How To Build A Smart Home System: Step By Step
Many homeowners have when they hear about the idea of having a smart home; then it conjures up images of the futuristic living. The technology used in home automation is relatively new, and most people are not familiar with it.
Having a smart home has in the recent past improved the comfort, security and the convenience of many homes. In this day and age, smart home systems and devices have become more encompassing and impressive than before.
For most people who have installed smart homes like me, the smart system is now no longer just about asking Alexa to play your favorite music. There have been strides and improvements; you can now use smart devices to grill chicken in your kitchen, I use it to turn the lights on and off and also vacuum the floors.
Having a smart home is now no longer for fun like it used to be perceived, it is used to fulfill very substantial needs and tackle serious tasks like becoming the home security system when you are away.
What is a smart home?
Before we dive into how you can build a smart home and all that you need to start, I think it would be of importance if first I would make you understand what a smart home is in case you have no clue.
The smart home is syncing the devices in the house and systems with responsive sensors or schedules. Using smart home technology is mainly possible if you are using modern devices like smartphone applications and also wireless internet.
Any dumb devices that need a switch to turn on and off, a timer or remote control are not considered to be smart devices. A smart device activates according to a program or an input that you feed it with through a wireless device.
What do smart homes control?
There are six categories of home automation technology that most people have ventured into. You may opt to go smart in one area of the category or go for full automation just like I did.
The categories are: security and access control system, energy management, home appliances, lighting/ window/ appliance, and healthcare/ assisted living systems.
Here is a list of what you may consider for automation
- Alarm and security systems
- Interior and exterior lighting
- Pool, hot tub and steam bath temperatures
- Door and window locks
- Detecting gas and water leaks
- Home theater systems and speakers
- Yard irrigation
- Turning off or lowering water heaters and HVAC
- Shades, blinds, shutters, and curtains
Best smart home devices hands down!
- Amazon Alexa
- Wink Hub
- Best smart speaker: Amazon Echo 2nd generation
- Best smart lights: Philips Hue
- Best light switch: TP-Link
- Best thermostat: Ecobee3
- Best security camera: Blink XT
Alexa is a cloud-based voice service for Amazon that is being used by millions of devices from Amazon and other third-party manufacturing companies. When you use Alexa, you can be able to create a natural voice experience which gives the user an intuitive way of interacting with technology.
Amazon Alexa is among my best pick because I have come to like the way it works even in my house and has enabled me to build a voice and add new capabilities to Alexa by integrating it with other devices.
You can create Alexa skills or capabilities which will enable you to make Alexa become smarter and make tasks to be done even faster and easier. I use the Alexa Skills Kit for building my skills.
I also build engaging voice experiences and reach many people through my Alexa enabled devices. I also use the SDKs and APIs to build music skills and kid-friendly skills which help in entertainment and information.
I have also been able to create voice first, visual Alexa skills which adapt well in different device types by using the Alexa presentation. I have also been building games that connect to Echo Buttons.
By using Alexa, every aspect of my smart home is very easy to access and also control. I can now speak to Spotify and also use it to turn off my lights.
Many other products also have been made to integrate seamlessly with Alexa because their ecosystem is very prevalent. I connected my Philips Hue smart lights to them so easily, and they work just fine.
If you would like to know if the device you have bought is compatible, just look for ‘Works With Amazon Alexa’ tag. Alexa integrates well with other smart home devices, and this makes them the best choice if you are starting a smart home. You can download it here on Amazon for free. You can also get free Alexa commands here for free.
Wink Hub 2
The Wink Hub 2 is touted as the first smart home hub that is designed to be used by the mainstream consumer. You can choose any different smart products and brands and merge them seamlessly using wink hub 2. They do not have any brand loyalty.
Finding the right bud is one of the most important things in building a smart home because it is the brain of ant smart home.
Wink hub 2 has a thread support and also a security chip which ensures that the software is safe. It has scheduled tasks and robot that enable completion of multiple tasks with a single tap.
One thing that you will regularly notice when using this wink hub 2 is the speed which is almost eight times that of the original wink hub. This is because it has a large amount of RAM that enables it to finish tasks faster.
Wink Hub 2 also supports smart home protocols that include Lutron ClearConnect, Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, Bluetooth LE, Kidde and more.
When I was looking for a hub, I was looking for a hub that would integrate smart home with kitchen and the wall appliances. I have come to realize that wink hub 2 is the best option. You can have a look at them here on Amazon.
What is the Amazon Echo?
If you are still learning about smart homes, then you may want to know more about the Amazon Echo.
Amazon Echo is a type of smart speakers that are developed by Amazon Echo devices connect to the Alexa voice-controlled assistant that responds to names like Alexa, Echo, and Computer.
What Do I use My Amazon Echo For?
I like the fact that I can use the sound of my voice to do much more than just talking. Thanks to Amazon echo, I can now search the web, play music, shop online, control my many smart home products, get weather reports instantly.
