What Are the Smart Home or Home Automation Features of Security Systems?

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The smart home promises a futuristic home experience where everything you need is just a simple voice command away, even when you’re far from home. There are some very cool gadgets that let you reap the benefits of home automation, and many are incorporated into home security systems. These include smart doorbells, smart locks, smart cameras, smart thermostats, smart lights, and smart smoke alarms.

Here’s how each of these home automation devices can work with your home security system.

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Smart doorbells

One of the most common and security-focused components of a smart security system are smart doorbell cameras. These incorporate a small camera in the doorbell button. When someone rings the bell—or approaches the door, depending on the system—the doorbell sends an alert to your phone and activates the camera, letting you see a clear picture of who’s there, no matter where you happen to be.

Doorbell cameras are very useful, and there are several great options, like Ring's line of video doorbells, the Vivint Doorbell Camera Pro, and the Nest Doorbell. These are features you’ll want to look for in a video doorbell:

  • High-resolution video
  • Motion sensing
  • Two-way audio

Smart locks

Smart locks are great not only for security but also for convenience, often allowing you to forego keys entirely. What makes them smart is their ability to communicate with your smartphone via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, allowing you to lock and unlock your door from anywhere. Many also automatically lock and unlock when they detect your phone approaching so that you can come and go without ever having to worry about whether the door is locked.

Types of smart locks and how they work

There are a couple different styles of smart locks you can choose from. The first is more traditional, with a number pad or touchscreen where you input a code that unlocks your door. Some examples include Kwikset smart locks, Yale smark locks, and the SimpliSafe Smart Lock.

The second type forgoes the keypad and screen entirely, and it instead relies on an app on your smartphone to handle the locking and unlocking duties. The August Smart Lock is the best example of this type of pad-less door lock.

Fingerprint-scanning electronic locks—like the Eufy Smart Lock—are less common.

One last thing to be aware of when choosing a smart lock is whether or not it can also accept keys. Some people feel better knowing they have this option, but not all smart locks provide a traditional key slot.

Smart cameras

Smart cameras take the traditional security camera concept and turn the dial up to eleven. These cameras connect to Wi-Fi or cellular networks, allowing them to be viewed and controlled remotely using a smartphone app. Many can also store footage on the cloud, eliminating the need for a potentially complicated on-site storage setup.

There are a lot of options in this space. Choosing one starts with knowing whether you want indoor or outdoor cameras. The main difference is construction: Outdoor cameras need to survive the elements, which usually means they are bulkier and made from tougher materials like metal. Indoor cameras can be smaller and more discreet, because they aren’t as likely to get beaten up or tampered with.

In either case, features you’ll want to look for include high resolution, a wide field of view, motion detection, and audio recording. Normally we would include Wi-Fi connectivity as an essential feature, but because we’re talking about smart cameras, Wi-Fi is a given.

Some recommendations for great indoor cameras are the Nest Cam and Vimtag P1. For outdoor cameras, check out the Amcrest UltraHD Dome and the ZOSI C190. Any of these options will serve you well.

Smart thermostats

Many smart home security systems include smart thermostats. These handy devices can help you save energy—which is good for both the environment and your wallet. Like other smart home features, they connect to your home Wi-Fi network and are controlled by an associated app on your smartphone.

The neat thing about many of these thermostats is that they learn your climate preferences—such as if you like it warmer in the morning—and even what times of day you’re home and away. The result is that they can work proactively to keep your home at the most comfortable temperature for you without you having to lift a finger.

And they do it all with a high degree of efficiency, reducing energy consumption by 30% or more in some cases. As a final benefit, smart thermostats can send you an alert if the temperature in your home becomes excessively high or low, which could indicate a fire or a pipe freezing risk.

Top smart thermostats include the Nest Learning Thermostat and the ecobee Smart Thermostat.

Smart lights

Smart lighting combines convenience and enhanced security. These are Wi-Fi enabled LED lightbulbs that can be controlled from a smartphone app. You can turn the bulbs on or off—either manually or on a schedule—dim the bulbs, and choose their color from a seemingly endless array of hues. And all this can be done from anywhere. You don’t need to worry about whether you remembered to leave a light on before heading out on vacation.

There are a lot of solid choices for smart lighting, but two of the most popular are Philips Hue and LIFX. You can purchase bulbs individually or in starter kits, making for convenient setup. They can seem a little pricey for lightbulbs, but keep in mind that they’re LED bulbs—so they last much longer than conventional incandescent bulbs. Philips rates its Hue bulbs at an average of 15,000 hours.

Smart smoke alarms

The last common home automation feature of a security system is the humble smoke alarm. This device takes the traditional smoke alarm and brings it into the digital age, with Wi-Fi connectivity and the ability to communicate and pinpoint exactly where a fire is located. The really nice thing about these alarms is that they can send the alerts to your phone so you can be aware of any issues even when you’re away from home. You can also easily silence them in the event of a false alarm—who hasn’t set off their smoke alarms at least once while cooking?

Top picks in this category include the Nest Protect and the First Alert Onelink. Both detect carbon monoxide in addition to smoke and alert you in a human voice rather than a screeching alarm tone.

If you have any further questions about home automation systems, take a look at our guide to home automation.

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ProfessionalBest professional home security$599.00No *Amazon,
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Info current as of 04/12/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

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Celeste Tholen
Written by
Celeste Tholen
Celeste has dedicated her decade-long career to reporting and reviews that help people make well-informed decisions. She oversees editorial strategy and production for SafeWise, with a goal to help everyone find the information they need to make their homes and lives safer. Prior to SafeWise, she worked as an editor and reporter for KSL and Deseret News. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Journalism. In her free time, she volunteers at the local botanical garden and writers for the community newspaper.

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