This is a question that is not asked often enough. I point out to my clients that there is a certain lifespan for the majority of Smart Home ‘smarts’.
You certainly don’t buy a new car and accept the accessories could fail within 1 or 2 years. So having bought or renovated your house you would not expect your Smart Home ‘smarts’ to fail to operate after 1, 2 or 5 years.
The analogy above is valid, there are some complex accessories for cars that are just as complex as smart home ‘smarts’!
Smart home ‘smarts’ lifespan depend on a number of factors. Let’s get a bit more granular. The most common product failure criteria are :
- Product Defects
- Product Failures From Exceeding Potential Design Life
- Product Abuse
- Product Incompatibility
- Product Interference
- Product and/or Subscription Succession
Product Defects You will always get a small level of product defects. Testing regimes will catch the majority of potential mechanical or electrical out of tolerance values, but most products have a finite defect rate.
Product Failures From Exceeding Potential Design LifeUsing some products everyday may exceed its design life rating. Motors, compressors and actuators all take a hit when you use them constantly and continuously. Even LED light bulbs have a nominated life span – use it enough and electrical and thermal changes will create an end-date for the bulb.
Product Abuse The simplest form of this is a failure of a rocker or push button wall switch. Enabled by a wayward hand/finger at the wrong angle can physically impact its operation.
Product Incompatibility After a while the ‘standalone’ product keeps on working but through a required upgrade process, e.g. a firmware update, there could be an incompatibility with other devices in your smart home. Low percentage failure i hear you say? Maybe, but it could be an expensive lesson to try and back-out the firmware or replace it with another product – and more than likely not performed by the home owner so the cost start to multiply.
Product Interference You start out with a perfectly working smart home and all of a sudden when you move in there is an influx of devices and electromagnetic signals flying around. WiFi is possibly the most overused (in quantity) device connection medium whilst also being the most under-utilised transport medium (low capacity automation signals to control a device on a high bandwidth wireless connection). Interference may also come from your neighbours network/s or products, wireless solutions usually require some planning and not a ‘slap it up and she’ll be right’ modus operandi.
Product and/or Subscription Succession Possibly the cruelest of all failures. Your selected products are no longer supported, a firmware upgrade or global login account credentials renders them partially or fully incapacitated for what you purchased them for. This may also come down to using 3rd party control software to navigate different product lines and manufacturers to achieve your desired smart home operation. We have probably all experienced this in our lives with some App update on our smart device and suddenly you can not access or perform what you used to do.
The Smart Home market is not all doom and gloom! Conversely there are long life Smart Home solutions and options having minimal failure and imposition to your way of life.
Challenge your electrician, automation expert or systems integrator on the potential lifespan of the proposed products and where they see future issues.
Last but not least, the more expensive the Smart Home system does not mean they won’t fail. The more expensive home automation solutions may be impacted by fewer of the above criteria – but my advice still stands – challenge your electrician/automation expert/systems integrator.
You want more I hear you say, you should get more as well! A Smart Home lifespan MUST be greater than 10 years – if a solar panel can be warranted for 20 years out in the weather – then 10 years should be easy to obtain!
Invest wisely. Stay safe. Be Smart!
Image courtesy of iStock.