Smart Home Setup For Beginners:
The Guide to Everything from
Virtual Assistants to the Right Security System
Let's start off with the basics. What exactly is a smart home? A smart home is equipped with technology that lets you remotely control and automate household systems like security and surveillance, thermostats, lighting, doors, sound systems, and many other connected appliances. But it’s more than just remotes and fancy gadgets. A smart home creates a unified home monitoring, control, energy conservation, ecosystem.
Automating your home doesn’t have to be an expensive, confusing endeavor. Today all you need is a few off-the-shelf products to create an easy smart home experience. Soon you’ll be able to unlock your smart door with your phone, have the lights turn on as you walk in, and have your virtual assistant brew you a cup of coffee. A robot vacuum will keep your smart home spotless while your smart thermostat will work to keep your heating and cooling bills down (you can save on average 15% on your electric bill with a smart home system!). And finally, with optimized smart home security, you’ll be able to track and monitor indoor and outdoor security cameras from your smartphone.
While Smart home technology is still in its infancy, it's still worth exploring how you can optimize your home with the existing systems and products on the market. Making your home a smart home is one of the best things you can do to drastically improve the quality of your life. Start by considering what you want to get out of a smart home set-up. And figuring that out requires knowing what different smart devices do, what the possibilities are, and how much you want to spend. Let’s jump in!
What’s the first thing I should do?
The first and most important step to making your home a smart home is to get a smart home digital assistant. The two best smart home assistants are the Amazon Echo With Alexa and Google Home in the form of smart speakers. Apple HomePod assistant is growing in popularity but as of right now, Amazon Echo or Google Home are more developed and have better overall features.
These devices are pretty similar in functionality. They are used to control the other smart devices in your home, play music, answer your questions, shopping, set reminders, and much more. However, there are some major differences you should consider for each of these devices, mainly compatibility with different products and the tiers of smart speakers.
If you get a virtual assistant that doesn’t have a built-in bub, a Smart HUB is the next smart device you should consider getting. This device allows you to automate all the smart devices within your home. It is essentially the brains of your smart home operation. It connects to almost any type of smart home device be it Zigbee or Zwave to allow for the ultimate home automation.
More importantly, smart hubs allow you to control the majority of the smart devices and appliances in your home with only one app. This makes managing your smart home much easier and less complicated without the hassle of dealing with multiple apps. We recommend the latest SmartThings HUB as it wirelessly connects and controls a wide range of compatible smart devices.
Which systems in my home can I upgrade to become part of the overall smart home system?
Adding smart light bulbs to your home is a great way to make your home smart and your home life easier. Using Amazon Echo, Google Home, or the app on your smartphone you can control all smart light bulbs via voice control or by the push of a button. You can also control and have different settings for the lighting of each room or turn lights on individually. Additionally, depending on the smart lightbulb you buy, you can light a room with any color you so choose via RGB lighting. This is a great way to change the mood of a room depending on the event or activity. No to mention these bulbs are also energy efficient and last much longer than standard bulbs.
installing a smart thermostat is a great way to automate the temperature in your home. Many smart thermostats are compatible with both the Amazon Echo and Google Home or can be controlled via their apps on your mobile device. We recommend the Nest Learning Thermostat which learns your favorite temperature settings or the EcoBee4 Thermostat, which can be used to monitor the temperature in different rooms of your home.
Replacing your normal doorbell with a smart doorbell is another great way to make your home smart and safer. What makes most smart doorbells great is that they come with HD cameras. These smart doorbell cameras allow you to see who exactly is at your front door via your mobile device. Through Alexa or Google Home, some smart doorbells can recognize your visitors and inform you that a specific person is at your door. You can also communicate with the person at your door via your smartphone. This is a great way to monitor when your kids get home, your package is delivered or see anyone who rings your doorbell. Moreover, most home invasions start with a ring of the home’s doorbell to see if anyone is home, so if an intruder tries to right your doorbell while you are away you can answer via your cell phone to deter the would-be break-in.
Smart Door Locks
Smart Door locks will save you the hassle of having to find missing or forgotten keys. It also allows you to unlock the doors of your home by using a fingerprint, entering a special pin, or by using your IOS/Android smartphone. There are many companies that provide good smart door locks, such as the Schlage Z-Wave Connect Smart Door Lock. This lock has an ANSI Grade 1 residential security rating, a built-in alarm system with 3 alert modes, and has a nice design to go along with its other amazing features.
Smart Indoor Security
Amazon Cloud Cam is one of the best smart indoor security cameras available in the market. It has the ability to capture FHD 1080p live feed with prompt motion notification. It also stores the 24-hour video footage in a storage device which allows you to watch the whole day’s video whenever you want.
