Don't Get "Fooled": DIY Smart Home

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Yes it’s April, and the title was an April Fool’s pun; cheesy I know. But seriously, DIY smart home products are everywhere. Manufacturers push the convenience and safety that these products can add to our lives. Sometimes these products do exactly that, but sometimes they disappoint.

There are three different topics regarding DIY smart home products that we need to know and think about: Functionality, Compatibility, and Professional Install.

Functionality

The majority of smart home products are really helpful. Unfortunately, most of the time what is advertised is not what you get out of the box. For example, it takes a strong WiFi system for top video quality and it may also take a complicated setup to get to the higher end function of the product. Common functionality issues include when the internet goes out and DIY security sensors cannot alert you of a break in. Or when alerts to your phone from the garage sensor or a WiFi camera are delayed by 20 minutes. This is not functional for anyone! Speaking to a smart home professional can help set expectations and assist in selecting the products that are right for you and functional from the get go.

Compatibility

A person wants to control their heating and air when they aren’t home, so they purchase a smart thermostat. Set-up goes smoothly and the thermostat seems to work great and is doing exactly what they wanted the product to do. A month later this person wants to add a video doorbell. They purchase a popular smart doorbell and install it. Enjoying the convenience that these smart home products are providing, they now want to add smart controlled lights to their family room. An inexpensive smart switch is purchased from Amazon to do the job. Mission accomplished; they can now control the family room lights via an app. Since they love their family room switch, lights for the kitchen are now added to the to-do list. Problem is the kitchen has a three-way switch and needs a different brand than their family room. Wanting to tie it all together, they purchase a Google Home to turn things on/off with voice commands. The brand of smart switches in the family room and the doorbell are not supported by Google Home. Plan B, an Amazon Echo Show is purchased, hoping this avenue will be more successful. Are you confused yet? Because I am.

This person now has up to 6 different apps on their phone with some devices not even being controlled by Alexa. Trying to fix the problem, they now have to purchase a different doorbell so that it will be compatible with Alexa. They are totally over the app-hopping and decide to incorporate a professional automation system to get things down to one app. GREAT, but half of the DIY products they purchased are not compatible with a professional system and will need to be replaced.

Purchasing these products that were meant to cause less hassle and more convenience has spun out of control, causing more of a headache. Unfortunately, we have seen this scenario play out with our clients time and time again. A lot of time, money, and frustration could be avoided by designing a compatible system with a smart home professional.

Professional Install

DIY Smart products are advertised to be a simple install for everyone. They are designed for a typical installation situation. However, as we all know, not all homes are made the same. We all have different wiring constraints, different doorbell chimes, different ages of HVAC systems, different front doors, and different building materials. All of these can lead to a catastrophic install and the need for a professional. A consultation with a smart home professional can avoid unwanted installation hiccups.

E-Style Home Systems is here to be your smart home consultant. We can advise, design systems, and install your smart home automation products. We can combine professional and DIY products into one cohesive system, or help select and install DIY products that work together. There are expectations that smart homes are meant to make our lives more convenient and helpful. E-Style can help deliver on those expectations. Call us today if you are looking to incorporate a smart home into your lifestyle.

WiFi: The Frustration Returns

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What a great movie title, am I right?  WiFi is a blessing and a curse.  Our phones, tablets, TVs, laptops, doorbells, and Amazon Echo™ all use WiFi.  Every single day more and more products are WiFi enabled.  Sure, it makes our lives easier and more connected, but it also means WiFi coverage needs to be at the top of its game.  I am not talking, "Hey, I won my High School Championship" type of game.  I'm talking, " I’m Tom Brady and I just won my 6th super bowl ring" type of game.

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So, let’s demystify what WiFi is. WiFi works through radio waves. These waves are encoded and decoded at each point. The waves are on a certain frequency; 2.4GHz and 5GHz. 2.4GHz network waves travels over a larger distance, but are larger, slower waves. 5 GHz network waves travel much less distance, but are smaller, faster waves. All radio frequency waves have some problems going through certain building materials. Things like appliances, mirrors, energy efficient windows, metal studs, and reinforced concrete, all contribute to hindering WiFi signals. Most people today use the modem given to them by their internet service provider; and most of these units are in our basements. Asking these units to support a home's WiFi will not cut it any longer.  Symptoms of poor WiFi coverage include buffering, bad video quality, slow web browsing, drop outs, and higher data bills. These are issues that most of us cannot live with on an ongoing basis. Luckily, there are solutions which include access points or a mesh WiFi network. Let’s explore how both of these solutions work:

Access points are units that are placed around the house. All these units are hard wires and most require a POE source (Power over Ethernet), which usually comes from a network switch or power supply. These units serve as independent WiFi hubs. They send out their waves in a 360-degree spread. These units ping your devices and talk with the other access points in your home. When one access point has a better signal to your device, the access points “talk” and when the weaker signal drops your devices, the other picks it up. This results in a smooth transition connecting to a new hub. The access points transfer the data from your device and the web back through the routers. The different access points do not exchange any data between each other.

WiFi Mesh products perform in a different way than access points. The units are spread out within the home. After initial setup the units talk to each other. For example, if you are connected to one of the units upstairs and using data, it will transfer that data through the other units the fastest possible way to the router. This also means that all the units do not have to be wired, just one. This allows ultimate flexibility and faster data transfer within your home network. The WiFi Mesh is a more cost-effective option since you do not need to wire new locations. They are also transferable.  If you feel a location is not getting the coverage you would like, you can simply move the unit to achieve the desired coverage.

WiFi can be frustrating and overwhelming, we know. But it is all too crucial a component to our every day lives to live with an inefficient system. If you are experiencing poor WiFi, need help with your home network, or just want to learn more, E-Style Home Systems is here to help.

4K, Is it time to switch?

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The TV has evolved rapidly over the past 10 years.  With different technologies being introduced year after year.  With so much change, we as consumers have started to question; is it worth it?  3D TV came and went quickly.  When first introduced, we all went to the movie theater to go see the new hit movie in 3D.  I do not know about you, but I have not seen a 3D movie in years.  It was kind of gimicky to me.  A way to get more money out of the consumer and create an unwanted need for change. 

That is not the case for 4K.  You may see a lot of budget friendly 4K TVs when you stroll though your favorite department store. However, buyer beware.   Just like HD 1080p TVs, 4K has their flavors.  Then comes, what can I watch in 4K.  There is some content out there currently to support 4K video.  Netflix® has an assortment of 4K shows and movies available.  Apple® also offers various shows and movies for streaming as well.  The picture is incredible when you see the difference.  The gotcha is the other pieces of equipment in your setup.  To really get 4K today, a complete overhaul of equipment is needed.  From the receiver all the way down to the HDMI cables.  This is where it gets costly and confusing.  So is 4K worth it? It depends on your wallet.  4K is here to stay and is bound to grow at a rapid rate.  If you are interested in making the switch, let us know how we can help.  Have a great day!