5 lessons from building my smart home

5 lessons from building my smart home

Creating a Smart Home: Lessons Learned

Smart Home

“Dr. Frankenstein would be proud of my smart home. Like the not-so-good doctor, I built this surprisingly capable, if occasionally awkward creature myself, using parts I collected from here and there.”

Have you ever wanted to create your own smart home, with all the conveniences and futuristic technology? Well, that’s exactly what I did. My smart home is a mishmash of different hardware and gadgets that I’ve collected along the way. From lighting fixtures and switches to smart locks and security systems, my home is a testament to the possibilities of DIY smart homes.

1. Lighting is the killer app

“With conventional lighting fixtures, it’s nearly impossible to set a mood properly. Lamps with a single bulb at a single fixed wattage offer one level of illumination, take it or leave it.”

The first lesson I learned on my smart home journey is that smart lighting is truly a game-changer. Traditional lighting fixtures limit your control over the ambiance of a space. But with smart bulbs and switches, you have infinite control over the intensity, color, and warmth of your lights. I’ve incorporated a range of smart lighting hardware in my home, including Philips Hue bulbs, lightstrips, smart Wi-Fi switches from Kasa and Lutron, and even an oddball Govee lamp in my office.

It may have taken four separate apps to set up and configure this motley crew of lighting equipment, but once the initial configuration was complete, I could control everything with ease using the Google Home app or voice commands with the Google Assistant. Through Google Home automations, I’ve created custom lighting schemes for different activities like dining, watching TV, and bedtime. The lights even turn off automatically when everyone leaves the house and turn back on when someone returns, thanks to presence detection.

2. Physical switches are still a must

“It’s absolutely delightful to be able to turn a light off or set a precise dimming level with a simple voice command or a tap on a smartphone app. But what happens when your internet connection is interrupted?”

While smart devices offer incredible convenience, it’s important to remember that technology isn’t infallible. The second lesson I learned was the importance of physical switches. When your internet is down, you can still operate lights and switches that work over local Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections. It’s essential to have a backup plan for lighting when the network is unavailable. In my home, the Kasa and Lutron switches, as well as the lights connected to the Hue hub, function even without internet access, ensuring that I never lose control of my smart lighting.

3. Smart locks and security systems are an expensive luxury

“After we signed the papers to buy our current home, I briefly considered replacing the electronic front door lock with a smart version that could open with the help of a smartphone app.”

One of the early decisions I made was whether to invest in a smart lock for my front door. While the allure of unlocking my door with a smartphone was tempting, I ultimately decided against it. The cost of a smart lock and the additional security it promised didn’t outweigh the benefits of my tried-and-true traditional lock. With a simple key or the three numeric codes I’ve programmed into my lock, I have secure and reliable access to my home. However, I am considering adding a smart doorbell with a camera for enhanced security in the future.

4. Smart hubs are still an emerging standard

“If I were building a custom home from the foundation up, I would totally spec it out so that everything was controlled by a single smart hub running a modern protocol.”

While a smart hub that controls all devices from a single platform sounds like a dream, the reality is that it’s still an emerging standard. The market offers various options, but integrating different brands and technologies can be a challenge. In my case, I explored options like Lutron and Samsung’s SmartThings but found limitations in compatibility with the existing hardware I had invested in. The recently introduced Matter standard shows promise, with support from major players like Apple, Google, and Amazon. However, I’m content to wait and observe the progress before considering a migration to a new smart hub system.

5. Choosing a smart assistant is crucial

“Welcome to your smart home. Will you be using Apple, Google, or Amazon?”

Once you’ve decided to create a smart home, choosing a smart assistant becomes crucial. Compatibility with your existing devices and the ease of integration are vital factors to consider. In my case, the choice was obvious. With Google Nest hubs in every room and a network of Google-enabled devices, leveraging the Google Assistant made perfect sense. The ability to integrate various smart home apps into the Google infrastructure simplified the setup and management process. As smart home technology continues to evolve, advancements in standards like Matter might eventually make the integration of different smart assistants more seamless for homeowners.

Creating my own smart home has been an adventure filled with challenges, discoveries, and the occasional whimsical moment. From mastering smart lighting to understanding the importance of physical backup options, I’ve learned invaluable lessons along the way. While the process of setting up a smart home requires some tinkering and manual setup, the future holds promise for a more accessible and standardized experience. So, whether you’re a mad scientist or simply an enthusiast, don’t be afraid to dive into the world of smart homes and embrace the vast possibilities it offers.