Have you ever had that feeling of panic, when you’ve gone away for the weekend and suddenly can’t remember whether you switched off your curling tongs or turned down the heating. Well, those days are over! By converting your home into a Smart Home, you can sit back and relax, knowing that everything is under control.
So, what is a Smart Home?
These days almost everything in your home – from your kitchen appliances to the lights in your garden – can be connected to Wi-Fi and controlled from the comfort of your sofa using a mobile device or smart speaker. But with so many Smart Home devices to choose from it can be incredibly confusing deciding what’s right for you. We’re here to help make that decision a little bit easier with our guide to some of the best Smart Home devices on the market.
A popular starting point for many households is the Smart voice assistant – your very own personal helper capable of controlling all the smart devices in your home, as well as keeping you up to date with the latest news, weather and football scores. Choosing the right smart speaker is really down to personal preference with Apple and Google both offering great options, however we’ve decided to take a closer look at the market-leading Amazon Echo.
Echo is powered by the Alexa voice assistant and is compatible with a wide range of smart home accessories. Simply ask Alexa to ‘dim the lights’ and she will adjust the lighting to suit. And Alexa can do much more than just control your heating and lights. Echo is an expertly tuned speaker allowing you to listen to your favourite songs and playlists from Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, TuneIn and more. Want your music to play in another room? Just tell Alexa to play across your Echo devices.
Alexa is also on hand to answer questions, make calls, send and receive messages, set reminders, provide information, news, weather and much more. All you have to do is ask.
Philips Hue Lighting
Smart lighting is the next step in setting up your Smart Home. Not only does it save you time and money, it also helps improve your home security, allowing you to set your lights to come on and off at different times throughout the week when you are away. It can gently wake you up in the morning, give you a warm welcome when you come home, or set the mood for a night in with the latest movie.
Philips sit at the top of the pile when it comes to lighting and they offer a wide range of bulbs, lamps, light strips and more, for both indoor and outdoor use. You’ll need a ‘bridge’ device to connect your lights to your router, but this is included in the starter pack. Once you’ve swapped out your existing bulbs, you’re ready to go. Sync your lights with your favourite films, music and games to create a whole new immersive experience or turn off all your lights in one go using just your voice. Plus, you can use the Philips Hue app to set your wake-up routines so that your lights can help wake you up more naturally.
And the good news is that Philips Hue is compatible with your other smart home devices and voice assistants including Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant.
Another key component to any smart home is a smart heating system. Designed by British Gas, the award-winning Hive Active Heating allows you control your heating and hot water from wherever you are, using your Smartphone. Come back to a nice warm house without ever having to heat an empty one.
Hive Active Heating works with your existing boiler and energy supplier, so there’s no need to switch your service, even if you’re not currently with British Gas. We do however suggest arranging for a British Gas engineer to come and install the system, although you are free to source your own engineer.
With daily schedules you can set up to 6 time slots for your heating and hot water to come on and off, and change them around easily using the Hive app. And the Geolocation feature means that if you’ve gone out and left the heating on, it will send you a reminder to turn it off. In addition to the convenience of being able to control your heating from anywhere, Hive also make some pretty impressive claims that you could save up to £130 a year on your heating bills. And who doesn’t like saving money?
Lightwave sockets and switches
With your lighting and heating covered, the next step is smart power. Lightwave are relatively new to the market, specialising in smart switches and sockets. These beautifully designed sockets not only look great, but they allow you control your appliances from absolutely anywhere using your phone or a voice assistant. Turn the washing machine off once it’s finished its cycle, switch the kettle on without leaving your seat or check if anything has been left on while you’re out and about. You can even keep an eye on how much energy is being used.
Smart sockets are also great for when you go away on holiday. You can set schedules for your sockets to turn on lamps, the radio or even the TV to make it look like someone is home.
Ring Video Doorbell 2
Another product that’s becoming increasingly popular is the Ring Video Doorbell. As seen in the TV adverts this nifty device allows you to answer your door from anywhere. You’ll receive instant alerts when visitors press your doorbell and you can then see, hear and speak to them from your mobile device.
Not only is this great for dealing with deliveries and visitors while you’re out, but it also improves your home security allowing you to have a conversation with someone without having to open the door to a potential stranger. Plus, the in-built motion detectors alert you to any activity outside your front door and will automatically record a video clip to the cloud, although this feature does require a subscription which will cost £2.50 per month or £25 for the year. Without it, you will still receive notifications, but video clips won’t be saved.
On the subject of security, Ring also offer several outdoor security cameras with built-in spotlights to help protect your home. As with the doorbell these cameras will alert you to any activity and allow you to hear and speak to anyone trespassing on your property. A built-in spotlight gives you crisp video around the clock and night vision has you covered when the lights are off. The camera records in 1080HD with a wide-angle lens to ensure a high-quality video. And for added security there’s a 110-decibel siren alarm to help scare off any intruders.
Don’t forget you can get your hands on a wide range of smart home devices through your Technology Benefit. It’s a great way to kick-start your collection, whilst at the same time spreading the cost with convenient monthly payments direct from your salary. Remember to log in and check out the range when your next order window opens.
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