own needs rather than chasing down a boilerplate solution that doesn’t exist.

To make your life easier, we’re going to start with a quick snapshot of 3 of the leading Ring models set against Nest Hello. We’ve left Ring Doorbell Elite out since this is intended for commercial use. It wouldn’t really make the most accurate comparison to pit this pro-grade model against Nest Learning.

Ring vs Nest Smart Doorbell by Category

Rather than putting a specific Ring model against Nest Learning, today we’ll offer a more sweeping comparison of the video doorbells so you can assess the whole residential range.

First thing’s first, what do they cost?

Pricing

Nest Learning is priced somewhere between Ring Doorbell 2 and Ring Doorbell Pro, so it’s clearly being positioned as a premium product.

If you’re looking for a bargain and you don’t mind slightly scaled-back functionality, you can opt for the original Ring Doorbell at a relatively inexpensive price. We still stand firmly behind the original iteration here at Smarthome. You won’t dip out on too much by the way of performance, but you’ll make significant savings.

As you’d expect, the Elite model intended to secure commercial property is a great deal pricier at $499, but it serves a different market and represents solid value for a business.

If you’re motivated purely by the bottom line or tied to a
more restricted budget, Ring comes out the obvious winner here. Considering
what you get from Nest Learning, this still doesn’t represent bad overall
value, though.

Design

Design is pretty subjective, but the general consensus is that Google Nest Hello video doorbell looks a little sleeker than the Ring line.

Nest Hello also features a much slimmer body meaning it’s
much more likely to easily fit onto your door frame.

With Ring, the chunkier video doorbells protrude noticeably and you might need one of the wedges, sold separately, to achieve optimum set-up.

You will get the advantage of interchangeable faceplates with the Ring range so you can mix and match with your décor.

Installation and Set-Up

Designed to replace a traditional existing doorbell, Ring
Video Doorbell Pro and Nest Hello both require a transformer if you don’t
already have a wired doorbell.

With the non-Pro Video Doorbell 2 and Video Doorbell Pro, you have the option of a battery-powered doorbell.

Both companies give you the option of professional
installation if needed.

Overall, set-up is roughly comparable in terms of ease.

How about the picture quality, though? That’s the metric that really counts with a video doorbell.

Video Quality

While Nest Hello’s 1600 x 1200 resolution might not compete
with Video Doorbell 2 or Video Doorbell Pro, HDR support comes in handy when a
visitor is shaded and the background brightly lit.

Despite the fact resolution is lower than you’ll get on the
1920 x 1080 Pro, picture quality overall is superior.

While there is very little to choose between these doorbells
in terms of image quality, we’d say Google Nest edges ahead.

Digital Assistant

You’ll be able to use both Alexa and Google Assistant with Google Nest and Ring video doorbells.

With voice control, you’ll be able to display the feed on your Echo Show or Google Nest Hub, but you won’t be able to take a call or speak with your visitor using your voice assistant. With Google Nest Hello, you’ll also be able to cast the video to a Chromecast.

For Alexa fans, Ring video doorbells give you the superior experience. If you’re already invested into Google Assistant, Google Nest Hello understandably makes a neater fit.

Overall Features

One of the key differentiators is the facial recognition on
Google Nest Hello. This alerts you when family or friends are visiting and is
not available on the Ring line.

You’ll also benefit from continuous recording and a range of
extras that require a Nest Aware subscription.

Ring’s major extra is the ability to build out highly customized motion zones.

In most other respects, each of these smart video doorbells gives you everything you need and nothing that you don’t.

Smart Home Interoperability

As we mentioned, both Alexa and Google Assistant are fully supported on both Ring and Google Nest video doorbells.

You’ll also get tight integration with SmartThings and IFTTT
on both platforms. Ring arguably makes the best match with Samsung’s
SmartThings while If This, Then That responds well with either if you’re more
ambitious about creating recipes for advanced automation.

Subscription Fees

In order to make the most of Ring or Google Nest video
doorbells, you’ll need to take out a monthly subscription.

Nest Aware starts at $5 a month, while Ring’s basic plan starts at $3 a month. You can increase access to stored footage and functionality by opting for the pricier $10 a month plans.     

Final Word

Well, as always there’s absolutely not a right or wrong answer to which smart video doorbell is the best. The only thing that counts is getting what works best for you. Hopefully, after today’s blow-by-blow comparison of Ring and Nest doorbells, you can see which would make the most sense for you.

Whichever of these classic smart doorbells you choose, you
won’t be disappointed.

Don’t forget to bookmark our blog for the latest smart home news.

