Make the most of your internet connection to build the perfect smart home

Your internet connection has a big impact on your home automation equipment. Here's everything you need to know about the best internet for smart homes.

Home automation has gained popularity in recent years, as it can make your life a whole lot easier. If you’re considering turning your house into a smart home, there’s one very important thing you need to consider first: your internet connection. Smart home equipment relies on the internet to operate, so you’ll want your connection to be fast and reliable. What’s the point of having home automation if your equipment is constantly disconnecting because of a weak WiFi signal? Here’s a guide to everything you need to know about internet for your smart home.

What type of internet do I need for home automation?

You’re going to want a reliable internet connection for your smart home to ensure that your system is connected at all times. Your home automation system won’t use a ton of bandwidth, but it’s still important that your connection is strong and consistent to keep things running smoothly. Your two best options for an internet connection in your smart home are fiber and cable.

Fiber

Fiber is the top-of-the-line connection when it comes to internet. You’ll find that fiber providers offer the fastest speeds on the market. You won’t have to worry about your home automation equipment going down or glitching because of an unreliable connection. Unlike other types of internet, fiber typically has the same (or similar) upload speeds and download speeds. That means when you want to upload your security cameras’ footage to your phone to check on the house, you can do so in a matter of seconds. Most other kinds of internet have much slower upload speeds than download speeds, so fiber is your best bet.

Cable

The next best option for internet with home automation is a cable connection. Some cable internet providers offer download speeds that can even compete with fiber. One drawback to cable internet is that you have to share your bandwidth with your neighbors, because your internet speeds are typically delivered from a central node somewhere nearby in your area. This means that your connection might be slower when there are a lot of people on the internet at the same time. Because of this, your security camera footage might lag at times or an alert from your doorbell camera might be delayed.

If fiber and cable internet aren’t available in your area, don’t worry! You still have DSL, fixed wireless, and satellite internet as options.

DSL

DSL internet is usually much slower than cable and fiber. The connection is also weaker the further away you live from the provider’s location. Another important thing to keep in mind is that many DSL providers have data caps on their plans. Home automation equipment uses data, so you might end up paying data overage fees if your plan doesn’t have very much data.

Fixed Wireless

The speeds for a fixed wireless connection vary by provider and location, but they are usually on the slower side. If there are any hills, buildings, or other landscape features that prevent a direct line of sight between your home and the provider’s tower, your signal won’t be reliable. Some fixed wireless providers have data limits as well.

Satellite Internet

Satellite internet is one of the slowest connections on the market, however it’s a great option for those living in rural or remote areas who still want home automation. The connection might lag at times which is something to keep in mind when it comes to your equipment. Satellite providers also typically have data caps, so you’ll need to make sure your equipment doesn’t use too much data.

How fast does my internet need to be for home automation?

Home automation equipment doesn’t use a ton of your internet speed on it’s own. Your equipment like smart cameras, doorbells, and locks will likely only use a few megabits. Plus, most of the equipment will only use bandwidth in short bursts when you give a command. However, it’s important to keep in mind that security equipment isn’t the only thing in the house that will be connected to the internet. Your smart home equipment will need to share bandwidth with any Netflix streaming, online gaming, movie downloading, and whatever else you might use the internet for.

If you have a fiber connection, you should be good to go with download speeds of 50 Mbps or higher. You won’t have to share any bandwidth with your neighbors like you do with other types of internet, so you can count on your speeds to remain consistent. Plus, your upload speeds will also be fast which is great for saving and viewing your security camera footage.

If you have an internet connection that isn’t fiber, we’d recommend speeds of at least 100 Mbps for your smart home. The speed of the connection for cable, DSL, or fixed wireless will depend on how many other people are using the internet at the same time in your area. It’s best to have a little more bandwidth, so that if your speeds slow down during peak internet hours your connection will still be fast and reliable. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

While you won’t have to share bandwidth on a satellite connection, we’d still recommend getting the fastest speeds you can, as the connection tends to be slower. The fastest speeds available for satellite now go up to 100 Mbps.

How much data does my smart home use?

You’ll want to know how much data your smart home equipment uses if you have an internet plan with data caps so you don’t have to pay any data overage fees. Most of your equipment, like your smart thermostat or smart plugs, won’t use a ton of data. Each of these devices will probably use around 50 MB of data each month.

If you have a smart home hub like an Amazon Echo or Google Home, the amount of data used will depend on what you use it for. If you’re just asking Alexa to turn the lights on and off, it won’t use much data. On the other hand, if you’re streaming music all day through your Google Home, you could use around 100 MB of data per hour.

The real data hogs are going to be your security cameras. The amount of data your cameras use will depend on a few factors. The higher the resolution you choose, the more data your cameras will use. Another factor that impacts data is how active your cameras are. If you have them set to record at all times, they’ll be using data 24/7. However, if you set them to be motion activated, they’ll only use data when they pick up on motion in the area. If the camera is in an area with a lot of activity, like the living room or the yard where your children play, they’ll use more data. Data usage will range by company as well, but typically the cameras can use anywhere from 20 to 400 GB per month. This also goes for doorbell cameras, which usually need a higher resolution than your indoor or outdoor cameras.

To save on the monthly data that your equipment uses, make sure that your cameras are only being activated when they detect motion. If you don’t mind having lower resolution footage, you can also switch your camera’s settings.

Why you might need whole home WiFi or a mesh network for your smart home

If you have a home automation system, it’s likely that you have pieces of equipment spread throughout the house. From doorbell cameras to window sensors to smart lights, you want your entire home to be covered. To ensure that all of your equipment is integrated seamlessly and works together without any hiccups, your WiFi will need to cover the entire home too.

Sometimes, especially in bigger homes, there are areas of the house where the WiFi connection is weak. You might even have dead spots where the signal doesn’t reach at all. This can happen in parts of your home that are very far from the internet modem/router. If your modem is on one side of the house and you have smart equipment on the other, you want to make sure that your equipment is still up and running on the WiFi network.

One easy fix is to get a whole home WiFi extender or mesh network. Many internet providers offer these pieces of equipment, or you can buy them online through various companies. These systems use several nodes placed around the home that connect to your home’s central router/modem. The nodes help spread the WiFi signal throughout your entire house, so you’ll always be fully covered.

If you live in a smaller house and you don’t think you need a mesh network or WiFi extender, you’ll still want your internet signal to be as fast and reliable as possible. Make sure that your internet router can handle the amount of speed that comes with your internet plan. Routers can only support a certain amount of speed. For instance, you might pay for an internet plan that comes with download speeds up to 1,000 Mbps. If you have a router that only supports download speeds up to 500 Mbps, your internet speeds will always be cut in half. That means you’ll be wasting money every month on speeds that you’re not even able to get. Double check your router and consider getting a mesh network to ensure your home automation system runs smoothly, no matter where you are in the house.

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