Home automation technology is not new. However, now it’s more affordable for the average Joe than it was decades ago. Through the Internet of things, you can customize, control and automatize your security system, lights, appliances and more. Whether you’re new to the world of smart homes or you’re looking for some fresh ideas to add to an existing system, this guide is for you.
Table of Contents
A Few Smart Home FAQs
If you’re about to take that leap into home automation, you undoubtedly have some questions. Here are the answers to the most common questions asked by newcomers.
This website is supported by readers. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
What Exactly Does the Phrase “Smart Home” Mean?
A smart home is a house that contains one or more items, such as lighting, televisions, or appliances, that communicate with each other and remote controllable via a smartphone or Internet-connected device. This type of communication and connection is known as the Internet of things.
What Are the Benefits of Home Automation?
There is no doubt about it. The main benefit of home automation is the convenience it offers. Once a smart home system is set up, it takes the press of a button on a phone or a laptop to change a setting. At the least, you can program your smart devices to run on a schedule or from the information from their sensors, which automatizes their operation.
Some gadgets even send data feeds to your smartphone. This feature comes in handy if you need to monitor energy usage, home entry, and other activity.
What Is a Smart Home Protocol?
While Ethernet is a wired protocol, most people prefer wireless smart protocols like Z-Wave, ZigBee, and Bluetooth. One way to think of a smart home protocol is to compare it to a language. Each protocol speaks its own language. Every smart device in a house that’s compatible with a certain protocol can communicate with each other, allowing them to work in lockstep (for example, the living room light turns on when the front door opens).
What Is a Hub, and Do I Need One?
In a multi-device smart home system, some devices may run on one protocol while others run on another protocol. There are smart home hubs and app-based hubs. A hub lets you mesh all the devices to work on the same system, so you can use a single interface to control all of them. With a hub, there are few limits as to the brand of smart gadgets you can connect on a single system.
There are setups that don’t necessitate the use of a hub because the system is either designed to be hub-free or app-controlled. If you want an alternative to a hub, you can use IFTTT, or If This Then That, applets to control and automate your gadgets online.
Are Smart Home Systems Secure?
All technologies come with an inherent risk. However, there are actions you can take to secure your system against hackers. The most important step is to safeguard your home’s Wi-Fi network. Some people download and install a virtual private network or VPN. You should also encrypt your router and promptly update it.
Home Automation Ideas
Ready to get started but can’t decide where to begin? Whether you want to make sure your pets are fed, make your stereo intuitive or protect your home from intruders, you’ll find something in this list of home automation ideas that are perfect for you.
Security systems are arguably the most popular starting point for smart home newcomers. You can install motion sensors on all the exterior doors and the first-story windows of the house. You can activate the alarm system remotely and receive notifications on your smartphone when one of the sensors is triggered.
Do you remember the scene in “Home Alone” when Kevin deterred Harry and Marv by making it look as if there was a party going on in the living room? You can pull off a similar concept without the puppet wires.
By creating a virtual boundary via geofencing, installing light sensors (more on that below) and tying in your entertainment system, you can set it to make the lights and television turn on when somebody crosses that preset boundary on your property.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
We don’t need to tell you that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are must-haves for any home. In fact, some insurance companies either require homeowners to have them or discount their insurance rate.
Some of these alarms send a push notification when it’s time to replace the batteries, which means no more aggravating beeps. They also alert your smartphone and the local fire department if they detect smoke or a high level of carbon monoxide. Depending on the detector, you can get a package that connects to ceiling sprinklers.
Trust only goes so far. If you keep a safe full of valuables at home, you want that safe to remain untouched when you aren’t home, especially if there is a babysitter, housekeeper or dog walker who comes to your house regularly.
This is where vibration sensors come in handy. If somebody attempts to break into your safe, the sensor will email or text you. This technology is also great if you have a liquor cabinet and teenagers.
Entry Door Sensors
You can use entry door sensors as part of a comprehensive home security system or by themselves. As far as smart technology for doors is concerned, you have two choices. There are motion sensors, which we briefly discussed above. When someone comes to your door, you can get an email or text alert.
There are also contact sensors. With a contact sensor, the sensor will sound an alarm noise and notify you when the door opens.
Do you have latchkey kids or simply want your door to unlock itself when your hands are full? With a smart lock, you can keep track of who enters and exits your home. If you enable Bluetooth on your smartphone, the door will unlock as you approach it. You can even lock and unlock it remotely or hand out a temporary access code to your mom or your neighbor down the street.
There you are, enjoying a lazy Saturday morning in bed when someone rings the doorbell. You can install a video doorbell system and see whether it’s worth getting out of bed to answer the door. Some smart doorbells allow for two-way communication.
