Ultimate Guide To Smart Home and Smart Home Devices

benefits of a smart home security

People strive to live ultimate luxurious and comfortable lives. Technology has achieved new heights which has led to the development of many new devices. Among those devices are ‘smart home devices’ which are becoming increasingly popular.

turned-on charcoal Google Home Mini and smartphone

What is a Smart Home Device?

Voice-activated assistants from companies like Amazon and Google now wait for your voice command to act.

Few years back, who could have imagined that someone lying down on his bed will control all the devices in the home just with a voice command?

For example

When its getting dark – Alexa turn on the lights!

When you are feeling a bit colder – Alexa can you increase the heating!

When you want to watch a video – Alexa can open YouTube!

and a lot more…

You can think of these voice-activated assistants or virtual assistants as the brain of other smart devices in your home. These devices have the ability to receive command, and then direct the devices in your house to act accordingly. Making your home into a fully functional smart home.

So, in very simple words ‘Smart Devices’ when work together in a smart way make smart homes.

3rd gen. black Amazon echo dot speaker

By this point, you must be wondering

There are thousands of smart devices available in the market. Where do we need to start to make our homes smart?

What are the smart devices that we need in our smart homes?

How to get those smart devices economically?

Do not worry the only objective of this guide is to provide you with smart solutions to make your homes smart. We will cover everything that you need to know about building a smart home from start to finish. Further, we will also be sharing ways that can be used to make your smart devices work more efficiently

This guide might be little long but I can guarantee once you start reading you will not only be enjoying it but also your understanding about smart devices will increase.

So, let’s start the discussion with the first and most basic question.

What is a Smart Home?

Before going into discussion how to build a smart home, let us first understand what exactly is smart home?

In very simple way if we will define Smart Home as

A home that is filled with electronic devices that are connected to the internet and can easily be controlled from a central point.

In most cases this central point is a modern voice-activated device or your phone. The smart devices can include: heating and cooling system in your house, security system and lighting. This can go to extent where if you don’t feel like sleeping in the middle of night you can easily play a sound track just with a voice command while lying down in the bed – without leaving the comfort of your bed. Similarly, you can ask a question and voice activated assistant will get you the answer.

How much does a smart home cost?

how much does smart home cost to set up

One of the misconceptions about smart homes is that you need to spend heavily to make your homes smart. If you select right smart devices that your home needs and that you need to control remotely you can make your home smart within a very reasonable amount of budget.

Furthermore, no technical knowledge is required to make your homes smart. Most of the modern smart devices comes with easy manuals and can be installed and configured in minutes making smart homes much more attractive choice.

After understanding ‘what is smart home?’ Let’s now understand ‘what are the benefits of a smart home?’

What are the Benefits of Having a Smart Home?

what are the benefits of a smart home with smart devices

Lot of people think that building or considering to build a smart home is just a trendy or short lived craze. However to be honest building smart home will add lot of benefits to your life as well as makes it more comfortable.

For most of the people security is the biggest concern. Adding smart cameras to your home can provide you with the ability to keep close eye on your property even if you are away from home. Another amazing smart device is a smart thermostat that will provide you with the ability to control the temperature of your home ensuring the electricity is efficiently utilized and you are consuming only what is required.

So, smart home can save you on electricity costs by only powering certain appliances when those are required. Thus, helping you save a lot of money.

Smart home can make their life much easier whether you need to control the temperature of the house, use kitchen appliances or using smart vacuums for cleaning. This all can easily be managed with simple voice instructions or through a phone app.

With modern life’s getting busier day by day imagine the advantage of smart home that you can add things to your shopping list just with a quick request. No more fear of forgetting things when going to market for grocery or shopping.

Let us know proceed to the next stage and understand some of the key components of any smart home.

Read this articles, if you are still wondering if smart devices are worth the money?

Some of the Key Components of Any Smart Home

Once you decide to make your home smart, you will come across hundreds of smart devices. Choosing the right devices becomes a very difficult task. Don’t worry as promised; we will try to cover all the aspects that you need to make your home smart.

