Can You Make a Home “Smart” by Yourself?
With so many consumer-grade smart home products available these days, do you even need to pay someone to install a professional-grade system for you?
Home automation and AV, once the purview of dedicated enthusiasts and technophiles is now available to anyone. Putting together a smart home used to involve some degree of comfort with pulling cables and using a soldering iron, or it meant paying someone else to put in a system like Crestron or Control4 for you. Now, the homeowner who wants to remotely control their lights and adjust their thermostat can get a basic system going with the right light fixtures, a Nest thermostat, and a smartphone.
I will get this out of the way and say, yes, most people should hire an expert to set up their smart homes. And I don’t say this because I make my living programming and servicing them. When a smart home is working properly, it makes everyone’s lives easier and more pleasant. If a smart home is configured even slightly wrong, it can quickly make the homeowner wish that they had kept their “dumb” house. The difference between the two is often the expertise of a home automation professional. If you think I’m exaggerating, check out this article about a husband who found out the hard way that his home automation setup was driving his wife crazy.
So you’ve now decided to call in a professional. But do you need to install a Crestron or Control4 system? Major retailers are going all-in on home automation, hiring executives to champion the technology both internally and to their customers (source). New products like Wink and Smart Things are now available at most of the big box retailers like Lowes and Home Depot. Even Amazon has a smart home store now.
When you do decide to make your home smart, the discerning homeowner should continue to use one of the traditional control systems like Crestron and Control4. They just work. And, because you are paying a certified programmer to set up your house for you, professional-grade smart houses can control just about anything. When you purchase an off-the-shelf product, you are limited to the devices that have agreed to be controlled by, say, Apple, Wink or Smart Things. What happens when you decide to add a new device, like a smart door lock, and it isn’t supported? You’ll need an extra app for control, or you’ll need to limit yourself to supported products.
With the adoption of smart home standards, the homeowner of the future might not face these problems. Future smart home products might have multiple options for control. Who knows, in the not-so-distant future, maybe we’ll all be telling Apple’s Siri to turn our lights off for us ?(source).
The happy tinkerer has multiple options for products and systems to put into their own houses. But, for now, if someone asked me the best way to smarten up their home,stick with the professionals.