Imagine that, instead of rushing back from work, jabbing on the lights and dropping your keys on the floor, you return to an already-heated, softly lit house, with an oven that’s cooking you a meal and a door which unlocks with a flick of your phone.
Smart home apps have revolutionised everyday chores and activities. From turning on the dryer remotely, to operating the thermostat from your couch, smart home apps help you save time, streamline your routines and enhance your quality of life.
Smart home apps and devices have many benefits, including increasing the energy efficiency of your boiler and helping you save money on your water bills.
Whether you’ve got a fully kitted out smart home, or you’re buying your first smart device, it’s important to know all the benefits of smart home apps, so that you use them as efficiently as possible in your home.
What are the benefits of smart home apps?
The benefits of smart home apps are that they help save the planet, add convenience to your life, enhance the safety and security of your home, support accessibility, help with caring responsibilities, potentially increase the value of your property, save you time by easing your mental load, and allow you to access your home remotely.
Let’s dive right in, and look at smart home apps and their benefits in detail.
What are smart home apps?
Smart home apps are apps which allow you to control your smart devices from your phone. You can manage household functions remotely, or programme them to happen automatically.
For example, you can use a smart home app to lock and unlock your front door remotely, automate your heating so that it only warms the rooms you’re going to use (saving you money), and dim the lights and play white noise when it’s time for you to sleep.
As well as automating your household routines, smart home apps can help you manage your home security. You can link up your mobile device with your doorbell, and get a voice or video call to see who’s at your door. You can also sync your smartphone with smart door sensors and CCTV, and get video footage of any suspicious characters lurking near your home.
However, it’s important to ensure that your smart home apps don’t become a burden. If you have to navigate one smart app for every smart device, you might as well be flicking your lights on and off yourself, and getting up to answer the door.
The good news is that there are apps which allow you to sync all your connected smart devices, and manage them all in one place. Usually, you can just use one app such as Google Home, Alexa, or HomeKit, to organise all your routines.
Some people use a smart home hub as the interface for all their smart devices, from lights and locks, to security cameras and thermostats.
These devices communicate with one another using wireless signals like WiFi or Zigbee, and the hub is the central place where they all connect.
Hubs will come with their own apps, which you can use to organise your smart home network. However, these apps may not be able to manage all your routines, so you may prefer just to have the Alexa or Google Home apps co-ordinate your smart home devices.
9 benefits of smart home apps
Helps save the planet
A huge benefit of smart home apps and devices is that they help save the planet, by reducing the amount of energy you waste.
Smart home apps can measure, alter and reduce your energy use in the home, decreasing the amount of carbon dioxide that gets pumped out of power stations.
Smart home apps can help you become more eco-friendly by:
- Reducing water waste in your home and garden. You can connect smart sprinklers to your smartphone and control them remotely, for example, turning them off as soon as it starts to rain. Smart sprinklers can also sync with the local weather forecast and only run when a particularly dry spell is anticipated. In some cases, this can save up to 50% on outdoor water consumption. As only 1% of the world’s water is freshwater and available for us to drink and 36 countries display “Extremely High Stress” in water scarcity, according to the World Resources Institute, preserving our water resources is key to the survival of our species and the planet.
- Increasing your energy efficiency. Smart home apps make sure that when you use gas and electrical energy in your home, you waste as little of it as possible. Simply leaving the lights on when not at home wastes £14,950,000 per day in the UK, and produces 37,440,000 kg of carbon dioxide emissions (equivalent to 62 flights around the world), according to research by Utility Design1. You can use your smart home apps to automatically switch off your lights whenever you leave home and sync them with smart radiator valves, to control the heating in your home on a room-by-room basis, rather than wasting energy heating the whole house.
- Seeing how much energy you’re using on a day-to-day basis. For example, Alexa smart home app on your mobile device includes an Energy Dashboard, where you can display the amount of power consumption per smart device in your home. You can view the gadgets which are draining the most energy and find ways to use them less, as well as find out if you’re using more power than usual.
