How to Get Started With Smart Home

Getting started is a challenging part with smart home devices. In this piece, we will put the worries and doubts aside with showing you exactly how to get started with smart home. While in many ways the sheer volume of smart home products is a good thing, how about when you’re just starting out?

That choice can soon start to bog you down and leave you wondering what you should do first to automate your home.

We’re here to guide you on putting theory into practice and streamlining your home to make it smarter, safer, and much more convenient.

If you’re new to smart home technology, it pays to start off with a basic definition.

What Is a Smart Home?

Underneath all the tech, the premise of smart homes is remarkably simple.

Smart buildings are equipped with Internet-enabled devices which help you to manage and monitor the smart appliances and systems in place.

From this simple baseline, the definition of a smart home depends to a large extent on what you want from it. There’s a world of difference between controlling the TV with your voice and fully automated lighting, security, and thermostat system.

If you’re curious and still wondering what kind of things you could automate in your house, here’s a quick glimpse at some elements of a successful smart home…

How to Get Started with Smart Home

This is a very common question, and the best starting point is to consider briefly which areas of home automation would appeal to you.

Here are just some things you can control using your smartphone and an app…

  • Lighting
  • Cameras
  • Access Control and Security Systems
  • Home Theater and Home Entertainment
  • Thermostats
  • Blinds
  • Appliances
  • Irrigation

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Imagination is your only limitation with the smart homes of today. Pretty much everything you’ve seen rolled out in the movies is nowhere in real life so once you’ve had a think about what you might like to take control of, it’s time to think about the method you’ll use for control.

Choose Your Digital Assistant

Here’s how to get started with smart home, the most popular and common method is with a digital butler from one of the big three:

    • Amazon’s Alexa
    • Google’s Google Assistant
    • Apple’s Siri

Each of these virtual assistants has their pros and cons, so it’s a case of picking what works best for you.

We’ll highlight where each stands and falls so you can see at a glance which digital assistant you prefer.

Amazon’s Alexa

Since debuting back in 2014, Alexa just keeps on getting more intelligent and adaptable while Amazon’s Echo range shows no signs of fading either.

Benefits

    • The comprehensive Echo range offers a very low barrier of entry to smart home technology
    • By picking up Echo Dot, you can buy in at a very low price-point
    • 30,000 skills make Alexa the most broadly supported option
    • Plug-and-play functionality so get going straight out the box
    • You’ll benefit from Amazon’s enormous ecosystem

Google’s Google Assistant

A pocket-friendly option from the legendary Google Assistant keeps going from strength to strength. For Android users, this is the go-to choice of digital assistant.

Benefits

  • Very reasonably priced with Google Home undercutting Echo by $50
  • You’ll get enhanced AI due to the formidable search powers underpinning Google
  • Ask more questions with more chance of response

Apple’s Siri

If you’re locked into Apple’s ecosystem, you’ll be well aware of Siri, and you can now use him to take control of your smart home.

Benefits

  • Data transfer and privacy is impressive
  • HomeKit integrated into Apple mobile devices making it easier to set Siri up with your smart home accessories

Choosing a digital assistant is subjective. You’ll see, though, that Alexa has more pros than cons, Google Assistant is pretty balanced while the drawbacks outweigh the advantages with Siri unless you’re fully committed to Apple.

Once you’ve thought about which approach to take, you’ll need to consider your hardware.

Choose Your Hardware: Smart Speaker, Hub, or Both?

As you’ll see just below, you can get your smart home started with only some smart bulbs, but you’ll probably want a little more than that.

Whatever your requirements, you’ll need a central hub of some sort.

There are 3 broad approaches you could take:

    1. Smart Speaker: Using a smart speaker like Amazon Echo, you’ll be able to control a surprising number of appliances using your voice. If you know what you’re doing, you’ll be able to use your smartphone and voice commands to take charge of you while smart home so using a smart speaker alone is an entry-level option
    2. Hub: With a smart hub, you can control a range of devices from a single app. As long as you do your due diligence with compatibility, you’ll be able to build up a comprehensive smart home system centered on the best hub
    3. Combination of Speaker and Hub: Get the best of both worlds by using a hub and taking advantage of your favorite digital assistant to make your life even easier. Don’t think it needs to be expensive either.

We’ll give you a snapshot of Echo Spot and Samsung’s SmartThings hub before we move on to taking control of your smart home.

Amazon Echo Spot

One of the most straightforward ways to get started with home automation is with Amazon’s legendary Echo Spot.

With this minuscule smart speaker, you can unleash all the power of Alexa with a tiny footprint so you won’t need to worry about professional installation or costly wiring. It really is just plug-and-play.

As with most smart speakers, ironically, the sound quality is underwhelming. Fortunately, there’s cabling provided so you can use you, regular speakers, instead.

How you use Alexa depends entirely on what you want from your smart home so take full advantage of all this versatile digital butler has to offer.

Whether you’re ordering an Uber or a pizza, answering the video doorbell or monitoring your baby, using Echo Spot allows you to take full charge in-app.

If we want to get started with home automation fuss-free, why not road test Echo Spot?

