06/30/2020 – This guide is being constantly updated as of the moment. We are creating an ultimate Smart Home Guide with the aims of having around 50,000+ words for all topics in this industry. Please bare with us! Consider joining our newsletter or getting in touch in the comments!
A Beginners Guide To Smart Homes
What you will learn:
- What is a Smart Home
- Is it expensive?
- Where do I start?
- How do I build a Smart Home?
- And a lot more!
If you already have a smart home, this isn’t the guide for you, in this guide we will be starting from scratch. Showing the order process and installation of various devices to help you set up a safe & secure smart home.
This will be an essential walk through on the what, how and when to do anything Smart Home related.
Who This Guide Is for:
You’re a home owner looking to save money – Smart Homes are a fantastic way of investing in the future. By the end of this guide, you will be able to break down the total amount you could be saving.
You’re a huge fan of crazy gadgets and Robots – Smart Homes are cool, remember when comic books weren’t cool but popped up out of nowhere? I can almost gaurantee this will be cool in the future. What’s not to love about glowing lights and a self-cleaning kitchen?
You’re often out of the house – Did you know Smart Homes allow you to monitor and control your home whilst being on the other side of the world? All you need is an internet connection and you can control your heating, view your CCTV or even turn your vacuum robot on.
We’ll be touching on Smart Voice Assistants, Smart Hubs, Smart Bulbs, Smart Thermostats, Smart Security systems and even Smart Gardening.
Our YouTube channel has a ton of content worth checking out from Raw Footage of Smart Cameras to unboxings and reviews.
What is a Smart Home?
Placing everything you have onto the internet is a daunting yet fascinating thing to do.
There’s a lot of benefits to Smart Homes and connecting your devices to your Wi-Fi network.
A Smart home allows you to control everything at the touch of a finger or via a voice-controlled smart speaker, we will tackle that later on in this post once the basics have been explained.
Smart Homes are definitely the future of information, did you know a majority of people who use their SmartPhone assistants don’t realise how often they use it?
This is the future of your home, being able to walk around asking questions whenever it pops into your head.
You’ll have access to all your information such as who accessed what rooms at what times, what triggered a camera feed to start recording and even recording energy via Smart Meters / Smart Thermostats.
It doesn’t end there though, you’ll have access to a complete set of automation rule sets.
You can make it so your lights all turn off if they’re left on past 2am, turn your lights on automatically when your food delivery is about to arrive or even set a morning routine for daily information.
Basically, your home becomes a utility to help you perform your daily tasks with less stress or issues.
There are elements to Smart Homes which don’t necessarily exist just in your home but are an extension of this.
They are things like Smart Robots, you’ve likely heard of these robot vacuums which turn themselves on and run on a schedule mapping out the rooms you assign them to, getting better as they learn.
Whilst your Voice Assistant does record everything you say after triggering it, the information can be deleted. How do I delete my Alexa Voice Recordings?
What do I need to start a Smart Home?
There are too many variables to simply tell you what to get, I’m going to walk you through the steps I took, the areas to avoid, how much it cost and what brands to trust. It can all be quite daunting so let me help you avoid the hassle!
You will want to start with a voice assistant, this is the absolute entry-level start with a Smart Home, the popular options for your Smart Assistant are:
- Amazon Alexa
- Google Assistant
- Apple HomeKit (Siri)
How do I decide which Smart Assistant to pick?
Personally, I would highly suggest going with Alexa if you already have Amazon Prime (30 cancel any time Free-Trial if not), Amazon Alexa commonly comes in the Echo Speaker devices, however, you will find it in other devices like Sonos Speakers.
If you decide to go down the Google route, you will be looking into the Nest / Home brand, Google Nest is specifically for Smart Home products and is due to Google buying the Nest Team in 2014.
It should be noted that Google has a habbit of buying out companies and getting rid of them, so be careful with future products Google buys!
Apple has its own locked-in system called Homekit which uses Siri. I personally don’t see too many products which boast Apple compatibility, however, if you do have an iPhone or iPad household it may be a much better route for you.
Alexa is however compatible with a lot of other Smart Home Brands, gadgets and appliances. Arguably the easiest to set up given their infrastructure.
Amazon takes pride in trying to make its ecosystem click together with no issues, that’s why the Amazon Alexa Skill Creation tool is so fluid.
If you want to really wow your friends or make your living arrangements easier, I highly suggest checking it out.
Amazon also has the cheapest infrastructure in the long run as there are so many budget options, for example, the Amazon Echo Input which is just the Alexa device with no voice output (You would need an external speaker via a 3.5mm audio-input / Bluetooth).
That’s a pretty simple break down on the Smart Home Assistant route, there’s so much more in-depth you can read but I do highly suggest you check over what has been written above and make a decision before moving forward.
Whilst it doesn’t matter too much which voice assistant you pick when you advance down the line, early on it is a big choice.
Moving forward, there are so many different parts of a Smart Home; These include Smart Lighting, Smart Speakers, Smart Thermostats, Smart Cameras (Indoor and Outdoor CCTV), Smart Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors, Smart Irrigation / Smart Gardens and even Smart Theatres.
Smart Lighting is an entry point into a Smart Home, there’s so many different systems and methods to creating a great Lighting ecosystem, some cost more than others but in the long run, Smart Lights save money.
What is Smart Lighting?
Smart lighting is as it sounds, lighting, except it can be controlled remotely via a Smart Phone App or voice controlled assistant (Like Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant).
You’ll be able to change a lot of variables, such as brightness, colour and pre-set scenes. This allows you to set the mood of rooms, automatically dim lights as it gets closer to your sleep time.
You can also set these lights up to do certain tasks when a trigger is met, for example, when your local pizza place sets your delivery status to “On its way”, your porch lights will come on!
What do I need for a Smart Light system?
This is where it can get a bit confusing if you’re not used to these terms, so I’ll do my best to help break it down. I do have blog posts that go into further detail about the logistics of Smart Lights.
Smart Lighting typically uses a mesh network, this is where each bulb connects to the closest bulb it can find. For example, your mobile phone will connect to a main bulb and through that it will send commands to other bulbs.
This method does require a hub which plugs directly into your router. This is what allows other networked devices to communicate with the mesh bulbs.
Not every Light Bulb brand requires a hub, for example, LIFX doesn’t as your bulbs connect directly to your WiFi connection.
However, this can create stress on your network if too many bulbs are added.
Some light bulb systems also have their own “Anti-burglary” systems in place, for example, when your phone isn’t on the WiFi network between certain times (Like your work schedule) your lights will turn on and off as if someone is home.
What types of bulbs are there?
There are three major types of bulbs; Standard, Spotlight and Candle Bulbs.
Each of these bulbs has different types of fittings which is important as there are different types of fittings on each Smart Bulb model and whilst you can get fitting convertors it can create issues in regards to controlling the bulb (Not to mention they’re ugly extensions).
Standard Bulbs typically come with an E27 or bayonet fitting. Candle Bulbs use an SES fitting, if this is a spotlight bulb it will typically require a GU10 fitting.
A majority of Smart Lighting bulbs are LED based, this means they use a lot less power than your traditional incandescent light bulbs.
For example, a standard Smart Bulb is 9.5W, however, your standard incandescent bulb will be around 60W.
At around 1/6th of the Wattage it still manages to keep similar or the same brightness/lumens.