In most of the cases Voice-Activated Assistant or cell phone is going to be the brain of your smart home. Any other devices that you add to your smart home will take instructions from them to operate.

Let us now discuss some of the key components a smart home needs. We will try to make it simplified with amazing examples.

Smart Home Security Systems

benefits of a smart home security

Most important component for any home is security, same goes with smart homes. The feeling that your home is fully secured makes you much more relaxed and comfortable.

In recent times our lives are getting busier day by day. Most of our time is spent in a office, meeting and work. Therefore, majority of time our homes are unattended which can make it a target for intruders. But smart devices resolve this issue to a large extent. Now you can monitor your home easily even when we are away with the help of smart devices (such as Wi-Fi enabled security cameras)

All you have to do is to install these Wi-Fi enabled security cameras. Then, just by opening the relevant mobile app you can view and monitor every corner of your home. Another interesting thing about cameras is potential home intruders understand their effectiveness and therefore avoid such homes where they cans see the presence of smart security cameras. They understand that someone might be watching them and report the crime to emergency services.

Another interesting advantage of these security cameras is that most of the insurance companies consider them effective in protecting homes. Therefore plenty of insurance companies will offer you with discounts if your home is equipped with these smart cameras. Thus saving you money.

Smart Home Lighting

The second and another important aspect of smart home is lighting. Lighting your smart home is much more than making it look elegant. It can help also a lot towards the security of your home.

Let’s say that you are away from home, you can easily give impression to others that someone is in home just by clicking and turning on the lights through your smart home. You can also set a specific schedule such as in evening 7 pm lights outside house or in garden turn on automatically which can create impression for others that there is someone present at home.

Now let’s go back to aesthetic aspect of smart lighting systems. You can easily set different ambiances with smart lighting systems.

Imagine for a second all you have to do is to say “Hey Alexa, make lights mild” it is that easy. Smart lighting systems come with the ability to adjust lighting levels just by a voice command or a tap.

Smart lighting systems have the ability to switch between different colours. Allowing you have different ambient effects as well as different colours lights. For example, you can select a specific colour and lighting level when you are in your bedroom.

Coming to the financial aspect of smart lighting systems. If you properly schedule your lighting system as well as lighting levels you can easily save on electricity cost.

Smart Home Energy

Gone are the days when we have to look at the complex meter readings to monitor energy consumption in our houses. By the way only professionals were able to understand the readings of those meters properly. Thanks to Smart Home Devices we do not need to do that anymore.

Before going further let’s discuss a bit more in detail why monitoring energy consumption in our homes is important.

Two of the most important reasons are high energy bills and effects on environment. The more energy we consume, higher are the energy bills going to be. Regarding second reason, we all know that higher energy consumption can impact the climate as well.

Now coming to the solution is it possible to control these? Yes, very easily just with the help of smart devices you can control your energy consumption. Using the smart devices and smart meters you can keep and eye on your energy consumption and adjust the usage accordingly.

Smart Home Thermostats

Smart thermostat is an extremely useful and advance smart device to control energy consumption levels. Imagine you are coming back from office to home you can easily turn on the heating while on your way.

Similar to smart lighting systems you can easily create smart heating schedule just from your smart phones or tablets. Saving you from the complicated setups that old thermostats have. Scheduling and managing your energy consumption levels can for sure reduce your electricity bills.

Smart Home Appliances

Another important aspect of any smart home is appliances. There are hundreds of smart devices available in the market. Selecting the right devices is the key element in making smart home work properly. Heating your stove or starting a load of laundry when you are away from home everything is possible with these smart devices.

Currently smart appliances can be set up in two popular ways:

  1. The first way is to get smart appliances. These smart appliances can easily be controlled with voice activated assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant.
  2. The second option is using Wi-Fi plugs. The basic concept of these Wi-Fi plugs is that instead of connecting your devices to normal power outlets you can connect them to these Wi-Fi plugs and these Wi-Fi plugs can be controlled with smart phone, tablets or even voice-activated assistants to turn on and off these devices.