Smart Outdoor Security
Smart Outdoor security cameras are essential to anyone who is serious about their home’s security. They provide a more effective field of view, better overall efficiency, and performance when compared to traditional security cameras. You can install 2 smart cameras in the front and back of your home. Or install 4 cameras with one on each corner of the outside of your home in order to have a complete view of what’s going on around you.
We recommend the Nest outdoor security camera which can record 1080p footage and comes with excellent night vision. It has a built-in microphone and speaker as well. Also, you can use the Nest app to see live footage via your smartphone. However, if you are looking for a cheaper option, we recommend the Zmodo Security Camera. It is one of the best outdoor security cameras currently on the market. Additionally, it can record 720p footage and comes with night vision which is effective in a 65 feet range.
Utilizing smart plugs is a great way to manage electrical appliances and power consumption within your home. With smart plugs, you can group and schedule your electrical devices via your smartphone, Amazon Alexa, or Google Assistant-enabled devices. We recommend the EFUN SH330W Wi-Fi Smart Plug because it is cheap, easy to install, and it works well with your smartphone, Google Home, and Amazon Alexa.
Smart Smoke Detector & Carbon Monoxide Detector
A smart smoke and carbon monoxide detector is an essential component of any safe smart home. According to research by Michigan state university, smoke inhalation is the most common cause of death in home fires. Therefore, a smoke detector can not only swiftly detect problems but also clearly notify by using clear spoken messages and sending notifications to your smartphone. There are many smart fire & CO detectors in the market but the Nest Protect Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector is the one we strongly recommend. It features an industrial-grade photoelectric smoke sensor which can distinguish between the different type of fires. The Nest Protect can also connect and communicate with other smart devices in your home including your smartphone. Moreover, its state of the art sensor enables it to ignore the false alarms and it also alerts your phone when it thinks something is wrong so you can take precautions. It also comes with some additional sensors including an occupancy sensor, an ambient light sensor, and a humidity sensor to give you the information you need about your home.
Smart Multipurpose Sensors
Installing smart multipurpose sensors is another great way to automate and secure many processes within your home. Smart multipurpose sensors can be used for both convenience and security. An example of its convenience would be a smart multipurpose sensor on a door that automatically turning on the lights when you arrive home late at night without you have to locate the light switch in the dark. Or you can simply add smart multipurpose sensors to the doors and windows of your home to provide an extra layer of security and peace of mind. We recommend the Samsung SmartThings Multipurpose Sensor. This combined with a Samsung SmartThings Hub (number 2 on this list) allows you to detect vibrations, temperatures, and when things within your home are open or closed. The small size of this sensor also allows it to fit anywhere and you can connect it to your Wi-Fi network in order to communicate with your smartphone and other smart home devices.
Smart Vacuum Cleaners
Vacuums cleaners today have become so technologically advanced to the point where they can operate on their own without the need for human intervention. High-quality smart robot vacuum cleaners come great sensors that allow them to intelligently navigate and clean your home autonomously. They also come with Wi-Fi connectivity that allows a user to control them via a smartphone or other smart devices within your home. These smart robot vacuum cleaners come with charging docks and they will even charge themselves.
Smart Garage Door Opener
Managing your garage door can be made a lot easier with a smart garage door opener. With a smart garage door opener like the NEXX Garage NXG-100 NXG, you can conveniently open and close your garage doors using Wi-Fi. You can do this via your smartphone, Google Assistant, or Amazon Alexa enabled devices. It is quick and easy to install and gives you the ability to control your garage door with a simple tap of your phone.
Smart Sprinkler System
Watering your garden or lawn is not something we remember to do regularly. However, this task can be easily automated by implementing a smart sprinkler controller. With a smart sprinkler controller, you can set your own automated watering schedules, input details such as plant type, and even sun exposure to water your lawn. Moreover, you can do this using your smartphone, Amazon Alexa, or Google Assistant-enabled devices. The Rachio 3 WIFI Smart Lawn Sprinkler Controller is one of the best smart sprinkler controllers on the market. It is fairly easy to install and its features make it intuitive to use. This advanced smart sprinkler controller not only adapts to your lawn, but it also adapts to your local weather using Weather Intelligence Plus to automatically adjust your irrigation schedule.
Smart Blinds & Shades
installing Smart Blinds and Shades is a great way to make your home more sophisticated and stylish. It allows you to automate the management of the blinds and shades within your home via the tap of your smartphone or voice control through Amazon Alexa, or Google Assistant-enabled devices. This saves you from the annoyance of having to get up every time you want to adjust your blinds and shades. We recommend using the MySmartBlinds Automation Kit to turn your regular binds into automated smart blinds.