Creating a Smart Home with Smart Home Hubs and Smart Home Devices.
We previously posted about a Smart Home: what a Smart Home is, and some of the basic functions of a smart home. Since then, we have made some new additions to our own home with the goal of turning it into a Smart Home. Our primary goal in creating a Smart Home was to make our home more efficient, safer and convenient. Over the last few weeks, we have optimized our home network, decided on a Hub, connected and installed our selected Smart Home Devices and created a few simple home automations.
Optimizing Our Home Network
We added a wi-fi extender beside our front door. This ensures a steady, uninterrupted connection to the security camera that we have mounted on the outside of our house. Before we installed this, we had difficulty obtaining a clear signal from the security camera. Most new routers run on 2.4 and 5 GHz, so make sure that you select an extender that will be compatible with both. These come in a variety of brands and prices, ranging from $30-$100. This is a product worth putting some research into before you buy. The customer reviews on Amazon are especially helpful.
Connecting and Installing Smart Home Devices
There are several categories of smart home devices, and the variety of smart home devices within those categories are seemingly endless. Don’t be overwhelmed. Stop and think about what devices are going to best benefit you and your family in your daily routines, and go from there. For most people, a security camera is a given, and we are no exception.
Because of the size of our property, we didn’t need an extensive or elaborate security system. But we did want to be able to monitor the activity at the front of the house, which can be a fairly high-traffic area. The system that we chose was the Nest outdoor cam. We chose this because of the features that are included with the camera, such as selective zoning, replaying of live feed, push notifications, intercom, and high-quality zoom and sound on video. For $100 a year, Nest will store all of your video data for up to 30 days on the cloud.
Another of our earliest smart home purchases was the Nest thermostat. Georgia Power was offering a rebate on programmable thermostats and made the purchase even easier. Nest isn’t a programmable system; it’s a learning system. Easy to install and use, this thermostat will pick up on your habits after only a few days, and then program itself accordingly. The first few days, use it like a regular thermostat, and Nest will then adjust the temperature in your home to not just the outdoor temperatures, but also to other factors such as the size of your home. Nest can also be controlled through your cell phone and automated through a smart home Hub, which makes it even more ideal for saving energy.
We started small, and bought a Leviton smart outlet for our Christmas tree lights — no more crawling around on the floor behind the tree and fumbling to plug in the strand of light for us! This smart outlet was so easy to use and worked so well that we purchased a second outlet for our outdoor Christmas lights. By having all of our Christmas lights connected to the Hub, we were able to control them remotely, set automatic on and off times, and save on energy and the stress of leaving lights on for too long. Our success with the smart outlets encouraged us to consider adding more smart outlets and switches to our home. We added 2 more smart outlets, both for lamps in our living room and den. We also added smart Lutron wall switches to control hard wired items such as the porch light and dimmers in our dining room. We found that Home Depot had a good selection of replacement wall switches and outlets.
Then, we decided to go big and get an Echo and an Echo Dot. But that’s a whole different post that will be coming up later.
Deciding on a Hub
All of our outlets, switches and devices are Zigbee and Z-wave compatible. This means they will work with a Hub and be able to all work together making a truly smarter home. For our Hub, we decided to go with Smart Things by Samsung. Samsung sells a Smart Things “starter kit,” which comes with the hub, an outlet, 2 multi-purpose sensors, and a motion detector, all for $199. We found the starter kit on sale for $179. While we aren’t technologically deficient, we also didn’t want to drop a small fortune on a system that we had never used before. Smart Things can work with custom IFTTT actions also has a large amount of community created actions called Smart Apps that work with a variety of devices.
To put it into simpler terms, we can choose existing actions to connect and control switches, dimmers, cameras, outlets and motions sensors using our phones and tablets. For instance, I wake up and go to yoga when it’s still dark out, so we’ve activated and customized a Smart App to turn on our front-porch light at 5:40 am, and it’s already on as I’m leaving the house. It will then turn off automatically 30 minutes later. This seems like a pretty insignificant thing, but it’s also an extra layer of convenience and security.