Welcome to our ultimate guide for smart homes. We can help if you want to make your house smarter but need help figuring out where to begin. You can build the smartest home you want at a price and device that suits your budget. If you know how to start a DIY smart house, you are on your way to connecting devices or appliances to the internet. You can then use your voice or smartphone to control and automate. The things that make your home “smart” will vary from person to person. Anyone can bring the smartest home gadgets to their life, whether they are a voice-activated cooking system, renter-friendly products or fun outdoor party gadgets.
The Smart Home allows you to customize your environment and anticipate your needs. At least, that is the pitch. It’s not easy to put it all together, but with the right combination and setup, you can add convenience and make life easier.
The smart-home world is complicated, with various standards and ecosystems to learn and a wide range of devices. This smart-home guide was created to help you better understand your options, the jargon and the implications of your choices. Planning is key.
Select Your Smart Home Ecosystem
Decide which ecosystem is best for you before you begin shopping. Three main ecosystems are available: Google Home (also known as Google Assistant), Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit. Google Home is the best choice if your home has a lot of Apple products, such as iPhones, iPads and Macs. However, you might prefer the Google Home platform if you own an Android device. Third-party devices often support multiple standards. However, it is easier to use a single ecosystem. Here’s a brief breakdown of each standard:
Google Assistant is the key strength of the next ecosystem. It responds quickly to voice commands and is intelligent enough to understand conversational speech. It also understands complex commands or follow-ups that would confuse Alexa or Siri. Google Assistant comes pre-installed on Android devices, and Google Home offers quick access to smart home shortcuts.
Get more discounts with Amazon Discount Codes
HomeKit may be the most restrictive option but still the best for iPhone users. Apple’s stricter certification of third-party devices ensures smooth operation. HomeKit is less popular than Alexa and Google Assistant, but all the major smart-home brands have it. Apple’s Home app, which is easy to use and elegant, is supported by devices that are simple to install and is the most secure platform. Apple stores data on devices whenever possible and collects minimal data. You need a HomeKit Hub device to control your devices while away from home. This could be a HomePod Mini or an Apple TV. Siri is the least powerful of the three voice assistants. It’s improving.
Alexa has the largest range of compatible devices in the smart home arena. It’s possible to ask Alexa anything, but its answers may not be as accurate as Google’s. Alexa offers many Skills, like smartphone apps developed by third parties. Its speakers and smart displays can be purchased at the lowest prices, especially during big sales events like Prime Day. You must install the Alexa App on your phone before you can use voice commands.
Google, Apple and Amazon collect data about your usage. This includes recordings of the voice interactions you have with their assistants. Humans review the data to ensure accuracy. However, the backlash against transparency has made it easier for you to manage your information. Some guides show you how to make your recordings private on all three platforms. We also explain how to remove voice recordings and other activities and make smart speakers and displays as private as possible.
There are other options to use something other than the three major ecosystems. Home Assistant is a platform designed to protect your privacy and give you local control. The platform is powerful and has an active community. It offers many automation and integration options. However, it cannot be easy to configure and understand.
Try Samsung SmartThings or Tuya Smart Life. Both platforms are voice-activated and use Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa.
You Need a Hub
You can control your smart-home devices with your smartphone. This is possible by using an app or talking to the respective assistant. We recommend a mixture of smart speakers, smart displays and other smart devices throughout your home to ensure your assistant can hear you (you don’t have to shout). Here are some of our favourite smart speakers and intelligent displays. These are the most versatile because they have simple touch controls that anyone can use. It would help if you also considered your family members and guests, who may not be familiar with smart home setups.
Smart lighting is one example. If you want a voice assistant to control your lights, the light switches must be in the “on” position. You could confuse your guests if you don’t have a physical switch. Also, children may be unable to use voice control or have easy access to phone controls. People will likely turn off your switches. Years of muscle memory make it difficult to break. Smart switches can help you avoid this problem. However, it is important to consider whether or not you would like to replace the original switches with a second pair.
Some ecosystems allow users to create a profile. Others can identify the person speaking in the house for a more personalized experience. It would help to show your family and roommates how to use the solution.
