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The Ultimate Smart Home Buying Guide

Smart-home-buying-guide
Shopping for smart home devices isn’t easy. Choosing the right product for your home can be a real challenge.

This ultimate smart home buying guide outlines the five easy steps that everyone should follow before proceeding to checkout.

1 - Determine your needs

Smart home devices can do so much for you.

They automate tasks to make your life easier. They upgrade your comfort and enhance your security feeling. They can also lead to impressive energy savings. 

List what is the most important to you and your family and look for the features that will get you there.

Looking for energy savings

For instance, geofencing, schedules and/or automations and energy reports are essential if you’re looking for energy savings. 

What’s more, if you’re digging that extra money related to energy savings, be sure to select a smart home system that tackles the two main energy consumption segments in the home: heating and water heating.

During cold days, heating can represent up to 80% of your energy bill. Water heating, on the other hand, accounts for about 18%.

If you do the math, these two represent huge chunks of your energy bill and monthly budget during winter. 

Making sure you can control both using the right smart thermostat and water heater controller can really help you achieve your goal.
Share-of-electricity-consumption-on-cold-days

Looking for convenience

Everyone is looking for convenience. 

But you shouldn’t take that for granted when looking at the characteristics of the smart device you’re about to buy. 

Just like tech blogger Eric Blank was grieving about in one of his most recent articles, you’d be surprised by how many smart devices simply fail to provide the basics.

Compatibility with voice assistants like Alexa and Google Home is a must if you’re looking for convenience. You may not own a voice assistant now, but they’re on the rise so you will most likely have one someday.

Convenience also translates into the ability of your product to interact with others. 

Device automations allow your smart product to trigger other actions in other gear. Like if you turn on the kitchen light, you may want your thermostat to reach a certain temperature and your smart plug to turn on an appliance. 

 Make sure you can control many locations within the same app. 

Who knows when you’ll equip the cottage too? And once you do, you may want to control everything smoothly in a single app or account rather than in several ones.

Convenience. Convenience. Convenience. 

Pay attention to all characteristics and features and the ability to do more now and in the future. It may seem like fluff now, but it will not someday. 

It’s like the remote control of a television. When the product was developed in the 1950s, who would have thought that the gadget would become a standard worldwide? And would you ever consider buying a television without a remote control today? We bet not.

There are as many needs as there are users.

But the first step in your smart home buying process is the same: list your needs.

Or else you will end up buying a gadget and replacing it the year after. That would be a waste of money and it’s certainly not what you want.

2 - Shop and explore the landscape

One should never buy a smart home device without a little bit of research and shopping.

You must explore the landscape first to see what devices are available out there. Otherwise, you’ll end up buying products that fail to fulfil your needs or complicate your life at best or that will represent a threat to your privacy at worst. 

The last thing you want is to create a breach in your home and allow hackers in with poorly designed products. 

Reliable smart home companies will have a cybersecurity department that follows the standards required by the industry. 

Smart home devices are supposed to make your life easier, but they can also do the complete opposite when you skip the shopping part.

How so? By ending up needing a hub for every single smart device you own, for example.

Or by crowding your domestic Wi-Fi network if you connect too many Wi-Fi devices to your router. 

Escaping the ‘’hub’’ by all means may not be the solution for you. And what you’ll read below will help you understand.

You will need a hub if you choose Zigbee or Z-Wave devices. Or not, if you go with Wi-Fi products that connect directly to your router. 

You need to understand what those communication protocols are and their pros and cons

Bottom line: both can be appropriate for you. It all depends on your needs.
Example-of -needs
Shopping and exploring the landscape will help you wrap your head around the technologies and products available.

The easiest way to do so is to drive a good old Google search. 

And because your search engine may only show popular search results (or paid ads), you may want to dig deeper with your research to make sure you get a full view of what is available.

3 - Read tech publications reviews

So many websites and publications are dedicated to reviewing devices that it would be a sin not to benefit from all those savvy advice.

Tech journalists provide thorough insights about the products they test and review. Bloggers, on the other hand, may provide a more personal point of view. Both bring interesting insights.

Look up reliable tech publications.

On the US side of things, John Delaney from PCMag is a proven specialist as he has been testing and reviewing smart gear for nearly 20 years. 

The Smart Cave blogger Eric Blank brings a nice and fresh perspective as he shares his impressions from day-to-day uses of the products he tries.

