The Pros and Cons of Smart Home Technology

What makes a home “smart” and what happens when the power goes out?

Many young people today will never know the heart-stopping adrenalin rush of being an hour in on a road trip and suddenly realizing “Did I lock the front door?” or “Are the timer lights activated?” Smart home technology has given millions of homeowners the power to check and fix these oversights with a few simple clicks on their phone. It also means the security and automated systems inside the home depend on a reliable, steady power source.

Here we’ll discuss what a “smart home” truly is and how to make sure it’s always ready to go, even when the power goes out.

In a nutshell, a smart home uses the internet to network several devices for the management of things like appliances, lights, comfort systems, and security around the clock. This can happen locally on site or remotely from a phone or other WiFi-enabled device. This technology shares usage information throughout the home’s network and can automatically change how it operates based on a customer’s habits and preferences.

Here are a few examples of smart home technologies:

  • Smart care for pets and plants: There are several automated devices that can automatically feed and water pets while you’re away. Some even let you trigger a “treat” to be released using an app on your phone or tablet. Smart irrigation systems can be programmed to water your lawns, flowerbeds, and other outdoor areas. Some models are equipped with sensors that sense a change in the weather and adjust accordingly. There are even some devices that can help water your indoor houseplants while you’re away.
  • Smart televisions: These can be connected to the internet and allow you to stream content from your phone or smart tablets, including on-demand videos, shows, and music. Some models include voice or hand gesture control.
  • Smart lighting: Along with remote control and programming, smart lighting can tell when people have entered or exited a room, and/or the time of day, and adjust settings accordingly.
  • Smart thermostats: These also connect to your home’s internet and allow for remote control and programming. Smart thermostats collect usage data and then automatically adjust daily settings to provide homeowners with maximize comfort and efficiency. Some can be set to provide reminders about changing filters or scheduling a routine seasonal inspection.
  • Smart appliances: There is a wide array of options available, all designed to make your life easier. Smart refrigerators can alert you when items are close to an expiration date, manage your shopping list, or store your favorite recipes. Some can even suggest meal ideas based on the food items inside it! Smart coffee makers can have your cup-o-java waiting when you wake up in the morning. Nearly every appliance, from toasters to microwaves and washers to dryers, has smart technology options.
  • Smart locks and garage-door openers: These devices can detect when the homeowner is near and automatically open or close. Owners can also provide access to someone remotely, such as a pet sitter, repair technician or family member.
  • Smart cameras: These devices give you “eyes on” to your home and property 24/7 and allow you to make decisions about your other systems when operating them remotely. For example, when you’re able to see the person standing on your porch, you can decide if they should be granted access and unlock the smart lock. If you can see it’s unexpectedly raining at your house while you’re on vacation, you can signal your smart irrigation system to skip that day’s scheduled watering.

Perhaps you can see that your dog has accidentally locked himself on the outside of the doggie door to the garage, you can call the pet sitter or neighbor to come let him in. There are countless scenarios, but smart cameras give you visibility into what’s going on at home, at all times, so you can have peace of mind plus the ability to take action, when needed.

Here’s a quick look at some of the other benefits:

  • Seniors can live comfortably and independently longer with 24/7 remote monitoring and response
  • Systems can operate with maximum efficiency. For example, the air conditioning can be set to cool only when the homeowners will be there or the irrigation system can be set to water only at the times, and in the amounts, needed.

There is a flipside to all of this technology:

  • Smart technology has a reputation of being suited only for the most technologically savvy customers. While it’s true some people may want to give up easily at the thought of a learning curve or troubleshooting a glitch, most smart home products have evolved to be incredibly easy to operate and accessible for users of all types and technical levels.
  • Any smart home device that is capable of connecting to the internet has the potential to be hacked, accessed remotely, and in some cases, controlled by outside users. It comes with the same concerns as any WiFi-connected device you have, such as a laptop or desktop computer. To protect your personal data and prevent hacking, make sure you have the necessary security software and settings engaged to protect your network.

Here are some tips on how to do that from Travelers Insurance :

  • Check security settings on every device on the network, if one is vulnerable, they’re all vulnerable.
  • Protect your Wi-Fi network with all available security settings and a strong, unique password.
  • Use unique passwords for every device on the network.
  • Install system updates when they become available so you’re protected against any new or evolving cyber threats.

Smart homes depend on electricity, so what happens when the lights go out?

As mentioned, smart technology does have an Achilles Heel; it requires a constant source of uninterrupted power. The best way to be prepared for any power outage, and keep your smart home running smoothly, is to select smart devices that come with a battery backup. There are many backup battery pack options on the market spanning all sizes and price points. You can opt to just backup critical systems and appliances or invest in one that can power your entire house for several hours. There are also solar-powered backup battery products, as well.

What if I have smart locks and lose power while I’m not home—am I locked out???

Our On Time Electrical experts get this question a lot when helping customers, so we’re including it here: No, you won’t be locked out. Smart locks can still be opened with your good old-fashioned house key and when you get inside, you can still flip a switch to turn those smart lights on.

Your On Time Electrical professionals are happy to visit your home and assess your current power system in order to recommend the best smart technology devices for you. We can also assist in setting up your smart technology and completing initial programming. Our customer service is available 24/7 at (704) 820-4803 . You can also visit us online anytime at www.itselectriccharlotte.com. Check out our weekly and monthly specials, plus we waive the service call fee on ANY repair! Locally owned and operated, we’re On Time Electrical. It’s electric!

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