Are Smart Homes Worth It?
Converting to a smart home might seem expensive and complicated at first, but do the benefits outweigh the cost and hassle? Let’s check out why setting up a smart home is a good investment of your time and money.
Convenience for (Nearly) Everyone
When you install smart lights, plugs, thermostats, and more, you add a great deal of convenience to your home. It isn’t that you’re incapable of getting off the couch and flipping a light switch, it’s that you’ve given yourself the option of not heading to the light switch.
We all accept a certain level of convenience in our lives. People generally don’t need electricity and light switches. Yet, you don’t often hear the argument that electrical lighting is the product of laziness, and people should use candles instead. Smart lights and other smart gadgets are just a natural extension of that progress.
When you start watching a movie, only to realize you’d prefer the lights to be dimmed or turned off, you’ll appreciate the convenience of making that happen without having to interrupt the film. Likewise, the first time you answer the doorbell from your office, or even when you’re away from home, you’ll appreciate the convenience of video doorbells.
If you’ve ever tried to teach a family member how to operate your complicated entertainment system, you’ll see the relief in their eyes when you can tell them, “Just say, ‘Alexa, turn on the TV.'” That’s so much easier than, “Hit power on this remote, then that remote, and then this remote,” or handing them a universal remote with dozens of buttons.
Convenience might not be a necessity, but that doesn’t make it a bad thing. Smart homes provide creature comforts you might not otherwise have, and, thanks to routines, they even offer peace of mind because you don’t have to worry if you remembered to turn off the lights in the living room.
Smart Homes Solve Problems
Smart home technology can help you overcome some daily challenges. Take the classic example of asking a child to deliver a message, only to watch them shout it from two feet in front of you.
With voice assistants, you can communicate with everyone in the home, no matter where they are, via the intercom features. Google Home’s version of this is Broadcast, and it’s brilliant. While the initial message goes through every speaker in the home, Google Assistant sends the response to the originating speaker. Sure, you can buy intercoms, but they often cost at least as much as an Echo Dot. Besides, voice assistants offer you more functionality.
As a bonus, when you set up voice assistant speakers in several rooms as intercoms, you also get whole-home music.
Having voice control over your lights and plugs solves some problems, too. For example, young children are capable of saying, “Alexa, turn on the lights,” before they can reach a light switch. People with disabilities will also appreciate it. If you add smart sensors to the mix, you can even program lights and plugs to turn on and off when you enter or leave a room. With just a few devices, your smart home can go beyond solving problems—it can provide independence.
Smart plugs can have secondary benefits, too. Rebooting your router is still the best starting point to troubleshoot your internet. But routers are often tucked away in inconvenient places.
You can buy smarter routers, like Mesh kits, which feature apps that reboot the device. However, those are expensive (Google’s new Nest Wi-Fi starts at $170). Alternatively, if your current router works fine, you can connect it to a Z-Wave plug and reboot the router from anywhere in the home.
If you wake up only to see that every light in the house was left burning all night (again), then you’ve discovered the easiest problem a smart home can solve.
The more people you have in your home, the harder it can be to train all of them to do sensible things, like turning off the TV or lights when they leave a room. If you have children, that challenge often only grows.
It would be best if everyone learned about and remembered the importance of energy conservation, but we’re only human and prone to forgetfulness. So, any extra bit of help to overcome that absentmindedness is most welcome! With basic routines, you can program smart lights and plugs to turn off overnight, or even during the day when everyone is at work or school—which saves you money on your electric bill.
Even if you always remember to turn off the lights and electronics, smart plugs can still cut back your energy usage. Even when they’re turned off, many devices still draw power. For example, modern game consoles use more power than other devices when turned off because they still update in the background.
Vampire energy isn’t always worth tackling, but you can use an electricity usage monitor to find out. It’s best to check either devices that frequently turn on (like dehumidifiers) or areas in which you have multiple electronics plugged into one power strip (like your entertainment center).
You might be surprised how much you can save when you prevent those devices from drawing power. Especially when you consider the eight hours you spend asleep, and the six to eight hours you spend at school or work.
Smart home technology isn’t always easy to set up, and more work needs to be done to bring it into the mainstream. Still, if you go into it with the understanding that you’ll occasionally have to troubleshoot problems, the benefits do outweigh any downsides you might encounter.
What Are the Downsides?
When it comes to smart homes, instability is definitely a problem. For example, your smart home might stop working, and there’s not much you can do about it.
We once praised Wink Smart Hubs for all they were capable of, but we can’t recommend that anyone buy Wink’s hardware anymore. This can happen with any smart device.
Even if a company is successful, many smart home products are challenging to install. You might find yourself troubleshooting the worst aspects of owning a smart home.
Still, despite all the downsides, smart homes can provide convenience, solve problems you regularly encounter, and even save you money. If that sounds good to you, it’s worth the investment.