How to equip your communities with smart home for apartments
Find out the right and wrong things to invest in if you want your communities to have smart home for apartments
Smart apartment technology was once considered a luxury. But now, more and more multifamily communities feature smart home for apartments. And many renters now expect these amenities within their home.
If your communities have yet to go smart, it’s a good time to consider adding these conveniences. Here are answers to the most commonly asked questions about how smart apartments work.
What is a smart apartment?
What’s needed to make your units smart? It goes further than adding a Nest thermostat or a virtual assistant and calling it a day. A truly smart apartment interconnects to other devices within the unit. And unlike smart technology that might be used within single family homes, there’s an added layer of complexity for multifamily communities.
Smart apartment technology needs to be tied to a central platform that community managers can control. The devices should give residents an enhanced living experience while automating aspects of a community manager’s job. Tasks like vacant unit management, package deliveries, work orders, HVAC monitoring, fault detection, and leasing tours, are automated with the help of smart technology.
The most common smart home devices for apartments are:
- Z-Wave hubs
This list can vary depending on the class or your property, your budget, or the demographics of the community. But the most basic smart apartments usually have what’s listed above. With good reason, too. These devices provide the most value for residents and community managers. And, there’s the potential for a fast payoff. Even if you don’t charge residents to have smart home for their apartment, the benefits result in time and cost savings. For customized ROI analysis of smart home for apartments, use our Smart ROI Calculator.
How to Implement Smart Apartment Technology in your Multifamily Community
From picking the right smart devices, to installation and beyond, we’ll give you step-by-step guidance for going smart.
Do I need special infrastructure to install smart home for apartments?
Your buildings don’t need to be new to have smart home for apartments. Older, existing buildings can still be equipped with smart devices, too. But you need to take into account a few considerations.
An important cornerstone of smart home for apartments is connectivity. If you have strong, reliable wifi, it’s easier to support an abundance of smart devices and to keep them operational at all times. Property-wide wifi networks are especially helpful to keep smart devices continuously in sync.
No property-wide wifi? Not to worry. It’s still easy to implement smart apartment technology at your community. Plenty of smart apartment providers use hubs that run on cellular connectivity. This helps devices stay connected even when wifi is not reliable.
Another consideration for older buildings is if the electrical wiring is compatible with devices like smart thermostats. If your building is more than 40 years old, you should have your wiring evaluated before you make any smart device purchases. In the 1970s code requirements changed for multifamily wiring. Buildings constructed before the code change may not be sufficiently wired for certain smart devices.
What smart apartment devices should I buy?
If you’re going to outfit your communities with smart technology, it isn’t necessary to go all out. That said, a standard hardware package is needed for property managers to gain any working benefits. Here are three pieces of hardware that are good starting points for multifamily communities:
- Smart locks for apartments: immediately improves access control for residents and community staff
- Smart thermostats for apartments: remotely regulate unit temperature for better efficiency
- Z Wave Hub: lets the devices work in sync and allows users to remotely control the devices
If you want to start with more pieces than a lock, a thermostat and a hub, that’s great! But for those who want to ease into smart home for apartments, these are the safest bets. You’ll get the most operational bang for your buck through improved access and temperature control. As you grow more comfortable with the technology, you can easily add pieces over time.
Why does a hub matter so much?
Unlike smart locks or thermostats, the advantages of a hub aren’t immediately clear. You may wonder if it’s really a necessary in a smart apartment. The answer is a resounding “yes.”
For one, a hub acts as a translator for all of the smart devices in a unit. This lets each of the devices work together. No matter how many smart devices are within a unit, or if they’re all made by different manufacturers, the hub makes everything work in unison.
Let’s say your resident leaves their home for the day, closing the door with the smart lock. Your hub then directs the other devices to act accordingly. The lights automatically turn off. Then, the thermostat winds down. These sequences are only possible with the help of a hub.
Another big advantage of a hub is that it lets users control all of their devices from one central app (as opposed to an app for each device). When you start to add more devices to a unit, a centralized app becomes especially convenient.
Hubs also make it easier for your management company to add or replace smart devices as time goes on. Installing smart home for apartments is a layered process. Ensuring you have the necessities now will make any future investments easier to implement and maintain.
How do I choose the right hub?
Like any piece of technology, hubs aren’t created equally. Quality varies and many hubs are not built to withstand the needs of a multifamily community. To get the most functionality from your chosen smart devices, you want your hub to have specific features.
