What should I consider when getting started with smart home or home automation?
Here are the first 5 steps to get started…
- Determine what technology you will invest in.
- Figure out which smart home hub supports what you want to do.
- Start to replace devices that you use most often
- Think about which smart speaker technology you want to buy into.
- Grow your devices as you can afford them.
Determine what technology you will invest in.
There are many protocols (electronic languages) that devices speak. They could be z-wave, zigbee, wifi, insteon, etc. Devices that speak the same language can talk through a common interface to your hub and often directly to each other.
A couple of things you will want to consider is what kinds of devices are available and what hub will I be using to control them. You don’t necessarily need to stick with a single protocol. However, it is common that devices within the same protocol can talk with each other and react in groups.
One last thing to think about for lighting, specifically, is whether you will replace bulbs or switches. This might especially come into play if you are a renter vs. a homeowner. I will dig more into this question in another article.
Figure out which smart home hub supports what you want to do.
Depending on which technology you start with, there may be a requirement for a specific HUB. For example, if you went with Phillips Hue, you will probably start with their starter kit which comes with a hub that speaks to their bulbs. It will also come with a mobile app to control those devices via their hub.
That may not be the end of the road, however, as you may want to start getting into some smarter routines to control your devices on schedules or as a reaction to a sensor device like a door opening. For this, you might need a hub that can a bit more like SmartThings. The SmartThings hub can be a kind of super-hub. For instance, it can control z-wave and zigbee naively, but can also interface to other vendors hubs to control those devices.
Start to replace devices that you use most often
If you’re like most people, you cannot afford to deck out your entire home or apartment with smart devices. You will have to build these up over time. Therefore, think about which devices you will use most often. Very likely this will be some lights. Pick the most common ones to automate first. You will get the most convenience from these and you can start to see if home automation is something that appeals to you.
Think about which smart speaker technology you want to buy into.
There are two majors players at this point: Amazon Echo and Google/Nest. I can’t say that one is better than the other. Therefore, it might come down to other factors. Perhaps you are bought-in to the ecosystem of Amazon or Google. You might have a lot of Amazon Fire devices. You might have Chromecasts, Android TV and Android Auto that you use regularly. This might sway you more. Amazon has a bit of a lead in this category so it might have a slight advantage in number/types of devices that work with it, but it is pretty close.
Grow your devices as you can afford them.
As mentioned previously, most people cannot afford to outfit all of this at once. Start to plan out your priorities. Most people will start with lights, but there are many other smart devices to play with; sensors, AC outlet controls, thermostats, garage door controls, locks, alarms systems, etc. There is certainly a convenience factor to many of these devices, but most of all it is fun to see what you can come up with so go have fun!