My interest has always been in new technologies and how they can make your life easier or more efficient. I guess that I am basically a control freak and being aware of the health of our largest possession is important to me. I am very house proud and want to be able to keep an eye on the house from anywhere in the world at any time. Those are the biggest benefits of smartifying my property. Certainly in the future I wouldn't mind if I could get my smartphone to make my bed, wash dishes and do laundry. I would go for it in a second!
I was approached by Grant from Smartified Home who thought that smartifying homes might be a great gift for new homeowners.
Allow me to introduce Grant Sadler, P.Eng a little better. Grant's passion for home automation started early as when he was 9. Since he knew he was way ahead of his time, he decided to get an education and some proper experience first. After serving in the telecom industry he came back to his roots and founded Smartified Home in 2014.
Grant's company, Smartified Home does everything from installing to configuring smart home solutions, security and whole-home audio systems. Grant explains some more:
We use off-the-shelf components and integrate them using an open-source hub, wireless mesh technology, and WiFi. Our focus is to make life easier and safer, without the added cost of monthly subscriptions. We put home automation, control, and security in the palm of your hand – easily control climate, lights, and door locks with your smartphone or tablet. In addition, receive notifications from any of your connected devices!
Since I'm on the road quite often, I want to feel as comfortable as possible when I come home. Gadgets and smart solutions often help me achieve this. When I say smart housing, a lot of my friends tend to imagine cold android-like surroundings of a hyper-modern flat. But that's not it—the gadgets I like and support are the ones that make the warmth, comfort and also safety of your home instant and effortless, and help you enjoy your time there even more. I've decided to accept Grant's offer and I'd like to share my experience with Smartified Home with you.
Great sound – happier household
Sonos audio experience is one of the most in-demand smart solutions on the market right now, so I naturally decided to go for it. Sonos lets you stream all the music on earth to your stereo, it is wireless so you can play it alone or link to other Sonos music players in your home and of course (!) you can control the experience from anywhere with your smart phone or tablet. Tell me that this is not impressive! You can simply optimize sound performance for each room using room-specific bass, treble, balance and loudness controls.
When one of my friends came over recently, he called it "audio heaven", and I couldn't agree more. My passion for great things that make a home owner happy is very much satisfied when I'm listening to some nice tunes while preparing Sunday lunch. Sonos, moreover, allows you to get over 100,000 free radio stations, shows and podcasts, all without charge. And you can tune in without turning on your computer. You can browse for stations, type in specific call letters or a radio host you love, or you can simply play music stored on up to 16 PCs or Macs in your house.
For a little under $400, this is just what I was looking for. There are similar solutions if you're looking for something different—the "smart house market" is getting smarter every day.
System to help you manage energy and heat in your house – effortlessly
The brains behind the whole automation system is a little green box called Veralite ($250 – all prices quoted include installation and configuration) and it is required to get started. Since I really wanted to improve my heat and air conditioning efficiency, Grant suggested I start with the 2Gig thermostat ($175). I am really excited about this system.
I simply don't stress about energy and heat control anymore since I always know what's going on at home. I can see for myself, or even have things in my home tell me what's going on by sending my an email or text! It can all be done from my smartphone. You can also choose to have automatic notifications sent to you. The variability is amazing.
Average energy savings just out of VeraLite usually amount to more than $180. Together with 2Gig programmable thermostat, which secures remote control seven-day programming and seamless integration of the heat in my house, I save hundreds of dollars every year!
Let there be as much light as I'd like
Yes, even your romantic evenings can become smarter. The dimmer switches have become a standard in households. We turn to them when we want to read, watch TV, go to sleep or have a romantic meal. What I'm saying is, I cannot imagine my house without them. However, I never thought about dimmer switches as something that could be improved, and yet Grant proved me wrong again.
Evolve dimmer (at $85 a piece) is very affordable and has amazing features! The thing I was most impressed with is that as part of a Z-Wave network, the dimmer will also act as a wireless repeater to ensure that commands intended for another device in the network are received. This is useful when the device would otherwise be out of the radio range of the wireless controller. I know that a lot of people in Toronto are used to a limited range cause their systems don't have this feature, but trust me, it's super comfortable and really cool to control the whole house from your pocket.
Safety above all
Grant has installed a very efficient set of security measures at my house, which makes me feel very safe, and also gives me peace of mind when I'm abroad. I like the cameras since I work from home, and I have deliveries and pickups there often. And if I am out, I want to know who is coming and leaving my house. It's so great that I get to have an eye on it wherever I am. Grant explains what he considers the coolest feature of the system:
I'm especially excited about the integration between your existing security system and the Smartified Home automation platform. You are now able to see the status of all your security sensors (doors, windows, motion) and your smoke alarms from your smart phone, tablet, or PC. You can arm / disarm your system either manually from your smart phone or when you lock / unlock his door using the keypad on the door lock. Another great feature is the ability to receive emails whenever a sensor is tripped.
For those who are interested, Grant has installed two 3 Megapixel Infrared IP cameras, that sounds quite like something from a spy movie, but it won't ruin your budget at $300 per piece. Together with Envisalink, which allows remote monitoring, these cameras make me feel very comfortable. My beloved house is also newly protected by the Yale deadbolt. At $375 that truly brings a bit of chic to residential home security and allows me to even more easily control the security when I enter and leave my house.
How to start smartifying
I've asked Grant whether he has noticed an increased interest in smart houses in the past years and what the things people go for the most were.
Homeowner priorities really depend on what their families look like. Parents with teenage kids really appreciate and depend on the email messages telling them that their kids have arrived home safely. Single homeowners love the safe feeling of walking into their well-lit home without having to keep the lights on (wasting energy) when they're out. And when they are, they know their lights turn on and off, so it looks like they're home. Couples really enjoy the whole-home Sonos audio experience. Controlling it all from their fingertips and choosing to have different music in different rooms or have the whole house play the same tune is a real treat.
To help you get started, if you like the idea of a smart house, Grant shares his advice to people thinking about smartifying their homes:
Homeowners should really start by assessing their needs. The Smartified Home solution is very affordable and fully expandable. You can also consult with me any time! Homeowners can start with a simple system such as a smart deadbolt and a light and as their needs grow, they can add on. We install off-the-shelf devices that work with the industry standard Z-Wave wireless mesh technology, which allows homeowners to easily add devices to their system as needed. There are over 1,200 products now available to choose from, and the list is growing rapidly.
When you're renovating or planning a renovation, in addition to home automation, you should think about wiring your home for the future. Grant strongly recommends including ethernet wiring (Cat6) for internet connectivity in an office or Apple TV / Netflix in the family room and including coax (RG6) to all TV areas to support set-top boxes and future technologies.
As great as WiFi is, it's no replacement for an interference-free gigabit ethernet connection that will also support future technologies such as 4K TV (four times the quality of HDTV—how exciting is that!). Running the wires after-the-fact is very time consuming, messy and costly, especially after a brand-new renovation. I totally agree with Grant on this. I know a number of clients that decided to follow the same advice and are very grateful now.
To start smartifying you don't need to go all out at once, you can start with a simple garage door kit for $125 and work your way up. But I can guarantee that once you start improving your house and making it more and more enjoyable, comfortable and homey, you will fall in love with smart homes technologies, because they really do improve your life.