- Cellular connectivity: Wifi can be notoriously unreliable. Cellular connectivity keeps things working smoothly if (and most likely when) your broadband connection drops.
- Zwave hub: A ZWave hub allows for complete interoperability between devices so you’re never tied to a single manufacturer.
- Battery backup: If the power goes out, a battery backup will keep your devices working as usual.
- Wifi and ethernet connections: With both of these connection options, there’s better flexibility with how you can connect to the internet, as well as where the hub can be placed within a unit
- Commercial quality: Commercial grade hubs will provide the most advanced security with the capability of connecting to smart home devices operating across all major industry protocols.
How to expand beyond a base model
We’ve covered the basic necessities for your smart apartments. But there’s plenty of other devices that can take your connected community to the next level. Other commonly used devices in smart apartments include:
- leak detection sensors
- voice assistants
- window shades and blinds
It’s not necessary for you to order additional devices for your entire property. Many communities offer them as add-ons to residents who want to add more tech into their home. If you already have the necessary infrastructure set up (hub, thermostat, and locks), then it’s easy for residents to set up their add-ons. Your provider should give residents instructions to install those add-ons themselves, without any maintenance help.
How do I choose smart home for apartments hardware?
There are several factors to consider when choosing smart devices for your property. If you’re buying devices for multiple properties, you don’t have to use the same hardware across your portfolio. In fact, it’s common for companies to choose different hardware for each property. Here are some things that should factor into your hardware decisions.
- Class of property: Smart devices should complement the property decor they’re going into. Class A properties should have higher-end smart devices while middle-of-the-road hardware would be a suitable choice for Class B or C.
- Look & finish: Consider the aesthetics of the devices you’re looking at. A sleek, ultra-modern device might stick out if your communities have traditional decor. While aesthetics aren’t everything, you do want it to blend in nicely with your units.
- Property demographics: Your property’s main demographic should be a big factor in your decision. For example, older generations might appreciate devices that are intuitive and can also be used manually (for instance, smart locks that also have keys).
- Special considerations: Find out if there are any rules or regulations pertaining to your state about access. For instance, California has laws about the types of locks that can be used in multifamily communities.
- Budget: If you find that the hardware options that are within your budget don’t seem appropriate for your property class or demographic, you may want to reevaluate.
Do I need software to control smart home for apartments?
Even the best smart devices won’t function to your standards without a robust platform to manage them all. Smart apartment devices are going to be controlled by your residents and your community staff. So it’s important to have a well-rounded software that meets the needs for both end users.
Ultimately, your residents are going to be the ones using smart devices day after day. And if it’s not a smooth user experience, they’ll be hesitant to use them. Or even worse, satisfaction with their home will decrease. Here are the features your app should include to ensure a smooth resident experience.
- One single consolidated app: It’s a pain to open a different app to control each device in the unit. And, not every resident will be willing to download multiple apps on their phone. Opt for an app that can single-handedly control every smart device within the unit. Not every provider offers this valuable feature.
- Includes functionalities beyond smart device control: Residents are more likely to use an app that solves everything about apartment living. For instance, paying rent, package notifications, work orders, etc.
- Fast response time: Would a resident be impatient with how long the app takes to load? Or is there a lag time after you submit a command? Responsiveness is a key feature to pay attention to.
- Clean, intuitive interface: The easier to use, the better. Residents should be able to download the app upon move-in and start using it without assistance from your community staff.
Community staff functionality
Your platform should allow community staff to perform many functions of their job from a centralized system. It should be reliable and bring to light any issues that might warrant attention. Here are some things to vet from a community staff perspective.
- Integration with property management software: This is essential. A solid integration adds an extra layer of automation, eliminating manual and in-person tasks for community managers. The best integrations will automatically sync resident move-ins and outs as well as populate resident data across multiple areas.
- Vacant unit and common area schedules: For better efficiency and lower utility costs, staff members should be able to set thermostat and lighting schedules for common areas and vacant units from the system’s dashboard.
- Monitoring battery or connectivity issues: Property staff should receive alerts when something may interfere with the ability to monitor the devices.
- Move-out functionality: When residents are removed from the system, do you have to manually reset their devices? Some systems automate this process. That means they are instantly deleted from the hub when you remove them from your system.
Buying smart home devices for your apartments might seem intimidating. If you’re looking for more guidance about getting smart devices installed at your communities, Zego can help. Be sure to download our free guide: “How to Implement Smart Apartment Technology in your Multifamily Community.”