Best Home Automation Systems 2016
What is the best smart home system in 2016?
Consumers have more choices then ever before when selecting a smart home system. In 2014-2015 the market was flooded with low-cost hubs, while long time industry companies made started moving into the mid-market.
Wired vs Wireless?
Your first decision is deciding on a wireless vs hard-wired system. Both have advantages and disadvantages.
Wireless systems are easy to install and have gotten much more reliable in recent years due to Zigbee and Z-Wave technologies. The downside is that batteries need to be replaced, and reliability issues show up on larger homes.
Hard-wired systems are much harder to install, but once installed they run forever without the need for batteries or service. They are also faster and not susceptible to interference.
Another often overlooked metric is resale value. When you go to sell your home having a bunch of wireless devices stuck all over the walls will most likely be a deterrent. Having a hard wired system that is part of the home’s infrastructure will dramatically increase the homes value.
Hardwired Home Automation Hardware
What about Pricing?
Pricing varies completely on what options you are looking for. Home Automation is priced per device, not per square foot.
Smaller wireless systems that include a couple lights and a thermostat can be had for about $500. These can be expanded to include more lights, wireless locks, and security sensors. Typically a fairly complete system (lights, climate, basic security) for a 2000 sq ft home will run $2000-$5000 for a do it yourself kit.
Mid size systems will typically add music throughout the house, in-wall touch screens, and is a mix between hard-wired and wireless. These systems are where home automation starts to have real benefits, as most of the house is controllable.
You can expect to spend between $10,000-$30,000 for a mid-sized system.
High-end systems add multi-room video, home theater, motorized shades, and custom integrations. These systems can easily exceed $100,000.
Questions to ask:
Unlike shopping for most electronics (TVs, speakers, cameras, phones), it’s near impossible to make an apples to apples comparison between the different systems.
Here’s a list of 5 questions you should ask before making a decision:
- Can the system be professionally monitored for security?
It may come as a surprise, but many home automation systems are not UL listed for security. This means you will not receive an insurance discount and can’t monitor your home with a professional service.
- What are the monthly/annual fees?
Systems typically have a high up-front cost and then zero fees after (you own it), or they have a low up-front cost and high monthly costs (you are leasing it). Be careful on high end system that also charge fees though.
- How easy it is to expand?
Does adding a device require someone to come to your home to install it, or can you do it yourself?
- How often are the apps updated?
Check the app stores for the control apps. They should be updated at least 4 times a year with new features.
- How long has the company been in business?
There are a lot of kickstarter and recent home automation companies with great looking products. One such example was Revolv. They had a nice system and sold a lot of hardware through amazon. Nest (owned by Google now) purchased them and shut them down. All the Revolv systems because paperweights overnight. Be sure you are purchasing from a company that will be around for the long haul.
Best Systems for Each Market:
- Entry-Level: SmartThings – a great DIY option for the person who loves to tinker. Wireless.
- Entry-Mid Level: Control4 – Professionally installed. Lots of options and currently the best selling system in the mid-range market.
- Mid-Upper: Nimbus Home – Professional/DIY. Unlimited options and highly customizable.
- Upper Level: Crestron – Professional only. No user customization, but dealers can do almost anything with it.