When I initially started out writing this blog for my fellow readers, I thought to myself at one point; would I be able to club together with a complete guide where I would jot down all the tips and tricks along with the gadgets that are best suited for new smart homeowners? Well, today is the day! I am very much excited and enthused into writing this blog today. So grab a cup of coffee, sit back and relax! The journey from your traditional home to your smart home begins here today with this article that you are about to read.
This guide is suitable for anyone and everyone at any stage of their smart home upgrade. If you are a beginner, then this guide is definitely worth a read and if you are an expert; I am sure you would be able to take away a few things from it.
RESILIENT INFRASTRUCTURE FOR CONNECTIVITY
It is always best advised to go for CAT6 cables wired throughout your house. If you are a DIY person like me, then doing this itself is a breeze. On the other hand, you can always seek the assistance of a qualified network technician to install the CAT6 cable throughout your house and install faceplates at spots where the connectivity to the smart device is required.
As opposed to the wired infrastructure and connectivity to your smart devices, there is always the option to go wireless by connecting all of your devices to the main router. But in all honesty, unless you go for a “mesh” setup based router, you would lack the response time on these devices and your expensive equipment might not function the way it is supposed to. Wireless technology has come a far stretch in terms of its uptime and availability, but I would prefer to be wired as opposed to being wireless for my smart devices, any day!
WIRELESS DEAD ZONES
If you have gone about connecting your smart devices through Wi-Fi, then ensure that there are no dead zones in which your smart devices are connected. Before you go crazy on why your Alexa didn’t follow your command toggled your lights off, try using a Wi-Fi analysis app to find out the dead zones at your home.
GET USED TO THE VOICE CONTROLLED DEVICES
You do not require an accent to communicate with these devices. But the necessity of speaking in clear English is what these devices are designed for. Several years ago I used to have a hard time communicating with the voice assistants on the smartphones, but eventually going through the learning curve of voice commands; I now feel it is a necessity and can easily turn the tables on the monotonous tasks of typing the commands or pressing buttons to get things done. Voice is the next generation!
KEEP A TAB ON THE DIFFERENT TYPE OF BATTERIES
Some smart gadgets are accompanied by dedicated batteries. You wouldn’t want to run out of these cells in the middle of something. So it is best advised to keep a tab on which type of battery is supplied with your particular smart device and always keep spares. Standard batteries such as the AA, AAA or the CR123 are most commonly used in these devices. Occasionally the manufacturer might install a CR2032 battery to accompany along with the others, but if so is the case; you are better of keeping spares on each.
MINIMIZE THE BATTERY USE
Always prefer to keep your smart devices connected to a dedicated power source instead of making them run on their dedicated batteries. If in confusion why? Then read the paragraph right above this one.
GIVE YOUR SMART DEVICES THEIR DEDICATED NAMES
If you have got multiple smart devices at home, then it is best to give them dedicated names so that you do not get confused when calling out for each device to perform its dedicated actions.
WHY NEUTRAL WIRE IS REQUIRED
If you have an old home, then this could be a case in your particular home’s wiring infrastructure. Since most of the houses built before the year 2000 didn’t have the need to have neutral wiring running through the faceplates. If this is the case in your particular scenario, then this would be a great let down for hooking up your smart devices that are required to be on a faceplate and directly connected to the electrical points. If you are thinking about adding smart lights to your lighting array, then a neutral wire is a necessity. It is not the end of the world if you don’t have neutral wires. A qualified electrician is your best bet and should be able to pull neutral wires for you without a much of a hassle.
Refrain from pulling electrical work on your own as if you are not qualified, you may end up hurting yourself in ways that are unimaginable.
DECIDE BEFOREHAND THE KIND OF SMART HOME YOU WANT
Before you hop onto the bandwagon of turning your home into a smart home, the best advice I can give you is by sitting down and chalk out what exactly is it that you require. Whether you want your home to be completely redesigned into a smart home or just some basic remote control capability would be enough in your mind. Once you know what exactly is your target, then it would make it a lot easier for you to start investing and buying stuff which would eventually help you automate stuff that otherwise would have required manual intervention.
