You’ve finally found your dream historic house with a rich history. While the house has many beautiful features that tell a story, there’s one thing missing—smart home technology.
The global smart home market was worth $27.5 billion in 2017 and is expected to grow to $53.45 billion by 2022, according to Statista. And it’s not just HGTV’s Smart Home winner taking cues from this growing trend. In fact, a 2016 study found that 45% of homeowners were installing smart home technology and devices as part of their home renovation projects.
Making the switch
When it comes to adding smart home features to your historic house, there are a lot of things to consider — Does this maintain the house’s integrity? Does it meet local, municipal and state guidelines and ordinances? Will it improve the value of my home? If smart home technology is a good investment for your historic house, then go ahead, sit back and relax as the blinds raise themselves.
How to maintain a historic home’s integrity
Before you get started updating a historic home, you must check on any municipal, local, or state codes related to the historic classification of buildings.
“Research within each municipality is crucial, especially due to the fact that there are no nationwide rules. For example, in Strasburg Borough of Pennsylvania, the rules govern that the exterior of a home is to be maintained — but the inside is fair game,” said Phil Eby, owner of Eby Exteriors in Lancaster, PA.
Pablo Solomon echoed Eby’s sentiment that for the most part, as long as you maintain the exterior integrity, you have more flexibility inside historic homes. Solomon and his wife Beverly operate a design firm specializing in restorations and have been featured in dozens of media outlets. Their 1856 ranch near Austin was nominated for the Texas Lone Star Land Stewardship Award for outstanding natural preservation and restoration for 1997-98.
The Solomons encourage their clients to think about what investments they should make.
“As with adding any technology you must decide whether the cost is worth the results and if the technology is improving so quickly that you might wait a bit for the reliability to go up and the price to go down,” he said.
Ready to bring your historic home into the 21st century? Here are the best smart home devices for your house!
Fixes for your whole house
Upgrade Your Internet
Improving your internet service is the first place to start when installing smart home devices. Depending on where you live, cable, DSL or fiber internet may be available. Each of these connection types can deliver the speeds you need to connect multiple devices throughout your home.
Improve your Wi-Fi
Most of your smart home devices will probably require home Wi-Fi. Upgrading your modem, router or wireless gateway can ensure you have the latest technology providing the strongest signal. If multiple stories or thick walls in your historic house inhibit your Wi-Fi signal, there are things you can do, such as using a Wi-Fi repeater or internet extender, to improve your connection.
Install smart switches
Installing smart home switches will allow you to wirelessly control any lamp or light socket. Additionally, a smart home light switch may connect with Google Home or Amazon Alexa devices allowing for voice control, and app control may allow you to turn lights on or off even when you aren’t home. Just be sure that the switch plates you choose follow your historic home guidelines.
Room by Room
While smart home door locks are a common addition in 2019, they may go against the guidelines for historic homes.
There are many other ways to keep your home secure using new technology, such as smart home alarm systems, smart home security cameras and smart home motion sensors. Any or all of these devices will allow you to monitor activity around your front door and see who’s ringing the bell.
Smart home updates don’t have to be limited to just the latest gadgets. Improved technology as it relates to windows and doors may also be something to consider
“One of the best technology updates for a home is hands-down more efficient windows and doors that have better, more airtight glass technology. They can be made and installed to look old and appropriate to the look of the home, but have the functionality of a newer, model home,” said Eby.
Refrigerators, in general, are a modern luxury, but now technology makes them even better allowing you to track and send your grocery list to a participating store, or even view the contents inside remotely. Installing a smart refrigerator, in most cases, isn’t an issue in historic homes as long as it doesn’t require any structural changes.
Today’s thermostats go beyond programming a time for the heat to kick on in the morning. Smart thermostats can sense changes in seasons, learn your habits, offer remote control and make recommendations to help you find the right temperature and even save some money. In addition to smart light switches, you can also install smart home lighting, which may include bulbs, lamps and light strips you can sync together and control from an app. With a historic home, though, it’s important that you preserve and reuse any historically significant light fixtures. Rather than changing existing light fixtures, focus on incorporating smart light bulbs in the original color, or using other removable smart lighting fixtures, such as task lighting.
While built-in ceiling speakers are a feature in many smart homes, they may not be possible with a historic home. Instead, syncing multiple desktop voice control devices, such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home, may be your best option. By syncing, you can play music throughout the whole house on multiple speakers simultaneously.
Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up to sunlight slowly filling your bedroom, easing you into the day? With programmable smart window blinds, you can. Additionally, because there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all smart blind, you can create a customized option that complements your historic home. Being able to control how and when sunlight enters your home may also help preserve historic features inside.
“Motorized window shades are an increasingly popular home upgrade,” said Kendall Flock, marketing manager for J Geiger Shading in Charleston, SC.
“If you’re seeking a wire-free work-around, battery-powered shades are an easy upgrade. They have the remote control appeal of automated shades and many last a year or more on a single charge. The only drawback is that battery shades can’t integrate with smart home apps, but they are more affordable than hard-wired options.”