WiFi: It’s Important
Almost all smart-home devices require a reliable WiFi connection. You should know the two most common frequencies: 2.4GHz and 5GHz. The majority of smart-home devices use the 2.4 GHz frequency. However, this is changing. The 5-GHz frequency has a greater range but faster speeds.
WiFi 6E is a relatively new WiFi protocol that supports 6-GHz. This could be even faster than WiFi 7 (WiFi 7 also uses 6 GHz). WiFi 6E is faster, more secure and can handle more devices. However, all your gadgets must support WiFi 6E. This includes your mesh network and router. It also has a shorter range. WiFi 6E is a technology that’s becoming more popular, but it’s also something you should consider to prepare for the future.
Congestion can be a problem, especially for those who live in apartments. Apps can monitor how busy WiFi channels may be and switch them to another channel if necessary. Most routers will handle this automatically. A router’s limitations are another consideration. Most routers can support 250 devices. However, performance can be affected even before reaching the limit.
You can make your WiFi more responsive by using. Upgrading to a newer router can bring major benefits if you use an older router or a basic model provided by your ISP. Mesh systems are ideal for larger properties and homes with WiFi dead zones.
It is best to use a password with a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, special characters, and others. Connect smart devices to a different network (some router makers have an IoT option). Also, always create a guest network to allow visitors to access it.
Bluetooth, WiFi or Smart Hubs: Which is better?
Some smart-home products offer connecting via Bluetooth, WiFI, or a smart hub like Philips Hue. Bluetooth is slower and less reliable than WiFi. While WiFi may seem the easiest option, a dedicated hub can reduce congestion, provide more stability and make connected devices responsive.
Hubs use different technologies to connect devices. These are usually low-power, low-bandwidth, and have a long range. Thread, Zigbee LoRa Z-Wave…the technologies are endless. Although some hubs may be standalone devices, manufacturers are increasingly integrating technologies such as Thread into smart speakers, displays, routers, and other devices. Hubs require power and may also need an Ethernet port on your router.
Confirm Smart Home Compatibility
Look for the logo on the product’s box or website to see if it is compatible with your chosen ecosystem. You want to see at least one of the following:
- Google Assistant works with your Google Assistant
- Work with Alexa
- Compatible with Apple HomeKit
These logos indicate a minimum level of support. You can control your gadget using voice commands and connect to the ecosystem. Support for an ecosystem does not mean the same for every product. A robot vacuum may only have voice commands to start and stop, while another could be instructed to clean a room or continue working until a set time. Check the complete list of commands and user reviews for a full picture of what is possible.
Third-party smart home devices also have built-in voice assistants. The “Alexa Built-in” logo indicates you can speak directly to Alexa via the device. Google’s equivalent is a simple “Google Assistant” icon. The Sonos Beam, for example, is a device with both Google Assistant (also known as Alexa) and Alexa built-in. Therefore, You can talk to it directly, like a Nest or Echo speaker. Siri is currently only available on Apple devices. However, it will be coming to other devices soon.
Smart-Home Standards: What you need to Know
The need for standards has hampered the smart-home industry for many years. It’s getting better, but it still needs to be clarified. Behind the scenes, different wireless standards are used to connect your smart home devices. ZigBee and Z-Wave are two popular wireless standards.
Thread, a more recent standard (used by Apple, Google and Nanoleaf), creates a mesh without a hub. Bluetooth (low-energy) and Bluetooth LE are also available. There are other standards as well. Most technologies are unimportant since you can mix them in your home. The device manufacturers are responsible for deciding which ecosystems (if any) they wish to support, regardless of the technology.
It is where matter appears. It’s a wireless interoperability standard that is relatively new. All smart-home devices should work seamlessly, securely and reliably. Over 200 companies are involved, including Google and Amazon, Apple, Samsung and the ZigBee Alliance. The matter is a middleman that cuts across ecosystems and standards to simplify setup and make everything play well together. A Google Nest Hub smart screen can display the video feed of a Ring Doorbell using matter. They don’t currently play well together.
Many older devices, as well as most newer devices, will be updated to support matter. Philips Hue and Nanoleaf confirmed that their current and future smart lighting devices would support this standard. Google has also announced that Matter support will be coming to Android and Nest devices, allowing Matter devices to be easily set up through the Google Home App.
