Like every new product on the market, new smart home devices promise significant improvement to your quality of life, massive energy savings or an incredible new experience. But what do these promises look like in practice?
25% of Germans have already at least one smart home product in their homes, and its popularity is continuing to grow. Lighting and video surveillance are especially popular. But what about the remaining 75 percent? Are you one of them? Perhaps you have a few preconceptions? We'll answer some basic questions, clear up any misunderstandings regarding smart home and hope to give you a little bit of inspiration about what is possible.
1. Smart Home is not efficient
Calculations by the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics indicate that a smart system can save up to 40% of heating costs under ideal conditions. In reality, many other factors can play a role. For example, it can make a huge difference whether you live in a detached old building or if you want to heat a well-insulated row house. Also, if someone "runs warm" or "runs cold" can play a big role as well. Therefore, possible energy savings of up to 30% are more realistic.
So, does Smart Home = efficient?
Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Not all smart homes are the same, and it all depends on which devices you install and how they work together.
55 % of the energy consumption of households comes from heating. Here it is particularly worthwhile to retrofit an older heating system. However, a smart thermostat alone is often not enough. Smart homes must always be thought of as a holistic system. Heating requirements are related to room temperature, room humidity and sunlight. It is therefore ideal to measure and network all these different parameters. For example, the heating could switch off when you leave the house and shutters could open and close in relation to the weather outside.
Save with smart lights. This is how it works:
Who doesn't know this situation: spontaneously out the door and into the car, while the living room light is on the whole day and nobody is at home. What a waste! Lighting accounts for 20% of the total energy costs. A lot can be saved here, if it's done the right way.
Along the path in the garden, the lanterns only turn on at twilight, and since this exact time shifts every day according to the season, it is not always at the same time. While you climb the stairs, the light stays on for a defined period of time. This is also handy if your hands are full and you don't need to hit the switch first. In the living room, you sit down in your favorite armchair and begin reading a novel. Since you don't need full brightness to read an e-book, the lighting can be dimmed to 40%, making it more comfortable while simultaneously saving 60% in electricity costs.
How do I utilise smart home correctly?
These small scenarios are intended to shed light on how extensive and interrelated smart home installations can be. In the example above, the category "smart lights" was adjusted according to the situation. Such usage is extremely efficient and can make everyday life easier, more pleasant, and save energy and money. However, if you fill your room with colorful flashing LEDs that change according to the music playing, and don't switch it off when you leave the room, it will probably end up costing you money.
If you also use solar panels or local wind power, smart home applications can help you distribute the power to your home appliances. This is obviously strongly related to the weather. For example, it may be wise to use the washing machine and dishwasher on days when the weather is good and electricity is generated in large quantities.
2. Smart Home is expensive
Those who think that a smart home is a luxury good that is only available to the few is wrong. The budget for a smart home package is of course as varied as the different functions it can provide. If you add up to 10 sensors to each room, all of them from a brand in a higher price bracket, it can easily run into the thousands. But there are great starter packages, between 180 and 280 Euro, which are already capable of a lot and can be expanded later on if necessary.
Smart Home could only cost as much as two pizzas at your favorite Italian restaurant.
Some smart home providers now give you the possibility to rent their products on a monthly basis, just like Netflix or Swapfiets. This allows you to become familiar with the technology and find out if it is right for you. Monthly cancellations give you great flexibility and value for money. Just the thing if you want to test it out first! This way you can enjoy excellent service and a bigger acquisition without spending hundreds of Euros all at once.
What many don't know: Smart Home Financial Support
Learn here how to get financial support for your smart home expansion!
The development of a home into a smart home is seen as a future investment and is supported by the KfW (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau) development bank. The low-interest subsidy loan amounts to a maximum of 50,000 euros per housing unit.
If no credit is needed, there is a subsidy up to a maximum of 1,600 euros available in Program 455 (burglary protection or accessibility). 10 percent of the costs are reimbursed if the new acquisition is a system for orientation or communication in everyday life. The same program allows a subsidy for age-appropriate living. If a house is converted to be holistically age-appropriate, also via the 455-B program, there is a subsidy of 12.5 percent (maximum 6,250 euros per residential unit) if the house is converted to be holistically age-appropriate.
So, no matter if you are looking for a low priced starter package, a subscription version, or a subsidy, there are many great possibilities to realize your project.
3. Smart Home is not for older people
On the contrary! Of course, these are new technologies that still seem challenging to many. However, the products are closely related to our basic needs such as security, social exchange and personal fulfillment. Smart Care can simply be seen as a new approach to satisfying these basic needs.
Especially during the Corona pandemic, visiting family on a regular basis is difficult. Here 2-Way-Audio Talk, i.e. a microphone and loudspeaker integrated into the camera, enables a spontaneous exchange with loved ones, no matter where they are in the room.
Our society is getting older and older. But often, family members of older people live too far away to care for them. Although the family home means a place of security and also independence, in many cases a retirement home is the only available and logical option.
Here, smart home can offer various opportunities to support elderly people in their everyday lives. Light, as far as motion detectors are concerned, enables better orientation and prevents falls. With Sens Floor, a sensor mat placed under the floor, a notification can be sent to relatives or nursing staff in case of a fall or unusual movement patterns.
For those who find touchpads in any form problematic or have trouble reading, there are user interfaces specially developed for seniors with large buttons, easily readable writing, and with a read-aloud function. Even easier is using voice control. Your own children or nice neighbors can certainly help with the installation. Many companies otherwise offer an installation service for a small extra charge. Once installed, seniors can control the device via voice command. Here, simple commands such as "turn on the light in the kitchen" are enough and they work. For people with impaired vision or hearing, signals with audio-visual feedback will be particularly useful. For example, a smoke detector alarm can be heard by its siren and additionally a flashing red light.
4. Smart Home is not secure
Being filmed by your smart fridge as you enjoy a midnight snack in your underwear and with your hair sticking out? The horror!
Many smart home devices are permanently connected to the Internet and store user data in a cloud, i.e. on servers from the device manufacturer or third-party providers such as Amazon or Microsoft. Sensitive data can include information about one's daily routine, location data or video recordings.
All of this provides a target for hackers or third parties who can find ways to get to your data. You can never completely eliminate this risk, and hackers will always find a way to get data. However, a lot of it is up to you. There are many precautions and habits that you can incorporate, such as setting up an internal WIFI network, or buying only certified products.
Here are 6 tips on how to make your smart home safe!
Make sure that you buy smart home devices from reputable manufacturers that apply the highest standards of security and privacy. You should also give preference to European manufacturers over unknown manufacturers. And make sure you know where the servers are located, i.e. where your data is stored.
Ultimately, it is up to each user to decide how intelligent, efficient and secure a smart home device is. Used correctly, smart homes or entire smart cities can be trendsetting and offer a solution to the many challenges of tomorrow. The market is still very young and is constantly developing and improving.