What is a Smart Home?
At the most basic level, a smart home is equipped with electronic devices that can be controlled remotely. A true smart home uses WiFi, Bluetooth, or similar technology to control many of the utilities and appliances in your home (like lighting, entertainment, and HVAC) remotely from mobile devices and sometimes from a hub in your home.
How to Build a Smart Home
A smart home doesn’t have to be fully automated—you can pick and choose from hundreds of upgrades and products from countless manufacturers. This allows you to use technology selectively so your home better accommodates the way you live.
Smart Home Technology Hub
If you’re planning on using many smart home upgrades, you may want to consider a hub. This is the ‘brain’ of your home and smart devices. A good hub will allow you to control all of your smart tech from one location. Popular hubs include the Icontrol Networks Piper, SmartThings Hub, and the Quirky Wink.
20 Smart Home Ideas to Use in Your Build
Smart Heating and Cooling
One of the most popular ways to use Smart Home technology is for optimizing heating and cooling. Imagine monitoring and controlling your home’s temperature, humidity, and airflow through your mobile device anywhere and at anytime. Many of these upgrades claim to greatly improve a home’s energy efficiency—some utility services even offer incentives for homeowners to install these products.
Smart thermostats have become very popular recently. Some of these thermostats come with impressive customization features, like this one from nest. The nest thermostat actually ‘learns’ from adjustments that you make to your home’s temperature over time, and will start making these adjustments on its own. So if you tend to like it warmer during the day and cooler at night, your thermostat will learn this and adjust the temperature automatically during these times of day. It also turns down automatically when you’ve left the house. Another popular option from ecobee can be used with multiple remote sensors so you can customize the temperature of individual rooms or spaces.
Smart vents work much like the thermometers described above, sensing the temperature in different parts of the home and adjusting to keep individual rooms at the right temperature. Some models, like this one from Keen Home, can even integrate with smart thermostats like nest.
3. Ceiling Fans
Haiku ceiling fans were the first smart fans developed. It turns on when it detects people in the room, and turns off when they leave. It also automatically adjusts to keep the space at the right temperature. If you don’t like the look of the Haiku, Insteon sells modules that you can use with almost any fixture of your choice so you can remotely control and schedule your ceiling fan’s speed and light.
4. Whole Home Humidifier
Whole home humidifiers are great for houses in areas with extremely dry weather or for families who are sensitive to dry air. There are a few smart humidifier systems on the market, including some that attach directly to the water supply so they never have to be refilled, and some are WiFi enabled and can be monitored and controlled through your mobile device.
Smart refrigerators were all the rage at this year’s CES (Consumer Electronics Show). One model, the Samsung Family Hub refrigerator, has a huge touchscreen built into one of its doors where you can order groceries online. It can also send a photo to your smartphone of the inside of your fridge while you’re shopping. A less expensive model from Whirlpool doesn’t have a touchscreen, but comes with a standard phone app that alerts you to things like power outages and when your water filter needs to be changed.
Another smart appliance making an appearance on the market is the dishwasher. This dishwasher from Whirlpool uses something they call Smart Assistant to activate specific options when you’re not at home. You can also see product stats on your smartphone that help you save energy.
7. Communication Appliance
For families that spend a lot of time in the kitchen, there are now communication appliances. One such product, Triby, is a connected speaker that acts as a radio, Bluetooth speaker and standalone music system all-in-one. It uses hands-free VoIP and mobile phone calls and personal doodles on the connected message board that allow you to talk and send messages to family members who are out and about.
Smart Security and Safety
8. Door Locks
One of the most obvious ways to apply smart technology to home security is with upgraded door locks. August has the market all but cornered with its extremely popular Smart Lock. Through a phone app, you can lock and unlock your door, create virtual keys for guests, and keep track of who has entered and exited your home.
9. Indoor Cameras
If you are away from home frequently, a smart camera system can help alleviate stress related to home security. There are endless camera systems available that connect to your mobile device and include features such as motion sensors, facial recognition technology, real-time video monitoring, and notification systems.
10. Video Door Bell
A modern day take on the peephole, video doorbells allow you to see who is at your door, even if you aren’t on the other side. One popular model by SkyBell allows you to not only see but hear and speak to the visitor at the door from your smartphone. It also comes with optional upgrades such as night vision and the choice to mute the chime.
11. Water Leak and Mold Sensor
Oftentimes, homeowners don’t notice water leaks until they have caused serious damage. Systems like this one from Wally use your existing electrical network and sensors located at key points in your home to detect changes in temperature and humidity levels. When these changes indicate a possible water leak, you are alerted to the location of the leak on your smartphone.
12. Smoke Detector
Another concern for every homeowner is preventing and responding quickly to fire. Many smoke detection systems now contain the technology to pair to WiFi and alert your phone when batteries are low or when the alarm is activated. A new product available for pre-order from birdi detects smoke and carbon monoxide, while also monitoring overall home air quality. This system can be enabled to use Bluetooth and WiFi alerts, and can even let you know if someone is smoking in your home.
13. Garage Door Opener
Similar to many smart locks designed for your front door, the MyQ garage door opener allows you to monitor the status of your garage door, open and close it, and receive alerts on your phone from anywhere.
Smart Floors and Finishes
14. Air Purifying Hardwood
Lauzen Pure Genius flooring is activated by light and uses air circulation to remove VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from the air in your home. Lauzen claims that the flooring even minimizes odors and reduces symptoms of respiratory problems.
15. Robotic Vacuums
Robotic vacuums are not new—iRobot first offered the Roomba in 2002 and has sold over 10 millions unit to date. Newer models have impressive features including learning functions that enable them to memorize obstacles and drop-offs in frequently cleaned spaces so it can clean more quickly and efficiently. What makes these new vacuums truly smart, however, is the ability to start, schedule, and even steer the vacuums from your smartphone using apps.
16. Self-Cleaning Tile
New coating technology has enabled the production of a ceramic tile that is self-cleaning, air purifying, and anti-microbial to prevent mildew and mold.
Almost any homeowner would be interested in a technology that claims to reduce a utility usage by half. The EvaDrop shower system can apparently do just that. When you the flow of water for your shower, it will cut off when it gets to your desired temperature, and begin flow when you step in. It also reduces water flow the farther you move from the showerhead, and resumes high flow when you are near the showerhead and need more water for rinsing.
If you or a family member looks forward to unwinding in a long bath, you may like the idea of having a smart tub like the VibrAcoustic model from Kohler. This tub uses transducers that vibrate the water with soundwaves from music that is streaming via Bluetooth from any of your devices. You can also use one of the tub’s six custom compositions created by sound therapists specifically for relaxation.
There are a few ways to turn ordinary home lighting into ‘smart lighting’. One way is through the sockets. Emberlight is a line of sockets that allow you to control your home lighting through a smartphone app. You can schedule when your lights are on or off, set light levels, and check your home lighting status while you are away.
20. Light Bulbs
Smart light bulbs might seem silly seeing as these will need to be replaced from time to time, but many of these last for impressive lengths—like 30,000 hours. The Stack light bulb has built in sensors to respond to movement and adjust brightness depending on how much natural light exists in a room. Many of these bulbs, like the avea made by elgato, also use different colors to set different moods throughout the day.
Smart homes aren’t for everyone, but there is likely something on this list that can make your life easier, and maybe a little more fun!
If you need help creating a plan for your new home build, download our guide now!