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Electrician

How to earn trust as an approved installer

Whether you are a CCTV and security alarm installer or an expert at setting up network cabling and satellite broadband, any professional tradesperson with [...]

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Smart Home 1

Energy company set to offer smart home solutions

Energy provider Scottish Power has become the first firm in its field to provide smart home solutions to households wherever they are based.

The forward-thinking firm is [...]

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Aerials

What are the pros and cons of installing a TV aerial outdoors?

Installing an outdoor TV aerial is more work than fitting one indoors or in your loft, but the results are well worth the trouble. Read on for some useful tips on [...]

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CCTV

What features should every home CCTV camera have?

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras are an invaluable option for property owners keen to beef up their security. However, with [...]

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Smart Lighting

Top four benefits of smart lighting for homes

Smart lighting involves long-lasting LED bulbs that can be customised and controlled remotely via smart technology, including [...]

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Smart Lighting Garden

Can Smart Lighting help me reduce my bills?

When buying replacement light bulbs, it can still be tempting to opt for the cheaper classic incandescent bulbs, but unfortunately these bulbs are massively inefficient.  There is no doubt that energy-efficient LED bulbs save you money on your bulbs, so don’t be put off by their higher price.

On top of these, you can now opt for smart bulbs – the next era of the smart home which can help even more with cost savings.  However, as these bulbs never turn off as they need to be on in some form to recognise voice commands, do they actually save you money?

What is a Smart Bulb – In simple terms, it is an LED bulb that has technology built in which enables it to connect to your network or WiFi which allows you to control it remotely.  This is usually done via voice command using an Alexa device or Google Assist.  Always check the specifications to ensure compatibility with your chosen device.

Do they waste money when they are off – smart bulbs are in a class of devices called vampire devices, meaning electricity is still being used when they are off.  This is because even when the bulb is off, it still needs to be connected to your WiFi or network to enable to operate with voice commands.  It is reported that each smart bulb when off uses a lot less than a penny which when you have a couple, you will hardly notice.  Multiply this by 30-40 across your home, it will make some difference.

Do Smart Bulbs save me money – yes they do but they also don’t – confusing?  They absolutely save you money compared to the traditional incandescent bulbs due to their efficiency, but when compared to replacing your old bulbs for straight forward LED bulbs, they aren’t as efficient – simply because they cost more upfront in comparison to LED bulbs and that they remain in standby so therefore constantly using energy.

Tip – those other ‘vampire’ appliances that you have around the home which are easy to overlook that they are in standby are:-

  • Computers
  • TV’s
  • Printers
  • Microwaves
  • Security Systems

Don’t overlook them, if easy to turn them off rather than leave in standby, do so as this will save you energy usage.

WiFI Speed

WiFi is so important for your smart home devices

We have typically thought of gas, electric and water as our main utilities, but with the development of the smart home, WiFi is the now regarded as the fourth utility and is vital for everything to work effectively.  Even the basics of streaming what we want to watch, puts the demand on our WiFi and you certainly know by your viewing experience if your WiFi is any good.

Speed available – it isn’t always down to getting the fastest service and more about what is available in your area.  Not all areas have the fastest speeds or fibre available, so it is about looking for the best and fastest service available for your area.  There will be websites in your area where you will be able to check the providers available and the speeds that they can offer.  Another example for those BT customers waiting for higher speed WiFi is their postcode checker to see when full fibre will be available for your home.

Price – a faster service can quite often come with a higher premium, so you do need to decide what you need versus what you want to pay, plus the length of the contract.

Service – There are more and more companies providing WiFi services so read up on them and their service.  How does it compare to others, is it reliable, what is their customer service like?  All important factors when choosing the best option.  Sometimes you only find out how good a company is when something goes wrong, so make sure you read reviews so you know if this happens, that they will sort it out for you.

Our last suggestion is that while connecting to WiFi within your home for any device could be your only option, where you do have the option to run an ethernet cable from your router to your device, do so – you will get a better and more stable connection. Also, to keep the bandwidth usage to a minimum in your house (and to assist you in achieving better speeds in the rooms you are using) turn off (or put to sleep) any WiFi reliant devices when not using them, such as Amazon Firesticks, Smart TV’s etc…

How your smart home could be at risk from hackers

Hacker

Our homes are becoming full of smart home devices as we strive for a more efficient and automated life and experience, but are you at risk of being hacked?

The simple answer is ‘yes’.  A typical selection of smart home devices ranges from televisions to security networks through to thermostats and more and more smart appliances around the home – all connected to your internet.

Some devices are more robust than others against hackers, but it only takes one vulnerability to allow you to be hacked and at risk.  A recent experiment by a well-known consumer group, found that a camera purchased from Amazon was easily hacked with the culprit using the camera to spy into the home – scary!  Even we were surprised to learn that in the week of the experiment, 1107 hacks occurred which came from all over the world, 66 of which were malicious and targeted.

A key target was a printer – however the hackers weren’t successful due to the strong default passwords being in place, compared to a wireless camera which didn’t and was therefore easily hacked.  Sophisticated software is used by hackers worldwide to seek out vulnerabilities and weak passwords in our smart home devices, with focus on routers, wireless cameras and connected printers when they come online.

The Government is looking to launch a new standard which will regulate connected products to provide a minimum level of security.  One of the focus areas will be on default passwords, you will often see them as ‘admin’ or ‘12345’ – this new move by Government will in effect make them illegal.  In the experiment done, those devices with the unique default passwords faired better than those who had the standard default passwords in place.

In the meantime you can help to make your smart home more secure:-

Security features – check what is available with each of your smart devices – check the manuals or app and use two-factor authentication if it is available.