Another advantage that comes up with these Wi-Fi Plugs is that they are much cheaper option then buying altogether new smart appliances. You can easily connect your current appliances with these smart Wi-Fi plugs and start using them.

Where to Start when Building a Smart Home?

Some times people do the common mistake of immediately start buying smart devices without really understanding what exactly are their requirements and expectations are from a smart home. Your smart home should not have all the smart devices on the planet but the objective should be to have all the smart devices that fulfil your needs.

The strategy we can recommend is a list building. Creating a list containing Important and and another list containing Less-Important devices. Important devices are the basics that must be present in your smart home. Less-important you can say the next level when important devices are mostly purchased. We will give an example of Important and Less-important device. For example, security is the basic need of any home or smart home; so smart devices relating to home security are of more importance. On the other hand, smart devices capable of automatically vacuuming your house are more of later stage devices.

So once you are done with making these lists, you can easily prioritise purchasing of smart devices for your home. Simple go with the important devices list first and once you have extra cash you can always buy less-important devices.

Second stage after finalizing the lists is to buy yourself a virtual assistant or smart home system. Currently the two most popular and highest rated are virtual assistants from Google and Amazon. We are referring to “Google Home” from Google and “Alexa” from Amazon.

The good thing about these two smart systems are their compatibility with almost all the smart devices. So you can go with any one of these systems.

Which ever virtual assistant you deice to buy keep in mind that these devices work on Wi-Fi. So in order for them to work properly your home should have strong Wi-Fi signals everywhere. This can easily be managed too with the help of Wi-Fi signal boosters.

If you are having any problems with your wifi you can contact your internet service provider and request a line strength check. By checking this, they can also advise you whether you need any upgrade in your current internet connection in order for your smart home to work effectively.

Once the selection of assistant is finalized we can move to next stage of how to build smart home.

How to Build Your Smart Home?

Since you have already finalized the virtual assistant and also ensured that your internet connection is fine we can start getting smart devices.

There are two important aspects of smart devices, first in installation and second is creating routines for your smart devices.

We will go back to the 4 key components of any smart home and start building our smart home around them i.e. Security, Lighting, Energy and Appliances. Next step after getting and installing these smart devices is to figure out routines and automation options available.

If you are wondering what exactly is routine? Routine in very simple words is tasks your smart home and smart home devices are going to perform in a routine.

Apps like Google home can easily help you to build these routines. The best thing is they are easy to configure.

The first step in creating routine of the devices is to name them properly so that you can later remember them easily. An ideal way to do that is to name a device with its original name such as Vacuum and add next to it the location of the device. Such as Vacuum dining room. In this way you will easily be able to remember which device you are configuring when creating routines. You can name them anything but our recommendation is ‘name plus location’.

You can even create groups of these devices and they will work together in a perfect way.

The best way to build your routines is to think of everyday activities and how these routines can make your life more comfortable. For example, most of the people when they wake up they want the lights to be turned on and latest weather report etc to be played.

Another way of making routines is to make them ready for special days. For example, you can set up routines for cold days when your heating needs to turn on. Similarly, when you need your lights to turn on soner in winter when it gets dark earlier.

These routines once set up can easily be activated just with the help of voice commands. For example, you can set up your morning routine with voice command ‘Good morning’. Once you wake up you can simply say “Hey Alex, Good Morning” and leave the rest to Alexa.

It takes sometime before you get use to of these voice activated assistants but once you are it takes comforts of life to next level.

Now let’s discuss about essentials for your Smart Home.

If you are wondering about privacy of smart home, then read this article.

Essential Devices for Smart Home

As discussed above Essential Devices also revolve around the 4 key components of making your home smart i.e. Security, Lighting, Energy and Power. You can go for any smart device that you think you need but these are some of the basics just to provide you with the idea from where to start.

