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  • Article
  • May 23, 2023

Key rules for building a smart home

Getting up with a voice assistant that delivers the weather forecast, adjusting indoor lighting with a voice assistant, switching systems on holiday mode when you’re away from home to keep a closer eye on your home environment, and many more smart solutions are already at your fingertips. More and more countries in Europe and around the world are adapting to innovations related to their personal space, but Lithuania is still in the minority.

“A smart home is a home that is programmed to live to the rhythm of its owners or to stay awake while the hosts are away or asleep. Smart homes provide a sense of security, help to save money, and, of course, guarantee a sense of comfort. According to Statista data for 2022, the number of smart homes installed in Lithuania is just under 2%. Lithuania is outperformed by countries such as Brazil with 3% of smart homes, China with 6%, Japan with 9%, Sweden with 10%, Germany with 20%, the US with 31%, and the UK with 33%. In Lithuania, a myth that only costly solutions are available for smart homes is prevalent, even though a large proportion of Lithuanians have at least one smart device at home,” says Egidijus Sabaitis, smart home expert at ACC Distribution.

Think about smart homes when designing or renovating your home

When asked where to start when setting up a smart home, the expert assures that the best way to start is with the smart home as a whole rather than with individual smart device solutions. “Of course, it is best to start installing smart home systems when the home is being designed or renovated and to work out with the architect which smart devices would be the most relevant. For example, whether smart heating, security, lighting, or curtain control systems are relevant. The list of needs is unlimited in terms of equipment. Practically all wishes have solutions that exist on the market,” says Egidijus Sabaitis, an expert in smart solutions.

According to the expert, the broader the list a person or family has at the first step of housing installation or renovation, the easier it is to integrate it into one system. It is not necessary to implement the whole list at once — the most important thing is to plan the items. The list can be expanded gradually, and only then can all these devices be integrated into a single ecosystem and managed by a single app. Devices in a single ecosystem and app are much easier to manage and maintain.

According to E. Sabaitis, there are several smart ecosystems like this already, i.e., Thread, Zigbee, Z-Wave, and HomeKit. The choice of the ecosystem is determined by the smart devices chosen and their technical capabilities to connect to one or the other ecosystem: “In order to install smart solutions in your home, you first need to know whether the equipment of well-known smart home system manufacturers integrates into unified systems that take care of software updates and smooth operation of devices.”

When asked how much it would cost to set up a smart home and integrate everything into one smart system, E. Sabaitis illustrated with an example: “A house of about 100 sqm with five rooms (living room, two bathrooms, a home office, kitchen, and a garage) with lighting, garage, and patio door control, motion sensors in each room and flood guards would cost around €3 000-4 000 (including installation). If a person is already using several smart systems and wants to combine them into one, it can cost as little as €400.”

Smart solutions that are already available to everyone

When asked what are the most popular smart home products at the moment and what he uses himself, he says that heating control products are the top choice, as they are a cost-saving investment. Lighting control and property security systems are also popular. The latter are particularly wide-ranging: smoke, flood, motion, door and window sensors, power or internet outages, and recordings.

According to the specialist, lighting is one of the simplest areas and the one most adapted for self-installation. With regard to education systems that are integrated into a single ecosystem, the specialist singled out devices from the Philips Hue or Nanoleaf brands.

However, if the owner does not have many lighting system requirements, brands such as Yeelight, Xiaomi, and Ledvance can offer a wide range of luminaires and bulbs that can be controlled by separate mobile apps (WiFi). Typically, all solutions are compatible with voice assistants, have a choice of lighting scenarios, and allow to set the right intensity and time of lighting for the person.

One of the smart devices with the highest demand is smart sockets. They can be used to control even non-smart household or home electronic devices such as TV, iron, kettle, computer, and printer. A smart socket can be used to control switched-on devices remotely, which is helpful when a person wants to switch on/off selected devices in advance or wants to switch on/off devices that are difficult to reach. Such a smart solution can also measure and control and monitor the electricity consumption of devices and switch off devices if they are accidentally left on. The latter can also be programmed to switch on and off at specified times of the day or days of the week.

Sockets can be designed for outdoor or indoor use. A smart socket can be integrated into a unified smart home ecosystem, or it can have a standalone mobile app. If the sockets are connected to a unifying ecosystem, monitoring the home’s air temperature can be used to pre-activate the air conditioner or fan, the e-heater, or otherwise conveniently combine the smart devices together. A smart socket can help you save on electricity costs and use electricity when the lowest electricity price exchange rate is available.

When choosing a smart socket, it is also important to pay attention to the power rating of the smart socket, as a smart socket with a high power rating can be used to control devices that require a correspondingly higher power rating (e.g., boilers for sauna heating). Good quality smart sockets with higher power outlets range in price from €30 to €49, while smart sockets with less functionality cost €15-20.

As far as heating is concerned, the expert singled out collector heating, which is regulated by rotary knobs, for which there is already an alternative — a smarter solution. This is probably the easiest way to automate heating. “The knobs are replaced by heat thermostats, and the temperature readings are taken from temperature sensors, which are built-in or can be external. In the case of an ecosystem, temperature readings are taken from other devices such as a motion sensor, window or door sensor, etc. The ecosystem is more convenient because many devices are multifunctional, as they contain at least a few sensors,” says the smart home professional.

Home appliance devices such as lawn robots, home robotic pumps, window robots, air conditioners, ovens, dishwashers, washing machines, and refrigerators can be controlled individually through separate apps these days. With many smart devices, users often find managing many apps on a single mobile device cumbersome.

Co-integration of home appliances into ecosystems, i.e., into a single app, is possible if the device specification includes compatibility with common systems such as Amazon, Apple, Google, and Samsung. And if the Matter badge is visible on the packaging, the device is ready to be integrated into one ecosystem.

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