They say there’s no place like home, especially if that home knows what your musical preferences are. The era of the smart home is finally here. But if you’re like most people, you’re not entirely sure where to start, and you also don’t want to spend a lot of money.
There are lots of moving parts involved in the process of setting up your smart home the right way and just as much techno-jargon. However, once you’ve finished reading our intro guide to smart home technology, you’ll know what it takes to make your home smarter and without a massive budget.
Choose your smart home ecosystem
In an ideal world, every smart home device would communicate fluently with every other IoT (Internet of Things) device in your home. Unfortunately, that’s very far from being the case. You currently have 3 basic smart home infrastructures to choose from:
- Google Home
- Amazon Alexa
- Apple HomeKit
You first need to choose which one of these is best for your circumstances and then check that any devices you purchase are compatible with it.
The two most popular are Google Home and Amazon Alexa simply because of the number of third-party smart home products that will connect to them.
You need full Wi-Fi coverage
Every square foot of your living space will need complete and reliable Wi-Fi connectivity for your smart home to behave in the way you want it to. The first element of that is checking with your ISP (Internet Service Provider) that your router is suitable for use with smart devices, and if not, ask them about an upgrade.
But a great router can only take you so far on your journey to smart home happiness because there will be at least one room in your home that’s a total Wi-Fi “dead spot.” You can get around this problem by adding other devices that either expand the range of your Wi-Fi signal or help you build what’s called a mesh network.
A smart speaker (voice assistant) in your bedroom is a great example of how a mesh network operates — it extends your Wi-Fi coverage, ensuring there are no “dead spots” anywhere in your home.
The temptation is to rush out and buy all the smart home devices or appliances you want at the same time.
It’s a good idea, though, to start small when it comes to creating a smart home, especially when you’re still figuring out what devices are compatible with your ecosystem of choice, i.e., Google, Alexa, etc.
The world is your oyster if you’re building a new home because you can plan your smart home network weeks or months in advance. But most of our readers will be moving into a previously loved home so will need to work with the current structure.
Here’s a list of what you can add to your smart home system to build it one step at a time.
These come in all shapes, sizes and can even change color, allowing you to set the perfect mood lighting for a meal or just chilling out in your reading nook. They’re also highly affordable and can be added a few at a time, as you can budget for them.
Another major perk is that they’re straightforward to set up – it’s as simple as unscrewing your current bulb and replacing it with your new smart bulb. Popular brands are Hue by Philips, TP-link, and LIFX.
In time you can upgrade from smart lighting to smart switches, giving you even more control of your home lighting.
Ring has done an exceptional job of making the smart doorbell something that every homeowner wants – kudos to their marketing department. A video doorbell is more than just a lifestyle accessory, though, because it also acts as a security camera and a deterrent of sorts. Criminals will think twice before approaching a house they are be recorded at. This type of smart home device also allows you to check who’s outside your door before ever opening it.
You should already have one or more smart speakers to allow you to use voice commands to interact with your smart home via Google Assistant or Alexa. But you can also add a smart display to either control your smart home using a visual interface, check on your smart doorbell or security cameras, or even just video chat with friends from wherever you are in your home at the time.
Again, Amazon and Google lead the field with their smart display technology for general smart home usage, so your choices are limited to one of the two.
Being able to control the heating and cooling inside your home remotely goes beyond mere convenience. Using a smart thermostat means you can actively lower your carbon footprint. The latest thermostats can even recognize where you are in your house or apartment and only heat or cool that specific room. You can also command these devices (something called routines) to activate your HVAC at the same time every day.