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Customised answers smart home FAQ's from Home Building & Renovating Magazine Readers
1. What are the most popular solutions available to homeowners on a budget, and what can be achieved?
Budget friendly pricing definitely brings popularity. Multi-room music is now easily achievable in any home, brands such as Sonos and Denon have systems which start from under £200, sound terrific and often do not need professional installation. Intelligent heating control using smart thermostats from the likes of Nest and Honeywell are reducing household energy bills by learning your habits and only heating spaces when required, smarter heating control is another under £200 outlay.
2. How simple are different solutions to retrofit into existing homes? Will there be a lot of disruption, especially where fitting in-ceiling speakers are concerned?
Audio systems and heating controllers are definitely retrofit friendly solutions, in fact they are sold as a DIY retrofit solution. Other DIY systems pitched at the tech savvy homeowner include lighting from Phillips Hue or LIFX. By swapping your old bulbs for Smart bulbs you can have long-lasting, energy saving LED bulbs with colour changing and smartphone controllable scene setting features.
If you do wish to have in-ceiling speakers for your audio system then cables are required, hard to avoid, a professional installer will advise on the best option for your cabled connections. Alternatives to in-ceiling speakers would be wall mounted, in-wall or even hidden plaster over speakers.
3. Will there need to be allocated space for housing all of the equipment or can this be done more discreetly?
For larger installations there is a lot of control and distribution equipment, it’s hard to avoid. Normally an under stairs cupboard or hallway cupboard can house this equipment. You can locate items like amplifiers, set top boxes, DVD players and games consoles in this area to leave the rooms clutter free with just your flatscreen TV mounted on the wall. To get glorious HD or 4K to your televisions you will need cable, but not as many as you think. HDBaseT is a technology that delivers HD/4K picture, surround sound audio, internet connection, remote control signals and power over a single cable. The cable most commonly used is Category 6 cable, no different from the one which connects your router to your PC. This ultra affordable cable is a must install in all new build or renovation projects to provide a future ready connection to every room in the house and allows you to have an HDTV distribution system from Wyrestorm installed with ease.
4. What are the key considerations to bear in mind for installing a home cinema system?
Space is a big factor, have you got room for a two hundred inch projector screen, rock concert sized speakers and rows of seating? No. Don’t worry a professional installer can provide a cinema like experience in your home. An entry level home cinema can be based around your existing widescreen TV paired up with a soundbar and subwoofer, you’ll instantly upgrade the sound of your movies and sporting events. A multi speaker system with projector and screen is best suited to a new build or renovation project due to the cabling requirement but the benefits are vast. Room shaking bass and immersive surround sound transport your family into big screen adventures that will only need popcorn to rival the experience of the local multiplex. A professional installer will specify the right system for your space and budget.
5. Is it possible to have a home sound system set up to play music in different rooms around the house at the same time, and if so how is this achieved?
Easy, this is something you can do without professional installation or even running cables. Plug and play using your home wi-fi to interconnect devices. Seek out market leading multi-room music solutions from Denon, Sonos and Samsung to start playing your music where you want it in your home. You also have full control of these systems from smartphone or tablet.
6. What are the most recommended ways of achieving a home lighting scheme around the house?
Retro fit bulbs are great but costs can mount up if you are doing multiple rooms. A professionally installed lighting system from the likes of Lutron, Rako, HDL UK or Control4 offers whole house lighting control and management that combines scene setting, energy saving and security features like simulating somebody is home. Many professionally installed systems which offer lighting control can also provide other features you will require like intelligent zoned heating control, multi-room music and television, curtain and blind automation and security elements like CCTV and smart door locks. By choosing a multi-feature system you have energy savings, future expandability and single app whole house control.
7. How can the home technology be controlled, i.e. via tablet, smartphone, and what is the most effective solution?
Tablet and smartphone have become the default controller of home technology. Apps produced by companies like Sonos, Savant and Nest have made controlling your home a great experience. Control with mobile device means you have control in the home but more importantly away from home too. Adjust the heating, check your security camera, unlock the door for a delivery and turning an electrical appliance off are all simple tasks for a Smart Home owner. However the very nature of a mobile device means that you often need some form of backup for scenarios like no battery or being used by others (kids) so we still have light switches, on-wall keypads or a most recent trend is the use of sensors. Walk in, lights on, walk out, lights off; great for hallways, utility rooms or garages etc.
8. How can the use of home controls have a positive impact on the way you live?
Energy saving - home technology can reduce your energy bills for heating, lighting and electrical appliance energy consumption.
Comfort & convenience - home technology is able to learn your habits for heating, lighting and entertainment purposes bundle that up in a mobile app that gives complete control when you are home or away makes it a great choice.
Security - home technology can be used to alert you when there is a fire or smoke detected and guide you to a safe exit. Intruders can be captured on high definition cameras with snapshots sent to your mobile devices. Get alerts from your home when the kids return home from school and even get contacted by your home if a burst pipe is detected.