Your home’s exterior not only has a significant impact on its value, but also serves as a first impression for visitors. Careful exterior design choices can also give you a sense of pride and enhance your experience as a homeowner. However, aesthetics aren’t the only factor to keep in mind if you are considering remodeling or upgrading your exterior. There is shift toward smart home design that isn’t simply a trend, but rather a fresh, intelligent way of making houses more efficient, more livable, and even safer. [Image above: Kebony cladding on home in Lithuania. Courtesy of Arches]
Designing a smart home is not always strictly about the technology; it also entails construction methods, window placement, building materials, and more. Careful consideration of both materials and technology will help ensure that your exterior is not just beautiful, but also highly durable, requires less maintenance, and functions more effectively without adding to your workload as the homeowner.
Here are five exterior designs ideas and technologies to consider for a smarter home.
Reduce maintenance and maintain beauty with innovative siding materials
There are few things as beautiful on a home’s exterior as genuine wood siding. This traditional building material is versatile, paintable, allows for custom designs, and gives a warm look that can make your house feel like a home. Unfortunately, the choice of real wood often leads to high maintenance requirements. Thankfully, there are smarter alternatives.
Modified wood siding materials, such as the products offered by Kebony, are a variation on real wood siding—only better. This material has been improved by making the wood more dense and much stronger through a special biochemical and heat-treatment process. The end result is beautiful cladding that has all the advantages of wood, but with very low maintenance needs. Modified wood requires no paints or stains and only gets better with age, gradually taking on a beautiful silver patina that is a great fit for many homes.
Gain peace of mind with smarter security accessories
Physical security is always a concern for homeowners, and the technology and options for making your home a safer haven have recently expanded greatly. Gone are the days where basic alarm systems and hard-wired analog sensors alone are sufficient. As criminals have become smarter, it only makes sense to adopt a security system approach that is more intelligent. These new-generation security systems and accessories employ wireless technology for easy installation, and are equipped with smart software designed to extend functionality while increasing safety attributes.
One popular accessory is the outdoor surveillance camera. Outdoor security camera systems can be surprisingly affordable, but more importantly, technology advancements enable alerts and video feeds to be accessed remotely. If suspicious activity occurs on your property while you are away, a smartphone app can deliver an alert and allow you to see a live video feed of what is happening. Your mind can be immediately put at ease if you can see the alert was caused by your scheduled gardener or a flower delivery person. But in the event of a burglary attempt or other malicious activity, you will be able to contact police immediately so they can take appropriate action.
Among the technology options here is the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor, a weatherproof security camera that incorporates a wealth of smarts, including advanced facial recognition capability.
Camouflaged outdoor speakers add music and style
Spending time in your backyard can be more pleasant when you add music to the experience. Instead of blasting your home entertainment system or using a portable stereo, consider installing camouflaged speakers. There are various designs of speakers available, ranging from those that will nestle into your backyard landscape or others that serve double-duty as decor on exterior walls.
The classic faux rock speaker is readily available from many retailers, and the latest iterations of this design can look quite realistic when installed in a compatible landscape. If you have a more straightforward backyard setup where you spend more time on a deck or patio, then a wall-mounted speaker may be a better option. These are available in designs that emulate the look of wall lighting fixtures, while some can be mounted in a soffit for a seamless effect. Still others can be shaped like planters. Rockustics, for example—creators of the original faux rock speaker—also offers a line of omnidirectional speakers built into functional planters.
Reduce energy costs with improved wall structures and windows
The exterior walls and windows of your home can have significant negative impacts on your monthly energy bill due to energy loss, heat gain, and other factors. It’s no wonder that reducing energy expense is a chief goal for many homeowners looking to upgrade their existing homes, and that many potential homebuyers are in the market for energy-efficient dwellings.
Many home projects including garages, workshops, additions, or intensive remodels are ideal opportunities to improve upon the quality of the exterior shell. When considering these upgrades, homeowners can benefit by using an alternative wall system. For example, Bautex Systems offers an insulating concrete block wall product that can be used in place of traditional materials. These lightweight composite blocks can be stronger and easier to install than other wall options, and offer the added advantages of better energy efficiency, improved air sealing, higher noise dampening, and fire and storm protection.
Another example is replacing aging windows and exterior doors and with certified Energy Star products. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, using these upgraded windows can lower household energy bills by an average of 12% nationwide. In addition to energy savings and an improved aesthetic, many of these windows are available with special glass that reduces UV light damage on interior furnishings.
Improve your entryway with a smart door lock and video doorbell
Similar to the concept of smarter surveillance, being able to see who is at your front door is not only a sensible idea for security, but also adds convenience. You can make your entryway more user-friendly by installing a keyless smart door lock and a video doorbell.
Investing in a quality keyless smart door lock can allow guests, family, and friends to enter your house without the need for a physical key. This approach, by using a smartphone with a time-bound digital key or tapping a PIN code, eliminates the need to hide a key under the doormat—which could easily be found by a burglar. Furthermore, many smart door locks can be remotely locked and unlocked with a smartphone app, ideal when you are away and need to securely allow a repairman in. The August Home smart lock is just one of the many tech options in this growing category.
Adding a video doorbell can also bring an additional measure of security. These accessories, such as the popular Ring video doorbell, install in place of the conventional doorbell button and deliver alerts and a live video feed to a smartphone app when someone rings your doorbell. You can then elect to converse with the person prior to opening the door, keep an eye on packages left on your porch, and more. And if you have also installed a smart door lock, you can elect to unlock the door remotely and allow the person in.
The idea of a smart house continues to evolve as technology marches forward and affects many aspects of modern life. Hopefully, the ideas suggested here around using smarter technology and innovative materials can help transform your home’s exterior for the better.
Matt Lee is a writer specializing in home renovation, gardening, architecture, and green living. Also a marketing specialist, Matt works with several companies in the building materials industry to bring awareness to their brands.