DIY vs. Professional installation ’“ What's the smart choice?

Can everybody turn a house into a smart home, or is there more to it?

Smart home solutions often promise a quick and easy transformation of your home. And in most cases it does not require more than a little affinity for technology in order to add some “smart” to your home.

But do these gadgets, which promise foolproof installations, really create a smart home, or are they just toys (this question was answered by the previous article, which you can find here). And what can a professional system integrator add in order to transform 4 walls with a ceiling into something intelligent?

What to expect from DIY smart home solutions?

The installation of a DIY gadget is mostly very easy and the programming via smartphones or tablets can, thanks to intuitive apps, take a matter of minutes. Within 10 minutes, you can have your light up and running with your phone, a smart thermostat creating a cosy atmosphere and intelligent power sockets providing electricity to devices being used in the home. As it is state of the art, all solutions will be controlled by the owner’s mobile phone.

This all sounds great, but where there is light, there is also shadow. Ironically, the first downside of all is the controlling with a mobile.

DIY: One app per one solution…each!

Left aside that some apps are only available for Android, others again only for iOS, each solution requires a separate app, leaving the homeowner back with a bunch of apps, for which manuals have to be studied, online accounts created and familiarisation required for knowing in full, what you actually have installed. Considering that most of the people do not know all the functions of their smartphones, not knowing all functions of your smart home gadget might not only result in a waste of money for solutions you do not use, but also possible inconvenience – the opposite of what the smart home is supposed to do.

A solution to this problem would be to buy-only devices which belong to one manufacturer, but this would result in a dismissal of flexibility, as you would be bound to this manufacturer (who could also stop with its support for smart homes at any time). This problem brings us to the next glitch of DIY systems: compatibility.

DIY: Compatibility problems

Not only do we have to worry about the operating system on our handhelds and the necessary apps on our handhelds, which control only one solution out of many, we also need to have a look at what is inside the devices. There are heaps of competing technologies, all using other ways of communicating. From the hardware side, the devices might communicate via WiFi, others via cable. As from the software side, some devices might use cloud-based solutions. Most established systems however require a strong software compatibility.

Imagining that there were only 2 ways of communication (WiFi, cable) and only 3 established systems with own software solutions (Apple, Amazon and Google), the chance that you have compatible devices is 1:6. Now, in the real world, we know that there are more ways of communication and more manufacturers with solutions on the market. The logic conclusion is: compatibility is almost not-existent.

DIY: What about security and privacy?

The good news first: all gadgets usually include an encryption mechanism, which prevents unauthorised access to the devices’ settings. And should you have forgotten to close a door through which the hacker might slip through, the hacker would only have access to one gadget and not to all that makes your home smart.

However, many devices, which are found in a connected home (like smart TVs and voice activated hubs) are collecting information, in order to identify user patterns and automation processes (e.g. light goes on according to previous usage behaviours). The result is that all those companies are collecting data about you, which they might then use for further marketing or further customer service purposes. But “if you are not comfortable with companies collecting data about your smart home, then home automation is not for you”.

What to expect from professional smart home solutions?

DIY solutions do contribute to the “smart” of a smart home, but at the same time, they have the reputation to be a hobby for tech-fans or a toy – some more expensive, some less.

A professionally installed system on the other hand is not a mixed investment in various devices. It requires an initial planning process at which all needs of the home owner are identified, further usage forecasted (e.g. when the children grow up and move out) and in some cases require physical work on the home, e.g. when new cables have to be pulled. Not only is a professional installation fully customised to the homeowners needs, it also offers a high level of flexibility as the professionally installed system also comes with a whole infrastructure for the home, which can be extended and modified with new devices at any time. Needless to say that the professional installation also adds a greater value to your home as it has transformed walls and ceiling to a provider for a smart home infrastructure.

The natural outcome is a higher house value, as the smart home is not only something controlled by a few devices but by a whole system, which goes via cables and wires throughout the whole house.

DIY and Professional: Missing the forest for the trees

DIY and professional systems have one thing in common: both have many technologies, systems, and new ones are released every day. The same question therefore remains also after you have taken your decision either for DIY or professional: which technology is the right one?

The answer is simple: whereas DIY solutions are mostly a decided for upon personal preference (let it be design, functions or just the colour), professional solutions should be open to many manufacturers. The choice therefore should be an open system, such as “KNX”, a technology which is used by more than 440 well-established manufacturers all over the world with a product range of more than 7000 devices.

Professional installation: Getting rid of security issues

Once the right technology is chosen, the issue of compatibility is not existent anymore. In case of KNX, all compatible devices are certified and guarantee a flawless interworking, meaning that for example one button can control whatever lamp, which is connected to the installation. As for security, the configuration of devices is mostly done via professional tools, which require proper training in order to use them. Still, for the homeowner, there is still the possibility to make minor changes, which have been agreed on with the professional integrator (however, an installation by a professional installer is best not to be touched by newbies).

Lastly, as there are many companies behind KNX, these companies have a very high interest to develop and further extend the technology to first of all open it to more users, as well as preventing unauthorised access. For this, KNX went through a lot of security extensions, making it the most secure technology in the market.

So what is the right choice for me? DIY or professional installation?

The answer to this question may not come as a surprise: it all depends on you! Whether you would like to have one or two lamps controlled with your phone, DIY might be the better choice. However, if you want to jump on the smart home train and invest in sustainable solutions, the professional installation might be best suited for you.

DIY solutions would be more favourable for smaller apartments which are being rented. These solutions can easily be taken to the next place, adding some intelligence to the place you live at the moment or in the future. When you just want to add a little bit of convenience to your daily life without having the need to go all-in, the respective DIY solution is also the right choice.

The recommendation for professional installations goes to homeowners who would like to add value to their real estate and invest a little extra in their house, as it is commonly done when buying a car (which is used for on average for 11.5 years – whereas a house is supposed to last for a lifetime and maybe also generations afterwards). Basic installations price-wise can start at €5.000 and above. However, with the basic installation, you can enjoy all advantages of a smart home totally custom made for you.