One of the biggest benefits of smart home apps is the convenience of having all your home functions in one place. Those unexpected things which eat minutes from your day – having to leave your desk to answer the door or turn on security lights – are easily programmable from a single app on your mobile device.
All the motions of your everyday life, from locking doors to turning ovens on and off, can be streamlined into ‘routines’ on your smartphone.
For instance, if you’re a Google Home app user, rather than tearing home from work, bursting for the bathroom and desperately flipping on lights, you just need to say “hey Google, I’m home”, and the app will turn on your lights, and switch on a podcast, the news, mood music or anything else you’ve set it to do.
Rather than relying on countless to-do lists, you can also ask your smart home app to set you certain reminders when you get back home. Given how easy it is to leave clumps of clean laundry in the washing machine or forget to turn on the dishwasher, these notifications are hugely convenient.
Saves you money
Smart home apps can help you save on your energy and water bills, which is another major plus.
One of the most obvious ways you can save money through your smart home app is by connecting it to a smart thermostat.
According to Matthias Alleckna, professional energy analyst at EnergyRates.ca, smart thermostats can reduce your heating and cooling costs by 10-15%, by their intuitive control of your house’s temperature2.
Devices like the Nest Learning Thermostat or the Ecobee SmartThermostat, will learn your heating and cooling routines over a few days as you programme them manually, and then take over from you. Smart thermostats will remember your heating preferences, while lowering your energy use and reducing the amount you spend on heating bills.
Another great money-saver when it comes to smart thermostats is that some can automatically adjust your heating and cooling based on your local weather forecast. If the day is unusually warm, your heating won’t come on. Similarly, you can control your heating remotely through your phone and stop it from coming on too early if you’re going to be home later than expected.
Smart thermostats also know the temperature of each room in your home, rather than just the area of the home where it sits. This means that you can avoid heating rooms unnecessarily, saving you even more money.
Another useful way to save through smart home apps is via smart lighting. Not only can you control your lights at home through your phone (for example, you can receive a notification if you’ve accidentally left them on and switch them off remotely), but you can set your smart lights to run on timers, so they only come on when the sun goes down, allowing you to make the most of the (free!) natural light.
Make sure you choose LED bulbs for your smart lights. Rather than choosing a traditional bulb which wastes 90% its energy on heat, LED light bulbs convert most of their energy to light, helping you save on your lighting bills as much as possible.
Maximises home security
There’s nothing more important than feeling secure at home, and smart home apps have huge benefits when it comes to protecting you and your property.
Whether you have just one app that controls the locks on your door or you have a full home security system, smart security ensures that your home is safe even when you can’t watch over it. Most burglaries actually take place between the hours of 10am and 3pm4 – when most of us are at work, school or running errands – and so being able to monitor your home remotely gives you that extra peace of mind.
Smart home apps which are particularly comprehensive, for example the Vivint Smart Home System (which you can hook up to Alexa) can connect all your security systems, including surveillance cameras, smoke detectors and door and window sensors. You can access short clips from your CCTV to monitor anything suspicious outside your home, and you’ll receive an alert if an unauthorised person tries to enter the premises.
These apps are equally useful for keeping you safe at home when it comes to accidents or damage. You can get smart home apps which connect to leak detectors and flood sensors, and will alert you through your phone if you’re at risk of floods or leaks from a burst pipe or damaged washing machine. As water damage can be hugely expensive, these smart safety features can save you from paying out huge amounts in repairs.
These apps can also detect fires, and help you manage your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms through your mobile. As well as getting immediate updates if your home has a carbon dioxide leak (the Nest Protect app by Google will text everyone in your household a carbon monoxide warning, whether or not they’re at home), you can control your alarms through your phone (no more wobbling about on chairs trying to silence a squeaking alarm).
