A Smarter Home, Today

A guide to home improvement devices that can make your house safer, more efficient and more convenient

By Erik J. Martin

They say you’re only as smart as the company you keep – or the home you equip with smart technology, for that matter. Indeed, homeowners who do their homework today are enhancing their abode’s IQ by adding an increasing array of smart systems and devices designed to save money and provide greater convenience and peace of mind via automation and wireless capabilities. Consider that 46 percent of consumers recently polled by ERA Real Estate and HGTV revealed that it was important for their current or next residence to have smart home technology. What’s more, 51 percent indicated they would consider implementing such equipment in their home to appeal to future buyers. “More consumers are looking to smart home technology because it has the potential to increase savings, safety and resale value in their homes, giving them an edge in today’s competitive market,” says Charlie Young, president/CEO of ERA Real Estate, a global real estate franchiser headquartered in Madison, New Jersey. “We learned in our survey that most people who have smart home technology are focused on saving money through automated climate control, energy management, remote home monitoring, and lighting control systems.”

According to results of a study by IControl Networks, the top five smart home capabilities that home owners desire today are, in order:

  1. Personal and family safety (smart connected fire and carbon monoxide alarms).

2. Protecting personal property (smart security camera, alarm systems and connected locks).

3. Improved energy management (smart thermostats and lighting systems).

4. Remote monitoring of pets.

5. Convenience (being able to control devices via smartphones and tablets).

Traditionally, smart home systems were very expensive and installed during home construction to provide full integration with the house. But the smartphone really opened up the door for a large amount of products that would eventually start bringing the cost of smart home technology down and allow it to be implemented in existing older homes. Many homebuyers and sellers place a high value on smart home entertainment features. Wireless capabilities are popular, including systems like Sonos that allow you to stream sound from a receiver to wireless speakers around your home.

Consider these five smart home innovations, each of which can each be built into a new construction property or retrofitted into an existing residence (Note: All cost estimates do not include professional installation):

  1. Wi-Fi/learning thermostat examples: Nest, ecobee3, Honeywell Lyric Benefits: Automatically learns your climate preferences and schedule, programs itself and can be smartphone-controlled. Cost: $250 and up (not including installation). Return on investment: Can pay for itself in as early as three to six months. Installation: Can be installed by a handy do-it-yourselfer or professional.
  2. Efficient lighting control system example: Philips’ hue, which includes LED lights, router-linked bridge device, and app/online portal Benefits: Lights that last up to 50,000 hours, can be programmed easily, and contribute little to no heat. Cost: $200 and up ROI: 12 months or longer Installation: DIY or pro.
  3. Wireless deadbolt door lock examples: Schlage Camelot Touchscreen, Kwikset Kevo Benefits: Allows you to lock/unlock and custom program via your smartphone. Cost: $200 and up. ROI: No cost savings, but better security. Installation: DIY or pro.
  4. Whole-home automation system examples: Wink,  or WeMo. Benefits: Automate all your smart-enabled devices using one system via touchscreen/app/hub Cost: $80 to $300+ ROI: 3 to 18 months, depending on energy usage. Installation: Professional recommended.
  5. Garage door opener with MyQ technology examples: Chamberlain and LiftMaster offer MyQ openers Benefits: Can open/close garage door from anywhere and text you a warning if you left the door open. Cost: $250 and up ROI: No cost savings, but better security. Installation: DIY or pro.

Richard Soloway, CEO of NAPCO Security Technologies, a smart home app manufacturer headquartered in Amityville, New York, says it’s a good idea to choose interoperable devices that can “talk” to each other and that are backward-compatible with previously installed equipment. “Homeowners who choose to invest in these systems should not have to rip out existing devices to integrate smart home technologies,” Soloway says.