Updates – make sure you always run the updates when available so you have the most up to date protection available for the device.

Default passwords – change them, as soon as you set up the device, don’t leave the default password, change it to yours, or a strong password.

Phishing emails – when you first set up your device, be aware and check that any validation emails you receive are valid and not a phishing email.

Return your device – if you don’t feel that is safe and could be easily hacked or the security feature aren’t sufficient, return it.

Smart Home

Automating your Smart Home

Simply put, having an automated home means that you have a central unit that gives you control over any compatible devices that is connected to it. This gives you the benefit of being able to program different devices to work together automatically, from one central control unit.  You can control your heating, smart lighting, entertainment devices, security and much more for example.

The aim of creating a more automated smart home is to save you time, effort and to generally enhance your lifestyle.

Some of the great features of home automation, is being able to do things like programme your heating to come on when the temperature reaches a certain level or even control your thermostat from the comfort of your sofa.  To provide more security you could programme your security or camera system to recognise your family but alert you to any strangers, or use them to communicate with delivery drivers or visitors.

Love your entertainment – take the opportunity to conceal your high-tech kit to create a cleaner interior design or use your home automation system to play your favourite songs throughout the house.  The whole idea is to make your life simpler.

Some key reasons to move towards home automation: –

Simplicity – getting up each time you want to change your heating setting or getting ready upstairs and want to play some music – these are all mundane tasks – home automation makes this easier, no more walking round the house!

Management – being able to control all your smart devices in your home from one place (unit or app) makes it easier to manage rather than having to operate each device separately and from different apps.

Energy – by having the control of your devices at your fingertips, you home will naturally become more efficient.  By using home automation, you will know exactly what is on and what is off and how much energy is being used.  It is great way to control your heating in each room, setting the temperatures and save energy by linking your lighting to sensors so they area only on when they need to be.

Security – as we have all become more security conscious, a smart home system and automation will give you better peace of mind as you can control and set up your devices to protect your home and to know who is visiting etc.  All this when you are at home and not there.

Fun and interactive – technology isn’t just about making life easier but also more fun.  With home automation you can simply change the mood lighting in your room from your app, crank up the music in all rooms in your home and press a button to reveal a hidden TV – all fun.

House value – as we all demand simpler lives and solutions that not only save us time and money, selling on your house complete with a smart home system can be it more attractive to buyers and increase the value.

Some great benefits but do remember building your smart home can take time.  There are some quick fixes, smart bulbs, a doorbell, but building your home to be fully automated takes time and planning as well as looking at the budget you have available to reach your desired goal. Bear in mind that a typical cost for a smart home automation project can set you back circa £10k but can be a lot higher depending on what you want to achieve.  Obviously the more you spend the more that can achieve.  One great bit of advice before you even start any project is to make sure you have a good internet service as this is the base operation of any system.  Get in touch with your provider to ensure that you are getting the best service possible.

With any system of this scale, don’t try doing it yourself.  No harm in doing the research, checking what products and systems are out there, but to achieve the best results use an Approved Installer who will not only be able ensure that everything is installed and working correctly but will also be able to advise you to get the results you want.

Energy

Save your energy

With the rise in cost in gas and electric, there is no better time to look at how you can use less energy and become more efficient in the home.  Surprisingly the average household (containing 4 occupants) uses 13 electronic devices – all using energy.  Naturally over the past 10 years we have been increasing our energy usage with new devices that we use in the home such as TV’s and laptops.  Although energy usage has increased directly linked to the number of devices they are now produced being energy efficient, this doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to reduce your energy usage.

Let start with your Gas usage – look at your appliances, how old are they?  Older models will use more energy and it may be worth upgrading where you can to a more energy efficient model.  Installing a smart thermostat is also a great way to control your heating more easily and track your usage.

And your Electricity usage – again look at your devices and gadgets, are they old, are there more energy efficient options available to you – always make sure you look at this when buying new ones.  Look out for energy saving lightbulbs, the rating on items such as dishwashers.  One key thing is to switch off your appliances at the plug when not being used – if they don’t need to be on, switch them off.

Some quick tips to save energy: –

Buy and install a smart thermostat– they will make your heating more efficient but only heating the rooms that are being used, at the right temperature, at the right time.  You can control them by your phone which means you can easily change what is needed.  Just by installing room thermostats, programmers, and thermostatic radiators, you could save upto £75 per year.  You may be surprised to know by just turning your heating down by 1 degree could save you upto £80 per year!

Appliances – make sure any appliance which just sits in standby is turned off at the plug – this could save you upto £30 per year alone.  Make it easy for yourself by using smart plugs/sockets that you can control easily from your phone – there is no excuse then.  When buying new appliances, check out the energy-efficiency rating. For example a washing machine with a rating of A+++ is expected to use £65 less energy than one which is rated A+.   Even better savings are with a fridge freezer, an A+++ rated appliance could save you £320 in energy bills over its lifetime.

Washing – change your habits and wash at a lower temperature, going from 40 degrees to 30 degrees will reduce your energy usage and cutting out one cycle per week will add an additional £5 saving per year.

Check how much energy you are using – this is one of the best ways to change your habits.  Knowing what you are using and when will help you identify what you need to do.  When you start doing some of the things mentioned in this blog and then see in front of your eyes the impact it has on your energy usage – you will form new habits and become far more aware of how you can save money.  Don’t just look at your appliances, check out your boiler, insulate your roof, check if you have draughts and consider investing in double glazing.

Making your home smarter overall will in the long-term help you become energy efficient.