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A Smart Start

The beginner's guide to starting a smart home.


What makes a home "smart"?


Step into the kitchen, the lights turn on. Leave your house and the door locks automatically. Say out loud that you are cold and the heat kicks on. This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what a modern smart home can do. Believe it or not, setting all this up can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.


Smart home is generic term that includes all types of living situations. Do you rent an apartment, live in a condo, or a townhome? No worries, they are just as easy to upgrade so this guide is for you too. The modern smart home usually consists of everyday devices like light bulbs or door locks, but with the addition of Wi-Fi or Bluetooth for control. The most basic smart home allows you to control these devices with your smart phone or even your voice. As you get more involved, your devices begin to control each other based on certain things. A motion sensor can trigger a light bulb. Your smart phone can tell your door lock that you have left for the day. A contact sensor can tell if a window opens and then turn off the AC. We will give you a few examples and explanations of how all this can happen. Let's dive in!


Where do I start?


Most would say that the foundation to a great smart home is solid wireless network. And I would definitely agree. Most of your new devices will likely talk to each other through your home Wi-Fi. You don't have to be a networking genius to setup a Wi-Fi network. Most of you reading this already have home Wi-Fi, and for your first smart home devices, you may not need to change anything. If you have a larger home or plan on building out a more complete smart home, then upgrading to a mesh network is likely your best choice. This will be able to handle the higher number of devices, and provide more coverage for a larger home or one with multiple stories. I recently upgraded to the Eero Pro 6 (2 Pack) personally and I have really enjoyed the extended coverage and fast speeds.



So, you already have Wi-Fi, what's next? Another deciding factor in the beginning stages of setting up a smart home is choosing your favorite platform or voice assistant. Having all your new devices play nicely together makes setting up much easier. Do you use Android devices or Apple? Do you prefer Google over Alexa? These are things you may want to think of when you start adding devices to your home. In the near future this won't matter nearly as much but more on that later. Once you’ve decided on a system to go with, then it’s time for the fun part.


Lighting


Smart lights are one of the most common starting points. It can be as simple as changing a light bulb. Yes, really! If you know how to scan a QR code, or type in a Wi-Fi password, then you are pretty well equipped to outfit your home with smart lights. Most of the time that's the extent of what you need to know. Beyond the initial setup, there are a lot of extras like motion sensors, scenes, and automations that can take the lights to another level. That can all be added when you're ready.


Some lights will connect directly to your network, and some lights will connect to a hub that plugs in to your router. These each have their pros and cons but overall accomplish the same task, light control that extends beyond a simple on or off wall switch. Are you looking for convenience or entertainment with your lighting? Maybe both; some lights can simply turn on or off and others can illuminate a room with any color of the rainbow and sync to your music. Here are a couple suggestions to get you started.


The Nanoleaf Essentials A19 bulb will pair directly to your wifi, they offer full color, and are a very inexpensive way to start your smart home.

Philips Hue sells several starter packs that contain four bulbs and the necessary hub to get them connected. One is multi-color and the other is white lighting only.

Security


Adding a few cameras or smart door locks to your home setup is a great next step. This will add some convenience and peace of mind to your setup. Many smart locks simply replace the inside portion of a common dead bolt. This can be done in most cases with a screwdriver, usually 2 screws, and about 15 minutes.

One of my favorites is the August Lock. I've been using this lock for over 5 years now and it's still working great. Check out this link to shop some of the latest security devices by August and Yale.

Some of my favorite cameras are made by Eufy. They offer support for multiple platforms, and their cameras have great resolution. Not to mention they are very easy to setup. Here are a couple I would recommend.


The Indoor Pan & Tilt, I personally own several of these and highly recommended them because they are so affordable! Next is the Outdoor 360º Floodlight Pro for a complete picture of what's happening around your home, day or night.



Taking Control


There are so many other categories of devices you could add. We could go on for days with each type of device but we will stop at lighting and security for now. Hopefully that will give you an idea of what direction you’re headed in. Now it’s time to think about how you want to control everything. There are a lot of ways to control your smart home, we're going to talk about three popular options. Smart phone or tablet, voice control, and a smart display.


First, you could take out your smart phone. Most phones have a native app for home control built in like Google Home or the Apple Home app. They offer a simple way to manage your devices all in one place. There are also the third party apps for each of the devices you have installed.

Opening different apps for each device can be a bit cumbersome so many people opt for voice control. Install a smart speaker or a device with your favorite voice assistant built in and announce your commands out loud. Alexa, dim the lights. Hey Google, lock the door. Or hey Siri, set the bedroom lights to blue. Voice control is one of my favorite methods of home control.

Now lets talk about smart displays like the Nest Home Hub, or the Echo Show. These are great options of you want to use voice control but also want a visual reference to actually see what's going on. These also have the added benefit of saying things like,"Alexa show me my front door" to see a view of your video doorbell or any other camera in your home setup for that matter. Or Hey Google, show me how to make cookies on YouTube.


All that being said, how you control your home will ultimately be a personal preference. And you aren't limited to just one method. As you get further into the smart home world you will see the possibilities are endless and the options can be overwhelming. It's important to remember if you are just getting started to relax, think about what you want to control, and how you want to control it. Start small and get a feel for how the tech can make your life easier. Once you are comfortable with that, start adding scenes to control multiple devices at one time, or automations to make things happen without any input. These are all topics we will discuss in much more detail in future guides, so stay tuned.


For now, I hope this has helped to further your understanding of how to start making your home smarter. Let me know what you think, or if you have questions, drop them down in the comments section. Until next time, thanks for reading!

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