If you’re tempted to invest in one of these awesome video doorbells why not sign up to our email newsletter first? We’ll give you a full 20% off your first order here at Smarthome, so what are you waiting for?

The post Ring vs. Nest: Smart Video Doorbell Edition appeared first on Smarthome Blog.

Home Automation DIY vs. Hiring A Professional

As the home automation market continues to swell, you’re confronted by seemingly endless products promising perfect plug-and-play functionality. You’re also faced with deciding whether home automation DIY is up your alley, or if hiring a professional is the better choice.

How can you get started, though?

Luckily, if you take a step back and think carefully about your needs, you could be automating your home in a way that works for you, and with much less effort than you might imagine.

If you want to upgrade your home, the first question you should ask yourself is “Do I want a simple smart home system or a fully automated household?”

If you’re quite happy with a basic smart thermostat or Amazon Echo, you won’t need to worry about calling in the pros. However, what if you want a more complex system?

Before you get bogged down in the nuts and bolts of installation, decide whether your prime driver is convenience or security when you’re looking at a smart home. This will, to a large extent, inform the type of system you build out.

Once you have a clear idea of the sort of system you want, it’s time to think about the installation side of things so you can budget accurately before you start buying equipment and getting set up.

Make no mistake, time spent at this stage can save you a great deal of money and headaches later down the track.

Home Automation DIY vs Hiring a Professional

With so many smart home devices and appliances touted as plug-and-play, it might seem tempting to take the work on yourself.

Before you even think about that, though, be completely honest with yourself.

Are you practically inclined and quite comfy with the tech involved to take this on yourself, or is that just wishful thinking?

You’ll need some proficiency with both electric and IT, so it’s more than a case of simple home automation DIY.

If this sounds like you, home automation DIY will excite you rather than intimidate you. There’s never been a wider choice of smart home devices you can get up and running yourself.

You have three broad choices when it comes to installing home automation:

  1. DIY installation for a self-monitoring system
  2. DIY installation for a professional monitoring system
  3. Professional installation for a professional monitoring system

DIY Installation For A Self-Monitoring System

Taking the DIY route and sidestepping any kind of paid-for monitoring service remains a cost-effective and flexible way to get started today.

If you choose to do things yourself, you have two courses of action:

  • Buy a simple starter kit or something more comprehensive with everything you need included
  • Invest in a hub and add compatible devices as you go

As with every aspect of automating your home, what you do here depends entirely on what you want from your smart home. Your options are almost limitless so we’ll give you some pointers.

Think about the future of your smart home not just the present and consider these simple ways to kickstart your home automation DIY.

Three Easy Ways To Get Started with a DIY Smart Home

Take care of climate control and your entry system while upgrading some old appliances to dip your toes in the smart home waters.

1) ecobee4 WiFi Smart Thermostat

Smart thermostats make a highly effective starting point with home automation. Once installed, you’ll get a shallow learning curve and user-friendly functionality. Beyond this, you’ll get to experience an uptick in convenience while shaving a few bucks off your utility bills.

What makes ecobee4 stand out, then?

First, you’ll get Alexa Voice Service baked in. This saves you needing to invest in an Echo device. You’ll also be free to use Google Assistant. Compatibility extends beyond this to IFTTT, SmartThings and much, much more.

By building sensors into your system, you can enjoy superior and completely consistent climate control with none of those annoying hot or cold spots.

Even though you’ll likely struggle to manage the 23% savings on your electricity bill trumpeted by ecobee, you should notice a definite dip in consumption. Keep your expectations reasonable and every little counts with this wifi thermostat!

You should note that the ecobee4 is hardwired so it might not make the best fit if you’re renting. For homeowners, though, there’s arguably no better smart thermostat on the market.

2) Ring Doorbell Pro

At the upper end of Ring’s suite of smart video doorbells, the Pro sits just below the pro-grade Elite. What pushes the price up with this model, then?

The 1080p video gives you high-def footage of all visitors. You’ll be able to communicate using two-way audio even if you’re miles from home keeping you connected around the clock. Night vision ensures there are no black spots.

Coming with 4 interchangeable faceplates, you can make sure your entry system is matched to your décor.

If you can’t quite get the angle you want from your Doorbell Pro, wedge and corner kits are available separately so you can work around this.

Installation is straightforward assuming you’ve got doorbell wiring already in place.

If you’re looking to stay abreast of coming and goings at your smart home even when you’re away, Ring has you covered with Doorbell Pro.

3) Wemo Mini WiFi Smart Plug

One of the perfect pieces of tech to get started with in your connected home is a smart plug. Wemo offers a first-class example, but what makes it so good?

