How to Build a Smart Home
In the past, the concept of a ‘smart home' was reserved for the realms of science-fiction, but now, through rapid advancements of technology, we're living in an age where having a smart home is no longer a dream – it's a very real possibility.
Smart home technology has come an enormous way over the years, from rudimentary attempts at automated devices to entire ecosystems of appliances that can all be controlled and adjusted from the palm of your hand.
Now, thanks, to mobile technology and advancements in areas like smart lighting, smart heating, smart audio-visual entertainment, and smart security too, it's possible to enjoy all the advantages of your very own connected home.
Being able to unlock your own front door from your smartphone, have the lights turn on or dim automatically throughout the day, or even being able to vocally ask your very own voice assistant to make you a cup of coffee can help to make your life a lot easier and more enjoyable each day.
However, many people aren't quite sure where to start when it comes to smart home technology. After all, there are a lot of different smart home appliances and devices out there, and it can feel a little overwhelming at first to try and get going with smart home technology.
Fortunately, setting up a smart home really isn't as tricky as it might seem to start with. This guide will introduce you to the basics of building your very own smart home, as well as covering the various components and categories that you might be interested in.
The Basics of Building Your Smart Home
Many people aren't quite sure where to start when it comes to building their own smart home, so let's begin by looking at a general overview of where you should start.
One possible method you could choose is to buy a lot of different components, including smart bulbs, sensors, speakers, and more in one big package and then hooking them up to a central hub that can be connected to your phone for total control of your home.
Indeed, this is what many people imagine when they picture the ultimate fantasy of a true ‘smart home'. However, in practice, buying all of those different components and installing them one by one can be something of a challenge, as well as being quite costly too, both in terms of time and money.
What's more, many people don't actually need their entire home to be filled with smart products from top to bottom, and there are certain categories of products that might be of more interest to you than others.
So, one of the best methods for getting started with building a smart home is to invest in just a couple simple products to start off and learn how to use them to begin with.
From there, you can gradually expand your smart home collection of devices and appliances and build your smart home from the ground up, so to speak. There are a couple of things to bear in mind, however, when starting off your smart home.
Starter Tips for Smart Homes
Firstly, since these devices typically all communicate via wireless Wi-Fi technology, you'll need to make sure that you've got a great Wi-Fi router installed in your home and a solid internet connection too. If the internet is too weak or unreliable and goes down often, you might struggle to get the results you crave out of your smart home set-up.
Similarly, if you have a very large home, with smart devices spread out across multiple floors, spaces, and rooms, one central router might not be enough to power the whole system and you may need to invest in mesh router systems with additional hotspots and connection points that can be placed strategically around the home to ensure that all of your smart devices are online at all times.
Another key aspect to take into account when looking at smart home devices is that there are quite a few big brands out there. Nest, Ecobee, Ring, Philips, Wink, and SmartThings are just a few examples of the big names in the smart home world, and while many of the top brands aim to offer wide levels of compatibility, it isn't always possible to get devices of different brands working together.
You therefore need to take care when buying smart home products from different brands to make sure they can work together, or at the very least that they're able to connect to the same central hub, if you choose to have one. This will help to make it a lot easier for you to control individual devices with minimal fuss.
Finally, it's important not to rush into any decisions with smart home devices. These devices are designed to be used for long periods of time and become integral aspects of your day to day routine, so it's recommended to choose them with care, selecting the brands and products that you can rely on.
Reading reviews, comparisons, and guides can help you choose the very best smart home lights, cameras, alarms, speakers, thermostats, and so on, allowing you to make smart buying decisions to build up your smart home in style, feeling confident and content with the choices you make.
Another aspect to bear in mind in relation to smart homes is that this is one of the fastest-evolving industries out there, with major new developments taking place all the time and all kinds of exciting new devices set for release in the months and years ahead. Keeping up with the latest news, releases, and updates will help you future-proof your home and enjoy the very best of today's technology.
Smart Home Devices
When it comes to setting up a smart home, it's important to note that there are a huge range of different devices, appliances, and systems out there to choose from. This is where a lot of people can start to feel a little lost or intimidated, confused by the sheer quantity of different smart home products.
