More comfort and security for every home
Everyone is talking about smart homes as new products are launched on the market each month that make life at home more comfortable and safer. Not to mention the savings that you can achieve with more efficient heating and lighting controls. Are you also interested in smart wireless devices for your home? Then you’ve come to the right place. The following guide gives you a comprehensive product overview. Your specialist dealer will be happy to help you with product selection.
Why should we get connected?
To feel reassured
Isn’t it a wonderful feeling to know that everything in your home is in order? Doors and windows are closed, the heating is at the optimal temperature and is not using energy unnecessarily. Automated lighting gives the impression that rooms are in use, even when nobody is there. And if burglars try to tamper with any of the locks, a loud alarm will scare them off.
Good value for money
The comfort and security provided by such an intelligent home is available today without much effort or expense. A smartphone or tablet is all that is needed to remotely control lighting, radiator valves and many other everyday appliances. These products are available in specialist shops, and often don’t even need a screwdriver to be installed. And when one is required, the app will guide you through the installation with step-by-step instructions.
Better than expensive fixed installations with cables and flush-mounts: These new plug & play systems can be retrofitted in old buildings and rentals with no problems – and can move house with you.
When you buy your first product, think about what features you want your smart home in the future. Some systems can only control heating or lighting, while others can completely automate your entire space. Your choice determines how well your system can expand.
Just get started
You’ve already met most of the technical requirements for a smart home: a router attached to an internet connection and a smartphone to control the smart devices. Together these form the foundation on which almost all of the solutions described in this Tech Guide are built.
The most important new purchase is usually a base station, also called a gateway or bridge. It controls the other devices in the intelligent home wirelessly. The router’s Wi-Fi is not so suitable for this purpose because it requires a lot of energy to stay connected to. Batteries in sensors on doors and windows or radiator valves would become flat in no time. Network-connected light globes consume several watts even in standby mode when they are off. That’s why the more economical standards are often used in the smart home, such as Zigbee, Z-Wave or DECT ULE.
Depending on what you want to do first in your smart home, your starter package will also include controllable devices such as light globes, dimming switches or power outlets. Further components are available as accessories. Your specialist dealer would be pleased to show them to you.
The base station establishes a connection with all of the devices in your smart home. Without a wireless network, you can’t control your devices via a smartphone or tablet. There are exceptions: some devices can receive commands directly from your mobile device via Bluetooth. If you are away from home, internet access is required to control your smart home devices remotely.
If your smart home devices can’t be directly connected to the wireless router, your home computer network may be used. Power line adapters (image) or solutions that use antenna cables (ethernet over coax) can bridge larger distances, for example, if your internet connection is located in the basement. The base station from your smart home system starter package does the rest. It controls lamps, valves and other devices wirelessly.
An app turns your smartphone or tablet into a comfortable touchscreen remote control. Almost all smart home device manufacturers offer apps for Android and iOS devices. However, Apple’s HomeKit standard is only available to iOS products. Other mobile phone operating systems such as Windows Phone or Blackberry OS haven’t played a major role in smart home devices yet.
The faster your home network and internet connection speed, the better. Wireless cameras, in particular, need high data transfer rates to send images in HD quality to your smart home system app.
Setting the mood
With wireless LED lamps, adding these to a smart home system is as simple as changing a lightbulb: Simply replace the old bulb with a smart one, and the new light globe obeys commands from your smartphone. Thanks to the popular E27 standard, you don’t even need to change the socket. There are many different globe types to choose from if you are using the Zigbee technology (right), where the range of globes is extensive: from spotlights to LED strip lighting to decorative ceiling lights.
Unlike compact fluorescent lamps, most smart LED lamps can change color temperate smoothly – from cool daylight white to the warm glow of an incandescent lamp. Models with RGB LEDs (red, green, blue) can even mix these to make any desired color from their palette of millions. And dimming – a particular challenge in the age of energy-saving lamps – is also no problem thanks to the app and the globe technology. Smart lighting can still be operated using a switch, if needed. Some switches will remember the previous light settings from the app, while others will always provide a neutral white light when turned on at the wall.
Even the basic apps offer useful extras such as lighting timers or the ability to use a light as an alarm clock. When you integrate these into a complete system, there are even more options for automation.
LED globes that use Bluetooth receive control signals directly from your smartphone or tablet. This eliminates the need for a base station. Your mobile device must be within range (max. 10 meters) of the Bluetooth globe, and the number of lights you can control is limited. Some systems are limited to a maximum of ten lights, while others can control up to 32 – organized into groups.
Zigbee Light Link
Globes that use the Zigbee wireless protocol always require a base station (bridge) attached to the router. Their range is very high as each globe functions as a signal repeater. Up to 50 globes can be controlled remotely via the one app. Globes by other manufacturers often function when attached to a base station of another. However, in this case, app features are typically more limited.
Wi-Fi globes without a base station are connected directly to your wireless network. Their energy consumption on standby is higher than those that use Bluetooth or Zigbee – and there is only a small variety of globe types available.
A good 60% of private energy consumption is used for heating, according to the Federal Environment Agency. It is therefore well worth lowering the temperature at night or when nobody is home. Just one degree less saves a good 6% of energy. On the other hand, you shouldn’t let the temperature fall too far, otherwise turning it back up to heat quickly will cancel out these savings.
Accurate to the degree
Temperature control can be automated with a wireless heating thermostat. It adjusts the temperature upwards or downwards to suit the daily routines of the home’s occupants – the bathroom is at a comfortable temperature again when they wake up. Schedules can be defined for holidays and day trips, much more precisely than if you were to use the night-setting on your thermostats, and wireless sensors can detect tilted windows so you don’t “heat the outside” by mistake.