The stackable design is a flat-out winner and lets you use a pair of Minis in a single outlet.

You won’t need to invest in a third-part home hub, so you’ll be able to get going right out the box with no further investment and no extra hassle.

Compatibility is impressive with both Alexa and Google Assistant supported along with If This, Then That.

Simply slip this smart plug into any regular outlet then plug any small appliance into the smart plug. You can then control those appliances remotely. So, from fans and heaters to lamps and coffee machines, you can smarten up some old devices and dip your toes into remote control.

DIY Installation / Professional Monitoring

Maybe you’re quite comfortable installing basic smart home equipment but you want the peace of mind professional monitoring brings.

Some smart home systems like Samsung’s SmartThings offer optional monitoring. There are also purely security-based approaches to home automation like the Ring Alarm that we’ll explore right below.

With professional monitoring, starting out at around $10 a month, you’ll typically get backup service for your central hub in the event of power going down. You’ll also be able to access video footage stored on the cloud.

As long as you’re clear about compatibility, this approach to home automation saves you the cost of professional installation with the added security of someone having your back around-the-clock.

Rather than bewildering you with multiple options offering fundamentally the same thing, we’ll stick with the very best, Ring’s Alarm which is part of smart homes worldwide.

Ring Alarm with Optional Professional Monitoring 24/7

As we repeatedly mention, there’s no cookie cutter solution to building out a smart home. The more personalized a solution you take the time to seek out, the more seamlessly and successfully you can make technology work for you the way you want it to.

For many people, the only way they really want to upgrade the intelligence of their home is on the security front.

So maybe you want an alarm but you’re not sure you want the commitment a full professional installation. If so, Ring’s full home security system comes with the option of taking up professional monitoring around-the-clock from as little as $10 a month. You won’t be locked into any long-term contracts or stiffed with unreasonable cancellation fees either.

You’ll be able to control your alarm and Ring doorbells in-app and you’ll start with a free trial to the monitoring service. After this point, you can get access to video recordings for that modest monthly subscription without being locked into a restrictive contract.

This is the go-to option if you want to save money and go the home automation DIY route without sacrificing professional monitoring.

Pros

  • Everything you need bundled from sensors and detectors through base station and range extender
  • Absolutely tool-free installation with no need to call in the professionals
  • Adjustable sensitivity to prevent false alarms and streamline your security without the cat causing constant mayhem

Cons

  • Multiple users have access to all system information, so think long and hard if you have service staff or children you don’t want having full privileges

Professional Installation / Professional Monitoring

Once the preserve of science fiction, it’s now possible to automate your home without needing to lift a finger and ensure that it’s monitored 24/7. This means you can sleep easier, relax when you’re on vacation knowing your home is secured, and reap all the convenience of smart home appliances you can control from your smart phone.

When you take this approach to automation, you’ll need to commit to a contract and you won’t own the equipment. If you need to sever the contract, expect a penalty fee.

As long as you’re intending to remain in your home for some time to come and you don’t mind being locked into a contract, this professional approach is costly, but effective and offers total peace of mind.

Consider packages from Vivint, Comcast or ADT if you don’t mind paying a little more to get going the easy way.

So, now that you’ve had a chance to think about the three different methods you can employ to get the full benefits of smart home technology, we’ll touch on some of the downsides of home automation DIY installation.

Sure, you’ll save money and feel like you’re getting a bargain, but you should at least ponder the following areas. You’ll want to ensure doing it yourself really is the best way for you to make your home smarter.

Four Flashpoints with DIY Home Automation

  • Electrical Wiring and Control Systems: If you’re only going for a simple, stand-alone device like a thermostat, you can do it yourself. However, for more complex smart home systems, there’s little alternative to hiring in an electrician when it comes to wiring. This is really not an area safe to mess around with unless you’re competent and qualified, so make sure you know what you’re getting into upfront.
  • Door Entry Systems: Fitting something as central to your home’s security as door entry systems is not a time to think about cutting costs. Again, if you’re comfortable installing your smart lock or garage door entry system, feel free to do so. If there’s any element of doubt in your mind, call for professional assistance or risk a gaping hole in your security system
  • Aesthetics: Unless you’re a capable handyman with an eye for design, you might get the DIY installation done, but end up with a mish-mash of cables and wires. Consider whether or not it’s worth paying out for the expertise of someone who does this day in and day out.
  • Network Capacity: If you start indiscriminately adding smart devices to your home WiFi network, you run the risk of overloading it. It’s pointless trying to save money on installation if you end up with Internet the speed of a dial-up! As always, if you know what you’re doing, there’s no issue here.