Supports accessibility in the home
For those of us who live with disabilities, smart home apps are much more than a nice-to-have. Being able to control your home functions by voice and automate at least some of the processes of cooking, heating and lighting can drastically improve quality of life.
For example, if you live with a chronic illness and deal with fatigue, setting up routines using the Alexa home app can reduce some of the manual labour involved in cooking, such as pulling up your cookbook automatically, and switching on your kitchen lights, oven and microwave.
Smart home apps which allow you to control things like door locks, fridges and washing machines with your voice can be hugely supportive for the visually impaired. Being able to speak to your thermostat to control the temperature of your home or turn on your television, allows you to access comfort and security at home with as little difficulty as possible.
Helps with caring responsibilities
If you care for someone, for example, an elderly relative, smart home apps can support and streamline your caregiving, as well as help the person maintain their independence.
If you’re caring for someone with dementia and they tend to wake up at night in a state of confusion, you can connect your smart home app to a bed sensor, which will alert you if their bed is empty.
As people age, they can find it more difficult to navigate their homes without falling. If the person you care for isn’t willing to move into a home, functions like smart home lights, which come on when triggered by motion (avoiding the need to fumble for lights in the dark, potentially tripping over things) and smart locks which secure a person’s house as soon as they get into bed, may help them continue to live independently. Certain smart home apps can alert caregivers if medication has been forgotten or warn about a lack of activity.
Increases the value of your home
Another benefit of smart home apps (and the smart devices they connect to), is that they can drive up the value of your home.
According to research by MyToolShed.co.uk, spending just £179 on smart technology in your home can increase its worth by £16,0003.
As smart home apps which control smart thermostats and other energy saving devices such as smart plugs, make your home more energy efficient, you could improve your home’s Energy Performance Certificate by a band, and skyrocket the price of your property.
Save you time by easing your mental load
If the washing machine caused the first big revolution in women’s lives (alongside the pill), smart home apps could well be the next.
One of the key benefits of smart home apps is that they can help ease the mental load that so many women have been socialised to carry, when it comes to organising the home and family.
Not only do women and mothers perform ten hours more of household chores a week than men, it’s often women who mentally have to keep track of and oversee schedules and obligations.
The admin around doctors’ and vet appointments, special occasions, and the maintenance of the home often falls to women, who, as the children’s nonprofit Bright Horizons puts it, are often the “unofficial keepers of where the entire family needs to be and when, and perpetual guardians against anything falling through the cracks”.
While smart home apps aren’t as good as an equal balance of labour, they can at least support women with the tasks and organisation that frequently devolve to them.
For example, rather than flipping through recipe books and messing about with timers, you can set up routines on your smart home app to turn on and maintain your slow cooker, notify you when it’s done and text everyone in your family when it’s dinner time. Rather than carrying the burden of remembering to lock your doors at night and turn on your porch light, you can programme your app to do it for you automatically.
Instead of having to keep track of multiple to-do lists of what has to be done when, you can use your smart home app to set up voice reminders when you’re home. These apps can also help with household chores – you can programme your smart hoover to vacuum the floors while you’re out.
Access your home remotely
Never underestimate the benefit of being able to access your home at a distance. If your partner gets locked out when you’re at work or you want to ensure your home is secure while you go off on holiday, smart home apps allow you to let people in and out of your home remotely, and access your doorbell via your smartphone, so you can vet anyone who comes to your door.
Remote access to your home is also a great benefit if you’re caring for someone who lives with you, or you have a teenager home alone and you want to check that they’re all right.
Some smart home apps allow you video access inside your home, so you can check on an elderly loved one (for example, to see if they haven’t fallen over if you haven’t heard from them that day).
So, that’s it. 9 benefits of smart home apps. We hope that you’ve found this a useful read, whether you’re about to rush out and make your home fully smart, or if you’re happy to stick with the old-school lifestyle of metal keys and thermostat you have to operate yourself.