If you’re new to smart home automation, the best advice is to start with the basics. Build a strong foundation for your smart home that covers your home and family’s initial needs. You can then expand your system’s complexity later by adding more gadgets and apps to automate your home. With that in mind, here are five automation products you’ll want to consider in your smart home starter kit.
1. Smart Sensors
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For your smart home to function, you need to install smart sensors that can read data inside and outside. Think of smart sensors as your home’s five senses. They detect environmental changes like temperature, movement, humidity, and air quality. For example, traditional thermostats only read the air temperature of the surrounding area. But smart temperature sensors let you extend your temp zone throughout your home. This helps eliminate “cold” and “hot” zones, keeping air temps comfortable and water pipes unfrozen.
Temperature sensors are just one of many sensor types you’ll want to consider for your new smart home. Moisture detectors help spot damaging leaks and keep your air humidity at optimal levels for heating and cooling. Use motion detectors to turn on an interior light or trigger a security camera. Program your CO2 detector to change your smart lighting to red for people with hearing impairments. Smart sensors offer limitless ways to keep your family safe and comfortable. Plus, sensors push alerts to your smartphone, giving you full control of your devices.
2. Smart Lighting
lifx smart bulb, by Guillermo Fernandes on flickr CC0
For energy efficiency and convenience, smart lighting is your go-to smart home device. With the multitude of brands available, consumers have plenty of options, from single smart bulbs to basic starter kits. Smart bulbs are pricey, but they’re much more efficient than incandescent and compact fluorescents (CFLs) bulbs. And they last way longer than both standard bulb types. Most brands have an estimated lifespan of around 20 years! So, smart lights quickly pay for themselves in energy savings and replacement costs.
Some lighting kits come with hubs, gateways, or switches that connect to your router Wi-Fi. Other lighting systems integrate with smart speakers or voice assistants like Amazon Alexa via Bluetooth. So, if you already own an Echo or HomePod, choose a lighting system that integrates with it. Then use your smart speaker to control your lights through voice command (“Alexa, turn off the kitchen lights”). Or use the smartphone app provided by the company.
Smart lighting also offers value in other ways too. You can program some smart bulbs to change colors. Use them to alter the aesthetics of a room or serve as an added safety feature. Some lighting brands even support your sleep/wake cycle by automatically adjusting their brightness and color temps throughout the day.
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3. Smart Appliances
Compared to smart appliances, older appliances now seem as simplistic in design as the wheel. Today’s smart washing machines and coffee makers are part of the Internet of Things — connected to other systems and products. Refrigerators now keep your food cold while playing the hottest tunes on Spotify. Such features may seem trendy. But smart appliances offer consumers real practical benefits.
Smart appliances can save you money on repair costs and energy bills. Besides operating with less energy, smart appliances also have self-monitoring features. Your washing machine can text you when it needs repairing or servicing. If you’re unaware of the problem, you may continue to use the appliance until more things malfunction and repair costs rise.
And for longer-use appliances, there are automation products that turn your old appliances into smart ones. One smart device for your hot water heater uses artificial intelligence to track your hot water use. The device tracks when you take showers, wash dishes and do laundry. Then it adjusts its heating times to meet your water use schedule and maximize energy. And some appliances work with smart electric meters to operate only at cheaper, off-peak hours. So, your smart refrigerator may wait to defrost at night rather than during the day.
Read more: Smart Home Technologies To Boost Home Value
4. Smart Plugs
Smart plugs insert into your electrical outlets, letting you control any device. You can control the device via a mobile app or through a smart speaker via voice command. The potential for smart plugs may seem small, but they deliver huge time and energy savings.
Some smart plugs track a device’s energy use through the plug itself or by connecting to your smart meter. Energy monitoring tells you how much your refrigerator costs to run or how much it takes to recharge your electric car. Use this data to generate reports, identify heavy energy users, or decide if it’s time to upgrade to newer models. Make smarter decisions that save you money.
You can also save on utility bills by programming plugs to turn electrical devices off and on at specified times. Got a tween who likes to play video games late into a weeknight? Set up a smart plug to shut things down at 9 p.m. Hate coming home to a dark house but don’t want to leave the lights on all day? Create a lighting schedule that illuminates your home just before you arrive and turns things off right after you leave. On vacation and don’t want to walk into a hothouse? Power on your AC unit via a mobile app thirty minutes before you walk through the door. By now, you’ve probably thought of a few more ideas that fit your lifestyle perfectly.
5. Hubs and Controllers
The smartest smart homes have two basic parts: smart products and a central control device. By themselves, smart devices offer a ton of benefits. But the real magic happens when you connect them together. And that’s the job of the central hub or remote controller. They also help your devices “talk” to one another — a critical feature for DIY home systems running different brands.
If you can’t afford a central hub or controller, look into a service like IFTTT or Zapier. These online services offer small applications or “recipes” that make connecting apps and devices easy. For example, use a recipe that connects Alexa with your Nest Thermostat. Or have Siri turn on your Philips Hue Light.
Getting the smart home basics right also means allowing for easy expansion in the future. So, keep integration in mind. Not all brands work together. And the need for a central control hub may an immediate need, or one for down the road. It all depends on your initial design and the products you choose.