The advantages of a smart home

Okay, so it’s fair to say that I write a lot about Home Assistant and the smart home – I have a whole category of blog posts about it. Whilst it’s probably a sign of a mid-life crisis project, I thought I would set out the advantages of having smart devices at home, as a justification of why I spend so much time setting and configuring devices.

Delayed start

Many devices, like washing machines, dishwashers and the like, offer a delayed start facility. If you need to wash clothes, but are out at work all day, you probably want your washing machine to finish just before you get home. Otherwise, you’ll have wet clothes sat there for several hours. Similarly, we have a bread maker that we set to finish at around 4am, so that the bread is still fresh but not too hot when we need it.

I also use a delayed start on our dishwasher, so that, in winter, it runs during the middle of the day when there’s more sunlight. That allows us to make the best use of the cheap energy from our solar panels. This may also be useful for people whose electricity tariffs vary at different times, such as the Octopus Agile tariff.

Not all devices offer a delayed start feature as standard, so smart plugs can fill this role. I also use a smart plug to turn off a device that lacks a timer.

Remote control

The first smart device that we got in our house was a Nest thermostat, and this allows us to control our heating whilst outside the home. That means that we can ensure the heating is off when we’re away, saving money, but also ensure that it comes back on before we get back home.

Even when we’re at home, we have a couple of standing lamps in hard-to-reach places – smart plugs allow us to use voice control to turn these on and off.

Dashboard overview

As Home Assistant supports more devices than most other platforms, I can have a very powerful dashboard that brings in data from every smart device in the home (and some outside data too). That way, I can see at a glance whether the TV, dishwasher, washing machine and tumble dryer are on, as well as control several lights and the various Google Home speakers around the house. This is also possible in other apps like the Google Home app, but with a more limited range of devices.

Notifications

Through Home Assistant’s automations, I can create notifications for things happening in my home. For example, although our washing machine beeps loudly when done, it’s in the cellar. Combined with my hearing loss, I might not hear it when in another part of the house. So having a message pop on my phone to say that the washing is done is very helpful.

Logging

Home Assistant in particular has a useful logging feature, so it can automatically log when devices are turned on/off or change state. So if you can’t remember when a device was last used, Home Assistant can tell you.

Quick access to information

We have Google Home smart speakers in almost every room (not the bathrooms). They’re great for asking quick questions about things like the weather, without needing to look it up on a phone or computer. We also use them extensively for setting timers and alarms, and for playing music. And having them across the house means that we can use broadcast messages – again, better than shouting for someone like me who sometimes struggles to hear.

There are other advantages that I don’t have personal experience of; a colleague has a smart doorbell and smart lock, so that if someone tries to deliver a package and no-one’s home, it’s possible to remotely open a door into the porch to allow the delivery driver to leave it securely. We don’t have a smart doorbell or smart lock – or a porch for that matter. We also don’t have a garage, but having a smart garage door opener would be good if we did have one.

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