Setup of Smart-Home Devices
Compatible with all major smart home ecosystems, the big brands are easy to work with. Philips Hue lights, for instance, can be added from the Google Home or Apple Home apps. This is rare. For most devices, you will need to use an app from a third party for initial setup, configuration, and controls.
In most cases, the setup guide for smart-home devices will direct you to download the companion application first. It may be necessary to enter a serial or QR code. These codes are often found on the underside or back of the device or in the instructions.
Linking to your ecosystem is likely part of the installation process. However, this may be different. Dig through your Apple Home or Google Home settings to manually link your accounts. You will need to install Alexa’s relevant skills.
After setting up and connecting a device to your ecosystem, you may not need to use a third-party application again. This depends on the gadget. Google Home, Apple Home and Alexa provide a simplified control set for most devices. It is a good idea to keep the third-party app on hand.
Choose Names and Good Spots With Care
It’s crucial to choose the right spot for any smart-home gadget. You must provide them with a good WiFi connection and an outlet. Consider accessibility, especially if the device is battery-powered and must be charged periodically. Installing a camera or other device like that is not recommended.
It’s tempting to give your smart-home gadgets silly names or to not think about it, but you should stick to a consistent naming scheme. Voice commands must be precise to work. We recommend naming devices according to their location, such as “office light” and “living room speaker”. If you have several devices in one room, such as lights, you can either number them or organize them by area.
It doesn’t really matter if you choose “kitchen counter light” and “kitchen desk light” or “kitchen 1” and “kitchen 2”, as long as the names are clear to everyone. It would help if you were careful to avoid duplicate names, as they may cause problems for voice assistants and smart-home platforms.
Automation, Routines and Grouping
In the app of your smart-home ecosystem, you can group devices together or arrange them by room. It’s important to group your lights if you have more than one. You don’t want the hassle of saying, “Turn On Living Room Light 1” and then “Turn On Living Room Light 2”.
You can create custom zones, rooms, or groups based on your platform. This allows you to group rooms or subsets within rooms or even group devices in multiple rooms. This is worth considering, as you will have more control over voice commands and can set up routines or automation.
Automating your smart home is one of the most exciting features. Your smart-home system could, for example, detect when you are leaving the house and turn off everything or respond to your arrival by turning on the lights, cranking the air conditioner and playing your favourite playlist.
You can also schedule different actions. It could be useful for devices such as robot vacuums that maintain your home well. You can trigger certain tasks with a customized word. You can have Google Assistant open the curtains and start your coffee maker by saying “Good Morning” to it. You can get started with our guides on creating Google Home Routines, Alexa Routines, and setting up Apple Siri Shortcuts.
You can create routines or applets with devices and services from different platforms supporting IFTTT. IFTTT is a powerful tool that automates multiple devices with a single command. IFTTT can turn on Philips Hue lights for your front porch and garden when your video doorbell detects an approaching person.
How to Move or Change Routers
It can be daunting to re-install all your devices after moving into a new home or changing routers, especially if the instructions or box for each device is not readily available. By using the same router password and name, you can make the process much easier.
Read our guide to un-setting up your smart home if someone is leaving your home. They won’t be able to control any of your gadgets remotely.
Security Is Important
Smart-home devices with cameras and microphones can affect your home’s privacy. Security breaches can reveal personal information and recordings in the cloud. Please read the privacy policies of manufacturers and ensure you are comfortable with their use of your data. You should also research to find out if the manufacturers of smart-home devices have been involved in any recent hacks.
You might need to remember to unmute your smart speaker or display if you are not near. Consider plugging in your speaker or display to a Smart Plug. You can then schedule them to be turned off when unused.
Think carefully before purchasing a smart-home gadget with a built-in camera, such as a robot vacuum cleaner or smart display. The majority of them are only needed if you buy a surveillance camera. If you own a smart display with a video call camera, you can purchase a webcam cover that can be opened when needed.
To reduce the chance of someone using stolen credentials to gain access, use devices that offer multi-factor verification (commonly called two-factor encryption). You’ll be required to confirm your account via text or email. The latter is safer. Biometric login is possible with some devices. You can use your fingerprint or facial recognition on your phone. It’s convenient and secure. Take the time to enable these features, as they are not always enabled by default.
