How to keep your smart home sustainable and safe

Posted by Andi

More people are looking at ways they can reduce energy consumption and live more sustainably. While switching to sustainable heating sources such as Air Source Heat Pumps and Solar Panels provide long-term green and clean energy, more homeowners are investing in smart homes. 

Automating your home with smart technology can provide lots of energy-saving advantages, which this guide will explain in detail. However, underlying doubts remain about the stability and reliability of the systems that support a smart home. Whatever technology you are using, you need to ensure you’re aware of the potential cyber risks that exist, as breaches can have drastic consequences. 

However, this guide is here to explain how smart home technology can be green and secure, to avoid any doubts you may have about making such an investment. 

What is a smart home?

A smart home is a property that’s fitted with connected devices that can be controlled remotely via a mobile phone, tablet, or computer. The smart devices in a home can range from lighting and heating controls to security cameras, locks, multimedia systems, windows, doors and even home appliances. 

The aim of smart homes is to use automation technology to improve the way we live and increase the amount of energy we save. But how exactly does home automation reduce the amount of energy we use? Can they truly be considered energy-efficient solutions?

Are smart homes energy-efficient?

The short answer is yes, they are. Using a device, you can regulate the temperature in your home, avoiding wasting energy by heating it while you’re not there. You can utilise your heating controls more effectively, which is helpful for many homeowners navigating the rising costs of energy and living. 

The important thing to remember is that smart thermostats can be customised to suit your preferences. When settings are activated via your chosen device, your energy-efficient home can be warmer when you need it to be, and colder when you don’t. The same can be applied to lighting, with smart lights automatically switching on and off at certain times of the day. (NB: it’s also a good idea to switch from standard light bulbs to LED lights). 

Smart Home

You can also get alerts notifying you if someone has accidentally left a light or the central heating on, and then turn them off via your device.

These aren’t the only energy-saving measures you can take with a smart home setup. You can link various IoT (internet of things) devices together to improve automation within the home. An example of this could involve remotely closing electric windows, doors or blinds when the day is at its warmest to conserve heat. 

Most smart home devices are not inherently energy-efficient. However, it’s down to you as the homeowner to utilise the devices in ways that help you conserve as much energy as possible. With more control over your energy usage and consumption habits, you can take steps to reduce your carbon footprint. 

Are smart homes secure?

It’s clear to see that smart homes work wonders at improving the energy efficiency of a house. However, with such a reliance on technology to synchronise together seamlessly, many often wonder how secure this makes their home. 

Hacking, identity theft and cyber-attacks come in all shapes and sizes and plague individuals and organisations across all sectors. If these aren’t dealt with promptly and in the correct way, the consequences can be dire. One of the easiest vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit is accounts that are protected by weak passwords. Therefore, an easy workaround is using stronger passwords using a range of special characters, symbols and number-letter combinations, as well as using two-factor authentication to verify devices. 

While it’s easy to retrospectively say this will improve the security of your smart home, the reality is that cybercrime can still manifest in all sorts of ways. Consumer advocacy group Which? conducted an experiment to assess how vulnerable smart homes would be to hackers. It created a smart home and waited to see how many hacking attempts the network would be exposed to, and how long these would take. Within the space of a week, the group recorded over 12,000 hacking attempts. 

Televisions, washing machines, cookers, garage doors, door locks, stereo systems and many other home essentials can be considered ‘smart devices’. These can all invariably connect to a WiFi network, integrate with a smart home system, and interact with other devices, becoming proverbial puzzle pieces to a smart home. However, it’s important that WiFi networks can be exploited by hackers, so be mindful. 

Physical security is also important. You can be notified of safety or security issues while away from home, such as leaks, open doors or windows, smoke detection, or something that hasn’t been turned off when it should have been. Being able to proactively act while off-site can provide peace of mind that everything is manageable and in safe hands. Strategising ways in which you can ideally prevent cyber incidents is crucial, but, should your technology be compromised, proactive response is equally important. 

How to improve the security and sustainability of your home

It’s important to note that IoT devices aren’t explicitly designed to prioritise security, but rather, user-friendliness. The good news is that most manufacturers are recognising the cyber risks of smart homes and proactively taking steps to enhance security. However, homeowners have to take some responsibility for improving the stability and security of their homes.

These simple steps can make a huge difference in keeping your smart home as secure as possible:

  • Change default passwords into ones that are more secure.
  • Stay vigilant to phishing emails or texts as these can result in your devices or systems being exploited remotely and compromised.
  • Enable additional security options and two- or multi-factor authentication to devices if possible.
  • Install security patches and updates when prompted as this will usually involve the software improving its level of security protection. 

Smart home technology is still very much in its infancy and is experiencing rapid progression and development as each year passes. The technology that powers them is also being treated with intuitive new processes. However, if devices still continue to be hacked and compromised, it can affect consumer trust in manufacturers and technology as a whole. More needs to be done to help more homeowners achieve the green benefits we all individually and collectively need. 

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