Weekend Digest: How to get started with a smart home—a step-by-step detailed guide for Alexa, Siri, and Google Home
Dreamed of having your own smart home—but don't know where to start? Get ready for a crash course in beginning your smart home journey. We walk you through what a smart home is and how to start crafting your very own. Read on for our in-depth smart home how-to guide.
It wasn’t all that long ago that smart homes were a thing of a not-so-distant future. If you wanted a piece of that future, you either needed a favorable budget or industry access to obtain it. It was well worth the wait for the rest of us.
Not only are smart home devices now drastically more affordable, but they’re also more capable and easier to install. While it may still require a hefty budget to build the greatest smart home that ever was, that doesn’t mean you can’t start building the greatest smart home you’ll ever need.
Today, we explore what a smart home is and how you can start creating your very own. From the different kinds of devices to how to choose the one that’s right for you, we’ve got you covered. Ready to dive in? Let’s go!
What is a smart home and why do I need one?
A smart home is a home of any kind—a house, a condo, an apartment, or even a repurposed shipping container if that’s your jam—that uses a smart device to control or influence some function within it. In other words, it’s a home that contains lighting, heating, and electronic components that can be controlled remotely by phone or computer.
For example, if you know someone whose home is equipped with lights that they control through an app or voice assistant, they have a smart home.
If you find yourself on the fence about smart homes, you may be asking yourself why you need one at all. Well, here’s the honest answer: You don’t. However, the benefits are often worth the effort, which is why so many people choose to have them.
Because of the wide range of devices and the broad spectrum of uses they have, there’s a myriad of ways they can make your day a little easier. Those easy little moments add up to make a big difference.
As you build your smart home and set up automations and routines, you’ll notice the way they give you back time. Perhaps they’ll help you relax better by shifting ambiance to support your mood. Maybe security features give you peace of mind while you’re away.
No, you certainly don’t need a smart home. But it sure is nice to have.
How much does it cost to have a smart home?
If the expense of building a smart home worries you, don’t sweat it. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither does your smart home need to be.
Creating a smart home can take as long as you want, allowing you to piece it together one device at a time. This way, you can add layers to it when your budget accommodates it.
Realistically, you can make a smart home for as little as $20. This is because a single cheap smart light combined with your smartphone can technically make your house a smart home.
However, you’ll likely want to expand beyond that. Because of this, there’s really no limit on the amount you might spend.
The point is that you don’t need to spend it all at once. Pick a starting point you can afford and add more later when you can afford the next thing.
Where do I begin to set up a smart home?
The first step we recommend for setting up a smart home is choosing which AI assistants will best accommodate your needs. While most smart devices accommodate all major AI assistants, some support only one of them.
If you’re exclusive in using Apple products and already have Apple HomeKit experience, it might be worth using products that are compatible with Siri commands. However, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are easier to set up. Not only that, but more devices support Google Assistant and Alexa than Siri (at least for now).
Next, we suggest choosing a device that can receive voice commands. Google Nest Mini, Amazon Echo Dot, or the Apple HomePod mini are all affordable, minimalistic choices. You don’t need one of these to use smart gadgets, but it goes a long way right from the beginning.
Then, you should determine the first kind of smart device that will have a positive impact on your home. Whether it’s a bedroom light, a thermostat, or a wall plug, you’ll be well on your way to building your smart home. All you need to do is pick one up, follow the setup instructions, link it to your voice assistant of choice, and start enjoying hands-free home automation.
What are the standard smart home gadgets?
If you’re looking for ideas on what kinds of gadgets to get first, we can help! Smart home gadgets can serve to enhance a mood or aesthetic in your home or add useful functionality through convenient control or automated tasks.
Smart lighting is a good example of a device that serves both purposes. You can use color-producing bulbs to create an ambiance that turns on with a simple voice command. You can also program an indoor light or porch light to turn on at a certain time each day so you don’t return from work to a dark home.
Other typical smart home devices include smart thermostats that can adjust temperatures automatically or via command. Wall plugs act as adapters that can remotely toggle power to any device you plug into it.
Smart locks can lock or unlock doors via an app or voice command. These all just scratch the surface of the many devices that you can integrate into your growing smart home.
What are the best smart lights?
Philips Hue Light Bulbs (and more)
If you’re looking to start with smart lights, there are plenty of options available. While some offer cheaper price tags, others bring a higher quality experience.
Philips Hue is one of these options. This smart lighting equipment can be pricey, but they feature a fantastic customization app, an impressively long lifespan, complete voice assistant support, and a slew of cool products. You’ll need to purchase a Hue Bridge for these to work, which is available separately or as part of a kit.
You can get the Philips Hue Starter Kit here for $59.99.
What are the best smart thermostats?
The Nest Thermostat is a great choice for controlling and automating the temperature in your home. It features support for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, plus it reports any issues it detects in your HVAC system.