Even if you carefully follow the instructions, many things still need to be corrected. We’ve learned a few things the hard way.
- Check that you are connected to the same network as the device (most devices require 2.4GHz). We have a guide on setting up smart home devices using 2.4GHz WiFi.
- Repeat the setup process if it doesn’t work. Some devices will fail or hang for a long time at first. However, if you load the app and quit, many connect immediately.
- Switch things on and off again. This works quite often, and it also applies to smart home devices.
- Try rebooting your router if you have already restarted your smart-home device. Check that your router is running the latest firmware.
- You can search online, but specify the model and issue. Check the support forums to see if a thread discusses your problem. You might be lucky; someone has already suggested a fix or workaround.
- The only option left is to reset your computer.
Smart Devices That You Can Install For An Automated Home
Smart thermostats allow you to automate and control your home’s heating and cooling systems. With your smartphone, you can control the temperature anywhere, thanks to remote access and scheduling functions. Smart thermostats can also save energy by optimizing settings and learning user preferences.
Smart lighting systems allow you to automate and control your home’s lighting. Apps on smartphones or voice commands can control smart bulbs and switches. You can create lighting scenes or schedules and adjust brightness or colour to match moods and activities.
Smart Security Cameras
Smart security cameras give you peace of mind, allowing you to monitor your house remotely. These cameras have features such as live video feeds and motion detection. They also offer two-way audio communications. Some models have facial recognition features, which allow you to be alerted when familiar or unknown faces are detected.
Smart Door Locks
Smart door locks are replacing traditional locks with keyless entry. You can lock or unlock your doors using your smartphone or a unique digital code. This feature can be especially helpful when interacting with guests or service providers from a distance. Some smart locks integrate with other smart devices in the home, providing automation and enhanced security.
Smart or video doorbells combine a traditional doorbell and a camera with two-way audio communication. With your smartphone, you can talk to and see visitors at your door from any location. The motion detection feature will alert you when someone approaches your front door. This increases home security.
They are small, plug-in devices that can be plugged into standard outlets. You can control the power of any device that is plugged in. Smart plugs allow you to turn on and off devices remotely via a smartphone application, schedule devices to run automatically or monitor energy consumption.
Smart Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
These smart detectors will provide you with extra security in your home. These devices will send you real-time notifications to your smartphone when they detect smoke or carbon dioxide. Some models provide voice notifications and can be integrated with other smart devices.
Smart Garage Door Opener
Smart garage door openers allow you to open your garage remotely using your smartphone. As an added security measure, you can receive notifications if the garage door is open or closed. Some models are compatible with other smart systems and even allow voice control.
Smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Alexa, Google Home and Google Assistant are voice-activated gadgets that play music, answer your questions, control other smart devices, etc. These devices act as a central hub in your smart home. You can use them to control lights, adjust thermostats or stream content.
Smart TVs allow you to stream services such as Netflix, Hulu or YouTube from your TV. Smart TVs allow you to control your TV with voice commands and integrate them with other smart devices in the home. They also provide seamless entertainment.
Smart Blinds and Shades
Blinds and shades that are smart automate window treatments. You can control them remotely, set schedules, or adjust the blinds or shades based on temperature, time, or your preferences. Some models adjust according to the intensity of sunlight or can be controlled by voice assistants.
Smart appliances can help you save energy and time in your kitchen. Smart appliances have many features, including energy monitoring, recipe suggestions and integration with voice assistants.
Smart Water Leak Detectors
Smart water leak detectors can help you prevent water damage to your home by alerting you early of any leaks. These devices are placed in areas that tend to leak, like under sinks, around appliances or in basements. They send you alerts when water is detected. This allows you to act immediately and save money on costly repairs.
Smart Sprinkler Systems
Smart sprinklers automate lawn irrigation by weather conditions and water conservation practices. These systems adjust the watering schedules to save water while ensuring your lawn gets the right moisture. Some models are integrated with soil sensors and weather forecasts for optimal watering.
Smart Pet Feeders
Smart pet feeders allow you to feed your pets remotely. Apps on smartphones allow you to set up feeding schedules, portion sizes, and treat dispensing. Some models come with built-in cameras that allow you to keep an eye on your pet while you are away.