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There are some things you need to know before building a smart home. This guide will walk you through them and hopefully help you avoid quite a few mistakes that smart home beginners make.
I didn’t have a clue what I was doing when I built my smart home. It takes a little time, effort and research to go through all of your options. I mean all of the smart thermostats and smart security cameras, smart refrigerators, etc.
It’s just too much when you are first starting out. Then there are the questions. How does this all connect together? Should I control it by using my voice? How secure is this whole thing? These are all good questions and you will get to them all in time. The following are my 11 tips that you should check out if you are just in the beginning stages of building a smart home.
1. Look Around
As a smart home beginner, the first thing you need to do before even thinking of starting any kind of smart home project is by looking around your house and figure out what you would like to see automated. Think about all of the different parts of your house. The living room, the office, the bathroom, even the basement. There are many different ways to automate your home.
You may want to even discuss with other family members to help you decide what everyone else would like to see automated. Make a list of all of these items and put it together. I find that by researching online you can get quite a few ideas.
You can also start talking to neighbors and friends who may have already purchased other smart home devices helps as well. Sometimes you don’t even know that someone you work with has a smart thermostat or smart home security until you talk to them. So initiating conversations about this topic is key as well.
2. Do Your Research
Figuring out what you need and what you don’t need is really where the fun begins. For example, If you have decided that you want to install smart home security. Then you may want to look online to see how other people have installed that particular item. That will tell you if you will need other smart home products for the install as well.
From my personal experience, I bought my Blink XT home security cameras. I didn’t just choose them in a few minutes and go out and buy them. I did hours of research to figure out that they were absolutely the best smart home cameras for my situation.
You can go on youtube and find reviews for just about any smart home product. Amazon has a ton of reviews on these cameras as well, and that certainly helped me out in making my decision. If all else fails and you still have questions about the item you are considering purchasing, then you can go directly to that vendor’s website and ask your question. Sometimes they even have a forum on their website for questions just like yours.
3. Start Smart
In my opinion, the place to start for any smart home beginner is the Smart Home Hub. There are quite a few of them out there now. So deciding which way to go can be quite a pain in your rump. There’s the Wink Hub, the Wink 2 Hub, Samsung SmartThings Hub, the list goes on and on and on.
Some people just use their Amazon Echo or their Google Home to act as a hub. Mostly because it will automatically integrate voice control. Then there are hubs that will just control one section of your smart home. Like the Harmony Smart Control Hub, which is primarily used to control your entertainment system.
The list of smart home hubs is growing every day. Some people say that they would just use hubless smart home products, that way they aren’t reliant on a core system. Personally, I think a great way to start and the way I usually recommend is to set up a Samsung SmartThings Hub. They have one the widest variety of smart home products that are compatible with their system.
4. Don’t Cheap Out
Remember the old adage, “you get what you pay for”? I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times just like me. Well, in the case of smart home products that has never stood more true. I can’t begin to tell you the amount of money and time that I have wasted on cheap and cheesy smart home products.
Sure they make them look good online, but when you actually have it in your hands it’s a very different story. When I was a smart home beginner I can tell you of at LEAST 3 different cheaply made smart home security cameras that I purchased before I ended up buying my Blink XT set up.
That’s one of the reasons that I did so much research before I purchased them. Yes, they were probably twice what I was paying for the cheap and cheesy ones. But at the end of the day, I would rather have cameras that consistently work and don’t have issues all of the time.
5. Take Your Time
Slow it down cowboy! This kind of goes along with the other things I mentioned previously. One of the biggest mistakes that I see people making is buying everything all at once. So they have all this stuff sitting in their basement.
Then when I see them they say something like “Oh yeah, I’ll get to that someday”. Then they open up the first package and say something like “well this is going to take two hours, I don’t have that kind of time”.
Please understand that it isn’t always going to be quick and easy. Nothing good ever comes easy! Ever hear that adage before? The same holds true here. Just take your time, and slow down. Buy one product or two at a time.
It really depends on what you plan on installing as to whether or not you’ll need more than one item, to begin with. A good example of this is when you buy your smart home hub make sure you buy a product to use with it.
This could be something as simple as a couple of door and window sensors. It might be something a little more progressive in the smart home world like smart lighting. No matter what you do, just don’t rush your projects.
6. Buy Your Smart Home Products
Now that you have decided on what project you are going to take on. It’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty Mr. and Mrs. smart home beginner.
Choosing where you are going to buy your smart home products is easy for some people because they always shop in the same place. However, for me, it’s always about price, and quite often I see sales on different smart home products from different stores.