If you use a motion-activated surveillance camera, you can receive alerts and view who is at your door in real-time; this is excellent home automation technology to have if someone in your home has dementia or autism.
Yep! There’s plenty you can do to automatize your garage door too. You can set it to automatically open and closed at pre-selected times or open and shut it from your phone. Depending on how you choose to set up this system, you’ll need to use geofencing, entry or motion sensors, a smartphone tasker and/or a timer.
Definitely a home security basic and a nice convenience. There are smart lights referred to as landscaping lights that you can program to turn on and off with the sunset and sunrise, respectively. Landscaping lights will ensure that you never pull into a dark driveway after work, and they are also a deterrent for would-be burglars.
Another, or an additional, option are exterior lights that work in tandem with your front and/or back door. When you open the door, the light automatically turns on. A setup like this involves sensors and a connected light switch.
You can take the landscaping light concept and apply it to the lights inside your house. Schedule the lights to come on when you wake up. Alternatively, you can use motion sensors to activate them as you walk through the house – This is a great way to slash your electricity bill.
Put your virtual assistant to work. Connect the light switch in your bedroom to Alexa or Assistant and tell the lights to turn off with a voice command. You can control it from the comfort of your bed, so you don’t have to stumble through the dark to make it to the bed from the light switch.
Stop the temperature wars in your house with a smart thermostat. These devices automatically adjust the temperature to the ideal level of comfort. Of course, you can override the auto-adjust function and change the temperature via a smartphone. They also keep track of energy usage and connect to your virtual assistant for voice control. Some models are even equipped with an air quality monitor.
Got a windowless bathroom and people in your house who forget to turn on the ventilation fan after a shower? Stop worry about mold and mildew. There are sensor fans that kick on when the humidity in a room becomes too high. You can also install a humidity sensor and a smart switch to get the same automation from the fan.
Smart Home Entertainment
Whether you’re planning a party, a small get together or just want to chill solo, a smart home entertainment system enhances the overall experience. You can integrate a smart TV and speakers with lights to create the ultimate at-home theater from your smartphone or a smart remote. There is also the option of connecting smart speakers to a hub and use your voice to start a playlist while you cook, sleep or soak in the tub.
Laundry and Kitchen Appliances
It’s impossible to talk about home automation without mentioning appliances. There are washing machines and dryers that send text alerts when a load is finished and let you set cycle options from your smartphone. Some people install vibration sensors and a trigger to achieve some of the automation benefits of smart washers and dryers.
Of course, there are smart kitchen appliances too, such as Wi-Fi-enabled slow cookers and Bluetooth blenders. Manufacturers also produce smart refrigerators that monitor food freshness, allow for remote checking of contents and sync grocery lists to your smartphone.
Pets can get lonely when you’re at work. Well, at least dogs – cats not as much. You can check in on your animals and even talk to them with interactive cameras. Some smart treat dispensers have an embedded camera, so you can communicate with your four-legged friend as you tap a smartphone app to give them a treat. If your dog is on a diet, there are smart feeders that dispense food per the portion and among the interval of your choosing.
All Things Plumbing
Connect a smart shower head to your smartphone and transform your morning showers. You can change the water temperature and pressure. Some shower heads also let you turn on music and make phone calls.
Another plumbing automation idea detects leaks. There are smart valves that you can install on your home’s shutoff valve and moisture monitors you can put under every sink and toilet in the house. The smart valve will automatically turn off the home’s water supply if there is a leak while monitors typically send you a notification when a pipe leaks.
It’s not easy to maintain a home’s curb appeal. However, you can save yourself some time and energy by automating some of the tasks. Smart sprinklers are designed to turn on according to real-time weather reports, and moisture sensors can activate sprinklers when the soil is too dry.
You can use either one or both. Smart sprinklers and moisture sensors are not only great for keeping the grass green but also ensuring gardens stay healthy.
Health and Wellness
Do you have an elderly or housebound relative who lives under your roof? If you’re worried about him or her falling when you’re not around, there are smart devices that can ease your mind, like sensor-based floor and chair mats. These mats send an alert to a wireless pager or a smartphone when he or she gets out of bed or a chair.
Other popular mart health-and-wellness products help you sleep better. Smart pillows regulate your breathing patterns. Smart mattresses track sleep patterns, adjust the bed’s temperature and wake you up with an alarm. Some of these mattresses connect to a virtual assistant too.
This website is supported by readers. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
If you have any questions or comments, please add them below in the comment section. Similarly, please let us know if you spot any mistakes or omissions. Thanks!