Whether you want to be able to automatically fill your bathtub, using an app on your phone, or to open your curtains by clapping your hands, everything is now possible. It is the 21st Century after all. The relevant question is no longer, ‘How smart is your home?’ but rather, ‘How smart do you want it to be?’.
At Prime Electricians, we believe that the vast majority of ‘smart’ products currently on the market offer over-engineered solutions to problems which never actually existed. That having been said, there are some technologies which we have encountered which really have improved our client’s enjoyment of their homes, and in this article, we are going to share our experience of those products with you, eight of them in fact!
- Instant hot water taps
These bits of kit will set you back anywhere from £400 – £700, depending upon the brand and model you purchase, and will take up a bit of room in the cupboard underneath your kitchen sink. However, they dispense with the need for a kettle, free up valuable counter-top space, and expedite the making of hot beverages and the cooking of pasta, vegetables, rice or anything else which requires you to bring a pot of water to the boil. Delicate vegetables such as asparagus, spinach and French beans can actually be cooked simply by holding a colander underneath the hot water stream for a few seconds.
These devices are not controllable by an app; they don’t need to be! But they are super smart and have therefore made it into our Top 10!
- GSM door bell systems
Say goodbye to those annoying bits of coloured cardboard which the postman or courier leaves every times you miss a delivery. With a GSM doorbell, if you are not in when a delivery comes, the entry phone system will call you on your mobile and let you converse directly with the delivery driver to tell them where to leave your parcel.
There are so many entry phone systems on the market, each with their own advantages and disadvantages, but in our opinion, of all the functionalities which are on offer, none is more valuable than the outbound call feature, described above. Our Managing Director has a Videx 4000 GSM kit installed at his home, and cannot praise this product enough.
- SONOS multi-room sound system
We should say, at the outset, that we do not receive any incentives for recommending any particular product or brand on our website. When we do recommend a particular product or brand, it is because we have direct experience of that offering and believe it to be worthy of endorsement.
While Sonos’ portable wifi speaker—the ‘Sonos PLAY:1’—has become the main focus of this brand over recent years, in our opinion the best set up is the hardwired system, which uses ‘Sonos CONNECT:AMPs’ aka ‘ZP120s’ connected to hardwires in-ceiling speakers. As well as being able to play music from all the main streaming services in any room of your house, you can also use these systems to make the sound output from any device (e.g. television) come out of any speaker in your home. If you are rewiring your home or installing a new ceiling, make sure you exploit the opportunity to install speaker wires into your ceilings, in case you decide in the future to take our advice and turn your whole home into fully App-controllable auditorium.
- WIFI controlled fused spurs
These hardwired fused switches replace any existing isolator in your home, giving you instant control over your appliances. These devices contain also contain a fuse holder so you can also use them to control any device which you would normally plug in to a power socket; simply cut off the plug and have your electrician wire the cable directly into the spur. The configuration options are sublime, and so long as you have a decent WiFi connection in your home, these switches are very reliable.
We often install these in our client’s gardens to control outdoor lighting circuits. Once the programme has been set up, it will turn your lights or appliance on and off, as instructed, and will automatically adjust the programme to account for daylight savings. If you want your lights to come on or off outside of the scheduled programme, then you can simply use your mobile phone as a manual remote control.
- Quinetic Wireless Switches
These devices effectively allow you to add a new light switch anywhere in your home without any wires. What is more, because they work using mechanically (as opposed to electrically) generated radio frequency signals, they do not require any batteries and so, once installed, require no further maintenance.
This video explains everything:
While the product options are a little limited at the moment, in terms of functionality and aesthetics, Quinetic are busy developing a range of products which utilize their innovative and patented technology, and the future looks very bright indeed for this awesome company.
- NEST wireless thermostats
We will leave the plumbers and central heating engineers to extol the virtues of this product. However, we would not be able to produce a list of the Top 8 home automation devices without a mention of this little gem. Yes, it is brilliant. Yes, it saves you money. Yes, it looks like it has come straight out of the Starship Enterprise! What is not to love?
- Power over Ethernet IP security cameras
We have experienced conflict issues in the past with WiFi security cameras, and therefore invariably advise our clients to install hardwired systems. Our preference is for network cameras which can receive their power and send their data via one single CAT 6 ethernet cable. From an installation perspective, these cameras are a dreas; all we need to is run a single length of CAT 6 cable from near your router (e.g. Home Hub) to the desired location of your camera. Once, the camera is up and running, you can configure your network settings to allow you to access the video feed from this camera over the Internet from anywhere in the world. You can also use the same interface to control your camera’s pan/tilt/zoom functions (if your camera has these features). If you want to record your video footage, you can set up your network camera to store the video files on its in-built memory card (if available), any hard drive connected to your network or, our preference, into your DropBox or any other cloud storage system you subscribe to.
There a literally hundreds of PoE IP security cameras on the market. However, our preference is for the Panasonic PTZ network cameras, as we find them to be very sleek, durable, hard-wearing, vandal resistant and easy to configure.
- In-ceiling projector screens
No home electronic device is cooler than the recessed ceiling projector screen. At the push of a button, you can turn any room into a home cinema, for far less than the cost of an equivalently sized television. This set up works perfectly with the Sonos multi-room sound system and, with a small DTV tuner connected to your projector, this can dispense with the need for a separate television altogether.
Check out this video:
N.B. You will note that we have not included within our ‘Top 8 home automation products of 2018’, the Wifi-controllable light bulb (e.g. the Philips Hue, Osram Lightify etc.). Why? Because we believe this is the perfect example of a product which has been over-engineered to solve a problem which never actually existed. Historically, light switches have been positioned near entrances and exits of rooms, and this arrangement has worked perfectly well. For those of us who like to dim our lights, there is already a reliable product on the market to meet our needs. It is called the dimmer switch! For the same cost of installing unsightly Wifi-controllable light bulbs throughout your home, Prime Electricians could probably rewire your lighting circuits, and make them do everything those bulbs can do and a lot more besides! In addition, it takes more time to open an app on your phone and turn a light on or off than it does to get off your derriere and walk over to the nearest light switch.
We have also excluded from our Top 8, any mention of Amazon’s Echo device or the Google Home system. Why? Because the only real advantage offered by these devices is the ability to control other ‘smart’ systems using your voice. They are therefore little more than universal remote controls, and are only as smart as the other systems which they control. For example, a Sonos system already allows you to choose any song you wish to hear and to have it play through and speaker in your home; the Echo simply gives you option of achieving this same outcome either by speaking into the device or via a complex and difficult-to-use app-based interface. Of course, if you do have an insatiable desire to control your home using your voice, or to have a virtual assistant who can wish you a good morning at the start of each day, then please do not let us put you off from purchasing either of these two products. We wish you the best of luck!
Alexa: “I’m sorry, I am having trouble understanding you right now.”
Us: “Forget that. We were simply wishing our readers the best of luck.”
Alexa: “I am searching the Amazon marketplace for: Rucksacks. Please wait.”
Alexa: “I’m sorry, I am having trouble understanding you right now.”