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Home Automation - the Basics

February 23, 2018

Smart homes are a hot topic these days. Rapidly-developing technology is creating endless ways to incorporate a safer, more convenient, eco-friendly home.  According to Juniper Research, by 2021, the number of smart home automation and monitoring devices will exceed 770 million globally.


 While smart home technology has been in existence for many years, it was previously reserved for the wealthy or nerdy types.  But the unbounded growth of the Internet of Things has made it possible for just about anyone to set up a home automation system.  With a wireless router, smartphone, and a few apps, you can remotely regulate the temperature of your home, monitor the security, and control lights, appliances, and door locks.


Smart wiring has become standard for most new home construction, with the incorporation of central hubs and connected wiring for lighting, internet communications, security, and entertainment systems.


Innovative technology is also affecting the home improvement industry in a big way, and home renovations are integrating smart wiring packages as well as automated appliances, lighting, and security systems.  If you’re planning a remodel or renovation and want to automate house-wide, be prepared to spend up to $20,000 for electrical modifications that include substantial rewiring and the installation of USB-equipped power outlets. 


Getting Started - Connecting Your Wireless Network

A smart home can be a great DIY project and you can build a basic starter system for less than you think!  Your home wireless network is what will drive everything, so you’ll need sufficient bandwidth and power. Place your WiFi router where the external cable/internet/phone lines come into the house; preferably in a central location.  For a more stable connection, use an Ethernet cable.


If you want to automate multiple products in your home, you’ll need a central hub.  Amazon offers several Echo products that connect to a number of compatible devices, and Samsung’s SmartThings brand has many options.  


For single product automations, you can simply download the manufacturer’s app and set-up the WiFi connection with your phone.


Be aware that there are hundreds of products on the market and they use different internet protocols, including WiFi, Z-Wave, Bluetooth, Thread, and more.  Before you run out and buy smart products, plan to first select the hub/controller you want to use; then, find products that are compatible. The product website should have a “Works With” page showing what it plays well with.  For instance, Samsung’s SmartThings is here.


Smart Plugs

 A cost-effective option, especially for small homes and apartments, is using mobile-enabled smart plugs and switches for indiv