Benefits

  • Tiny form measuring just 4 x 4 x 3 ½ inches so pop this smart speaker anywhere
  • Integrates well with smart home appliances so take control using Alexa and your voice to simplify your routines
  • Use cable provided to connect to your home speakers and enjoy superior sound

Samsung SmartThings Hub

You’re spoiled for choice with smart home hubs and our endorsement of Samsung’s SmartThings here is not to say it’s your only option. It’s certainly one of the most flexible and capable gateways out there, though.

With no costly professional installation, you can connect to other compatible devices as you build out your smart home. Both Zigbee and Z-Wave communication protocols are supported.

By combining this hub with a smart speaker, you’ll be able to control all devices using nothing but your voice and rapidly make your smart homes dreams a reality.

You can also receive alerts to your smartphone in the event of any security breach layering peace of mind on top of convenience.

Benefits

  • Wirelessly connect to a broad spread of smart home devices
  • Streamline your devices using routines easily triggered in the morning and at night time
  • Integrate with your preferred voice assistant to take control of your smart home with voice commands

Connecting To Other Smart Home Devices and Taking Control

So, once you’ve determined whether to use a smart speaker, a hub, or both, it’s time to think about how you can actually control devices and systems in your smart home.

We’ll now briefly touch upon some of the myriad practical ways in which you can benefit from smart home technology starting simple with lighting, and then working your way up.

Smart Lights

With lighting accounting for 11% of all residential electricity consumed in the US, it’s easy to see the appeal of smart lighting.

If you automate your lighting based on occupancy or natural daylight, you can rapidly make savings on rampant utility bills.

Beyond energy-efficiency, making it look like someone’s home even if you’re away on business or vacation is central to home security. Automated lighting can be a serious weapon against would-be intruders.

You can also take smart lighting outside and further ramp up your smart home security with floodlights and alarms.

If you’re hesitant about the hassles of installing smart lighting, start simple.

Screw-in bulbs and outlets that allow you to control devices using just your smartphone are a stress-free way to introduce smart lighting.

If you feel more ambitious, you can think about smart switches.

Smart Switches

You can choose from dimmer switches or on/off switches if you want to update the intelligence of your lighting.

We’ll show you a fine example of each so you can see whether smart switches appeal.

Philips Hue Wireless Dimmer Switch Remote

If you’re looking for a simple way to dim your lights remotely in a battery-powered and highly convenient unit, this dimmer switch from Philips is a must.

While controlling smart home appliances from your phone is great, sometimes you just want to hit the lights. Grab the simple remote and take charge even if you can’t find your smartphone.

Ramp up functionality further by picking up the Philips Hue bridge, and you’ll never look back.

Benefits

  • Control the brightness of your lights from a distance
  • Battery-powered, so no costly installation to worry about
  • Use the Philips bridge to get even more from the experience

Insteon Remote Control On/Off Switch

Coming in 3 colors to coordinate with any décor, this remote control on/off switch from the industry giant Insteon is hard to beat.

You’ll get the flexibility to deal with any type of load from fluorescent lights through fans and motors.

If you want to use Alexa or Google Assistant, you’ll first need to invest in an Insteon hub and also a device like Echo or Google Home.

The wall plate is not included, and while you can use any paddle plate, Insteon recommends this screwless wall plate for just a few dollars.

For a simple way to get going with smart home technology, an on/off switch makes a solid start.

Benefits

  • Remote control of all load types
  • Streamline your devices using routines easily triggered in the morning and at night time
  • Integrate with your preferred voice assistant to take control of your smart home with voice commands

Smart Cameras

Nest Cam Indoor Security Camera

Benefits

  • Wirelessly connect to a broad spread of smart home devices
  • Streamline your devices using routines easily triggered in the morning and at night time
  • Integrate with your preferred voice assistant to take control of your smart home with voice commands

Smart Thermostats

Thermostats hook up to the Internet through WiFi enabling you to control the heat in your house from your smartphone.

The leading benefit of smart thermostats is the way you can slash right back on wasted energy. By detecting if anyone is at home, your smart thermostat will turn off the heating or air conditioning so you can save on your utility bill while also doing your part for the environment.

While Nest is often almost a default choice, Honeywell also serves up a great smart thermostat if you want to get started the easy way.

Honeywell Wi-Fi Thermostat

Benefits

  • Set-up, programming, and scheduling is all super-simple
  • Intelligent thermostat gets to know your household, so you’re delivered with the perfect temperature for you and your family at all times
  • Lockable and customization with a color touch screen so stop your kids from playing with the temperature

Smart Locks

Nest x Yale Lock with Nest Connect

Benefits

  • Wireless connectivity to a broad spread of smart home devices
  • Streamline your devices using routines easily triggered in the morning and at night time
  • Integrate with your preferred voice assistant to take control of your smart home with voice commands

Smart Home Entertainment

From controlling your 4K TV with voice commands through asking Alexa to help choose some of your favorite music, the world’s your oyster with smart home theater and smart home entertainment in general.

Getting started is as easy as purchasing a smart speaker and you can radically transform your down-time with a highly efficient smart home entertainment system.

Final Word

As you can see, once you strip away the science and take the time to frankly analyze your needs, it’s really very easy to get started with home automation and it doesn’t need to cost as much as you think.

If you’re curious, why not invest in a smart speaker? If all else fails and you don’t really get on with your digital assistant, at least you’ll still have a speaker so it won’t be a wasted purchase! Interested in learning even more about smart home devices? Check out the smart home blog for even more tips in automation you home.