Lifestyle Remodeling

How To Dip Your Toe Into Converting To A Smart Home

Home automation how toAre thinking about converting to or making your house into a Smart Home? If you are uncertain about completely handing your life over to home automation to function on autopilot, you are already making a good decision, begin slowly (there is a lot to it). The options can be overwhelming. Converting to a Smart Home can be easy or complicated, here is how to proceed with caution and dip your toe in slowly.

Start by defining what you want to automate and exactly how smart (automated) you want things to be. Here are the most common and easiest places to start:

  • porch lights
  • exterior lighting
  • interior lights
  • heating and cooling
  • exterior door locks

For your lighting needs it is easy to simply replace specific switches in your home or enhance wall outlets to turn lights on and off at specified times. Simple programable light switchAutomating processes you use every day such as exterior porch lights is a no-brainer. We did ours ten years ago with Intermatic timer switches, they work but are a colossal paint in the ass to program. Honeywell makes a better version.

Infinitely more user friendly are the modern options, most work via your home WiFi and are quite simple to install.

Smart light switchSmart light switches from Wemo allow you to control lights in your home from anywhere and program useful schedules.

Wemo Mini Smart Outlet

Even easier, the Wemo Mini Smart Plug allows lamps or other home appliances to be programed to turn on and off via an app. Yippee we can replace all those chunky old wall timers which quit or become noisy over the years. Worth noting, the Wemo products do not require a hub or subscription. (What’s a hub or subscription? Keep reading.)

Lutron Smart Lighting systemIf you want to take your lighting a step further and like the idea of creating scenes or setting the mood in your home, plus scheduling and controlling while away, Caséta by Lutron could be your choice. Lutron is a trusted name in lighting control, supplying the consumer with the latest smart technology for the home. This system, however, does require a hub. If you want only a couple of the Lutron switches at $50-ish a pop, another $99 for a hub might not make sense.

Automated heating and cooling is not only convenient, but it can help lower utility costs. Many of us may have the early digital programable thermostats, but today’s models are much smarter.
Honeywell Nest and Ecobee TheromostatsThermostats range from simple programing by hand to WiFi enabled versions like the Google NEST Learning Thermostat which learns your daily habits and is accessible via a smartphone or tablet to the latest Ecobee Smart Thermostat which “detects both temperature and occupancy for smarter comfort and further savings,” and works with voice commands. Check out these reviews.

Door locks are a popular option for making a home smart and most are fairly simple to install. Smart locks can be super convenient and secure allowing you give specific people access to your home, some can even send notifications.

Schlage smart lockSchlage Connect™ Smart Deadbolt with Century Trim, Z-Wave Plus enabled is easy to install and simple to use. The beauty of this is it works without WiFi, which is helpful if your doors are too far from your WiFi. This works via Bluetooth but you need Z-Wave, a technology which works outside of WiFi and enables smart products to talk to each other.

August Smart Lock August makes many of the best rated Smart Locks which top almost everyone’s list. The Smart Lock Pro lets you know your door is locked, locks it automatically when you leave, can be controlled remotely and with voice commands. August smart locks works via Bluetooth or with a WiFi bridge (shown) which enables connectivity with other smart home systems. August uses two factor authentication and two factor-encryption to ensure the highest security.

Kevo smart lock by KwiksetKevo Traditional (also comes in a contemporary style) by Kwikset is one of the coolest Bluetooth smart locks around. Like having a door nanny, Kevo sends notifications so you know who’s coming, going and when. No punching a keypad either, the Touch-to-Open™ Kevo smart lock is powered by your smartphone and Bluetooth.

Smart home security options are too broad to discuss here, but here are some useful links:

You should begin to notice a pattern develop, lots of this smart technology uses WiFi. How is your WiFi? It is helpful to consider how many things in your home are already using WiFi.

Additional techno-garb you need to know before creating a smart home. 

Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, or Google Home? If you already love a certain technology, smart home products which can be controlled by your favorite system makes things much easier. Every iPhone comes with Apple Home installed on every as does the iPad and Apple TV. If Alexa is your pal, consider smart home products she can talk to. 

WiFi can be an issue, especially if you have a power outage. I consider our NEST thermostat a failure because of this, when a power outage stopped our thermostat from communicating, while we were thousands of miles away on vacation and our hometown experienced a deep freeze. We decided to get a generator from AlltimePower to deal with the power outages.

A backup generator will keep the power to your home running in the event of a storm on natural disaster. This will maintain the power to your home security system to give you peace of mind. If you need one for your home, read this predator generators reviews to choose the perfect for your home or business.

SmartHomeReviewsEh breaks this down brilliantly for us non tech people. If you have spotty WiFi throughout your home you may need a Mesh Router to extend the serviceable area of your WiFi throughout your home.

hub or smart bridge creates one point of communication for the home automation network and is supposed to keep your WiFi from slowing down. However these are necessary with certain products at an additional expense. The Ambient has a nice post on this here.

The whole subscription thing is where smart technology lost me a few years ago. Know if your selected products need require a subscription to unlock all the features of the product you are interested in. Cha-ching, there goes another monthly subscription fee and the product ends up costing twice as much as intended.

Read the fine print before you make a purchase and for smart home technology this is where having a plan before making any purchases will be very valuable. Know what you want and what you’ll need to make it happen.

Reed Kleinman from Smart Home Solver has great YouTube content I encourage you to watch regarding smart home technology. He has reviews and comparisons worth checking out before you decide to smarten up your home.

A smart home is more than a feel good add-on. Before you think voice commands and home automation might be a luxury you can live without, consider how useful these items can be to someone with limited abilities, or someone who has mobility issues. A smart home may be a game changer, giving people back a level of independence.

Smart home technology has many benefits. There are also quite a few nuances which can limit (crappy WiFi) your ability to achieve full enjoyment of the vast functionalities available with smart home technology. We’ve offered you a few suggestions to help you dip your toe in slowly to converting to a smart home. However you begin, have a plan, and there is no substitution for research! All this technology comes at a price: it is not foolproof and its not inexpensive.

Comment below if you have any further tips on smart home technology.