However, once you figure out the main key categories of smart home solutions, everything becomes a lot easier, and there's no need to feel confused or overwhelmed by the options available. Even though smart devices can be very different in design and function, they're all created to make your life easier and your home more comfortable to live in.
Below, you'll find breakdowns of some of the main categories of smart home technologies, covering everything from smart speakers and lights to smart thermostats, doorbells, locks, and more. Each of these devices can offer a range of unique benefits for homeowners to enjoy, and each one can be found in a range of forms, with various designs, styles, brands, and prices to choose from.
One of the first smart devices many people choose to buy is a smart speaker, and it's easy to see why. Devices like the Echo Dot 2 and Echo Dot 3, for example, are immensely popular, allowing users to simply talk to their very own voice assistant, like Amazon's Alexa or the Google Assistant and make use of voice commands to control other smart devices, ask questions, play music, and so on.
Amazon and Google definitely dominate this market, but other brands like Lenovo and Ecobee are making waves in the industry too with their own innovations. Even Apple is joining in with the smart speaker world through its HomeKit brand, giving new users a lot of different options to choose from when it comes to buying a smart speaker and making use of its many features.
Regardless of the brand you opt for when buying a smart speaker, you'll be getting a multifunctional device that can truly feel like your very own home assistant, ready to help you out, answer questions, give you reminders, set alerts, and even just tell you what the weather is like outside too.
Part of what makes smart speakers so popular is the fact that they're so multifunctional. They're great to use on their own, ready to provide you with news, music, communication, and more, and can work wonderfully well when paired with other smart home devices too. For instance, you can connect an Echo Dot device to your smart doorbell or lights and use the speaker to adjust the functions of these other devices.
Another brilliant benefit of smart speakers is the sheer variety of options you can choose from. There are some basic budget models that can handle most rudimentary tasks with ease for a low starter price, as well as far more advanced speakers with their own high definition displays, like the Echo Show 5 and Echo Show 8.
These kinds of devices take the smart speaker experience even further. They cost more money, but the advantage of having a big display allows you to watch videos, read recipes, catch up on recent news articles, have video calls with your family and friends, and much more besides. With such a wide range of smart speakers out there, you can easily find one that fits your needs just right.
When you're just starting out with building your own smart home and want to find a good, ‘beginner-friendly' option to ease you into this world of new technology, smart lighting is a fine place to begin.
Many people choose smart lights and bulbs as their entry point into smart home technology, and it's easy to see why. Smart lights are easy to understand, simple to set-up, fun to use, and can really help to demonstrate the potential of what a smart home system can provide.
Put simply, once you get some smart lights at your home, you'll be able to see exactly why so many people are fascinated by smart technology, and it can serve as a great gateway towards other smart devices and appliances like doorbells and security systems too.
So what exactly are smart lights? Well, brands like Philips Hue actually produced specialized ‘smart bulbs' that can connect to a central hub, a voice assistant, or your own phone, allowing you to simply and easily adjust lighting as you like without needing to touch any physical switches on the walls in any way.
Smart lights often come with a range of options, allowing you to adjust brightness levels, color temperatures, and even create your own custom mood lighting or ambiance sets that can be set to activate at different times of day.
You could, for instance, program your smart lights to gently dim as the evening continues or reduce the color temperature to something more gentle and easy on the eyes before bedtime to help you sleep.
This can be a really fun way to see what smart tech has to offer and you can play around with a range of smart lighting settings and plans to impress guests and change the way you think about lighting in general. You can even install smart switches that can connect to your Wi-Fi network for easy operation via voice assistant or through an app on your phone.
The thermostat is one of the most important devices in any home, and it can also be one of the most frustrating to use. Time and again, families around the world have argued over adjusting the thermostat or struggled to program it correctly to get the right temperatures at the right times and truly get their home heating systems under control.
This is where smart thermostats like the EcoBee3 and EcoBee 4 can come into play. Like other smart devices, smart thermostats can be connected to your home's Wi-Fi networks and synced with apps and voice assistants for convenient, comfortable control.
They allow you to make changes to your thermostat at any time, from any place, as long as you're connected, and this can improve your lifestyle immeasurably. Indeed, many smart home enthusiasts say that the smart thermostat is one of the most useful devices they've ever invested in, and part of what makes smart thermostats so useful is how much they can help you save.
