Homeowners are increasingly looking to technology for home security solutions, to save on heating and cooling costs and even to help them cook the perfect steak.
In fact, 46% of consumers recently surveyed by ERA Real Estate and HGTV said it was important for their current or next home to have smart home technology. And 51% of the 2,437 consumers polled said they’d consider installing smart home technology in their home to make it more appealing to future buyers.
Smart home technology often refers to a home that is connected using the Internet. “Whether we are inside the house or 1,000 miles away from the house, we can control and monitor it,” said Dave Pedigo, senior director of learning and emerging technologies for the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association.
A big reason smart home technology is becoming more mainstream: “They’re making things so user friendly, so it’s easy for people to adopt the technology,” said Jon Ellen Snyder, a Montana real-estate broker with ERA Landmark in the Bozeman/Livingston area. It is also becoming more affordable, which helps in bringing it to the masses, she said.
Here are some of the top smart home technology products.
Smart home thermostats
Programmable thermostats have been around for a while. It’s just that people don’t often take the time to use them properly to save on heating and cooling costs. But new-generation thermostats are much easier to program. The Nest Learning Thermostat, for example, records your temperature preferences over a period of time and then programs itself to mimic your use. It also can be controlled through a cellphone. A similar product on the market is the Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat.
Homeowners often start investing in home technology by updating their thermostats, Snyder said. That’s for a good reason, too: A programmed thermostat can cut heating and cooling costs by 20%, according to Nest’s website.
Half of millennials have energy management technology in their homes; one-third of Generation X and baby boomers are using this technology, the ERA/HGTV report found.
Smart smoke detectors
Nest also has a smart smoke/carbon monoxide detector on the market; competitor Birdi is expected to hit the market soon.
Far from the traditional shrieking beep, smart smoke detectors can identify and clearly tell you what the problem is and whether you’re in immediate danger. In addition, the Nest smoke/carbon monoxide detector can communicate with the Nest thermostat to shut down the gas furnace if carbon monoxide is high. If you’re not home, you can get a message on your cellphone that there is a problem. In addition to smoke and carbon monoxide alerts, Birdi also tracks air quality of a home, watching for factors including humidity and dust.
Other, more robust and individualized systems can do more. You’d likely need a programmer to set it up, but a smoke detector that detects a fire could turn on lighting to guide people out of the house and flash outdoor lights on and off so the house is more obvious to the fire department, Pedigo said.
The easy-to-set-up Dropcam has a two-way talk feature that allows you to speak with people directly when you’re watching (perhaps a way to communicate with older kids or pets when you’re out of the house); you can also be alerted when motion is detected in certain areas of the home. It also offers a recording service that allows you to go back and grab footage.
Snyder said that in her market, where there are a lot of second homeowners, webcams are becoming a security solution for people to keep an eye on their property from afar.
A word of caution: As with any technology, keeping systems secure is important, Pedigo said. “It’s really easy for hackers to get in and see what is on the cameras,” he said. “I don’t think that general consumers think about their safety enough.” With the help of a professional, there are things that can be done to protect the system from hackers — and your home from a virtual intrusion, he said.
Televisions are getting sharper (think the 4K ultra HD TV) and sound systems are becoming more elaborate (think the Dolby Atmos), and controlling them from a cellphone or tablet is often easy to set up. But other non-entertainment related home appliances are getting smarter too. Expect to see more Internet-connected appliances on the market, Pedigo said.
Already, LG’s Smart ThinQ Washer and Dryer allow people to monitor laundry cycles on their cellphones. Smaller appliances also make life easier: The iGrill is a digital thermometer that can tell you when your chicken is cooked to the desired temperature — by sending an alert to your cellphone.
Seven in 10 millennials said it is important that smart home technology integrates with their smartphone, according to the ERA/HGTV survey. That sentiment soon may extend to smart watches, especially with the buzz surrounding Apple Watch and similar products, Pedigo said.
Soon, the watch on your wrist could tell your home’s systems to make subtle changes to a room when you’re in it, he said. Example: “Let’s say my wife likes it warmer, I like it cooler. If she is in the room the thermostat sets it at 73 degrees, and for me it’s 68 degrees,” he said.