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A fully automated home sure is fun to live in.
Just check out this series about building a smart home presented by Grant Imahara from MythBusters.
But turning a standard home into a smart home ain’t cheap.
Smart plugs can only take you so far. At some point, you’ll have to invest in new smart devices and appliances.
You also need a control hub and connections between all these WiFi devices (sometimes using wires, ironically) to create a coherent automated system.
In the end, you could easily find yourself spending thousands of dollars to build a smart home.
Luckily, there are easier ways to get started without bankrupting yourself.
You can just buy a $100 google Home or Amazon Echo smart speaker, link it to a couple of smart devices and you have yourself a decent smart home.
Yeah yeah, I know it is a stretch to call it a smart home but at least you’ve taken the first steps without spending a lot of money.
You have two options when building a smart home: hire pros to install a complete smart home system or go the cheaper way and build your smart home smart gadget by smart gadget.
1. Building a Complete System
This is a great option if you have a generous budget.
Instead of building your smart home piecemeal and trying to link together many different gadgets, you create a complete harmonious system that automates as much of your home as possible.
The best way to do this is to hire a smart home company like Vivint or Savant.
These companies offer home automation packages. You can select a full smart home package or individual packages for lighting, security, audio and entertainment and climate control.
Some companies specialize only in specific areas like smart home security.
They assess your home, install all the necessary hardware, link all the gadgets (either wirelessly or using a wired network) with a central control hub and provide you with a custom app to remotely control all devices in the network.
Many of these companies charge an ongoing subscription fee though there are a few where you pay a one-off fee but don’t get continued support.
The costs of such a service will vary widely based on which package you’ve selected, what kind of gadgets are included and whether there are any additional services like home monitoring.
Prices can range from a few hundred bucks for individual packages like security and lighting to thousands of dollars for whole-home automation.
Subscription based packages tend to be quite pricey over the long term.
- You get a complete smart home immediately.
- No stress when it comes to installation and maintenance – the company does everything for you.
- Guaranteed compatibility between gadgets.
- Seamless control from a central hub and via an app.
- Expensive – costs are typically in the thousands especially with subscription.
- You have to go through the company to add new products. This ensures it is compatible with the system.
- Difficult to maintain the system yourself – you have to keep calling customer support in case of anything.
2. Build Slowly Gadget by Gadget
The best option for most people is one you have probably already started on – building slowly gadget by gadget.
If you go with this option, start with the essential items like a WiFi thermostat or a smart security camera and then slowly add other smart devices based on your budget and needs.
Where you can, use a smart plug to integrate a ‘dumb’ appliance into your smart home network. It’s cheaper than buying an whole new smart appliance.
To plan your purchases effectively, divide your smart home into five categories then decide which devices deserve priority.
Lighting – smart lights and switches
Security – smart cameras, door locks, video doorbells and alarm systems
Entertainment & Audio – smart TVs, speakers and home theatre
Climate Control – smart WiFi thermostat, fans, air purifiers and heaters
Appliances – smart fridge, vacuum cleaner, pool cleaner and so on
But before you start buying these gadgets, figure out how you’ll control them. You have two options here:
1. A smart speaker like Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod or Google Home.
2. A smart home hub like Samsung SmartThings and Wink.
You can also have both types of control hubs and integrate them.
One reason why it is important to choose a control hub first is so that you can buy gadgets that are compatible. If you decide to go with Alexa, only buy Alexa-compatible devices.
With the control hub figured out, get started with smart gadget essentials. These will depend on your particular needs.
For most homes, they’ll include a smart WiFi thermostat, a smart camera system, smart lights and a WiFi-connected robot vacuum cleaner. But your priorities might be different.
Then build slowly, only adding necessary devices and ensuring they are compatible with the control hub.
- It doesn’t strain your budget. You can build as slowly or as quickly as your budget allows.
- You only pay for what you need.
- You have to set up the control hub and integrate new devices into the network yourself.
- High chances of incompatibility among devices. It’s hard to build a completely unified smart home.