You can get the Nest Thermostat (2020) here for $99.
The Amazon Smart Thermostat is perfect for Alexa users who enjoy the Amazon ecosystem. It features its Hunch mode, which learns and self-adjusts based on how you use it. It even senses when you’re in the room so that it can change based on your presence.
You can get the Amazon Smart Thermostat here for $47.99.
The ecobee3 lite is a handy thermostat that works with Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and Apple HomeKit (Siri). It can use your air conditioning to adjust the humidity of a room, change based on what area in the home you’re in, or detect whether you’re home or away to more efficiently manage the temperature.
You can get the ecobee3 smart thermostat here for $149.99.
What are the best smart plugs?
The Wemo Wi-Fi Smart Plug is a reliable device that’s perfect for turning on regular lamps or other gadgets remotely. You can also schedule it to work at certain times.
It fits into any electrical outlet without covering up neighboring ones. Best of all, it works with all of the major voice assistants covered in this smart home how-to guide.
You can get the Wemo Wi-Fi Smart Plug here for $24.99.
How about a smart plug for outside? That’s precisely what the Wyze Plug Outdoor is for. Not unlike indoor smart plugs, this allows you to connect a variety of non-smart devices. That way, you can schedule active times or control it remotely without worrying about exposure to the elements.
You can get the Wyze Plug Outdoor here for $11.99.
What are the best smart door locks?
Having a smart lock is a great way to customize security on your primary entrance and exit. The August Wi-Fi Smart Lock connects directly to your home wireless network and easily attaches to existing deadbolts.
This way, you can use the same keys you’ve always had. It supports remote access via the dedicated app and works with all major voice assistants.
You can get the August Wi-Fi Smart Lock here for $199.99.
If you’re looking for a sleek smart door lock with a keypad, the Linus Lock by Yale and Nest is quite popular. The device replaces your existing deadbolt and integrates with Nest systems.
It has a super cool keypad and lets you delegate entry codes to friends and family you wish to grant access to. This way, you know exactly who’s coming and going.
You can get the Linus Lock by Yale and Nest here for $279.99.
What are the best smart home security systems?
If you want a traditional alarm system that integrates with smart homes and is easy to install, SimpliSafe is a great choice. It does require a subscription for full functionality, but, in return, you get a quality system that’s affordable and includes emergency monitoring.
While it’s almost a little too simple at times, it’s one of the best options on the market to choose from. It also supports Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa commands.
You can get a SimpliSafe Alarm System starter kit here starting at $146.98.
The Ring Alarm system is one of the most popular DIY home security options around. There’s a ton of compatible devices, and they just seem to keep coming.
From doorbell cams to the upcoming house drone, there’s a ton of cool features to enjoy. The system also supports Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. Like SimpliSafe, it does require a subscription plan for the complete range of services, but there are options you can choose from.
You can get the Ring Alarm Pro security system starter kit here for $299.99.
What are the best robot vacuums?
Make your smart home a clean one using a robot vacuum. It’s a great way to make life a little easier.
The iRobot Roomba j7+ includes Smart Mapping, object identification, and even pet waste avoidance. It features a bin as well, allowing it to self-empty in between cleaning sessions.
You can get the iRobot Roomba j7+ robot vacuum here for about $795.
Another option for robot vacuums is the ECOVACS DEEBOT OZMO 920 (we’re not yelling at you, the name really is all-caps).
This handy little guy can vacuum and mop floors, map and memorize layouts, and can be scheduled for specific days and times. It even has Google Assistant support, so you can program it to run on voice command.
You can get the ECOVACS DEEBOT OZMO 920 here for $449.99.
What are the best smart displays?
The Google Nest Hub comes in a few different sizes, and the Nest Hub Max is the largest. It features Google Assistant voice control (like the Nest Mini) but also includes a vibrant touch screen that routinely displays meaningful information about connected devices. Whether you want to check the weather, control your smart home, or look up recipes, it’s got you covered.
You can get the Google Nest Hub Max here for $189.
Looking for an even bigger smart display? Check out the Amazon Echo Show 15.
This wall-mounted 15-inch display can not only control your smart home but also stream TV content, act as a photo frame, and let you customize your user experience with helpful widgets. It’s a great way to centralize your smart home control and family calendar all in one place.
You can get the Amazon Echo Show 15 here for $249.99.
When’s the best time to start building your smart home?
The best time to start developing your smart home setup is now. If you’re still overwhelmed after reading through this smart home how-to guide, don’t worry about it. You don’t need to do it all at once. A single smart device is all you need.
Want to jump in further but not too deep? Start with a device like the Amazon Echo Dot or Google Nest Hub. Then buy a Philips Hue Light starter kit. From there, you’ll have a foundation that you can keep adding onto when new devices come along you wish to tie in. It really is as simple as that.
If you have any smart home questions or recommendations for other Gadget Flow readers, feel free to leave a comment below! We’d love to hear from you.
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