But with a smartphone, you can do more: some systems use GPS signals to know when the last person has left the home, then turn down the heating and thus save money. These systems turn the heating up again when someone arrives home. Important: The temperature must also be easily adjustable by hand on the radiator thermostat, so that children or grandparents without smartphone don’t get cold.
Solution for homes with thermostatic valves on each radiator: Replace the existing one with a battery-powered wireless valve. This can be done quickly and without any special tools, after which you can use an app to control the temperature in each room individually.
Gas or under-floor heating systems that use a boiler, sometimes located in the basement, receive commands from a central thermostat in the home. To stop the boilers from providing heat unnecessarily when valves on the individual room radiators have been closed, it’s recommended you get thermostats for each room. While the overall control is at a single point (the boiler) for energy saving, these room thermostats can be used to calculate the home temperature more accurately. You can always make fine adjustments at the valve or room controls as before.
Locks and alarms
It’s best to get alarm systems installed by a professional if they are to be recognized by your insurance company. But even with self-installed smart-home solutions, you can make your home much safer.
Pure surveillance systems keep an eye on the house with tape-mounted sensors, motion detectors and video cameras. They are easy to install and work “out of the box” because there is nothing you need to configure. But their field of application is limited. If you want more features, complete systems allow you to also control lighting and heating. But you will then need to define rules: What happens when, and in what order.
Smart devices that connect to online services should remain functional even if the internet connection fails, and electronic door locks must able to be opened without electricity.
Door and window sensors
Detect burglaries before they occur: That’s why there are surveillance systems with wireless sensors that respond to vibration. They report any violent intrusion to the base station and trigger an alarm. Depending on the system and its configuration, you may receive a silent message on your smartphone or it may immediately set off a loud siren.
Wireless smoke detectors can do more than just sound an alarm when there is a fire. In the event of smoke, they can trigger a series of emergency measure in the smart home: Escape route lights are turned on immediately, doors are unlocked and the other floors are informed about the fire. The features that are available depend on the system you choose.
See what’s happening at home while you are on the move – video surveillance makes this possible. Unlike smoke detectors and other sensors, cameras are almost always connected to your home wireless network. The energy-saving standards used by many smart home devices are simply too weak to carry video data. Attention: Some systems archive video footage from your cameras on the internet for easy and fast access. Not everyone like this, however.
Some video surveillance systems charge a monthly fee to archive your video footage. Only the live image from your camera is available for free. Recommended: Compare prices.
Modern washing machines dose liquid detergent fully automatically, and can order refills via the internet when their supply tanks run low. A new generation of refrigerators makes shopping via webcam easier: A camera shows the interior of the fridge at all times so you can see whether there is enough milk at home. And if there are technical problems, online customer service can help: They can connect directly to your appliance, with your permission.
The new features of home appliances typically require a wireless network to work. This is becoming increasingly common: some manufacturers are equipping their top models with Wi-Fi or a connection module for the Zigbee smart home standard. In other appliances, such a wireless connection can be retrofitted – ask your specialist dealer.
Even without an internet connection, wireless home appliances are much easier to use. They notify you via an app when the dryer in the basement is finished and ready to be emptied. The oven can follow recipes in the manufacturer’s app to set cooking time and temperatures without any additional action. If you own several household appliances from the same manufacturer, you can even control them centrally from the one screen – you don’t need more than one app.
There is an app for that
From stainless steel steam ovens and hot-air deep fryers, to coffee machines and electric toothbrushes: many everyday appliances are already able to connect to your wireless network and communicate to the manufacturer’s app on your smartphone. The app instructs you when to add the next ingredient to the pot, or remembers your preferred mixture of milk and coffee for the perfect latte macchiato. All it takes is a tap of your finger on your touchscreen. An essential different to true smart home devices: These devices are registered on the smartphone via Bluetooth and are not connected via your home wireless network. Central control from other apps and systems is therefore not possible.
Wireless lighting control, or remote-controlled radiator valves are only the first steps towards a smart home. In a truly intelligent home, all of your devices work together. One touch is all it takes to switch off all of the lights when you leave home, turn down the heating and disconnect specific power outlets from the mains. Instead of individual apps to control LED lights, video cameras and room temperatures, there is one common app that controls your entire home.
Traditionally, the installation of such complete systems was reserved for specialists in home automation and powerful cabled network systems. Thanks to wireless technology, property owners and rental tenants can improve their comfort at home easily: systems for DIY assembly from specialist dealers do not require any special knowledge to install – at most, you’ll need a little time to experiment and set up the devices yourself. The core of a complete system is again the base station, except this one can do many more things. The administrator can program what happens when an occupant flicks a switch, or when a motion detector goes off in the base station’s system settings. Lighting, heating, security shutters, and also music or the coffee machine power outlet then respond to the central control system. This makes sure your router isn’t overloaded – you only need power and one network connection for the base station.
Some providers charge a monthly subscription fee for their app or remote control features that are available over the internet. You should take these running costs into account.
You can theoretically add many different products from a wide range of manufacturers to a smart home that works with the common wireless standards such as Z-Wave, Zigbee, Wi-Fi or DECT ULE. As long as the base station supports the appropriate wireless protocol, a variety of sensors, controllers and devices can be registered with it. However, this doesn’t always work smoothly in practice, which is why manufacturers may recommend certain products, ones that they themselves have tested and approved.
In order to avoid problems with registering and operating your smart devices, some manufacturers use their own wireless technology. This means that all of your devices must either be from the same brand, or be approved by the manufacturer as partner brands for their smart home system. This restricts your choice, but guarantees your devices will function reliably.
Must every wireless system have its own base station? Not necessarily. Some manufacturers integrate multiple standards into their smart home systems, or offer expansion modules for Zigbee, Z-Wave and co. This lets you register a wider range of products with the one base station.