Are you ready for a smart home?

Posted: May 1, 2019

Do you want more than you’re getting out of your relationship with Alexa? Have you wondered what that Home Kit icon on your iPhone can do? Would you like more assistance from your Google Assistant? If you’re one of the over 100 million Americans who bought some version of a smart speaker in the past five years, you’re probably ready to take it to the next level. And if you think you’re ready, here are a few things you’ll need to know.

 

Know Your Internet


Your smart home devices communicate through the internet. This is how you’ll be able to turn on your lights from an app while you’re at work or check for packages at your door while you’re on vacation by using the camera in your smart phone. A recent New York Times article on the subject of smart homes noted that most apartments have Wi-Fi suitable for communicating with an array of smart home devices. But for larger homes or multi-level apartments that may have “dead zones,” the Times article suggests creating a robust home network using a mesh Wi-Fi system like Google Wi-Fi, Linksys Velop, or Eero to create a single network to cover every corner of your home.

 

Know What You’ll Be Able to Control


With a wide variety of applications that range from home climate control to security, the sky is the limit with smart home systems. That is not to say that there won’t be physical or human limitations to setting up your system. If you’re a renter or live in the jurisdiction of a particularly rule-heavy co-op board, you may not be allowed to install that smart doorbell, smart lock or smart thermostat. Also, not everyone is an electrical contractor or certified electrician. If you’re a DIYer, you may discover that your home’s wiring doesn’t allow for that promised “quick and easy installation” – (we’ll get to that subject next). Do a little research before you buy – or know the refund policy for that device you just bought.

 

Know Your Wiring


Do you know what a C-wire is? If you bought a smart dimmer switch or smart thermostat and are considering installing it yourself, you’re about to find out. Standard outlets, light switches and thermostats operate using AC power which uses two wires, a live and a neutral. But many smart home devices require low-voltage DC power to operate. This power usually come from a third wire, which is another neutral wire that is used to send a signal to run your smart devices. Here’s the catch: Gearbrain notes that 50% of the homes in the United States don't have this third wire in their homes. Time to call a certified commercial or residential electrician.

 

Know Your Options


If you fall into the 50% of homeowners whose homes aren’t equipped with a C-wire, you have options. Even without that necessary third wire you can still create many of the features of a smart home. There is an array of smart plugs, dimmers, switches and plugs that provide easy solutions and can work with your existing home assistant speaker. On the downside, these components don’t come without some aesthetic and functional limitations. Also, the costs add up the more components you add. If you’re ready to go in all the way for a fully-functioning smart home, you may need to call in someone who specializes in electrical installations to rewire part(s) of your home.

At PK & Altman Electric, consultations and estimates are always free. Our licensed and insured team of electrical contractors have been serving the Manhattan, the greater New York City area and Westchester County for over 50 years. Call (212) 673-9400 to get started on making your home a smart home today.

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