6 Common Problems with DIY Smart Home Devices

While you can save both time and money doing things yourself, we’ll finish up with six more issues you might encounter if you choose a home automation DIY installation.

1) Getting an Incomplete System

One of the principal dangers of opting to build out a system is not having the stamina to follow through on your plans for a full smart home. It’s all too easy to think about what you’d like to have rather than making it happen.

Instead of coming out of the blocks with full home automation, there’s a danger you’ll end up with a limited and incomplete system if you try doing it all yourself.

2) Wasting Money on Incompatible Devices

Getting rid of that huge heap of remotes is a driving motivator for many people who relish the idea of controlling all their appliances from their smart phone.

You need to make absolutely sure you don’t skip the planning stage if you want to build out your own system. Think about communication protocols and compatibility. The last thing you need is to waste money on devices that just won’t work together.

3) Failing to Strengthen Your Network

Smart home devices working through the IoT can end up putting a serious strain on your home network.

One of the leading benefits of professional installation is the way you’ll be guided through optimizing the network.

If you’re constructing a wider-ranging, more robust smart home, make absolutely sure your network is up to strength.

4) Missing Out on Features

It’s all too easy to end up controlling isolated devices remotely without really making the most of the features at your disposal.

When you’re limited to the material provided by manufacturers to help you use your equipment you can end up scratching your head and wondering why you ever bothered doing it yourself.

5) DIY Can Be Difficult

Most people think installing smart home technology will be as easy as popping up a bookshelf.

Don’t underestimate the technical knowledge required in places along with the need to be fully aware of electrics while also being pretty IT-savvy.

Again, if home automation DIY is not for you, there’s absolutely no shame in choosing a pro-grade installation and hiring the job out.

6) Lack of Customer Service

If you run into problems, it’s nice to have live help in whatever form it takes to get you back on track.

By installing your smart home equipment yourself, you generally benefit from the same level of support you get with paid-for services.

Think about how comfortable you are installing and operating equipment and how much help you think you’ll need on ongoing basis.

Final Word

Whether you choose to go completely DIY with your smart home, or to call in professionals for installation or monitoring, if you take the time to plan carefully, getting the smart home of your dreams is much easier than you might have feared.

Both options have their strengths and weaknesses, so think about that in relation to your own circumstances and choose the level of professional input that makes sense.

For more smart home news and updates, bookmark our blog or visit us on social media!

The post Home Automation DIY vs. Hiring A Professional appeared first on Smarthome Blog.

Smart Home Plumbing Tips To Save You Money

Today we have some very simple and actionable plumbing tips to help you keep water costs down. As well as making a significant saving, you’ll also reduce your environmental footprint.

When you’re automating your home, it’s all too easy to get carried away.

You’re investing in a smart thermostat and smart LEDs to maximize energy efficiency, but are you investing in your plumbing system?

By taking care of any necessary plumbing maintenance, you’ll reduce the costs lost to wastage or malfunctioning appliances.

Take note of some of these 10 simple plumbing tips and everyone’s a winner.

Plumbing 101 In Your Smart Home

  1. Check
    Your Water Meter
  2. Replace
    any Outdated Faucets
  3. Look
    Out For Dripping Taps
  4. Upgrade
    The Water Heater
  5. Assess
    Your Toilet
  6. Insulate
    All Pipes
  7. Only
    Wash Full Loads
  8. Set
    Your Sprinklers for Morning
  9. Be
    Generally Aware of Running Water
  10. Do
    NOT Overlook Routine Appliance Maintenance

1) Check Your Water Meter

The water meter in your connected home runs from the water
main line outside into a small box. This metered box is found outside your
home. When the water starts making its way into your home, another meter is
responsible for the flow.

Make sure you check, particularly around the area where the
second meter is situated, for leaks.

Ask yourself if you can see the meter turning around, even if there’s no water flowing through your home. If so, you might very well have a leak somewhere. If you’re unsure, you can also read this piece that explains how to detect water leaks in your house.

This is one of the most obvious ways you can cut down on wasted water so don’t neglect this plumbing tip!

2) Replace any Outdated Faucets

Take a good hard look at the faucets in your kitchen.

Are they fit for purpose?

Your faucets do far more than prettify the sink. Faucets are
obviously responsible for the volume of water passing through.

With new and eco-friendly faucets, you’ll be able to dial
back the amount of water you use by up to 30%. This can generate significant
savings over the course of a year’s water bills.

Keep your eyes peeled for the WaterSense label on products. This
initiative backed by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) promotes
water-efficiency throughout the home.

