The home tech to make your life simpler, safer and more fun in 2019
Last autumn, we sat down with Justin Rhodes, CEO of Oxford-based business Chris Lewis Smart Home, to delve into some of the most commonly asked questions about home automation. It’s always a hot topic when approaching new-build projects – especially at the luxury end of the market.
Home automation not only offers comfort and convenience but also has implications for energy efficiency (and for increased personalisation) as accumulated data establishes preferences that can be used to fine-tune sound, lighting and heating systems. Instead of sticking to pre-set schedules, a smart home system can adapt to your behaviour patterns and adjust the temperature/lighting to suit. It not only means that you can enjoy greater comfort, but that energy resources can be used more efficiently, helping to keep down costs.
Nearly every home has some kind of smart device in it – a Hive thermostat, a smart TV or security camera, for instance – but a true smart home could be defined by the fact that these devices are linked into a remotely controllable network that can be operated together via single controls. While smart technologies can be retrofitted, the best path is to specify the smart home infrastructure in the early stages when planning a new build.
It’s an approach we’re fully embracing as we increasingly integrate smart systems into the fabric of homes we design and build to enable our clients to enjoy the benefits of innovation from the ground up. Closely collaborating with home automation specialists, like Chris Lewis Smart Home, enables us to seamlessly integrate your architectural requirements with your smart home desires.
Now we’ve embarked on a new year, we thought it would be a good time to offer an overview of the key technologies that are likely to form part of our design discussions over the coming months.
Let the light in
When it comes to automated lighting control, market leader Lutron has all the right moves. This clever whole-house solution is capable of controlling dozens (or even hundreds) of devices, allowing homeowners to remotely operate them – turning lights on and off, adjusting lighting levels and even opening and closing curtains and blinds. Everything can be scheduled, if required and the system is easy to integrate with other control systems, including the mainstream favourite Alexa.
Sound and vision
It would be a mistake to dismiss Sonos as a ‘posh speaker’, in reality it is a highly sophisticated sound system that enables the delivery of streamed audio services from a variety of sources – including your own iTunes library, as well as from commercial services such as Amazon Music – into the home and all controlled by a single device. It’s no exaggeration to say that it can transform the way people listen to and enjoy audio experiences.
The perfect temperature
Running heating and cooling systems can be among the biggest expenses faced by any household. Domestic heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) controls have traditionally relied on a simple system of time clocks and thermostats – a far cry from the complex management systems designed for large commercial buildings.
Thankfully, suppliers like Honeywell and Heatmiser now offer controls that use high-level technology to deliver sophisticated, commercially-inspired features and energy saving benefits in the home such as individual control of zones and control of mixed heating systems such as underfloor, traditional radiators and electric heat mats, mirrors and fans.
Any smart home is only as good as the system that controls it. Which is why we’re happy to cover Control4, in our opinion it’s one of the most intuitive control systems available. Control4 connects to most smart devices in the home and enables a high level of personalisation via a range of interfaces, including touch screen, handheld remote or smart phone app. In short, you can interact with sound, audio and appliances and manage lighting, entertainment and security under one simple-to-use umbrella.
Wi-Fi is probably the most talked about issue with clients, their frustration at having a great broadband service but not being able to access it fully around the home, especially in older properties or areas with the most modern construction of steel and underfloor pipework that are perfect Wi-Fi blockers. We recommend Ruckus as the go-to Wi-Fi solution that has so many clever features to overcome these issues, including a fully meshed architecture (meaning no drop-outs when moving around the house) and background scanning that identifies the best Wi-Fi path for every device depending on location and whether it’s an iPhone or laptop etc.
This year will also the release of Wi-Fi 6, a next-generation wireless standard that provides faster speeds and better performance – especially important if you’re planning to integrate some new smart tech devices we’ve discussed earlier. Wi-Fi 6 is more efficient because it splits the wireless channel into a number of sub-channels which can each carry data for a different device, so that the access point can interact with more devices simultaneously. Nevertheless, the new Wi-Fi 6 standard will first be launched as a certified commercial kit and should reach every day users later.
How can we help you design your smart home?
As leading high-end residential architects with vast experience in integrating smart technology in our projects, we provide architecture services throughout the Cotswolds, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, London, and Surrey. We’d love to help you plan your new smart home. Find out more about how we work or get in touch for an initial meeting with Ben Holland or Stephen Green.