Statistics show that a lot of households spend more on heating than they really need to, and a big part of this is because they fail to program their thermostats efficiently or they waste money heating rooms that they aren't even using. What's more, thermostats can sometimes be positioned in inconvenient locations, forcing the home's heating system to work extra hard to heat up certain spaces.
The best smart thermostats are able to change the game completely, giving you the control you need over your home heating system to make real savings on your utility bills and stop spending quite as much money every month. Over the course of a single year, users are amazed at how much they can save after installing a smart thermostat, and these devices really do pay for themselves in the long run.
So what do smart thermostats do? Well, they can come with a range of different features, depending on the model you buy. Of course, they allow you to adjust heating and cooling schedules to suit your needs and lifestyle, as well as making temperature adjustments on the fly, but they go much further than that.
Some smart thermostats are actually able to detect when you're home and when you're not, adjusting the functionality of the HVAC system accordingly to suit the presence of absence of people in the property.
They can also be paired with sensors in different rooms around the house, allowing the thermostat to automatically heat the spaces that actually need to be heated, rather than wasting energy warming up rooms that aren't being used.
They can help to eliminate cold spots around the house too and you can even set-up in-depth programs, like having your bedroom heated for an hour before you actually go to bed each night on a set schedule, making the space nice and toasty for when you arrive. This, once again, will help you save money, heat the house more efficiently, and cut down on wasted energy too.
Another category of smart devices that holds a lot of appeal for many experienced enthusiasts and first-time buyers alike is smart locks. As the name implies, smart locks can be fitted to doors around the home and controlled in a range of different ways, perfect for those who want to enhance their home security.
Schlage and Kwikset are two of the biggest brands in the field of smart locks, but there are various other brands getting involved in the industry too, leading to a wide and varied range of products for users to check out.
Some smart locks are relatively simple, designed to allow the user to lock or unlock their door using their smartphone or securely-generated digital codes, but others come with a range of extra features and advantages.
With some smart locks, for instance, you can actually generate ‘guest keys' for visitors to your home to use when you're not around. This can be ideal if, for instance, you're getting a delivery but won't be home and want to have the package dropped off safely indoors, or if you're asking a friend or neighbor to stop by your house while you're at work and need to grant them entry without giving them a physical key.
Some smart locks come with fingerprint detection too, letting you enter your home simply by placing your finger on a sensor, while many more offer alternative means of keyless entry. Some are able to detect your identity as you approach, for instance, and open up automatically, and others will lock themselves as you leave.
You can also pair smart locks with smart doorbells, which usually come with built-in cameras to let you see who is at the door and then adjust your smart lock settings if you'd like to let them in. The possibilities are endless for smart locks, and while conventional locks can be picked, high-tech smart locks are much more difficult to break down.
As mentioned above, it's also possible to find smart doorbells, and these devices, like smart lights, are often classed among the most popular and the most commonly-purchased items in the smart home technology market, with brands like Ring and Arlo leading the way.
In the past, doorbells were relatively simple devices. They allowed a visitor to your home to press a button and alert you to their presence. Unfortunately, they weren't able to tell you who was at the door, they couldn't alert you if you happened to be out of the home at the time of the visit, and they offered no real security advantages whatsoever.
Smart doorbells, on the other hand, are very different. These doorbells, like the Arlo Video Doorbell, typically come with built-in cameras that monitor the space around your front door or porch, actively tracking and even recording the scene in front of your home and then letting you view the feed at any time via an app or connected device like a smart speaker with a display.
This way, when someone comes to the door and rings the doorbell, you'll be able to instantly see exactly who they are. Even if you're not home, you'll be able to take a look outside the front of your property and get alerts about any visitors like delivery workers, neighbors, or even would-be intruders.
Smart doorbells can therefore serve as excellent forms of home security, as they don't need to be pressed or interacted with in order to activate. They're always on, always tracking and always recording in most cases, so even if someone is sneaking up to your property and trying to peer through the windows or avoid detection, the doorbell will be able to get them on camera and let you know what's going on.
