Smart home technology is constantly evolving which makes it difficult to remain informed of the risks and rewards of owning a smart home. Because the technology is changing so quickly, and because there are so many variables from home to home, it can make it tough to sort through it all. Here are some basic considerations.
Because of the multiple electrical components that create entryways into a home, a Smart Home is more susceptible to lightning damage. A lightning strike radiates a strong electromagnetic field, which can be picked up by wiring or refrigerant lines in a home, producing large voltages that can damage equipment. Lightning can enter through equipment that is plugged into an AC outlet if the outlet is not part of a multi-port protector, through antennas or other signal input connections, via downstream signal connections such as a TV or theater center, or device controllers.
There are steps that can be taken to protect smart homes and make them less susceptible to lightning damage. However, there are also trade offs to each of these solutions.
Shoring up the Protection Envelope
The protection envelope requires that the hard wired signal be protected with filter or surge protection. Because of the multiple entry and exit points created by each smart home component, protection must be present for each component, as opposed to a single surge protector. This can get very expensive, and it is difficult to ground bonds after construction. In addition, reception can be affected by the various filters sometimes causing performance issues.
Converting to Wireless
This option greatly reduces the risk of surge damage. However, reception can be an issue, and there can be problems with components communicating with one another. In addition to the added expense and space requirements associated with installing a wireless system, your system can also be more susceptible to hackers.
It is not unusual for our engineers to access a damaged smart home system only to determine it was not related to lightning or surge as initially suspected or reported. There are a few questions that can be asked that will assist you in determining the source of the problem.
- How often did you use the device?
- When was the last time you used the device prior to the storm?
- When did you notice the unit was not working properly?
- Have you performed a recent software upgrade?
- What specifically is the device doing or not doing that is different from the way it performed prior to the lightning strike?
There are several factors to keep in mind when assessing smart home claims.
- Smart Houses are a relatively new technology, so development continues.
- Systems become obsolete very quickly.
- Compatibility problems exist between pieces of equipment.
- Software and upgrades can affect the systems.
- Investigations are time consuming and sometimes require more than one person.
- Systems and especially infrastructure can be expensive.
The engineer can provide a determination of cause. Was the failure related to a lightning strike, wear, or poor installation? As part of the analysis, the engineer may:
- Document each piece of equipment reported to be damaged by the lightning strike.
- Examine how the affected devices and equipment are interconnected.
- Examine the grounding system at the house to see what was the likely to have been effective.
- Determine if it is a power problem or a signal problem.
- Provide an alternate for either power, signal or receiver for the subject device.
- Once it is determined that the system operates with an alternative signal or power, the engineer then inspects surge protectors, wiring and outlets, and connectors.
For more information on our various services, visit our Forensic Services page.