I can do all these while my smartphone is in my pocket.
Much more, I get to order pizza at the comfort of my couch plus thousands of other things.
Who Should Get the Amazon Echo?
If you are out looking for the best Alexa voice control platform, then the amazon echo is the best alternative you can have.
Just like my case, I wanted something that would also enable me to interact with my speakers and other smart home devices much easier.
I wanted something that had voice control so that I would then end up not tethered to my smartphone. We are in a generation that is quickly transitioning and pressing smartphone switches and flipping light switches is a thing of the past.
The game changer right now is allowing Alexa to have control of all of your things. This is even more satisfying than I had imagined. You can have a look at their prices here on Amazon.
Why Choose Smart Home Lighting?
By having smart lighting, it is a very keen way that will make it look like you are home, even when you are not. This is one of the main reasons why we wanted a smart home lighting. If this is your main aim, then you would want it to become a reality. Your smart lights should run on a schedule that is specific so that it hides the fact that you have things automated.
They can be set on an auto timer with sunrise and sunset. A few months ago we left for eight days on a trip to Disney, and we set the lights to automatically turn on in the evenings. We received the funniest phone call while away from one of our neighbors. ‘Are you guys back, we thought you had gone to Disney?’ that helped us to get a good chuckle out of it.
Things To Think About With Smart Lights
Do you just want to control indoor lighting or do you also have outdoor lighting that you would like to control as well? Most people like to have the option of controlling their outdoor lights. If you are looking for nothing more than just some added security, then you would like to check my recommendations for smart outdoor lighting.
How many lights do you currently have that are not connected to a switch in any way? This will come to play later on as we discuss your options in the smart home plugs section. But let’s be on point and dive into the three main sections of smart home lighting.
How Long Do Philips Hue Bulbs Last?
The one thing that made us choose the Philips Hue bulbs is how long they can last. My wife had a problem with the lights we had previously as they were not working properly and were not long lasting. But unlike the other traditional bulbs out there, Philips hue uses LED bulbs which are very popular now because of their long-lasting and reduced costs.
Philips Hue bulbs are made to last for up to 15 years or 15 000 hours. The Philips Company claims that each of the bulbs uses 80% less power compared to the traditional incandescent bulb.
You can have a look at the Philips Hue smart bulbs here on Amazon.
Best Light Switch: TP-Link
I would say that this is one of my favorite solutions just right out of the box. If you are that person that doesn’t have problems with installing some hardware, then probably you will feel the same.
If previously, you had already made some investment in buying and installing LED bulbs in your home, then you have found a very cost-effective option that suits you.
This will turn the LED lighting that you already have into smart lighting. These will help in providing a great experience because you just replace the existing light switches with some smart light switches.
This was the best solution that helped the recessed lighting that I mentioned earlier in my finished basement. This is because I don’t know any person who, in their right mind, would go ahead and spend a lot of time and money to replace ten recessed lights with LED’s and also want to do it over again at a much higher cost.
The other option is dimmable smart light switches. You will find that there are quite a few of them out there in the market, and mainly this depends on the situation you are in. For my case, I replaced a dimmer switch for my kitchen and used Kasa TP-Link dimmer switch and have been using it. I’m very happy with it.
For ease of use and control, you should consider buying smart light switches that you can control from your phone. You can have a look at the TP-Link HS200 here on Amazon.
Best Thermostat: Ecobee4
Why Did I Buy Ecobee4 Thermostats?
The main reason that made us decide on buying these thermostats is that we had an upcoming trip to Disney land in January. Considering that we stay in New England, you must have thermostats that work well, or else you will have frozen pipes and with other residential issues.
When we were setting them up, we encountered a few common issues which are not hard to figure out. When we had finished installing them, all of the thermostats seemed to just run on well for a few days without having any hitches. This even gave us the time to set them up with our Alexa so that we could have voice control.
I am completely amazed at the Ecobee customer service and also the quality of their product is very amazing. Sometimes you may get a defunct product, and if the company that manufactured it is more than willing to own up to the mistake and have good care for their customer like Ecobee, then they end up getting good reviews like this.
If you would like to have a look at the current prices of Ecobee thermostats, then you can check them here on Amazon.
Best Security: Blink XT
I can’t say enough of how much I love these cameras. I have two of the Blink XT outdoor cameras, and I have just ordered the third one. I find that they are so easy to set up and also easy for day to day use.
The video quality of the Blink XT is just awesome, more than what one would expect for a security camera, but at the same time, at night it can become a bit challenging to see things that are at a distance. The nighttime video is pretty grainy, but it has the IR illumination that makes it good enough if you trigger any recording at night.
If I compare it to my other smart home cameras which I had tried before, it is on par with other high-end 720p cameras. Even a little better than them.
You can have a look at the price of the Blink XT security cameras here on Amazon.
Building a smart home is not an easy process as many would think. It requires time and money for it to happen.