TIPS + TOOLS

On CTV: How to bring smart tech home

April 3, 2018

Bringing smart tech home can be done in a variety of ways and there are two schools of thought when it comes to home automation: wanting an autonomous house; and wanting to easily access things in your home using your voice or phone. In this second part of his latest appearance on CTV News at Noon with Leanne Cusack, Amsted President Steve Barkhouse shares tech products from our friends at Home Depot that will allow you to incorporate a little smart tech in your home today!

A related blog shows one of our home renovation projects in which home automation is a key element, featuring a central app/system that controls everything from lights and music to the TV, blinds and appliances.

If you’re considering a centralized system for your home, two options are Control4 and Lutron.

Our partner Eastech, who did the home mentioned above, used Control4, which comes with a few options for controlling, including a remote control and a custom app.

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This can be centrally located on a wall in your home and each room has its own controls. Here you see it in the family room, where it can control the shades, TV, sound system, lighting and temperature.

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You can also have the same thing programmed to an iPad or tablet. Here we’re accessing the kitchen, with controls for the sound system, lighting and temperature. Each panel is unique to each room and the elements within it.

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And finally, there’s the wall panel of standard buttons and pre-programmed “scenes”. This one is in the homeowners’ bedroom. There is direct control of the blinds, ceiling fans and lighting and “scenes” such as “morning”, “night” and “house off”, in which different choices are programmed into the system depending on the time of day and patterns of the occupants.

Having scenes creates significant ease of use in the home and are what create true automation. We can imagine how significantly this level of automation can impact a person’s life and home. But, it’s important to keep in mind how intensive this is.

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A level of interest and understanding in technology is key. For instance, the photo to the right shows just one of the control room towers in the homeowners’ house, in addition to their elaborate electrical panel. So while these systems have many benefits, it’s important to keep in mind that a drawback is the level of tech knowledge required, as well as the higher cost associated with integrating such an automation system.

What other options are there?

If a centralized system is more than you’re willing to try, there are now a variety of home automation products on store shelves that can add an element of smart tech to your home.

These systems, commonly called hubs, do have limitations. The hubs need to learn “skills” in order to follow voice commands, for instance. Some of these skills are built in and function through apps – like weather or trivia – while others need to be learned or programmed into it.

As well, most operate only on wi-fi range and therefore require a constant connection. But they also offer a cost-effective way to bring some automation to your home and can be fun to use.

We reached out to Home Depot, which shared some of its top sellers and favourite new gadgets for the home.

Ring Video Doorbell v2 ($249)

Take your security a step further. Watch over your home from your device in high-def video, including speaking to visitors at your door.

Lutron Caseta ($119.95)

Similar to Phillips Hue (below), Lutron Caseta allows you to control your lights, but it also expands to include remote-controlled shades and temperature from your mobile device. It let’s you create “scenes” and you can set up “geofencing” that automatically turns your lights on and off when you leave or come home.

Master Lock Bluetooth Indoor Smart Padlock ($69.48)

Unlock your house, share access with guests, and monitor activity with a simple app.

Google Home ($149)

Most people will recognize this one. It also comes in a mini version, with a lower price point and reduced function.

Features:

  • Voice-activated speaker powered by the Google Assistant. Ask it questions. Tell it to do things. It’s your own Google, always ready to help. Just start with, “Ok Google”.
  • Get real-time answers including the latest on weather, traffic, finance, sports, local businesses and more.
  • Can also be set up with alarms, provide your calendar information and inform you about traffic on the way to work.
  • Simple voice request can trigger Google Home to play music, from the radio or from your personal collection.
  • Can be linked with other systems such as Lutron Caseta and Philips Hue.

Wink Hub 2 Smart Home Hub ($129)

This hub allows your smart products to speak the same wireless language so you can control them from the free Wink app. This is the closest form of integrated home automation, without going to the Control4 system we showed in our renovation project.

Philips Hue White and Colour Ambiance Kit ($249)

Experience high-quality white and coloured light with endless possibilities. Control switches, dimming, colour, tone and brightness levels with an app. You can connect up to 50 HUE light bulbs to a single system, while using as much as 80 per cent less energy than traditional bulbs. You can also sync lights with music and movies for responsive light effects.

These are just some of the options to set yourself up with automation controlled by your phone, or inspiration for truly integrating automation in your home.

Related: How home automation works seamlessly in a renovation