Turning you house into a smart home can be a daunting task. There are tons of products out there from smart lights to alarm systems. There are automatic vacuums and doorbell cameras. The first thing you should ask yourself is “What do I want to accomplish?”. For me the answer was that I wanted to lower my bills. Mostly my electric and gas bills. Now don’t just run out and start buying things just because you determined what you want to accomplish.
The first thing you need to do is determine how you want to control your smart home. If you have no issue using multiple apps to control your smart devices then you can quit reading and go shopping. For those of you that would like to use one app to control everything you should know that you will have to do some additional research besides reading this article. Some devices will work with Apple HomeKit and Siri, but not Google or Alexa and vice versa. Trust me on this point. You really need to do the research!
When I began turning my house into a smart home I wanted to lower my gass bill since summer was approaching. The first thing I looked at was a smart thermostat. I had an older furnace with an older thermostat. I looked into NEST at first and then Ecobee. At the time I had a couple of Apple TVs, Macs, iPhone, and an iPad. The NEST would not work with home kit, but the Ecobee3 would so I got an Ecobee3. Installing the Ecobee3 was fairly simple and it work well. In fact my gas bill was lowered by almost $60 a month.
The next issue I had was with my electric bill. I have three teenage kids that have a habit of leaving the lights on when they leave a room. I wanted to have the lights turn off automatically when no one was home and at specific times at night. I looked at the Phillips Hue lights. These lights are great. They are not that expensive and work with Apple Home kit. I went ahead and got the lights. The setup was simple using first the Phillips Hue app and then I connected them to Home Kit. I setup scenes on Home kit to turn the lights out when I left and at 10 pm weekdays. I also have a seen that will turn certain lights on when I come home. This has lowered my electric bill to about $40 a month in the cooler months and helps keep it below $100 even in the summer with my AC running(Though the Ecobee helps with this too).
This is where I went wrong. I suddenly had a need for a security system. Instead of paying attention to what other Smart Home devices worked with the alarms I was looking at, I only paid attention to price. I ended up going with the Ring home alarm system and some Ring DoorBells. While the Ring system works well it does not work with Apple HomeKit or Siri(Though it looks like this is coming in the future). Ring does work with Alexa.
I have not installed door locks yet but have done a lot of research on it. I am currently looking at the Yale Security YRL256-CBA-619 Assure Connected by August WiFi + Bluetooth Smart Touchscreen Lever Lock. This lock works with Apple HomeKit and Alexa. With HomeKit integration the lock will unlock when my phone comes in range. This will be very useful when I come home from grocery shopping. Ever try digging out your keys to unlock the door with your arms full of grocery bags? It’s a pain! I can not count the number of times I have broken eggs trying to dig out my keys.
I started looking into smart speakers for controlling the lights by voice and for listening to music. I looked at the HomePod first but I wanted several speakers and did not want to pay $350 per speaker. I next looked at Amazon’s Echo lineup. I found that while the Echo devices do not sound as good as Apple’s HomePod the do send decent. The deciding factor for me was the fact that the Echo devices work with all my other smart devices including my Ring alarm system. The Echo devices will even play music from my Apple Music account. For less than the cost of one Apple HomePod I purchased three Echo devices.
Use different products? Have a good story about turning your house into a smart home? Leave a comment in the comments section below.