How to Smart HomeJune 18, 2019
Having a Smart Home is easier than ever in 2019. I remember when I was growing up and my parents were building their first home, the “Smart Home” was on display and all builders were trying to upsell customers 10s of thousands of dollars to turn their homes “Smart”. Fast forward to 2019, and there are a lot of affordable options that are plug and play. I have put together this article to help you, my first “How to” article, How to Smart Home.
Firstly, here are a few things to ask yourself before Smarting up your Home.
- Do I own any Smart Home compatible devices already?
- Do I have a decent internet connection?
- How many rooms do I want to integrate?
- What is my budget?
The first thing you will need is a Smart Hub, think of it as the brains of the operation. A Smart Hub will be the foundation of your set up. It ties together all the “Smart Things” in your house and controls them from one central point. Sure you can still create a Smart Home without a Hub, but trust me when I say it makes life easier. Here are a few decent hubs that won’t break the bank.
Samsung SmartThings Hub 3rd Gen
If you take a look online you will find that the Samsung Smartthings Hub is across the board one of, if not the best Smart Hub on the market today. With over 40+ partnering brands, this hub is capable of connecting to most Smart Devices. It can connect voice assistants, lights & switches, speakers, cameras, sensors, and the list goes on. You can program routines that correlate with your daily activities, like going to bed, going to work, and returning home. It also integrates with Alexa and Google Assistant.
Amazon Echo Plus
A while back I wrote a review on Amazon Echo vs Amazon Echo Gen 2. Since then the Echo hasn’t changed much. It still acts as a virtual assistant that you can ask almost any question, and its App store is 50,000 and counting. If you plan on having a simple Smart Home set up, Alexa can control compatible smart lights, switches, sensors, door locks, and more. Echo Plus also includes a built-in temperature sensor as a bonus
Google Home Hub
Google claims that you can control over 10,000 Smart Home devices using Google Home. It is the direct competitor to the Amazon Echo range, and in all honesty, it’s the best Assistant on the market. Amazon has a similar product in the Echo Show, but the Google Home Hub is a better-looking device and implementation of the touch screen is also better. If you own a few Android devices, naturally the Home Hub integrates more effectively than iOs devices.
Smart Door Bells
Most people will start with a Smart Door Bell, gone are the days on the classic “Ding, Dong”. These doorbells will increase security measures in your home when you aren’t there and interact with other smart devices. Some doorbells have the ability to notify you when there is someone at your door and communicate 2 ways with them. It’s a handy gadget that isn’t necessarily a “must have”, but can add to a Smart Home setup. Here is an article I wrote about the Best Wireless Doorbell earlier this year for a more in-depth look.
Ring Video Doorbell
There is no doubt that you have come across Ring before if you have been looking for Video Doorbells. Ring has a pretty good reputation and they make quality products. As far as Smart Home capabilities, Ring doorbells can sync up to Google Home or Amazon Echo. You can also get a live feed on your PC from anywhere in the world. You can set up IFTTT (If this, then that) rules, for example, when someone rings the doorbell Ring will lower any speaker volume, pause the TV and send a notification to your phone.
The Nest Hello is one of the smarter Video Doorbells, it can actually recognise people before they press the bell. It will then send you a notification saying “Marvin is at the Door”, pretty neat. It’s only compatible with Google Assistant, so if your Smart Home Hub is the Google Hub, you should be fine. This bell requires a permanent wired connection, once wired in you will get a consistent stream of video.
August Doorbell Cam
The August Doorbell Cam has the best Smart Home integration of the bunch. It works with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Home/Assistant, Honeywell, Nest, IFTTT, Xfinity, and Wink, to name a few. The Doorbell has a sensor floodlight built in, this comes in handy at night and can even replace any existing floodlights, kill 2 birds with one stone.
One of the easiest ways to turn on and off non-smart devices is to add some smart plugs into your home. Most smart plugs require a hub and a WiFi connection to work effectively. Connect Smart Plugs to Appliances, Lamps, TVs, Consoles, Fans, and anything else you would like On/Off control over. When you have set up Smart Plugs via a hub, you will be able to set up automatic and triggered routines. For example, you can set up a good morning routine that will turn on the coffee machine, turn on the lamps in your room, and turn on the radio. Possibilities are endless.
