Having a smart home offers you a wide array of benefits that can make life easier and automate the mundane tasks most of us do daily. From smart locks that you can unlock with an app to robot vacuums that keep your house clean, there are many desirable smart home products on the market. If you're still exploring the idea of a smart home or want to take the next step towards a more connected home, read on for some tips that will help you set up a smart home for total efficiency.
What Is A Smart Home?
A smart home is a way to make your life a little easier through technology. By connecting the tech in your home to one another, you can control them more efficiently through a smartphone app or a voice-controlled smart hub. Smart homes give you the benefits of convenience and can also help you automate routines and rules for your home (like lights turning off at a certain time), provide you with extra security (like camera feeds from your doorstep) or save you money and energy (like alerting you when your electricity usage is high).
Most smart home devices include apps that allow you to control their functions right from your smartphone. However, some products will use Bluetooth-connected controls that communicate with a central hub in your home, like a Google Home. Those devices are controlled from the hub's app instead of the device's app.
When setting up a smart home, it's best to start small and build your way out as you go. You may want to start with one or two items until you're comfortable using them before branching out and connecting everything.
To get everything to work together, you will need a smart home hub. These products allow your smart devices to communicate through one central command centre. The most popular options include SmartThings from Samsung, Google Nest Hub, and Echo or Alexa from Amazon.
- Start by confirming that your smart hub is compatible with most (or all) of your devices. Not all hubs will work with every smart product, so choose one that can connect with the items you plan to use most often.
- If you prefer to use your voice to control things in your home, look for a smart hub that offers voice command as the main feature. You can do things like turn the lights on and off or adjust the temperature in your home with a simple phrase.
- Once you feel comfortable operating your smart home, you might want to expand to a more complex device such as a wall panel. This option gives you the ability to control more devices, but not all models communicate with smart hubs. You may need to switch entirely to the panel to control everything from a central location.
A great beginner product to try is a smart lightbulb, outlet, or switch. Smart outlets typically coordinate with hubs like the Amazon Echo or Google Home to control anything plugged into it, like coffee makers or table lamps. Ensure that your smart outlet is compatible with the hub that you own so everything goes smoothly and connects. Once set up, these outlets make using small appliances easy, automated, and streamlined.
As for the lighting itself, you can replace your old bulbs with smart ones to control everything from colour temperatures and colours to brightness levels. The C by GE Full Color Smart Bulb is easy to set up and gives you the ability to adjust colours or turn your lights on and off via voice controls. Smart lights are easy to install: you screw them in, connect to the Wi-Fi and your hub, and you are good to go.
TIP: If you’re unsure how to connect your outlet or lightbulbs to the Wi-Fi, look for the product name as an option under the Wi-Fi list. Select it, then open the brand’s app to link it to the Wi-Fi.
Perhaps the most popular choice for smart homes is a security system. Smart security includes everything from locks that you can control remotely to doorbell cameras, motion sensor lights and sirens. With these devices, you can monitor your home from anywhere and be alerted of possible suspicious activity. Smart security cameras are great for parents, homeowners, and anyone who wants to check on activity around their property.
The security system you purchase should come with directions on creating an account and connecting to the internet. Some smart security products allow you to self-monitor, while others may charge a monthly fee for their monitoring services.
Some security equipment may need to be mounted or drilled into place, but there are peel-and-stick options if you are worried about damaging walls or are planning a move.
TIP: Many brands offer kits where you can get all your security needs in one place.
If you're looking for ways to save energy, smart thermostats are a fantastic solution. These devices work with your home's heating and cooling system just like any other thermostat but can be controlled through an app, even when you're not at home. Some models will also learn your habits and determine the peak times you use the air conditioning or heat. This simple automated task keeps the temperature comfortable inside without you having to make the adjustments yourself. You can train your smart thermostat to turn on and off according to your schedule to save energy, too.
Check out our Smart Thermostat Buying Guide for more information.
Once your smart home is connected, you need to make sure your network isn’t vulnerable to hackers, whether through your Wi-Fi, router or devices. If someone breaches your network, they could have access to personal information, like your account details, or be able to control your devices remotely.
Make sure to change the default username and password for your smart home devices. Create something unique for each item but still easy to remember. When setting up each device, you should be able to add two-factor authentication in their settings or on the brand’s app. This is an extra level of security that will notify you via phone or email if anyone is attempting to access your system.
You should also upgrade your security settings on your Wi-Fi router to WPA2 encryption if you haven’t already.
Each smart home device will require different installation methods. While smart plugs and lightbulbs are easy to set up, smart thermostats or security systems can be more complicated as they may tap into existing wiring in your home. For example, a video doorbell may be powered by the wiring from your existing doorbell.
Some smart home devices are battery-powered or may require plugging into a regular electrical outlet. Make sure you have one nearby where you plan to install your items.
If you’re not confident in installing smart home items yourself, Lowe’s offers smart home installation services.
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