We wanted to see how easy it is REALLY is to switch to a smart home. As newcomers, we needed to look at what products to start with, what to use them for and what the benefits were – if we could reduce bills and our carbon footprint.
# What are the benefits to having a Smart Home for families?
A smart home system is a network of devices within your property (that generally uses your Wi-Fi network) which you can control remotely from a central hub or smart device. Admittedly my partner and I were hesitant about buying smart products as – A) I thought they would be complicated to set up and use and B) we are a bit of a troglodyte family and muttered in our 80 year old voices ‘we have managed so far why do we need to change now?’
And yes, you do not have to buy anything, but honestly there are so many benefits! Having a smart home means cost effective temperature control, which saves money; energy efficiency, for better green living and increases home security, giving peace of mind. Gone are the days of leaving on your iron and you panicking all day at work that your house will
burn down. Smart homes also make busy family life much more convenient and save time.
# Introducing Hive.
One of the nation’s largest, leading and favourite connected smart device providers is Hive; they make life easier by giving families the ability to control, manage and connect with their homes through technology you can trust. Hive’s family of smart home products work together to make your life a little easier. You can control your home from anywhere, using your phone with the Hive app, OR with your voice!
TIP: We already have an Amazon Echo in the house, so I love that the Hive products are compatible with Her (it is like tech Love Island) – you just enable the Hive skill. Hive also connects with Google Home, Philips Hue and IFTTT products. * Siri Shortcuts let you control things in Hive simply by asking Siri on your iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch.
Other products available from Hive include the Hive Active Plug, Smart Indoor and Outdoor Cameras, the Hive Window or Door Sensors, Thermostatic Radiator Valves and Hive Active Lights – with Dimmable, Cool To Warm and Colour Changing options.
# The Hive Hub.
The Hive Hub controller is the central part of the connected home – all the other smart devices are connected through the compact white box that connects to your router. In the box, you get the hub, power cable and the ethernet cable and set up is simple! Plug in, activate the hub – this required me to download the Hive Smartphone app, register with Hive to get an account, then enter my Hub ID which is on the bottom of the hub. The whole process took no more than five minutes, and it is all free (no hidden registration costs etc).
# The Hive App.
This award-winning App allows you to install and manage devices, as well as set schedules and actions to better control your connected home.
All installed devices are viewable on a circular Hive shaped home grid which is intuitive and uncomplicated to use, having been designed to be user-friendly (thank Pete). This gives you a quick overview of what devices are turned on and off. Clicking on one of the icons then opens the device manager for that device. From here, you can manually control it, as well as set up actions and schedules which add an element of automation to the system. Schedules allow you to define when you want the system to do something based on time and day, which is so convenient when used with Hive Active Heating. When a device is offline, if there is a problem etc., it clearly labels it as ‘Offline’ and gives you a thorough list of tips to
Basically, I was surprised how simple the process is and I am in no way tech friendly.
# The Hive Light.
We tested out the Hive Dimmable Lights, which I was excited about as I get monster migraines and am light sensitive. Our eldest also has ASD so can get really overstimulated. Dulling bedroom lights half hour before bed is great for winding children down at the end of the day.
Available in both screw, bayonet and spotlight bulb fittings, Hive Lights simply replace your existing light bulb. Once the Hub was setup, I added each bulb through the app via ‘Install Devices’ > ‘Add Another Device’. The system automatically searches for new devices, and if found, shows them on the app display which takes less than a minute. The lightbulbs are active as soon as you add them and its as simple as that (no need to add codes etc). All you must do is name each light, so you know which room is which. Hive Lights (A+) are 80% more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs, so you can make some great savings on electricity bills by switching. If you go out and leave lights on you can simply just turn them off from your phone. Hive Colour Changing Lights can be changed to 16 different colours from your phone, which can be great for playtime with toddlers too! Usefully if you put a Hive bulb in a lamp and want to conserve energy and turn the plug off, it remains connected to the App when turned back on with no need for a new setup.
TIP: The Hive lights are great to use for security. If you are away from home they can be scheduled to come on when it gets dark to give the appearance of the home being occupied. Also, if paired with a Door Hive Sensor, you can set up an action, through the app, that a light should come on if the sensor is activated (door opened).
# Hive Active Heating.
Hive Active Heating allows you to control your heating and hot water remotely via the app or with the (wall mounted or freestanding) thermostat. We sheepishly admit to living in our home 3 years and aware Hive was installed by the
previous owners (who took their Hub) so we just tediously use the heating manually thinking it would be a complicated process to reactivate Active Heating. Jokes on us. Smart Thermostats from Hive can help you save up to £120 per year on your heating bill, a great saving that can be put towards for your little ones’ futures.
#For new purchasers installation is done by a British Gas professional – a wired Hive box is fitted next to the boiler and Thermostat also installed. The new design is sleek silver with and LED display with positive reviews of its functionality. For families the Thermostat can tell you how cold the nursery is and has my beloved ‘Boost’ option which turns the heating on for a length of time, e.g. an hour to take off the chill, and the heating will then turn off on its own.
TIP: If you want to get clever – switch on Geolocation, the heating will turn itself off when your phone is out of the house, then back on when you return – think bill savings! There is also a holiday and frost protection which will turn the heating on if it drops below a certain temperature.
# So, what about the cost of Hive Products?
Hive markets itself as an affordable and, comparing providers, I feel this is fair. The one con of transitioning to a smart home is that of course there is an upfront buying cost. The various products can either be bought separately or as part of a service package offered by Hive. For example, the RRP for the Hive Lights is from £29.00 individually, from £58.00 for a pack of 4 bulbs. Having a smart home brings savings, and I would suggest start with buying a couple of key products rather than thinking you need to buy everything all at one.
Consider your family’s needs and where you potentially are wasting usage – we chose lights specifically for the entrance hall for security, to replace our high use lounge bulb and my son’s nightlight. I have also just ordered a plug for the kettle for when the kids have woken us at 5am again and coffee is needed immediately. Hive Active Plugs could help save the average household up to £86 per year, by stopping electrical appliances being left on standby. Hive Active Heating I fully recommend, as being able to put the heating on ready when you are out for a cold winter walk and return with a damp toddler is a gamechanger.
Overall Hive’s smart home products are high quality, reasonably priced, unobtrusive, easy to use and quick to set up. Making the move to a smart home was much gentler than I thought, and nothing has gone Transformers on us and tried to blow up.
#AD. This post is in conjunction with Hive, but all thoughts are my own. The smart home products were sent for the purpose of writing an honest review.