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Can You Teach Your Old House to Be Smart?


Thanks to today's cutting edge technology, smart homes are now a reality and are becoming more common. But what if you have an old house? Older homes definitely have certain charms, like cozy fireplaces and interior brick walls, stained glass windows, and beautifully detailed wood throughout the house. Are any of these classic elements lost when you add smart home features?

Whether it's 20 years, 60 years or 150 years old, you can add smart home features with the right guidance and tools.

How Does Smart Technology Work?

 When you first consider adding smart technology to your old home, you might start by learning about a few of the key concepts:
  1. Wifi is a wireless networking technology that uses radio waves to allow devices to connect to each other without using, well, wires. The most basic requirement is a reliable Internet service.  This means that you may need a router extender if your signal is uneven throughout a large house, one with many rooms, thick masonry walls, and the like. 
  2. Home automation technology is what enables you to utilize devices that connect and communicate with each other over an in-home network. This might require specific apps and a personal assistant (Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Home Kit or Google's Google Home) to make the installed devices, motion sensors, temperature sensors, and related components function as desired.
  3. Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) is a standard set up by tech companies to ensure that wireless products are compatible and recognize each other so they can share data without issue.
  4. Geofence is a digital "fence" around your house (or business or office) that helps with communication of your smart home devices by allowing you to trigger certain actions from one device to another in this "fenced in" zone. Usually, this is wireless.

What can smart home systems do for my older home?

  • Security

Adding something simple, like a remote doorbell video system, is probably the easiest smart home addition you can make to your old home. There are also remote door lock/deadbolt systems available that operate via a wireless signal. You can have apps that turn your lights on at certain times while you're on vacation to make it look like someone is home. Some are pre-programmable, and some can be controlled from your phone, no matter where in the world you are. Smart security systems increase your family's safety and security and make your life easier.

  • Energy Monitoring & Conservation

Smart thermostats, also referred to as interactive communicating thermostats, can alert you to changes or issues with your home's heating and cooling systems. These thermostats are able to indicate if any maintenance work is required for the air filter or other HVAC components and features. Managing the temperature around the house while you are away and just before reaching home is now possible. 

  • Smart Lighting and Lighting Scenes

Your home's lights can be pre-programmed to do specific actions, like turn on or off when you leave. One feature of lighting control systems is the scene. Scene controls or scene settings allow you to illuminate an area based on the lighting needs and activities you do there (for instance, lighting that would be specific for dining, movie time, entertaining or reading).  Lighting scenes are customized to your room and daily patterns. 

Wired versus wireless?

It can often make more sense to go for wireless, rather than wired options, in old homes. After all, it's always easier when you don't have to break open a wall to add something. However, if your walls are relatively thick, you may need something a little more robust than traditional wifi. A mesh network, which utilizes a series of access points for routers, may be the more practical option.

There are many ways to go about setting up your smart home. Some people choose to do it all at once, while some prioritize, say, a smart thermostat over a smart fridge. It’s OK if you don’t plan to do everything at once when it comes to making your home smart. People have different priorities based on their very individualized needs.

For advice on retrofitting a smart system in your old home, contact Wilcox Electric. With an initial phone conversation, we will assess what you want and the options available. When necessary, we can coordinate with your other contractors.