Sometimes, routine maintenance is not enough. If your faucets are too long in the tooth and less than energy-efficient, it could be time for a replacement. Think of this plumbing tip as an investment rather than an expense.

3) Fix All Leaks As Soon As Possible

You should constantly monitor your home for leaky faucets.

Look out for any water that drips out of the showerhead.

Rusty pipes are never good, so watch out for these and take action accordingly.

If you notice any signs of pooled water, leaks or drips, get straight down to repairs and you’ll minimize any chance of your carpets being damaged.

You can also use leak detectors and sensors to alert you in the early stages of a leak and help prevent damage immediately.

By taking prompt or pre-emptive action, you can ultimately
save yourself money by avoiding more expensive repairs when the problem becomes
worse.

4) Upgrade The Water Heater

As a rule of thumb, if your hot water tank is 10 years old, it needs replacing. This alone is one of the best ways of reducing your energy consumption and in turn, lowering your utility bills.

Better still, consider revamping your tank-style water heater. Tankless on-demand water heaters can help you to use up to one-third less water. Since you’ll only be using water that’s being heated there and then, you’ll also save on heating up water that might not be used for hours.

Maybe the thought of a replacement water heater doesn’t seem right for you. No problem. At the bare minimum, you should drain your old tank every 6 months. This will help shift any impurities and allow it to run more efficiently.

5) Assess Your Toilet

It’s easy to take your toilet for granted but this forms a
crucial part of your plumbing system flowing well.

If you’re not happy checking flapper valves and determining
whether there are any flow issues or leaks, the best hack you can employ here
is to call in a plumber.

If you conduct a basic inspection and consider there’s
something not quite right, don’t be ashamed to call a plumber.

Making sure your toilet is firing on all cylinders is an
essential part of overall maintenance and you can mitigate the chance of any
overflows or accidents.

If your toilet is more than a decade old, you might want to consider a replacement. Newer toilets are designed in line with WaterSense guidelines for water-efficiency. New toilets use a maximum of 1.6 gallons of water per flush (GPF). Some of the more eco-friendly WCs now use 1.28 GPF or even less, but what does this mean in real terms?

Well, with a HET (high-efficiency toilet), you could save as
much as 16,000 gallons of water a year.

If you’re looking to save serious money, pay close attention to the toilet. This is the one appliance responsible for using the most water in the average household. Any savings you make here count.

6) Insulate All Pipes

If you have exposed piping running around the hose, cover and insulate it.

If these pipes remain uninsulated, your water will take longer to heat up, directly costing you more.

You could also consider using an insulating blanket around
your water heater to further enhance efficiency.

7) Only Wash Full Loads

Whether you’re using the dishwasher or the washing machine,
wait until you have a full load first.

Some models come equipped with Eco or Energy Saving mode if you have partial loads or light washes. Use as necessary.

When you come to buy a new machine, make sure you buy
something as efficient as possible with the ability to manipulate load size.

8) Set Your Sprinklers for Morning

The best time to water your garden is first thing in the
morning.

Why is this?

Well, you won’t get the quick evaporation brought about by the scorching midday sun, so you’ll need less water to cover your lawn.

Buying a smart sprinkler is a superb way to automate this
and to use only the water you need when you want to use it.

9) Be Generally Aware of Running Water

It’s amazing how simple and obvious tips can mount up and
save both water and money…

  • Don’t leave the faucet running constantly when you’re washing your hands or brushing your teeth
  • Try to eliminate showers of more than 15 minutes

While these elementary plumbing tips might not seem glamorous, they’ll save you a great deal of cash over time while also reducing your environmental footprint. And, let’s face it, any smart home needs to also be an energy-efficient home.

10) Do NOT Overlook
Routine Appliance Maintenance

Last but by no means least, proper maintenance is the key to
saving money.

Preventative maintenance includes cleaning regularly and
calling in a professional when it’s necessary. Keeping on top of the overall
plumbing in your home can prevent leaks and generally wasted energy.

You should always keep your eyes peeled for EPA
WaterSense-certified products. Buying water-efficient appliances could yield savings
on water consumption of up to 20%.

Final Word

Well, hopefully now you’re armed with a few plumbing tips and tricks. If you are interested in smartening up climate control, come back next week when we’ll put these leading thermostats head-to-head.

Bookmark our blog for all the latest smart home news and impartial product reviews along with plenty of how-to guides.

Also, if you sign up for our email newsletter we’ll be delighted to give you 20% off your first order here at Smarthome.

The post Smart Home Plumbing Tips To Save You Money appeared first on Smarthome Blog.

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