Smart Home – Home Security System – How to choose

How to Choose Between a Smart Home and a Home Security System

Home Security Automation for your Home

 

Yes, it can be an overwhelming decision but I will help you overcome it.  You will be interested in either one or the other.  If you are interested in how to integrate both, then there is an answer for that as well.

Either way, my goal is to provide you will the help and information necessary for you to make a solid decision.  So for now, you’ll need one cup of coffee or tea to get to the end.

Smart Home or Home Security System

Smart Home Systems:  Also called domotics is building automation for a home, called a smart home or smart house.  A home automation system will control lighting, climate, entertainment systems, and appliances.  It may also include home security such as access control and alarm systems.  When connected with the Internet, home devices are an important constituent of the Internet of Things (“IoT”).

Home Security:  is both the security hardware in place on a property as well as personal security practices.  Security hardware includes doors, locks, alarm systems, lighting, motion detectors, security camera systems, that are installed on a property.  Personal security involves practices such as ensuring doors are locked, alarms activated, windows closed, extra keys not hidden outside.

Don’t Just Pick one, Make an Informed Decision

Before delving into A Smart Home or Home Security System, you need to make some decisions.  The first decision you need to make is whether convenience is more important to you than security.  Many of the systems you’ll see when you go shopping will emphasize one or the other, even if they offer elements of both.

If you’re more interested in the fun and convenience of a modern home technology, lights turning on and off with voice commands, having a sprinklers operate in unison with the weather, you’ll want a to choose a smart home system.

But if you’re more concerned about being alerted to a break-ins, or a disaster, like a fire or water system leakage, you’ll probably be happier with a home security system.  Maybe even one with a service that can dispatch first responders on your behalf.

Further reading: A Guide: How to Turn your home into a Smart Home

I have produced two articles that will help you understand the fundamentals of each type of system, so you can decide which is right for you. This one focuses on smart home systems. If you’re more interested in a home security system, I encourage you to read this other story.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • The basics of a smart home system
  • Beyond the smart home basics
  • Getting the best of both worlds
  • Have you decided?

Smart Home Basics

While security-focused hubs have a ruthless devotion to protecting your homestead, smart home hubs, such as Samsung SmartThings and the Wink Hub 2, bring the best of both worlds together.  They serve as mediators between smart home devices and your home network (and by extension, you and your smartphone), to coordinate automation, scheduling, and device interaction.

You can buy a smart home hub on its own and purchase the components individually.  In most cases, you can buy a starter kit consisting of the hub and a handful of devices. Starter kits are easy, because you don’t need to put a lot of thought into what you’ll need.  However, a kit might stick you with a product or two that you don’t necessarily need or want.  That might be one reason some vendors are moving away from pre-packaged kits.

The list of smart home devices these hubs can control is ever growing, here are the essentials:

  • Smart bulbs: In many smart home environments, lighting is the killer app that starts things off. These will invariably be of the LED variety and are available in both white and color changing, both of which can be dimmed.
  • Smart plugs: Insert these into your in-wall receptacles and you’ll be able to control lamps (turning them on and off and dimming them) and small appliances (fans and space heaters, for example).
  • Door, window, and motion sensors that can trigger smart lights to light your way, as well set off an alarm in smart home systems that also have security features.
  • Smart thermostats: These can quickly pay for themselves with the energy savings gained from heating and cooling your home only when you’re there to benefit from it.
  • Smart Speakers & Digital Assistants: You typically won’t get an Amazon Echo, Google Home, or other smart speaker as part of a DIY bundle, but these digital assistants are so useful that they are considered to be an essential component of the smart home.
Smart Home Components

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Beyond the smart home basics

The list above provides a good starting point, but once you’ve lived in a smart home for a while, you will want to expand your smart products as there is so much they can do to make your life more comfortable.

  • Smart locks can inform you of their status, can be locked and unlocked remotely, and don’t require keys. Just tap your PIN on the keypad or present your smartphone.
  • In-wall switches:  Smart bulbs are great, at least until you turn off the switch that’s providing them power. Then it won’t matter what commands your smart home hub send them, they’ll remain off because their radios aren’t receiving any power.
  • In-wall fan controllers: While some newer ceiling fans are capable of being controlled with Alexa or Google Assistant voice commands, it’s a much less expensive to change the switch that controls them than it is to buy and install a whole new fan.
  • In-wall AC receptacles: Smart plugs work well too.  They are designed to fit right into your walls.
  • A smart garage: door opener can be closed remotely, and it can inform your smart home system of its current status at any time.
  • Smoke and/or carbon monoxide detectors: If a fire breaks out while no one’s home, what good is a standard siren? Smart models can be tied into your HVAC system, too, so that smoke isn’t circulated to every room, and fresh air is if carbon monoxide is detected.
  • Security cameras that let you see what’s happening in and around your home, and that can capture video evidence in the event of a break-in or vandalism.
  • Water leak sensors: Leaky faucets, overflowing toilets, and failing water heaters can cost mega bucks in damage to your home. Place these sensors in those areas and you’ll get instant alerts. Some can even be tied into smart valves that will automatically shut the water off.
  • Motorized window shades can darken your home theater for movie time, or block the morning or afternoon sun that heats up your home and makes your A/C work overtime.
  • A smart sprinkler controller will take local weather conditions and soil moisture content into account, so it doesn’t unnecessarily irrigate your green spaces.