POSITION YOUR ECHO OR GOOGLE HOME CORRECTLY
A wrongly placed Smart Voice Assistant hub station such as the Echo or the Google home can easily disrupt the way you pass on commands to it. Most of the people I know complain about these smart hubs not understanding their voice commands. This is because if you have kept the device in a wrong place and you are passing on the commands from a far distance, then it wouldn’t help.
The best advice here is to install a wall mount and install your Amazon Echo onto it. Then Alexa would be a lot more responsive. Let me know your thoughts down in the comments section below if this particular one helped.
ALWAYS PREFER SMART LIGHT SWITCHES
If your target is to light up your whole living space, then you are better off investing in light switches as opposed to individual light bulbs. But if in the whole infrastructural requirement of lighting your home is based on a few rooms to be lightened up, then your best bet is to stick with smart lightbulbs.
ALWAYS ASK RATHER THAN WORRY
Social media has taken the world by storm. You can very easily find IoT groups, Smart Home Automation groups all over the social media channels. Find one on your favourite social media platform and join it. Ask questions, discuss and learn. You can even find out if there are some local IoT meetups in your colony and/or community.
ALWAYS REMEMBER YOUR PASSWORDS
It can be exhausting to keep a tab on what password you used on a particular smart device. Follow what I do! Use best practices when it comes down to creating passwords and always, I repeat always; ensure that you use a password vault that is secure enough with the latest enforcements and encryptions that wouldn’t allow a hacker to break in.
Almost all of the smart devices that are out there in the market have an app that can be used to control the device. So instead of using the touch panel, buttons, and remote on your particular device; you should also explore the opportunity by installing each individual app that comes along with these devices as they are a great way to be mobile and also provide enough failover to the owner in case the device controls are malfunctioning.
SMART MAILBOX SENSOR
It is now becoming a normal practice for smart homeowners to also install a smart mailbox sensor in their mailbox. This sensor goes on the lid of your mailbox and is capable to send alerts directly to your smartphone as and when your postman opens and keeps your daily mail into it. This is a great way to be notified once you have a physical mail that has arrived in your mailbox.
This kind of sensors does not function well in apartment styled mailboxes.
SMART THERMOSTATS AND THE COMMON (C) WIRE
Almost all of the smart thermostats out there require a C wire to be present into the socket before you can hook them up and start using them. So it is best advised to have your local electrician confirm the presence of the “C” wire prior to purchasing your new smart thermostat. This would save you the headache and the heartache of not being able to use your thermostat right out of the box. This happened with me, and I strongly recommend doing this before your smart thermostat purchase.
USE LED LIGHTNING
Install a strip of LED to lighten up your mood. Pair it with colour-changing smart bulbs and you are golden.
RETURN POLICY ON SMART HOME PRODUCTS
It is always advised to buy your smart home products from reputable brands and stores. You wouldn’t want to end up buying a piece of equipment and later coming to know that it was incompatible. It is always advisable to read the store’s return policy just so to be sure that your product can be returned and your money refunded in full if you return your product.
FALSE POSITIVES FROM PETS AND SENSORS
Your motion-sensitive equipment can be very easily pick up the movement your cat makes at home. This is one of the biggest false positive alerts your device can generate and thus you need to be wary of it. But thanks to the latest technology and the way advancements are happening, the smart devices can now be adjusted to increase their sensitivity to motion thus reducing the false alerts.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF SECURITY CAMERAS
If you are planning on using a camera out in the open and that too in places where there is extreme heat or extreme cold, then you are best advised to read the product’s description in terms of their operational temperature. You wouldn’t want your camera to die out on you outside in the weather if you weren’t careful to read the product specifications at the time of purchase. No manufacturer would cover this under their warranty and you would end up with a piece of faulty equipment that has no use.
