How much credit should Saturday morning cartoons get for inspiring modern technology? When it premiered in 1962, the futuristic household of The Jetsons was ﬁlled with advancements like video communication, automated housework and wireless cooking decades before technology was capable of producing it.
Today, those home upgrades are more than just science ﬁction; a wide variety of technologies can transform any home into a self-sufficient Shangri-la of the future. The term “smart home” is used as a catchall for systems that control electronics and wireless devices, encompassing features that range from remote-controlled thermostats and wireless security systems to self-synchronizing kitchen appliances.
Nothing is off-limits, and convenience and customization are the names of the game when upgrading your home.
“Some clients want everything on a system so that they can hit a ‘goodnight’ button and lock all the doors at once, turn the lights off, adjust the thermostat and turn on the TV,” says Jaret Nichols, owner of Tampa Bay Electronic Systems (TBES). “Everything is custom. We have to program each [feature] separately, but the difference between professional versus DIY home automation is, [with DIY] they’re hitting four or ﬁve apps to do what we can do in one, instantly.”
Nichols started working with home-theater installation in the early 2000s and expanded his business to meet customers’ evolving demands for technology — including high-speed internet access, high-end media features and home automation. In addition to walking clients through designing their smart homes from scratch, TBES specializes in retroﬁtting older homes with smart tech like automat-ed lighting and contemporary media systems.
Providing an existing home with total WiFi coverage sometimes requires using seven or eight network access points throughout the house to ensure the internet reaches your device no matter where you are.
“If you’re going through your house and you’ve got WiFi in one corner and the rest is barren, you’ll be pretty angry when nothing is working because you can’t connect to the network,” Nichols says. “It’s almost a prerequisite that the network’s right.”
Increased internet bandwidth is the key to activating the real jaw-droppers in smart home renovation. In the past, TBES has installed luxury features like 100-inch video screens, motion-activated doors, and television screens that transform into mirrors when not in use. In some instances, TBES must ﬁnd creative ways to stretch the bandwidth capabilities of exist-ing cables to operate the latest technology; other times, they must plan for the capabilities of cables that don’t exist yet.
“With video, we have 4K [resolution TVs] and people haven’t even wrapped their head around that yet. But 8K and even 16K, believe it or not, is already coming,” Nichols says. “The nice thing about these smart home systems is that you don’t need to spend as much as you think for a full-blown system right away because they’re easy to expand on later.”
Smart tech can do more than just dazzle with automation. Some gadgets, like self-adjusting window shades, voice-activated thermostats and energy-saving lightbulbs can all help reduce the home’s energy bill, too.
That’s the idea behind structural insulated panels (SIPs), a prefabricated block of insulation sandwiched between steel walls that eliminate heat ‘bridging’ between rooms. Used in the construction of an increasing number of new eco-friendly homes, these panels reduce energy consumption, improve air quality and enable homes to control individual climates between rooms, says KHP Homes’ director of business development, Falgoon Patel.
“With our ‘Green Smart Homes,’ instead of [building] using just block and wood, we’ll use steel SIPs, which save on average about 60 percent of energy consumption,” Patel says. “With more advanced AC units, we’re able to reduce it to about 80 percent.”
Among many smart tech options that KHP Homes offers are high-tech tankless water heaters the size of a dinner plate that can heat water faster and more efficiently than older models. These heaters also have automatic cut-off valves that activate when leaks are detected.
“Before you’re able to see [the leak], those systems are able to just turn that pipe off and discontinue wherever the leak is coming from and send you a message that it’s been turned off,” Patel says.
Though they’re inside your home, these devices can still be wirelessly connected to their manufacturers’ systems to enable automatic updates, start specialized repairs, and sense internal issues — like the leak Patel describes. Devices can also communicate with each other; smart ovens from LG and Brava require no preheating, can be controlled via Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, and can sync to instructions from a recipe on your smartphone.
Security features have equally become as digitally connect-ed, enabling control over a total home security system of cameras, video doorbells and automated locks right from a mobile device. Systems like those made by the company Ring have captured a high-deﬁnition look at the faces of more than one would-be vandal or burglar, allowing home-owners to keep an eye on their property from literally anywhere they have an internet connection.
NEXT IN TECH
As the evolution of smart home tech continues to adapt and overcome obstacles, many in the industry see voice-activated control as the next big advancement. Homes will not only become aware of what the user is doing but will also make adjustments based on what the situation is and how the user is living, Nichols says.
As far as smart home advancements go, their origins in public consciousness will inevitably retain a certain level of science ﬁction. Reﬂecting on watching Back to the Future II as a kid, Nichols can’t help but see the irony in the McFly household of 2015.
“I got caught up on the scene where there’s fax machines and video walls all over the house,” Nichols says. “It’s funny, some of the things they predicted, because we do a lot of that.”
Smart Tech & Resale Value
Upgrading a home’s high-tech capabilities isn’t just a smart investment: it increases real estate value on the market later on, too. Energy-saving green technology, enhanced security measures and ready-to-use automation systems can all add curb appeal to a home for potential buyers.
“When you’re listing the home and listing the features and comparing it to [other homes], it would increase the desire to view this home,” says Julia Lombardo, co-founder of Lombardo Real Estate. “People want to see
a difference in not only their home being easier by having it all connect to a smartphone, but also for the economy of it and it being better for the atmosphere.”
About one in ﬁve homebuyers ask for smart home technology when looking, Lombardo says, but many are wary of unwieldy or overcomplicated features.
“A lot of buyers don’t love using ﬁve different companies brought into a home. They like it streamlined.”