These devices, like the Ring Pro and Ring 3, can make a world of difference for the average homeowner. With a smart doorbell fitted outside your property, you'll no longer need to rush downstairs or peer through peepholes to see who's at the door when someone walks up to your home. In fact, you won't even need to be home in the first place to greet guests or keep an eye on the place.
What's more, since these kinds of doorbells come with video recording technology and can be such useful parts of a home security system, they also serve as a real deterrent for potential thieves and intruders, making your home less likely to be targeted for break-ins and burglaries.
Smart Security Cameras
With rising numbers of crimes taking place in many cities and suburbs all across the globe, it's never been more important for homeowners to take action and invest in strong security measures to keep criminals at bay or help to catch them if a crime does occur.
This is where having a smart security camera can prove to be so useful. These cameras can be mounted both inside and outside your property, positioned in just the right places to keep an eye on your front yard, back yard, doors, garage, other points of entry, and so on, tracking every square foot of space and catching any potential thieves red-handed if they dare try to break-in.
Security cameras have been around for a while, but smart security cameras go much further with their features and functionality, offering so much more than the outdated cameras of the past. Instead of having to worry about wiring these cameras up to screens elsewhere in the home or checking memory cards to see what they've been recording, you can simply connect them to your home's Wi-Fi network.
This way, you can simply use a device like your Android or iOS phone, tablet, smart TV, or smart display to see the live feed from your security cameras at any time, without any delays or inconveniences whatsoever. Some cameras can also be moved around, as well as offering night vision recording, programmable action zones, and other useful features to enhance their functionality too.
Having a smart security camera or set of security cameras around the home can help to provide some much-needed peace of mind for modern homeowners, especially those who have busy lives and spend a lot of time away from the house, either at work or traveling, as you can simply load up an app on your phone and view the camera feeds even on the other side of the world.
There are other uses for these cameras too, such as mounting one in a baby's room so that mom and dad can keep an eye on their little one in the night, or integrating them with your doorbell so that you can view and speak to house guests from anywhere you like.
When we think about smart homes, one of the devices that we can often overlook is the TV. A lot of the focus tends to go on other aspects and devices like lighting, doorbells, locks, and so on, but it's important to note that TVs can be smart too. Indeed, smart TVs are some of the most useful audio-visual items in the modern world and can make a real difference to your entertainment experiences.
Smart TVs are being made by a wide range of brands like LG, Samsung, Hisense, Insignia, Sharp, Sony, and TCL, among many others. They come with the technology required to connect your home Wi-Fi network, opening up many more doors when it comes to watching your favorite shows, movies, and programming.
Smart TVs are able to connect to vast application stores and marketplaces, letting you download apps for streaming services like Netflix and Disney+, specialized sports services like ESPN and NFL, kids channel packages for your little ones, and so on. There are countless apps available nowadays, and smart TVs are able to do so much more than conventional televisions.
What's more, many smart TVs can be paired with smart remotes, which can be used to control a wide range of devices all over the home, not just the TV! Investing in a smart remote can allow you to change channels and adjust volume with one button and then dim the lights in your living room with another. Or you can simply control everything via your own hub or through your voice assistant, such as Alexa.
You can complete the smart audio-visual experience with a smart audio system. Spread out around the house, these audio systems can be easily connected to your smart TVs and other devices, ready to play audio from your shows and movies or stream music from online services like Spotify too.
Additional Smart Devices
The categories listed above cover some of the most popular and talked-about aspects of smart home technology at the moment. However, there's much more to smart home products than lights, TVs, and locks. If you dig deep enough, you can find all kinds of additional smart home systems and devices.
There are smart fridges, for instance, that can adjust temperature automatically and at your command to suit different foods and conditions, smart sprinkler systems that will automatically activate based on the weather and time of day, window shades and blinds that can close in an instant without any manual effort required, and much more.
From smart vacuums that can take care of the cleaning when you're not home to smart toasters that can give your bread the perfect crispy crunch in the mornings. There are even smart power outlets that can effectively make anything ‘smart' that you choose to plug into them, from Christmas lights to phone chargers.
There are even some highly useful smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that can be connected to your phone to actually let you know if a fire has broken out or carbon monoxide levels are getting too high when you're not actually in the home. These devices can be far more useful than their conventional counterparts, proving once again just how effective smart technology is in today's world.