Although you can set up a smart home without a hub, you’ll get a lot more out of your system if you install one. Why? Because the real power in a smart home comes from getting all these products to work together. For example, you might use your smart home hub to:

  • Control all the lighting in your house even when you’re far away on vacation.
  • Program the lights in the bedrooms to flash and have your HVAC system shut down when smoke is detected.
  • Shut off your main water valve if a substantial water leak is detected.
  • Automatically lower the window shades if the living room becomes too warm.
  • Gradually brighten lamps and turn on music when you get up in the morning.
  • Disable the alarm system when authorized users enter the correct PIN on a smart lock.

The sky’s the limit, and coming up with automatons and interactions like these are half the fun of living in a smart home.

What’s more, tools like IFTTT (If This Then That) extend these ideas even further, allowing you to easily create “applets” that enable third party devices to work together, even if your hub doesn’t formally support them.

One example would be to have the color of your smart bulb switch to red if the pollen count outside rises to a level that might trigger a severe allergic reaction.

Smarthome Apple HomeKit 'works with' - shop now!

The best of Both Worlds

If you want a smart home system that can also be used for home security, pick one that at a minimum supports door, window, and motion sensors; that has a siren in its hub (or allows one to be added); and that offers either personal or professional monitoring.

Another great addition to your smart home for security is a video doorbell.

Whichever type of system you settle on today, know that you won’t be locked into it forever, provided it’s based on the most common types of radios: Wi-Fi and either Z-Wave or ZigBee.

No one vendor controls all of those standards, and many of the hubs on today’s market today use all three.

While it might be little tedious to re-pair tens or dozens of sensors and other devices with a new hub if something better catches your eye in a few years, it won’t be impossible.

Have you decided?

If after digesting all this information, you’ve  settled on investing in a smart home system. If you’d like to learn more about home security systems first, you’ll find an equally in-depth story about them here.

All comments are welcomed below.

Comments

  1. Bob Domingos says:

    Hi Brian,

    I like the idea of controlling everything in the house with a smart home hub. Being able to build on the product you have and replacing them with better products as they come out, appeals to me. What would be the cost of starting a basic setup with the ability to add products when you need them. Thanks for the information. Bob

    • Brian says:

      Thanks for your comment and question Bob. It is nice to piece your own system together and you can begin this by starting with a hub as generic as buying alexa or google echo, add pieces: vid doorbell, motion detectors, or any device. So, you can get started for approximately $50 with a hub, $50 for a motion detector or less for indiv door/window sensors. Most non security devices will be less than $50, however the price can go up depending what it is. Great question, most think it’s too expensive – that’s not the case any longer.

  2. Hi Brian,

    I’ll be definitely forwarding your site to my partner. He’s got gadgets now around the house in an attempt to make it more smart eg. Smart thermostat and google home. I’m thinking after reading your post that the smart hub is the way to go and am going to encourage him to take a look at your post.
    Very informative, thank you.

    Tracy

    • Brian says:

      Thanks Tracy. Your partner has a good hub. Very popular! There’s so many smart gadgets to include pocket drones. Literally, the sky is the limit.

      Thanks for your comment

      Brian

  3. marketa says:

    Hi Brian,
    We are avid users of Google and I cannot recommend these products highly enough. Everything in our home, from the lights to the air conditioning to the pool filters is connected in some way through google.

    I bought the Google home security cameras for indoor and outdoor plus google smoke detectors for each of my children’s bedrooms. I was initially a little concerned about the outdoor camera which seemed that it wouldn’t be strong enough to hold. However, the magnetic bottom fits beautifully onto the edge of the garage so it’s excellent.

    The only thing I’m not happy about is the ongoing fees for these devices. At this stage in Australia (not sure about America) we need to pay for each google device we have to get the upgraded monitoring and ability to record footage etc. While I’m happy to pay, I’m not happy that I am punished for having a large number of google security products. Apparently they’re going to make it a set price for as many items as you have at some point but I’m still waiting. Do you have any information about this?

    Great site and love the change of theme!

    • Brian says:

      Thanks for your great comment. It’s nice to talk to an avid user with so much knowledge. It’s unfortunate and there are hints about wrapping one price into package bundle deals with one fee. However, that is yet to be seen. I am waiting to see what the 5G networks are going to do and I am sure fee’s will remain. Be sure that I will be writing about it as news breaks.

      Glad to see your family is so safety conscious. Thanks again for the comment!

      Brian

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