Teckin Smart Plugs
The Teckin Smart plug is one of the smallest Smart Plugs you will find. Its Works with Alexa and Google Assistant, has Schedule feature, a Timer function, Energy saving mode, Works with IFTTT, and Works with Smart Life APP. It’s a simple as plugging in the Smart Plug and then plugging in the device you want to control, Pretty straight forward. You can also use this plug without a hub if you wanted to.
Amazon Smart Plug
If you have an Alexa driven Smart Home set up its hard to go past the Amazon Smart Plug. Amazon has one of the easiest setup processes. If you own a 2nd Gen Echo device, the plug will be instantly recognized by Alexa. Warning – This plug will not work with Google Assistant. I am not usually one to promote Amazons minor electrical products, but the Smart Plug is hands down one of their best offerings.
TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug Lite
Tp-Link have always made some excellent networking peripherals, and the Kasa Smart Plug is no exception. This Plug works with Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, Nest, and IFTTT. You can also use this plug without a hub, all you need is the companion app and a 2.4ghz WiFi connection. It is compact in design and feature packed for its price range.
Smart lighting isn’t really that smart, it’s more or less lighting that can be controlled from one central point and/or react to certain conditions. Most decent smart lighting products will connect via your phone or a hub. Some smart lights have everything fully contained in a bulb, and some have them in a lighting strip. Here are a couple of options for your Smart Home set up.
Philips Hue Play
I’m all for ambient light over direct light, Philips is the best when it comes to ambient lighting. The Hue range is quite extensive but I’m loving the new Hue Play. It can interact with movies, music, and games via smart integration. It works with Amazon Alexa, Apple Homekit, Google Home, Razer, Nest, IFTTT, Logitech, Xfinity, and Samsung Smart Things. You will require the Hue Bridge Hub to get the full functionality out of the Philips Hue range. The hub isn’t a necessity if you have 1 or 2 bulbs, but If you plan on connecting multiple Philips Hue bulbs it makes sense to buy the Hue Bridge.
LIFX Wi-Fi Smart LED
One of LIFX main selling points is the ability to use full functionality without a Hub or Bridge. You get 90% of the functionality you would get with the Philips in a more affordable package. The LIFX bulbs work with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit and Microsoft Cortana. They are simple to set up and have over 16 million color combinations.
Sengled Smart LED
Sengled makes a similar product to the Philip Hue line at a more affordable price. You still require a hub to take advantage of all the features, and you can use Alexa or Google Assistant as voice controls. You can also create scenes and schedules to create ambient light from over 16 million colors like the LIFX line. The Sengled Smart LEDs, in my opinion, are great value and can really step up your smart lighting game on a budget.
Other Smart Things
Samsung POWERbot R7040
Convenience makes anything cool, and there is nothing cooler than a robot cleaning your floors automatically. There are plenty of Robot Vacuum options out there, and they can get pretty expensive. The Samsung POWERbot R7040 is a beast of a robot vacuum that won’t break the bank. Best of all the POWERbot can connect to a Smart Hub and act in conjunction with other smart things in your home. Being a Samsung product, you can control it with Bixby, Google Assistant, and Alexa.
This Vacuum is supposed to deliver 20x the suction of similar products. The onboard camera and multiple sensors map out individual paths for each room and show you on your smartphone where it has cleaned. You can connect to it via Wi-Fi to control it remotely or by voice. Like other robot vacuums, it knows when it is running low on battery and will dock itself and return to work when it is charged. It is a great Smart Gadget that keeps your home clean and tidy.
Assure Lock Touchscreen Deadbolt
The Assure Lock Touchscreen Deadbolt is another one of those convenient Smart Devices that will make any visitors feel like they have stepped into the future. This lock completely replaces your traditional deadbolt with one that can interact with a Smart Hub, Smart Phones, and Amazon Alexa. A light up keypad makes stumbling around for your keys in the dark a thing of the past.
You access this lock in multiple ways, via a physical key, a custom 4-8 digit pin code, and through your Smart Phone. You can even give your friends and family custom codes and monitor the lock remotely through its App. Set up IFTTT and routines via your Smart Hub to automatically lock and unlock your door when certain conditions are met.
Summing It Up – How To Smart Home
Hopefully, this article has helped guide your choices when it comes to putting together a Smart Home set up. The Smart devices I mentioned above should all work in harmony with each other. There are a lot of options out there, and the options mentioned above are some of the best. This How To Smart Home article has been one of the most enjoyable to write, and I hope to revisit this every year moving forward.
If you have any questions on Smart Home set-ups, comment below and let me know