In Canada, there’s Mike Agerbo and his team from Get Connected Media. They are specialists in the field and really do thorough testing from the unboxing to the products’ features.

We like how the Get Connected team shares the installation process in videos and they speak in a language that’s accessible to anyone, whether you’re a geek or not.

Several other outlets provide highly interesting and worth-reading content. 

Among our team’s favourites are The Verge, CNET, TechHive, Consumer Reports, Reviewed and The Wirecutter

[Other tech publications and blogs where you can read smart product reviews include: Linkd Home]

Reading tech publication reviews is a must when you’re looking to buy tech gear. 

However, beware of catchy titles like ‘’Best Smart Product of the Year’’.

Why?

Because they give the impression that the review that you are about to read is thorough and complete, whereas most of the time, it’s not.

These kinds of titles are catchy and they’re following marketing and SEO rules. 

Search engines like Google, Bing and all the like tend to prioritize these titles because they appear to provide recaps and helpful summaries to readers.

The truth is: there are so many smart devices out there that even tech publications and editors cannot try and test every single one that exists. 

And how can you say it’s the best if you haven’t tried all the similar products available in the category? You can’t. But readers don’t know that.

Here’s our expert advice: once you’ve completed step two (shop and explore the landscape, remember?) and that you have your wishlist in hand, don’t be shy to ask tech publications if they’ve tested a device that is not mentioned in their compilation.

The best place to ask that question is in the comment section following the article, like in the image below pulled from one of New York Post Wirecutter’s compilations.
Comment-section-Wirecutter
In essence, you can read these top 10 compilations as they’re helpful and can provide some interesting insights.

But make sure the website or media also reviewed products from the competition before assuming it is the real deal.

4 - Read customer reviews

Customer reviews are crucial when it comes to buying smart home devices. 

They are important because they reflect the experience YOU might have with that company with their product once you proceed to checkout.

Media, websites, publications: they mostly focus on the quality of the product and its features.

But you will deal with more than that. 

The purchasing experience and process, the shipping, the sales and tech support are part of the experience and they are rarely documented outside of customer reviews. 

Nowadays, there are so many channels where customers can leave reviews that it’s nearly impossible not to find any. It’s worth taking a couple of minutes to skim through those. 

You can read reviews on companies’ sites, on Google, Facebook and on Amazon. 

Here’s a cue: even if you don’t buy the product through Amazon, chances are there will be plenty of reviews to read there since the purchasing volume is so high and the review process is automatic (normally, every buyer is asked for a review).

This step seems obvious but is often omitted. 

Quantity is important, but the quality is essential.

5 - Interact with the company

What is amazing about smart devices is that they keep upgrading with time. Not all, but the good ones do.

Ever purchased a product that keeps implementing new features over time? It’s like winning the lottery over and over again – you bought something and it keeps giving you more. 

Our products and the Neviweb app are like that. We even have a page featuring what’s New in Neviweb that is updated regularly.

Because smart devices include a service – the app – you may want (or have) to interact with the company after you purchased the product. 

Realizing that there is poor support service after you bought and installed a product kind of feels like a cold shower.

The easy way to avoid this feeling is to interact with the company itself before proceeding with the purchase. Using online channels is a quick and pain-free way to do it.

You can ask a question or try to obtain sales advice. 

If the answer received suits you: great!

For this step, it’s up to you to decide your level of comfort with the answer received.

Some customers will never drop a line after purchasing a product, whereas others will. 

One thing to remember here is that smart gear often implies some level of relationship with a company due to the service part that comes with the product.

The extra tip: Look at the resources available online

Interacting with the company for support is great, but being able to sort things out by yourself can sometimes be faster and more intuitive (especially if your question arises on a Sunday morning).

Have a look at the support site. Does it look friendly or easy to skim through? 

Look at the resources available. Are there installation guides or a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section? 

To push things further, you could even look for life hacks, pro tips and advice from the company on how to optimize the use of your devices. The more tools and resources available, the better.
Make sure there are tools available online that you can explore to discover new features and for assistance if you have any questions.

The conclusion

Shopping for smart home devices isn’t easy and choosing the right product for you and your family can certainly be challenging.

Following these five simple steps will not only help you select what’s right for your needs, but it will also ensure you pick a smart home product that blows your mind. That’s how it should always be.

As a consumer, what are your favourite resources, media or websites you like to consult when it comes to shopping for smart home devices?

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