Thinking about adding smart home technology into your house? There are many solutions that range from simple to elaborate and range in price dramatically too. In this post I am going to detail a mid range system that can be expanded upon easily. Every smart home has items that can be broken down into categories: Hubs, Controllers, and Switches.
Hubs are just what they sound like. They are the main point between controllers and switches. The connect to various items using an array of technologies. Google Home, Apple Home, Smartthings by Samsung, Logitech Harmony Home and my favorite Wink. My preference for Wink is based on the connectivity. All of these hubs connect using some of the technologies, but the Wink seems to work with the most. Protocols like Z-Wave, Ziggbee, wi-fi and bluetooth allow the devices to talk to the hub with instructions from the controller.
Controllers range from ipad, iphone, android and in-wall displays like the Relay by Wink. Amazon Alexa is one controller that makes the entire system voice activated for many products. These items use wi-fi to communicate with the hub. I recommend several of them, but a home with multiple Echo Dots allows for seamless control even when walking through the house. The Echo, Echo Dot, and Alexa have a “skill” that when enabled works very well with the Wink hub.
Switches are the items that operate the conventional product using the controllers and hub. These include everything from in-wall dimmers, pico remotes (Lutron), garage door openers and even a Mr. Coffee coffee maker. There are product such as the Cree Connected bulbs that have their own in bulb Z-Wave controller to allow individual table lamp control.
What should I get, and what do I advise to begin this DIY project of making your home smart? Here is a run down of my suggestions:
This is easily installed and connected to your home wifi using the iPhone or Android app. Plan 10-15 minutes with firmware updates that are inevitable when turned on for the first time.
- Amazon Echo Dot : This opens voice functionality while home to operate items such as lights, temperature and more.
- Wink Relay: If you have a double or single wall outlet this gives you a touch screen and 2 switches that can be programmed for anything within the system attached to your Wink hub.
- iPhone/Android App: Both easily obtained in the respective online app stores for free these communicate directly with the hub using wi-fi and can even be operated while away from home. Set location services up and your home can automatically turn on lights as you approach home. It can even turn on the heat or air conditioning upon living your work location so that you arrive to home to comfort.
- Lutron Caseta/Pico: In-wall or on a table, these work using Z-Wave or Ziggbee and send signals back and forth to your hub. These are best used for hardwired fixtures and many offer dimming capability. G.E offer a similar product as well, but I have had the best luck with the Lutron product and the price is reasonable. The average dimmer is $50
Products to Consider
- Cree connected bulbs are easily available at Home Depot and work well with table lamps or even in ceiling fixtures. Each will be assigned it’s own name within the hub. Most hardwired lights are best controlled with an in wall Caseta switch. The average cost is $15 and they are available in warm and daylight balanced.
- Nest Thermostat. Already a great product on it’s own, but when part of a smart home system it can make things even more automated and convenient.
- Harmony Home by Logitech when combined with Amazon Echo and TiVo you can also control your home with simple Alexa enabled commands. While this is a hub on its own, the technologies and connectivity is limited in comparison to the Wink.
- Water sensor that operates with your Wink will notify you if you have leak or water in your basement. Great to have located next to your hot water heat to react quickly.
- Security products such as the GOCONTROL offer motion and magnetic sensors. The Wink hub can provide notifications when part of the system has been tripped
- Schlage Lever Z-Wave lock set is a nice way to provide controlled access to your home, even when you are not there. Get a text and open the door for your dog walker or trusted serviceman. This is an area I would and do use caution. Hacked accounts could allow access unintentionally.
- Nest Smoke/Carbon Dioxide detector. It can notify you when you are away and offer features like waving hand for false alarms and a motion activated night light. One on each floor in a central location.
Some great things my house does with this technology can be broken into “skills”:
- Lights on when I arrive home and the temperature set to my favorite. This is done with a “robot” wihtin my Wink app on my phone with location services turned on.
- Dim living room lights is done by simply saying “Alexa turn living room to 10%”
- Have friends coming over and want your house perfectly lit in every room and the kitchen lights up bright while you finish prep work. I have a “robot” set to respond through my Echo Dot by saying “Alexa turn house to entertain friends”.
- Want to catch a tv show “Alexa turn on the tv to animal planet” this skill is routed through the Harmony Home by Logitech hub.
How do you get started? Make a flow chart of somethings you would like to accomplish with smart home technology. Start with a few key pieces and then make additions. I would suggest a few in-wall dimmers and a few Cree connected bulbs, along with a Nest Thermostat. You’ll find places like Home Depot and Lowe’s with a selection of items. If you get a bit more in-depth in automating your home plan a Saturday afternoon (so lights on and off don’t affect you) and be prepared to turn off circuits in your panel as you install dimmers (easily done with instructions) online and in manuals.