How should I go about designing my smart home?
There is a growing interest for smart home solutions among Hungarian home owners, too. This is no coincidence: a well-working, comprehensive system is not only convenient but also economical, which means it can save you a lot of money. Many owners are content to have separate components installed and do not go for a complete smart home system – however, in many cases the lack of some basic knowledge can pose even bigger problems than that.
Potential clients have often heard this and that about smart homes but they have no clear idea of how to go about designing their own and are not aware of the fundamental requirements they need to meet before they can live in a smart home. We are often faced with this problem so we have come up with this summary of the key things you need to know when you are about to design a smart home.
First things first: what will you need?
When designing the basics of your smart home it is important to have a clear idea of your specific requirements, what convenience and cost-saving features you want to have and which features you would really use. The separate components all need their own background infrastructure.
What does that mean?
Well, if you need smart shutters in your home you will need to design the electrical wiring to provide electrical connections next to the windows so that you can power the drive motors and the sensors of the smart shutters.
You should consult a smart home expert if necessary because their expertise can save you a significant amount of money and inconvenience. If you need to add a feature after the system has already been deployed you may incur serious additional expenses. Make a list of all the features you will need in your daily life, separately in the various rooms and in the home as a whole.
No success if you lack up-to-date knowledge
An aspect closely related to, and even following from, the previous point is that you will need to acquire a certain amount of basic knowledge if you plan to design a smart home. Of course if you employ an expert you can reduce this requirement to the bare minimum but you must not forget that this is one of the most dynamically developing branches of construction industry: new features appear on a daily basis and the products themselves undergo continuous improvement and development.
This means that you will be need to be aware of the potential of smart homes so that you can have a future-proof solution in mind right from the start. Many are under the false impression that a smart home is just the aggregate of separate systems that can be controlled via their own mobile applications. This is only true if the property was poorly designed.
A well-designed smart home can be controlled from one single interface and it accepts voice commands, but, more importantly, it shines best when, based on your settings, it works for you automatically: adjusts the heating, the air-conditioning, the lights, the ventilation and the shading to provide you with maximum comfort and ensure the economical operation of your home.
Always think in a complex system
In view of the above you will need to think of your smart home already in the design phase as the combination of intelligent components that can operate not only separately but also as part of a big whole in order to serve the purposes outlined above. If you have an automatic garage door or a lighting system using a number of sensors and they both have their separate mobile applications, then you cannot call your home “smart”: it is only a home with certain intelligent features.
To name a totally general example, a complex system is when the garage door opens automatically, the lights turn on, the alarm system is deactivated, the entrance door is opened and the heating kicks in using your preferred settings etc. In short, the house recognizes that you are back home and complies with your wishes without forcing you to poke around in several applications. This is a real, complex system – and to have one you will need to keep this in mind already in the design phase.
How affordable is it?
You must face the fact that if you need high-end, luxury features in your home, you will need a smart home system. The good news is that they are becoming more and more affordable today. Let us not forget that in a few years’ time smart homes will be a standard requirement, so having a basic, expandable system installed will give you an immense advantage.
The key is picking the appropriate system
After you have made up your mind regarding the features you would like to have in your future smart home, the next important task will be to select the appropriate system for your needs. You have quite a number of choices, but many home owners make the mistake of going with one of the big names, such as Apple Homekit or Google Home. These are not bad options but only if you have a closed system in mind.
These systems do not guarantee that you will be able to expand your home with new features or components at a later time, which may result in serious headaches and even necessitate the replacement of the entire previous system. This is why you should opt for an open system such as the Smart Home Solution offered by Chameleon which, being a future-proof alternative, has a host of advantages over closed systems.
First, it helps you “open up” a closed system: it acts as an interpreter to enable you to add components to your existing system that would not have been compatible otherwise: the thermostat could not communicate with the shutters or vice versa, and it is also exceptionally future-proof. This aspect is important because it guarantees that you will be able to add new products and features at a later time: you will be able to keep up abreast of the times. A closed system will not be up to this challenge.
Wired or wireless?
Apart from selecting the best core components another important question you will need to answer when designing your smart home is whether you plan to base your system on a wired or a wireless infrastructure. You will need to decide this at the very beginning because if you go for a wired system you will need to cater for cabling, junction boxes and other components as part of the design of the electrical network of your home.
Even though there are cases – e.g. if you are retrofitting an existing family home – when a wireless system will be the way to go, you should still opt for a wired system whenever possible. The reason why you should do so include:
- A stable, reliable connection;
- Continuous data communication;
- No signal loss, ever;
- No maintenance requirements (e.g. battery replacement);
- Frees you of the burden of always having to tinker with certain parts of the system.
Renovating or building from scratch?
When you design your smart home system you will need to consider if your home will be built from scratch to accommodate the requirements of the future smart home system or you will need to adapt the background system to the walls and other features of an existing property you are renovating. In the case of a new home quite some time passes between the design and the actual construction phase so you can contemplate and think about everything at your own pace beforehand – this situation gives you almost unlimited freedom.
However, when you are renovating a property, you have no such freedom. Everything happens very fast, you need to make quick decisions and have no time to evaluate the options – all the more reasons why you will need to involve an expert. Obviously, you cannot make too big mistakes with an open system and a wireless infrastructure, but prudence will still be especially important.
Make sure your property is at least Smart Home Ready
Many home owners wish to live in a proper smart home but they cannot afford to deploy a fully-fledged smart home system simultaneously with the of construction or renovation works. This is not a big problem if you are careful in the design phase and make sure your property complies with the requirements of a Smart Home Ready specification.
What does Smart Home Ready mean?
It means you have pre-installed the required cabling at a minimal cost. This will prepare the property for a later installation of various devices and components, even in a modular (gradual) fashion if required. If you have the necessary cabling in the wall, there are junction boxes and power sources provided where needed, then you can add the smart home features to an open and expandable system step by step at a later time as your budget allows.
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