I waited a long time to try automating my home. I constantly asked myself, “What’s so hard about getting up and flipping a light switch?” But after researching some basic home smart products and getting my hands on an Amazon Alexa, I decided to give home automation a try. While the process was time-consuming, it was more than worth the investment.
The great thing about creating a smart home system is that it’s modular, meaning you can add in new devices or software at any time. More good news: device makers tend to make their products platform-agnostic, which gives users the ability to employ Apple’s Home app, Alexa by Amazon, or Google Assistant to control their home.
While plenty of all-in-one packages are available and work well, I decided to start with three devices that seemed pretty straightforward—smart plugs, a smart thermostat, and a smart lock. Starting with lighting products is an easy way to get comfortable with the technology, and starting with one product can be a bit easier on your wallet.
To get started, make sure you have a strategy. Are you tackling just one room or your entire house? Do you know the devices you want to control with your voice or phone? Do you know which platform you want to use? That said, the first question you should ask yourself as you develop your strategy is: What are you planning to automate? Once you answer this question, you can wade through the crowded field of solutions to determine which solution is best for you, and to focus on how you want your automation strategy to come to life.
Finally, it's imperative to make sure you have a reliable Wi-Fi network – you don't need a brand-new router, but the connection needs to be stable and fast for things to work smoothly.
PICK A HUB
To get started, you'll need to settle on which hub you're going to use. Consider trying out all the hub options you have at your disposal and pick the one you feel most comfortable using. iPhone users may find Apple's Home app intuitive, but Amazon's Alexa might be a stronger candidate if you're looking to control your home through voice commands. The most common hub options are Apple's Home app, Amazon's Alexa, Google Home.
Because home automation is a continually evolving field, it's essential to make sure that new products on the market are compatible with your home automation system. Do your homework to make sure any device you add to your smart home is compatible before making a purchase.
I initially purchased a Yale-brand deadbolt, but after an unsuccessful attempt at installation, I discovered the deadbolt wasn’t compatible with my metal door edge and door frame. After doing some additional research, I determined an option from Schlage would work, as individual components were removable, which would allow it to work with the doorframe.
Likewise, if you’re purchasing a smart thermostat (like a Nest), make sure your HVAC system will work. Brands like Nest have a compatibility test on their website, so take the time to understand if the device will work with your system. Many smart thermostats can’t be returned once the box has been opened.
GET TO KNOW YOUR SMART HOME
Once you have your smart devices installed and working with your hub, the possibilities are endless. You can create schedules, create unique voice commands, or continue to add more devices as you work to automate your home completely.