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Smart Devices & You
We live in the age of the smart device. From wearable tech to control hubs, switches, outlets, speakers, doorbells, door locks, faucets, toilets, and so much more, it can be more than a little overwhelming trying to keep up, much less understand this technology. Our smart tech experts at Bickimer Electric are committed to ensuring that you are as informed as possible about the technology. With that in mind, in this article, we throw back the curtains on smart technology! What it can do, how it works, and what your best options are.
How Do They Work?
Every smart device is slightly different in design and connection. Still, there are many common features between all devices. All smart devices require either a Bluetooth or wifi connection to the internet. A small number of larger devices like hubs, cars with smart capability, and campers maintain their own independent connections, but almost all in-home devices connect over a wifi network.
What Kinds of Devices Are There?
There are several levels of devices in the home:
Hubs: some devices, like earlier smart home offerings from Google and Amazon could only connect through a single larger unit called a hub. Hubs connect directly to the internet, with other devices connecting to the hub rather than the internet directly. Hubs send commands to their connected devices and allow communication back and forth. Most newer smart devices connect directly without the need for hubs. However, some smaller devices or more complex devices like Harmony television controllers still require hubs to operate.
Smart Control Devices: This is the category that Amazon’s Echo, Google’s Home devices, and the Apple Homekit fall into. Smart control devices operate as gateways between you and the other devices in the home. Using applications on your phone, or your voice, smart devices control other, smaller devices within the home like bulbs, switches, televisions, etc. Smart controllers can manage very complex groups of smaller devices with pre-programmed algorithms called routines, for example playing music in sections of your home simultaneously or controlling groups of lights.
Smart Devices: These cover smart units installed throughout the home that you control through an application interface on your mobile device or through voice control using a smart control device. This includes devices such as light bulbs, switches, refrigerators, microwaves, coffee-makers, outlets, faucets, toilets, security systems, doorbells, door locks, window controllers, thermostats, and more.
Each of these units can be operated independently through applications for mobile devices, but are more easily controlled through a smart control device like the Amazon Echo.
Do I Need an Electrician?
Whether you need an electrician to help you install smart devices will depend mainly on what kind of system you have in mind. If you’re unfamiliar with lighting wiring, or you have a complicated setup with multiple switches operating the same sets of lights and ceiling fans, you will need specific smart switches. Many people do turn to an electrician for help because designing and installing a whole-home smart system is time-consuming and complicated. Here at Bickimer Electric, we offer smart home consultations that would allow us to develop an installation explicitly suited to your needs, with options for pricing and materials.
What Do I Need?
Virtually all smart devices are entirely wireless, requiring only a power supply to operate. Most smart light switches do need to be installed to replace a standard light switch, and all smart thermostats need to be wired into the system, including a dedicated power wire that may need to be run separately. A licensed plumber should install smart faucets because they require a power supply. A licensed electrician should install smart toilets because they need a GFCI protected power supply.
Generally speaking, no special tools are required to make any smart installation; however, there is a large amount of initial setup both physically and digitally that needs to be done to make the system function correctly.
How Much Does It Cost?
As with any product, there are many options available for all types of smart equipment. What you choose will determine how well the system functions and how long it lasts. When it comes to smart technology, cheaper is rarely as good as its branded competitor. Smart bulbs by Phillips Hue, for example, retail for roughly twice the price of their Merkury Walmart competitor, but Merkury bulbs have notoriously unstable network connections, frequently disconnect, and half less than half the lifespan.
Our experts always caution that you do get what you pay for with smart systems.
Apple? Google? Amazon? Which is Better?
We get this question A LOT. Honestly, we couldn’t give you an answer if we tried because each system has its own pros and cons, and every user has a different opinion.
We can tell you that when it comes to smart controllers, it is challenging to make different brands work together well. An Amazon Echo will never be able to function smoothly with a Google Home or an Apple Homepod. Our experts can discuss the benefits and disadvantages of each system. Still, once you have chosen which brand to go with, the rest of your system must be compatible with those controllers.
Is it Smart to Go Smart?
Smart technology isn’t cheap, but it can make your life easier and more comfortable. Units such as smart thermostats and smart lights with routines are proven to save you money on utilities and have much longer lives than their non-smart relatives. Your family is safer with a smart doorbell system. Your valuables are protected with smart alarms, security camera systems, and smart door locks. As the old saying goes, “what price tag can you put on peace of mind?”
Whatever your smart home needs, from discussing options, developing a system plan, to installing the system, our Bickimer Electric smart home consultants are standing by. Give our expert team a call at 913-313-6751, or book online using the handy buttons above. Ask about our FREE virtual estimates, for all your electrical needs.
Proudly serving the Lenexa and surrounding areas, Bickimer Electric is your number one Kansas City electrical specialist!