Here is a Beginners guide to Smart Home Automation!
Beginners…Listen Up! Setting up a Smart Connected Home with this beginners guide to Smart Home Automation can help make it really simple for you!
The allure of the smart home is strong. You can unlock your smart door lock with your phone, walk into your house, have the lights turn on automatically, and ask your virtual assistant to make you a cup of coffee.
When you’re not there, a robot vacuum will clean the place, your smart thermostat will dial down the heat to keep costs down, and you can monitor everything from your phone with indoor and outdoor security cameras.
The actual reality isn’t quite as magical as we’ve seen in various commercials, however, there’s no simple, singular solution (at least, not yet) that can flawlessly automate your entire house.
Things are at least better than they once were. Home automation used to be a complex endeavour requiring networking, scripting, and DIY skills.
Modern smart homes are simple enough that just about anyone can set one up. With a few off-the-shelf products, you can control most of the gadgetry in your house from your smartphone, or even better with a simple voice command. But where do you start?
Building the Foundation of Your Smart Home
Many smart home devices including notable products from Nest, Ring, and similar companies have their own apps from which you can control their basic functions.
Other devices are more generic, using popular standards such as Z-Wave which are Bluetooth-esque wireless protocols for smart home devices to communicate with a hub such as the Wink or Aeotec’s Samsung SmartThings Mutli protocol Smart Hub. You control those devices through the hub’s app instead.
Some products fall into both categories: You can use their apps or a larger smart home platform. But some platforms, such as Insteon and Apple’s HomeKit, limit you more than others as to which devices you can use.
With so many different products in so many ecosystems, building a smart home can feel like an overwhelming logic puzzle.
However, as with any task, you can make it easier by breaking it down into smaller pieces. We recommend starting with one or two gadgets and building from there as you become familiar with how the products work.
Maybe you really like the idea of turning on your lights with your voice, or perhaps you want to be able to lock your door from your phone. Pick a category from the list below and do a bit of research on the available devices you’ll probably find that you can narrow down the field considerably by the features that appeal to you and the compatibility a particular device has with other platforms.
A lot of people start with a smart home security device or several, and sometimes graduate to more sophisticated systems. A smart home security system connects to your WiFi network so you can monitor and control your devices using your smartphone and an app. Entry-level systems usually include some door and window sensors, a motion detector, and a hub that communicates with these devices using one or more wireless protocols (Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, Zigbee, or a proprietary mesh network). You can add extra door, motion, and window sensors to provide coverage for your entire house and build a comprehensive system that includes door locks, garage door openers, indoor and outdoor surveillance cameras, lights, sirens, smoke/CO detectors, water sensors, and more.
For your first few devices overall, try to shoot for products with the widest compatibility you can find, so you can build up your smart home without worrying about future conflicts. Here’s a rundown of the key players in the major smart home categories:
- Lights: Smart bulbs let you control individual lights or groups of lights from your phone and set up different “scenes” with specific brightness levels and colour temperatures, so you aren’t flooding your eyes with blue light at the end of the day. They can even automatically turn on and off based on a number of different triggers. As an alternative to bulbs, you can use smart switches to control the lights already built into your house.
- Thermostats: With Smart thermostats, you can adjust your A/C or heating based on time of day or by when you arrive home. Setting up multiple sensors around your house will allow you to see the temperature in more than just one room.
- Locks: Smart locks vary: Some allow you to lock your doors from your phone, some can give a friend or family member temporary access, and other unique options even let you unlock your door by merely touching it with your finger.
- Doorbells and cameras: Smart doorbells contain cameras so you can see who’s at the door and ignore those pesky solicitors. Doorbells can also integrate with cameras from their parent companies, so you can create a whole system that detects nearby motion, sends you alerts when you aren’t home, and saves recordings in the cloud for later access.
- Security systems: Cameras are just one aspect of home security. For those looking for a full system with door sensors, indoor motion sensors, and a siren, kits from companies such as the Yale Smart Alarm Kit can monitor your entire home for break-ins. Some systems, even let you self-monitor, dispensing with the link to emergency services so you can keep tabs on your house without a monthly fee.
- TVs and remotes: You may not think of your home theatre as part of a smart home, but it is especially when you connect a smart remote, which can control multiple devices at once (including lights, shades, and other smart devices) and integrate with Voice Assistants for easy, hands-free control.
- All kinds of other stuff: This is just the tip of the iceberg. Dig deeper, and you’ll find smart sprinkler systems that water automatically based on the weather, window shades that close with the touch of a button, robot vacuums that clean the house while you’re gone, kitchen appliances you can operate remotely, and smart outlets that can control just about anything that plugs into a wall.
How to Control It All
As you grow your smart home, you’ll probably want to look into getting a hub so you can integrate your devices with one another. The Fibaro Home Centre and Vera Plus Home Controller Hubs are easily the most popular options. They both offer a simpler, easier-to-use interface, but the Fibaro Home Centre is much more powerful under the hood if you like to tinker, they work well with iOS and Android, though, so they’re pretty much platform-agnostic.
Both also boast wide compatibility with different smart home devices, though they aren’t all encompassing, nothing is. So take a look at their compatibility pages (Fibaro & Vera) before you buy.
Voice assistants are also a great buy early in your smart home journey. In my opinion, there’s nothing better than being able to control your lights, air conditioner, and TV with your voice.
As you add devices, you may want to look into advanced controllers such as the Fibaro Swipe Pad which put a panel on your wall or are easily portable that can control many of your smart home devices, even those compatible with differing protocols, from one place.
Again, don’t assume you need to buy everything at once. Start with a couple of devices, and you’ll find yourself learning which kinds of integrations are most useful to you. Think about the pain points in your day rather than just grabbing every device you can get your hands on.
From all of us at Smart Home Direct we hope you have enjoyed reading this Article on the Beginners guide to Smart Home Automation!