It is also not necessary that your smart home should have all of these smart devices even one or two from each category is good enough to start and as you have more and more budget you can get the rest.

The prices of these smart devices can vary and you can buy what suits your budget. So let’s move to the must list of smart devices.

Smart Home Security Devices

  1. Smart Door Bell 
  2. Smart Lighting System inside and outside house
  3. Smart Security Cameras mostly outside of the house
  4. Smart Security systems including smart alarms
  5. Smart Door Locks to make entry points more secure

Smart Home Lighting

  1. Smart Switches to turn on and off the lights
  2. Smart lights or Bulbs

Smart Home Energy

  1. Smart Thermostat to keep Smart home temperature in control.
  2. Smart power outlets for efficient energy consumption.
  3. Smart Air Conditioners to keep your smart home cool.

Smart Home Power

  1. Wi-Fi Plugs as discussed above budget friendly and effective.
  2. Smart Appliances if you don’t want to go for Wi-Fi Plugs.

The main purpose of this list is to give you with an idea about smart devices, most smart homes have in general. However this list can vary from person to person and also from home to home. You can adjust the list always according to personal preferences.

Almost all of these smart devices can be easily be configured with your voice-activated assistants. Most of them just need you to download mobile apps on their phone. Although once connected with these voice-activated assistants these apps will not have any more role. However, still it is good idea to keep the apps in your phone just in case you need trouble shooting with any of the devices.

Few of the smart devices brands that are compatible with both Alexa and Google Nest are

  1. Phillips Hue
  2. Smartlife
  3. IFTTT

However still it is recommended that before you buy any of the smart devices you should check whether the smart device is compatible with your voice-activated assistant or not. It can save you time and hassle.

Building a smart home is a continuous process you can add new devices to your smart home from time to time and reassess the existing devices as well.

Creative Smart Home Ideas

I hope by now you have developed understanding of essentials of making smart home (Security, Energy, and Lighting & Power). You can take them as foundation or base of any smart home and that needs to be set up properly.

However, once the setup of essentials is done it is time to go to next step. Just by developing routines and installing some of the smart devices you can have lot of fun in your smart home. Let us discuss few of the examples so that you can see how you can enjoy the benefits of smart home.

Blinking Lights Notification once UBER arrives

Many of you might not be aware that with the help of device IFTTT it is possible to connect your smart lights with UBER app. Once the driver arrives at the door the smart lights blinking so that you are notified immediately. This is really helpful sometimes when you are away from your mobile. No more bad ratings from UBER.

Scheduling Holiday Lights

Smart devices allow you to schedule your holiday light according to specific date and times of the day. You also have the ability to turn them on and off manually.

You can also schedule your indoor lights with the help of Wi-Fi plugs. You can turn them on and off with the help of your mobile phones.

Mail Alert by Smart Devices

All you have to do is to insert magnetic senor in to the mail box and install the mobile app into your mobile that’s it, it is ready to go.  

Monitoring your home when you are away

With the help of smart security cameras now you can easily monitor what your pets are doing when you are away from home.

Setting Home Announcement System

Now you can easily command your voice activated assistants to make announcements in a particular room or on a particular speaker. Imagine you are working down stairs in kitchen and you have to tell upstairs your husband and kids to get down to dining room as the dinner is ready.

 You can command your voice activated assistant to announce in kids room “Dinner is ready”, no more yelling.

Final Thoughts on Smart Home and Devices

We are surrounded by smart devices. As the time goes by it will be impossible to live without them. These devices can make your life easier and comfortable.

Just with the help of smart devices and creating right routines you can increase your home security. So, go ahead understand how these smart devices work, make your homes smart and take the comfort of your home to the next level.

John Roberts is an experienced blogger and smart home expert. His blog posts cover everything from smart home automation to product reviews and much more. He's the co-founder of ilovesmarthome.com, a blog that provides guidance to get the most out of your smart home systems.
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