Just exactly what is a “smart home?” Most likely not exactly what some might imagine. “Smart home” is a term used to describe a home (or any building) with appliances that can be monitored or managed remotely by a cell phone or some other device. In this case “remotely” can mean from miles away or from a different room. You can turn some appliances on or off, some appliances notify you of certain conditions, and some allow you to have a conversation with someone standing on your front porch.
Disappointingly, the house itself isn’t much smarter than great great-grandpa’s house before electricity came to the farm. Very few modern day conveniences and technological advances would be possible without electricity. It should not be a surprise that most 21st century smart devices still need to plug into a source of electricity to operate. Even our WiFi routers, smart TVs and virtual assistants need to plug into an outlet that has electrical wiring. San Luis Obispo’s Electricraft is at the forefront of wiring for smart homes and other buildings.
Just because a smart home still relies on electrical wiring does not mean that automation is not useful. Taking care of things at home while at the office or out to dinner can certainly make life easier and safer. Here’s a look at how far some of today’s smart electricity-dependent devices have come over time.
Lighting that can be turned on, off and dimmed from a remote device has come a long way since the pull cord on a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling. Controlling lighting remotely is certainly safer than creeping through a dark room waving a hand over your head searching for the pull cord. It is certainly much easier to get that perfect romantic lighting without walking across the room to the dimmer switch and it’s a real convenience to turn the lights on at home with your cell phone from anywhere. But, the lights still need electric wiring to work and the device that communicates between the lights and your cell phone (or virtual assistant) still needs to connect to the electricity to control the flow.
Televisions have come a long way since they were huge pieces of furniture with tiny round screens. Going outside in the rain to turn the TV antenna until the picture is clear is a tale grandpa tells that no one believes. The days when someone had to get off the sofa to change channels are gone unless the dog ate the remote. Smart TVs that receive WiFi signals are giving people another option for watching favorite programs. But, the smart TV still needs to plug into electricity in order to work.
Electricity did away with having to cook over a campfire or on a wood stove, and it is still needed to operate 21st-century smart stoves. Electricity even powers the igniters on gas stoves. Being able to turn a stove on and off and control the heat levels from a remote device is convenient, but the stove, or oven, still needs electricity to get the job done.
While some smart refrigerator eliminates the sour milk taste test because they can detect expiration dates, they still need electricity. A smart refrigerator can keep an inventory of items inside and notify you when it’s time to shop, but there is no little man inside to turn the light on and off. All refrigerators, regardless of their level of intelligence, need electricity to stay cool, keep things frozen in the freezer, and operate the thermostat for consistent temperature.
The word “thermostat” by definition implies a smart device because it is able to determine the temperature and turn something on or off (control electricity or fuel) based on temperature. Thermostats that can communicate with your cell phone and that can be adjusted remotely are becoming popular because they provide a lot of benefits, such as remotely increasing or reducing a home’s temperature to keep house pets cool, or come home to a warm house. A smart thermostat does not replace the source of heat or cool air; it just helps control the temperature.
When in doubt call the experts
As “smart” automated homes gain popularity more and more devices and appliances are entering the market. Before buying the latest new smart device, check with Electricraft, Inc. to make sure the new appliance is “plug and play” or might need additional electrical work before it operates correctly.
Most appliances and new devices that need electricity are going to work with existing wiring, but the technology is moving fast and it is not worth taking the chance on an expensive investment.