Best Buy or Target or Walmart sometimes have great deals. For example, I got my Harmony Smart Hub at Walmart. Mostly because I had been thinking about getting one but wasn’t ready to pull the trigger. But they were running a sales that particular day and it was literally 50% less than what other retailers were selling it for.
Good deal? Yes, and sometimes you find them. However, honestly most of the time I see the best deals on Amazon. I also have a few of my recommended products over on my recommended tools page if you want to take a look.
7. Returning Items
Obviously, there are a lot of reasons that smart home beginners end up returning products. It didn’t fit right, it wasn’t what you thought it was, you felt it was too hard to install or you just didn’t like the color.
No matter what, at some point, you may have to return something. This is another reason that I LOVE Amazon and the reason that we have been Prime members in my household for many years now. We recently had an issue with an item (I don’t even remember what it was now).
We called them up to find out about a return and they said: “we’ll send you out another one”. My wife asked where we send the one that we had just purchased and they said, “you go ahead and keep it”. I mean, I’ve just never had that happen with any company, anywhere, EVER.
So, with that said, I would stick with my recommendation of using Amazon. Not only that, while you are there sign up for Prime. It’s absolutely worth every penny for free 2-day shipping and no hassles like you get at some of the other big box stores.
8. Learn How It Works
Now that you have your products, and have them installed correctly. You will want to spend some time in the manual and get to know this new piece of smart home gadgetry that you own. Especially as a smart home beginner, I suggest you do this with every new smart home product that you get.
The reason I suggest this is that many of these smart home items can actually do way more than you think they can. It’s really a great time to be alive and see the new technological innovations that are coming out from all of these companies. But if you don’t know how to use that new piece of technology it might end up feeling like more of a pain than a blessing.
9. Privacy & Security Concerns
This is a big one, especially for a smart home beginner. A lot of people have different security concerns when it comes to smart home technology. If I had a dime for every person who has said to me “hey, aren’t you worried that Alexa is recording you?” I’d be a VERY rich man.
Yes, I’ll be the first to admit that was a concern for me quite some time ago when these products first went too market. While there are always privacy concerns with anything that is connected to your internet connection this has become something I worry about less and less.
My reasoning? Watch this video and it will describe exactly why I’m worried less rather than more.
So as you can see, it really depends on how suspicious you are. But all in all, there is really no reason that Amazon would want to sell your information to the government. Because it doesn’t really have any data to sell.
All that said, there is still the security concern of being hacked. No one wants to wake up in the middle of the night to smoke alarms going off for no reason. Nor do they want to walk through the living room and have the TV turn on like their in some smart home poltergeist movie.
I have actually just written an article on this subject. Network security is something we all should be concerned with anyway. So I suggest you go read more about how to secure your smart home regardless.
10. Save Money
There isn’t one smart home beginner reading this who wouldn’t want to save money. That’s just a fact. Automated lights can save you money. Albeit not that much considering that each LED light bulb typically will cost you around less than 2 cents per year to operate under regular usage conditions.
So lighting wasn’t my real consideration for saving money by converting to a smart home. It does, however, take out the aggravation of having to yell at my daughter every time she leaves the light on in her bedroom. Because it shuts off automatically.
The real money saver was buying the 4 smart home Ecobee thermostats that we have. Yes, it costs money up front to buy the thermostats. Well, I’m on fire with old adages today, so let me throw another one out there. “It takes money to make money”. So my gas bill looks a lot nicer now and it will for some time in the future.
You can also check with your power or gas company to see about energy credits and rebates. Many power and gas companies will provide energy credits when you buy a smart thermostat. I recently saw one gas company that was offering free Nest thermostats. Once you start saving money with credits and rebates, watch out, it’s addictive!
11. Environment Concerns
As a smart home beginner, you need to be mindful when you are purchasing your smart home products as to where they will be located. It’s a nice thought that you can go out and get wireless smart security cameras for your backyard.
However, you need to be wary of the distance that your products will be from the Wi-Fi router. Also, some homes have building materials that sincerely just hinder the signal to your router. For example old brick buildings, old copper wiring, etc.
So long as you understand that you may need to adjust where your router is located in the house. It also could be that you need to just go out and buy a newer router and some access points that will transmit a better signal through the walls.
I applaud you for diving into building a smart home. It’s one of the most fun things I have ever done. I have quite a few articles on this page for the smart home beginner and I hope that you find them useful. Also, please pass the article around to your friends and family if you think they would benefit from it as well.