It's only when we start to look into the additional categories and types of smart device that we see just how broad the spectrum of smart homes can truly be. From smart toothbrushes and hairbrushes to smart beds, toilets, garage doors, egg trays, and even pet feeders too, the options are almost limitless, and companies across the globe are constantly looking for new ways to push the boundaries of smart technology even further.
Once you've got some of the core basics of your smart home set-up, like a smart doorbell and smart lighting, you may want to begin exploring the additional smart devices out there and seeing what they have to offer. The options are varied and numerous, and you might be surprised by some of the gadgets you find in the smart home sections of shops and sites.
The Benefits of Smart Home Technology
Countless people are experiencing the unbelievable benefits of smart home technology each and every day, yet many people are still unsure about smart home devices and hesitant about investing in this kind of tech. To help you understand exactly what smart appliances and devices can do for you, here are just some of the top benefits to take into account:
- Time-Saving – One of the top advantages of smart home technology is the incredible amount of time it can save you on menial chores and trivial tasks. Want to turn on a lamp or change the thermostat without even needing to be in the same room? Need to see who's at the door without actually opening it or get the shower to the right temperature at the click of a button? You can do it all and more with smart home technology.
- Adaptable – Following on from the previous point, another big advantage of smart home technology is how flexible and adaptable it is, ready to adjust and adapt to meet you needs and suit your specific lifestyle. In today's world, this is especially important, as many modern people lead exceptionally busy lifestyles and are looking for practical, efficient solutions wherever they can.
- Helpful – Of course, another key benefit of any kind of smart home system is just how helpful it can be. Take voice assistants and smart speakers as an example. These devices can actually answer questions you have throughout the day, program alarms, set reminders, take notes, make calls, help you with all kinds of simple tasks, and so much more. Having a full smart home set-up is like having a whole bunch of assistants all ready to help you lead an easier and more comfortable life.
- Safety – Another big benefit of smart home technology, especially in categories like door locks, doorbells, and camera systems is security. Home invasions, burglaries, and thefts are still all too common in many parts of the world, but having a smart home set-up can not only prove immensely useful at catching culprits if anyone does try to break in but also deterring would-be criminals from even approaching your property in the first place.
- Efficient – One of the great things about having devices and appliances like lamps, TVs, showers, and more all hooked up to a central smart system is that these devices can be automatically programmed to save energy, only turning on at set times, whenever they're needed. This reduces the risk of wasted energy and means you don't have to worry about accidentally leaving devices running when you don't actually need them, for instance.
- Cost-Saving – Tying into the previous point, smart home devices and systems can also help to save you money too. Yes, you'll need to cover the initial costs of these devices and their installation, but once everything is all up and running, the savings can start to roll in as you use less energy, save on utility bills, and maximize the efficiency of your heating, electricity usage, gas usage, and so on.
- Future-Proofing – Last but not least, we have to pay attention to the simple fact that smart homes are the homes of the future. This kind of technology is becoming a bigger and more significant part of our lives with every passing day, and there's no sign of this progress slowing down. In the future, smart homes are likely to become the norm, and investing now in this technology will help you better understand it and make smarter decisions as the years go on.
Setting up a smart home is a great move, and it's no surprise to see millions of people across the world investing in smart home technology like lights, locks, cameras, TVs, and more. These devices make it easier than ever to go about your daily life, enjoying enhanced levels of comfort, convenience, and practicality.
With a smart home system of your own, everything is so much simpler, from taking a shower and grabbing a cup of coffee in the morning to keeping your property safe and secure from would-be thieves and intruders. There are countless advantages and so many different devices out there that can help you live your smart home dreams.
What's more, this technology is only going to get better with time, and we're already seeing incredible improvements as the weeks and months go by from the leading brands in the industry, along with many smaller, emerging smart home companies beginning to stand out from the crowd with their exciting innovations.
If you're ready to start building your own smart home, we hope that this guide has helped with laying down the foundations and provided you with the information you need to demystify the sometimes confusing world of smart home tech.
The more you know about smart home products, the easier it will be to choose the ones you need without any problems, so be sure to read reviews, comparisons, guides, and more to get the full lowdown on smart technology and turn your home into a smart home.