How to choose your Smart Home system
How to choose your Smart Home system
Building a new house or renovating? Smart home system is one the feature which is strongly recommended to implement. A smart home is a home with an advanced control and monitoring system which combines features of security, safety, energy saving, environmental management lighting and luxury into one integrated easily accessible system. This integrated system provides you with limitless possibilities to control monitor and protect what matters most to you around your home automatically or from your smartphone. That is why smart houses are becoming very popular in the world and across Australia.
In addition to the above a Smart Home eye catching System increases the value of the property and makes it more attractive for buyers in a competitive market.
“Where to start from and which system is suitable for me?”
The best place to start your smart home system is smart lighting since it is relatively in expensive and has a great influence on your home.
Generally there are two ways to make your smart lighting project come to life; replacing the light switches or changing the light bulbs.
Changing the light bulbs:
Possibly the easiest and cheapest way to create smart lighting is by changing your light bulbs around the house. They use Z-Wave or Zigbee protocols to communicate with the hub which is connected to the internet. This setup allows you to control you lighting wherever you have internet access on your tablet or smartphone.
The biggest disadvantage of smart light bulbs is once the light switch is turned off they become nothing but a normal dumb bulb and you cannot control them through your smart phone anymore. Other disadvantage is higher cost in compare to ordinary bulbs and especially in terms of replacement and maintenance.
The solution to this problem is using smart light switches.
Replacing the light switches:
Light switches as we know them since 19th century are simple switches which have two states off or on and you must be present to press a button in order to change the state.
Smart lights switches use radio frequency and networking structure to give you a much greater control range such as remote access, brightness and colour control, trigger based control and so on.
Since smart light switches can do much more than traditional light switches their installation and setup is also different and must be considered when a house being build or renovated.
Most of the smart light switches use Zigbee or Z-Wave protocols to communicate with their hub. There are also other protocols like C-Bus which have been around for years but the two mentioned protocols are the most advanced, secure and popular protocols currently competing in the market.
Traditional non smart switches do not need electrical power to function but Smart Switches which use Zigbee or Z-wave protocols need electrical power to drive their own electronic circuits. This means that the smart switches need a neutral wire to be supplied to them whereas for traditional non smart switches a single live wire supply is enough. This is possibly the most important thing which must be remembered to check with your electrician before building or renovating since changing the wiring after the renovation or build is completed could become a very costly process. There is also an exception to this wiring method and that is the dimmer switch. Dimmers don’t necessary need neutral to be supplied to them for their functionality while they can switch the light on and off as well as their dimming capability. The catch with the dimmers is they can become unstable with some loads and flickering dimmers are not unusual sighting. To get the best dimming quality the load (Light) must be compatible with the dimmer electronics. Generally there are two type of dimming designs leading edge and trailing edge. Each of these designs has its own advantage and disadvantage. The suggestion is to match the lighting load with the dimmer technical details provided by the manufacturer.
There are two general switch types in terms of module package and wiring.
1- Switch faceplates embedded with Zigbee or Z-wave electronics are commonly used in smart home systems for lighting control.
These switches could be potentially easier to install the wiring but the available range of faceplates are limited in colour, shape and material.
2- A Zigbee or Z-Wave switch module which needs to be connected to a switch face plate separately is another method used for smart home light switches. Separate modules need more electrical installation work but since the switch module is independent from the face plate it provides more cosmetic options and choices.
Another important factor in utilizing wireless smart home systems is the range of the devices. Most of wireless Smart home systems use mesh topology to communicate with their hub (Gateway). In general the range of devices is around 20m but it is highly dependent on the house plan and the materials used in the building. It is a good practice to locate the hub in the centre of the house but since in many cases this is not practically possible repeaters must be used to increase the range of the wireless system. Any mains-powered Z-Wave device automatically acts as a repeater and the signal can have up to 4 hops across devices. Zigbee devices vary in this regard, only some of the Zigbee devices are acting as repeaters but also off the shelf Zigbee repeater is available for wireless range extension.
In Smart Home systems air conditionings could be controlled through IR transmitters or software Plugins.
IR transmitters are smart modules which could be programmed to control any equipment which uses IR for remote control access. Once programed they can communicate with the equipment exactly the way which the equipment remote control does but the difference is you get access wherever you have internet access. IR transmitters are easy to program and relatively cheap option in comparison with other options but they are less flexible to program and do the time scheduling.
To use Plugins first you need to make sure that your AC make and model is supported and the software plugin for your equipment is available. Sometimes you need to use protocol adaptors between your AC and smart home system to stablish the link between the two of them. Cool master is one the brands which supplies adaptors for AC systems. Using plugins could be more complicated than the IR option but it is much more flexible than the IR system for example smart thermostat could be used to control the temperature or AC could be programmed to turn on or off based on triggers it receives from motion detectors or other devices. If you decided to use plugins make sure your make and model of your AC is supported by your smart home system.
C) Security and safety features
With smart security systems you can monitor and control your home from just about anywhere in the world. You will also receive alarms/alerts if any activity is happening within the designated secure area of your home.
A smart home security system includes the following components:
-Wifi modem with internet connection;
-door and windows sensors;
-door locks control;
- Surveillance cameras;
-Strobe lights and Sirens;
Security systems are highly customisable. In addition to the above you can also add a level of safety into your system. Things like gas and water control valves, smoke detectors, fire alarms and fire sprinkler systems
Security systems are available in both wireless and wired. Wireless set up is more recommended as they are very easy to install and the cost of installation is relatively low. They run on battery and are easy to maintain. The batteries life time are normally one to two years depends on the brand and usage.
Similarly Surveillance systems are available on Wi-Fi connection or Ethernet which need CAT5 or CAT6 wiring. The advantage of wireless cameras is easier installation especially on outdoor areas, however they may still require power connection.
Each smart home system has its own advantage and disadvantage, choosing the right solution is highly depends on individual’s requirements. It is very important to consult with experts before you start your construction or renovation to make sure wiring and layout is compatible with your desired smart home system.
Co-Founder and Technical Director