Here's How to Up Your Home's Tech IQ
Welcome to Smart Home 101.
AV Design & Integration
You pull into your driveway after a long day of work and your home welcomes you with lights glowing warmly, jazz playing softly, and your Jacuzzi bubbling away at just the right temperature. From its early days of clunky remotes, nanny cams tucked into teddy bears, and kitschy Clappers, smart home automation technology — which uses intelligent programming systems to control lighting, motorized window treatments, media, HVAC, audio-visual security, and pools and spas — has exploded. We chatted with local experts about how homeowners, whether on-site or away, can manage their home environments to increase comfort, safety, convenience, savings, and energy efficiency.
“Don’t cheap out on the WiFi,” urges Corey Felter, operations manager of Soundworks in Armonk. “For everything to work well together, you’ll need a robust and reliable WiFi as the backbone of your system.”
How do you ensure your WiFi is up to snuff? WiFi service is measured by speed and signal strength, explains Robert Zohn, co-owner of Value Electronics in Scarsdale. Minimum desired speed, he says, is about 30 Mbps (megabytes per second). You can have a professional measure it or check with your service provider to find out what your plan offers. A quick trick to determine signal strength is to look at the signal bars on your phone; you want a minimum of three.
Felter advises that you wire your home while the walls are open, whether during new construction or renovation. Even if your current budget doesn’t allow for installment of a full smart home system, wiring for future projects at this stage eliminates more costly cutting, patching, and repainting of walls later on.
Single-application or fully integrated systems that control different systems — everything from the thermostat to the home theater — versus individual apps accessed on different screens have caught on like wildfire in the home market, Zohn says. Such systems, including those by Total Control, Control4, Crestron, and Savant, are offered custom designed only through professionals and are more costly compared to DIY products like Nest, Alexa, Ring, etc. Tech-savvy homeowners may be comfortable going in and out of individual apps and not need a fully integrated system.
Home Control System
Convenient voice activation and recognition continue to gain traction, even in the face of “eavesdropping” concerns. Almost all smart home systems offer voice control capability nowadays, Zohn says, and for those that do, it can be added at no cost. It can’t be added, however, to systems that don’t offer it.
Location, Location, Location
Aesthetic streamlining and using tech more discreetly, such as hiding TVs in cabinetry with motorized lifts or behind mirrors or artwork, is gaining popularity, Zohn says. “Wall acne” — a mishmash of multiple switches and dimmers — is increasingly addressed by relocating everything to one panel, sometimes inside a closet.
Exterior touch pads to provide keyless access to visitors or residents are being replaced by remote door control via smartphone.
The next big thing? Zohn says it’s geofencing, which is when your phone tracks how far you are from your property, automatically triggering your preferred settings for light, temp, music, etc.