The Wired Home: Which Technologies Actually Work?

Posted by Abby Perkins on December 09, 2014
The Wired Home: Which Technologies Actually Work?

With today's sky-high energy costs, homeowners and energy industry professionals alike are constantly looking for ways to increase energy efficiency and save money. Fortunately, advancements in home automation technology have made this easier than ever.

From smart thermostats to air quality monitors to Wi-Fi enabled light switches, home automation has made it possible to control appliances in ways that weren't possible just a few years ago. However, with so many different brands, makes, and models of home automation technology on the market, how can industry professionals—much less homeowners—know which ones are best?

Which smart home technologies are actually making lives more comfortable—and energy bills lower—for homeowners around the country?

Smart Thermostats: Nest vs. Honeywell Prestige HD

Today’s smart thermostats have essentially rendered programmable thermostats obsolete. A smart thermostat allows homeowners to control their thermostats remotely, via mobile devices. Furthermore, they can automatically adjust to homeowners’ schedules and behavior for maximum energy efficiency, while providing homeowners with real-time energy consumption data.

There are dozens of smart thermostats on the market, but the two top contenders are the popular Nest and the Honeywell Prestige HD.


Nest, which Google recently purchased, has a unique, sleek design and an extremely user-friendly interface, making it a great choice for those who are new to smart thermostats. Furthermore, it has the ability to learn about the user's lifestyle and preferences, so that it can automatically adjust to schedules and habits and make recommendations for energy savings. It also uses Wi-Fi to monitor outside temperatures and weather forecasts and can adjust internal conditions accordingly. The Nest can be controlled easily from most smartphones, tablets, and computers. On average, Nest users can expect to reduce their energy costs by around 20%.

Priced at $249, the Nest does come with a few possible drawbacks. For instance, even though it comes in a design with interchangeable skins and screensavers, its overall interface cannot be changed or customized very much.

Honeywell Prestige HD

Honeywell's Prestige HD smart thermostat offers a device that's more reminiscent of a traditional programmable thermostat. However, like the Nest, it comes with a large, 8-inch touch screen that's easy to navigate both day and night.

Priced at about $385, the Prestige HD is a bit higher priced than other smart thermostats on the market, but it has some features make it worth the added cost. For instance, it comes with an "override" option that allows the user to easily reset the system permanently or temporarily. The Prestige HD has a HD, full-color display and tri-lingual functionality. Like the Nest, it uses Wi-Fi to read outdoor temperatures and humidity. It also comes with a five-year warranty, providing users with added peace of mind.

One downside to the Prestige HD, however, is that it does require a professional to install, whereas the Nest can be easily installed by homeowners. The Prestige HD also lacks the Nest’s smart programmability – instead of automatically learning your schedules and habits, you have to input them manually.

Smart Light Switches: The Belkin WeMo vs. the TCP Connected

For those looking to cut back on electricity costs and have more control over their energy use, having smart light switches installed throughout the home can make all the difference. Let's compare two popular options: the Belkin WeMo and the TCP Connected.

Belkin WeMo

The most well-known name in smart light switches is the Belkin WeMo. This smart light switch starts at around $50 per switch, though users will need to purchase separate smart light bulbs as well.

The switch is extremely easy to use, and connects through the user's home Wi-Fi network. A free app, available for both Android and Apple devices, allows the user to turn lights on and off remotely. It's also easy to set schedules for lights around the house. Lights can be set to turn on or off at a set time each day (for example, at sunrise or sunset), and the switches come with “away mode” settings for when users are away from home. 

Unfortunately, the WeMo doesn't come with a dimming option, which can be a turn-off for homeowners with dimmers already installed. Furthermore, although it is marketed as “DIY,” installation can be quite time consuming without the help of a professional.

Connected by TCP

The Connected by TCP light switch system is more geared towards those on a limited budget. It's possible to find a starter kit (which comes with switches, bulbs, and remotes) for under $50, and replacement bulbs are just around $20 each.

With one system, users can control up to 250 light bulbs from their Android or iOS smartphones or tablet, making it a workable option for homes and offices. The system can work over home networks, local area networks (LANs) or wide area networks (WANs). Furthermore, Connected by TCP is known for quick and easy installation (especially when compared to the WeMo).

On the other hand, Connected by TCP lacks many of the features that WeMo has, such as color-changing options and other options for customization. Still, it's a great and budget-friendly choice for those who want to explore smart light switches without spending a lot.

Smart Air Quality Monitors: Birdi vs. CubeSensor

The last home automation technology on our list? Smart air quality monitors. These devices monitor many different indoor air components, such as humidity, barometric pressure, allergen levels, and even carbon monoxide levels. Below, we’ll compare the popular Birdi and CubeSensor air quality monitoring devices.


The Birdi smart air quality monitor starts at $119 and comes with a variety of features that homeowners will find useful, such as a built-in drop camera that automatically starts recording when an alarm sounds.

This device monitors multiple factors of air quality, including soot, carbon monoxide and smoke. It also measures pollution levels, allergens, and dust in the air, providing users with detailed reports. The biggest benefit? Unlike a traditional smoke detector or air quality monitor, Birdi sends alerts and notifications to connected tablets and smartphones, so users can stay aware of air quality conditions even when they’re away from home.

The only major downside? Birdi doesn't have the technology to monitor ambient light and sound pollution levels, which its competitor, the CubeSensor, does.


The cost of the CubeSensor starts at $299 and can be as high as $599, depending on the specific model chosen. Homeowners can choose between several different models to suit their budgets.

The CubeSensor has a sleek design and comes in packs of multiple, separable cubes, allowing for more accurate measurement and reporting of air quality stats around the home. The CubeSensor also doesn't require any complicated installation. Instead, users simply pick up the cube and shake it. Air quality will be instantly assessed and a red light will illuminate if there are any issues. The Cube Sensor also measures things like temperature, pressure, light, and noise to help users monitor sleep quality and improve health.

Unfortunately, the CubeSensor can get to be quite pricey (since multiple cube may be required in larger homes). It also fails to provide the same data and detailed reports as the Birdi monitor.

The final word

There are a ton of home automation products on the market, and it can be hard to find the ones that actually work. The trick? Be smart about smart homes. Do your research, compare products, and choose the one that’s really best for your home or your clients.

Abby Perkins is Editor in Chief at Talent Tribune and Software Providers, where she writes about technology, business, and more.

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