SMART LIGHTNING SAVES YOU MONEY
Gone are the days when parents used to be scared when their kids would run upstairs to sleep while leaving the main lights on in the lounge and the lobby? Nowadays a smart LED bulb can cost you less than 2 USD per year if you use it in a regular way.
CHECK ON THE REBATES OFFERED
Your energy company might provide you with energy credits just because you are using smart thermostats. If you are lucky, then you may also bag a free smart thermostat if they are running such offers. I know my county council does and I was able to get one smart thermostat absolutely free. Keep on the lookout!
VOICE CONTROL ON YOUR TV
According to a recent statistic, almost 41% of the people have got a smart TV at their homes. Just pickup that remote and you would be glad to see that there is a “mic” button right on top of it. Pressing that would let you communicate with your smart TV and perform actions and activities by issuing voice commands. A smart automation is right there, I bet you never knew about it before!
TURN ON THE LIGHTS AUTOMATICALLY
You can configure your motion sensors in such a way that as soon you are stepping down from the staircase or climbing up, the lights fire up and illuminating the area around you. And thus when you leave your room, the motion sensors detect that and toggle these lights off.
CHECK IF YOUR DEVICE IS COMPATIBLE
There are a lot of IoT devices out there in the market. So it is best advised to read their product specification page to find out if they are compatible with your smart voice assistant at home. You wouldn’t want to end up buying a smart device that you would have to return later, just because it wasn’t compatible with your smart hub.
DO YOU NEED A SMART HUB?
Do not go after fancy smart hubs if you don’t have the requirement for it just yet. These hubs can be costly and you wouldn’t benefit out of it until you have a house filled with gadgets. For beginners, you are better off buying a “wink smart hub”.
USE MAXIMUM SECURITY OFFERED
There are quite a few things you can do to ensure you do not get hacked. If you are interested in reading more about it, then click on the link to head on to the article how to protect your IoT from hackers!
DID YOU KNOW ALEXA HAS SECRETS?
With a raise of hands, who here knew about this particular tip? I bet most of you didn’t.
Alexa comes with hidden secret eggs that can be used for fun, party, games and much more. Head on to your Alexa device and ask her “ALEXA, ARE YOU SKYNET?” And see the response that you get!
SPEND TIME LEARNING IFTT
IFTT stands for “IF THIS THEN THAT”. If you have even the simplest of smart home gadgets at your home, then you are better off spending time learning how IFTT can help you automate many different tasks.
SMART LIGHTING PHONE DANCE
You can now hookup your smart lights to your smartphone. As and when you receive a call, the lights around your lounge or space; start blinking giving you the signal that you are receiving a call. Ah, this reminds me of those old Nokia days when we used to attach that LED sticker at the back of the cellular reception area of the phone and it would light up as a call was received. The days!
DO YOU HATE DOING WINDOWS?
Then fret not. Just invest in a decent window cleaning robot and you are good to go. These devices are capable to attach themselves onto framed or flat glasses and clean away.
DO NOT OVERCOMPLICATE
Remember the whole moto behind implementation smart home automation solutions is to make your life simpler, easier, safe and secure. It doesn’t mean that you should go about installing the most complicated of the smart home setups and then end up not knowing which product did what.
KEEP THE FIRMWARE UPDATED
Always ensure that your smart devices firmware’s are kept up-to-date. Hackers can very easily gain access to your devices and invade your privacy if you were lazy to press on the “REMIND ME LATER” button when prompted for an update.
CHEAP DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN IT IS A JUNK
Normal perception of the cheap smart products is that they are not up the par. Well, if you do your research right then there are certain exceptions to this particular rule.
EXPENSIVE DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN IT IS THE BEST
Similarly, expensive gadgets do not necessarily mean they are the best in the world. What happens is that if the manufacturer has backed their product with enough marketing, they wouldn’t be selling it for a low-price. And rarely it happens, that the manufacturer themselves can’t live up to the rating. A prime example of such case is the inception and death of Smart 3D Televisions. I got one, so I know! *wink