Woman regulating heating temperature with phone and thermostat at home

Although autonomous flying cars have yet to make an appearance, 'smart devices' in our homes that talk to each other - and understand us when we talk to them - are what many of us now have.

How popular are smart devices?

According to market researchers Parks Associates, smart home device ownership is at 16 per cent in the UK, and they're set to become more popular.

Statista Research Department - a provider of market and consumer data - published research earlier this year forecasting that the number of smart homes (a house that has interconnected devices and home appliances) in the market worldwide is expected to reach 375.3 million in 2024.

Their popularity is growing because an increasing range of lights, thermostats, security cameras and other gizmos can be connected to the internet and by using an app or a voice command, you can turn down the temperature of the heating, play music and see who is at your front door.

What can a smart home do?

By being able to control your home remotely, you can set the heating to come on just before you arrive (saving money by not warming-up an empty house for hours), and turn off lights that have been left on.

But these gadgets aren't just a way to impress visitors; they can save you money by only turning on what you need when you need it.

Let's take a look at a few things on the market.

Smart plugs

Having a smart plug in your house means you can use an app on your phone to turn on and off any appliance that plugs into a standard wall socket, or use your voice if you have an Amazon Alexa or a Google Home device. It's not only a simple and straightforward way to introduce smart technology into your home but some models also help you to monitor your energy usage; ideal if you'd like to be more energy conscious.

Smart lighting

Smart lighting gives you lots of options, such as turning on the light with your voice if you have an Amazon Alexa or a Google Home device, or by using an app on your phone. You'll also be able to adjust the tone, brightness, and even the colour to change the ambience. With smart technology and LED bulbs, you'll be able to save money on energy bills by only having them illuminated when you need, and if a light is accidentally left on, it can be turned off remotely.

Smart security

You can think of a smart home security system as being like an advanced burglar alarm because it combines motion sensors that send you an alert with cameras that you can watch on your smart phone from anywhere in the world. Some cameras have features such as night vision and facial recognition so it knows when you're at home.

Smart doorbells incorporate a camera and having one means that from your phone, you'll be able to see who is at your front door, even if you're not at home.

Some models record footage from your front door and will detect motion then alert you if someone comes close to the front of the house or rings the bell. Other doorbells have a speaker so that you can talk to the person on your doorstep, which would prove handy if you need to give instructions to a delivery driver when you're not at home.

In addition to cameras and motion detectors, there are smart locks that enable you to unlock a door without a key. By using your phone, or a PIN with a short operating window, you'll be able to grant access to tradespeople without you being there or having to hide a door key under the plant pot.

Although buying security products may appear costly, you'll have peace of mind knowing that your home is protected whilst you're away and the presence of smart cameras may deter burglars. You may be able to obtain a discount on your home insurance if you have smart devices, and not having to make an insurance claim could lower your annual premium.

Smart thermostat

Controlling your home's heating and cooling with your phone or your voice is possible with a smart thermostat, and they can help save you money on energy, too. They've been with us for around a decade and in that time have evolved to offer basic scheduling and programming options, as well as facilities to control complex multi-stage systems and heating, cooling, dehumidifier and ventilation systems. As with all smart home devices, prices will vary depending upon features.

Although it is possible for a DIY enthusiast to install a smart thermostat, you may want to consult a specialist installer before making a purchase to check that you're buying the right item for your needs.

Smart detectors

Having a smart smoke alarm will mean that you'll get live notifications to your phone whenever an alarm is triggered, so even if you're away from home, you can contact someone near or call the fire brigade. Some models also connect with smart thermostats to turn off the heating and smart cameras.

However, fire and smoke damage isn't the only hazard that you can be notified about. Water is a common cause of property damage, with burst pipes causing homeowners to claim on insurance policies. A smart leak detector that connects to the main feed can be fitted without a plumber and will send an alert to a phone at the first sign of a leak; potentially saving you from a much bigger problem in the future.

Smart meters

Having a smart meter is a way of cutting down your utility bills.

Smart meters help to identify situations where we're using a lot of energy and acting upon this can reduce energy use, and therefore bills.

That's because if you have smart electricity and gas meters, it usually mean that there's an in-home display that shows in real-time just how much energy you're using and how much it's costing. The display will also enable you to see your usage over the previous days, weeks or month so that you can spot patterns, and most in-home displays can have a daily budget set so that you're alerted when that is exceeded.

In addition, smart meters mean accurate bills, which brings an end to estimates. Therefore, you can be sure you're only paying for what you've actually used. 

Utilita - installers of Britain's first smart meter in 2008 - has created a behaviour change drive designed to educate the nation on how every household can save money by making five simple and free adjustments to the way we use energy. These include turning down the heating by just one degree and turning off lights in unoccupied rooms; both of which can be controlled by smart devices.

What all this means is that by putting aside what you would have spent on bills, you'll be building up a sum that you could put into a savings account and earn interest to give you even more money later on.

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