The Internet of Things technology has made smart home automation possible. Now you can control separate systems via your smartphone, from lighting to your fridge to your security cameras and even speakers. But the thing is, setting up your smart home can be quite an expensive endeavor. The good news is that the convenience you get from automating your home is tremendous. In this post, we show you how to create your own smart home, even on a shoestring budget.
If you’re just setting foot in the waters of smart home automation, lighting is the entry point. Some high-end lighting systems require a central hub to work. However, you'll find others that work without a central hub and are still capable of interacting with other smart devices. Smart bulbs from TP-Link, Cree, and LIFX, for example, communicate over Wi-Fi, while others, such as the latest Philips Hue Bulbs, communicate via the Bluetooth radio found in your smartphone. If your home’s lighting is set up in the ceiling and controlled by a switch on the wall, you can replace the wall switches with smart switches from brands like TP-Link, Ecobee, Leviton, and Lutron, to mention a few. If, on the other hand, you use lamps for most of your lighting, a smart plug like Wemo Mini or Lutron Caseta allows you to turn your lamps on and off via a smartphone app.
When it comes to entertainment, you can make your own home adapt to your audio preferences using smart speakers. The Amazon Echo Series and Google Home series are the leading home automation devices when it comes to smart speakers. Smart speakers are designed to be used to control other smart devices. For example, you can say “turn on the TV” or “dim the lights”, and your smart speaker will relay the information to the corresponding devices. Most brands are now integrated with support for at least one of these assistants:
- Amazon’s Alexa
- Google Assistant
- Apple’s Siri
- Bixby by Samsung
- ThinQ by LG
If you're just starting out, the Nest Mini is a good option to try. Not only is it easy to set up, but it comes with amazing features as well. For instance, it can adjust the speaker's volume in response to the level of the background noise. It also quickly responds to voice commands.
We mentioned earlier that you’ll need smart plugs to convert some of your electronics and appliances to be controlled remotely or via voice commands. The plug inserts into the standard electrical wall outlet and comes with one or two front or side facing outlets that can be controlled independently. A smart plug like Currant WiFi Smart Plug offers real-time energy monitoring, comes with multiple outlets on a single plug, and even recommends on/off schedule based on your usage. When purchasing a smart plug, be aware of the shape and size. A plug like TP-link Smart WiFi Plug with Energy Monitoring, for example, is bulky and might block the second wall outlet. On the other hand, Eufy Smart Plug Mini may offer a strong and reliable connection but lacks the monitoring capabilities.
Most homes require a heating and cooling system to deal with the cold and hot seasons. With a smart thermostat, not only are you able to remotely control your entire home’s temperature, but also save on energy bills. The devices have the ability to detect when you're home and when you’re away so that the HVAC system can operate only when it's needed. Modern smart thermostats now come with sensors that you can install in rooms you occupy often. This allows the thermostat to control the temperatures based on where you are in the house, rather than the entire house. The Ecobee Smart Thermostat comes with voice control powered by Amazon Echo speaker, allowing you to give voice commands. It also has a remote room sensor that helps to eliminate cold and hot spots in your home. The Ecobee Smart Thermostat is designed to function as a hub for a broader smart home or home security system. A great alternative is the Nest Thermostat, which is also equipped with brilliant features. Among other things, it can turn itself down when you're not home to avoid wasting energy on an empty house.
Home Security Systems
The use of smart doorbells continues to grow in popularity and are becoming the perfect addition to your smart home. They are easy to install and use, plus you can get affordable brands. Google Nest Hello is a great example of a smart doorbell that you can buy right now. Setting it up is a breeze, and the device is reliable and accurate. Most smart doorbells you’ll find in the market offer a live video feed of the area outside your front door, allows two-way communication so you can talk to a visitor before opening the door, and sends timely alerts to your smartphone even when you're away. When choosing smart home doorbell brands, consider options like subscriptions. Ring and Nest both require you to subscribe to their paid plans. Eufy Video Doorbell, on the other hand, doesn't require a paid subscription. It's an affordable option and also easy to install. Keep in mind that most smart doorbells work with Google Assistant and Alexa, meaning you can sync them with your other smart devices, like the smart speakers.
Smart Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
While conventional smoke detectors are ideal, what good do they serve if no one is close enough to hear them? With smart smoke detectors, they sound an alarm, as well as send a notification to your smartphone, alerting you of the imminent danger. Some models like Nest Protect incorporates emergency lighting that can help you find your way out of a smoke-filled home.
Are you ready to turn your home into a smart home? We’ve listed some of the common devices to help you get started. You may opt to get a smart home hub that syncs all your components or get smart devices that work independently. Before purchasing a smart home system, be sure to check if it offers third-party support and which devices can work with it. You may also want to factor in your budget. Just keep in mind that each brand offers a unique array of features, and it all boils down to your needs and preferences.
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