If your home isn’t feeling particularly smart, you might have your eye on possible upgrades to add more technology to things like your lighting, heating, security, and so on. But for newcomers, it can be difficult to know where to start, and the sheer number of smart home options can feel a little overwhelming.
Don’t be afraid! We’re breaking down the basics of building a smart home from the ground up, what devices are best to get when you’re just starting out, and how everything works together so you can make home automation plans to confident.
Important note: Smart homes work via Wi-Fi connections (generally). Make sure your Wi-Fi network is password protected and uses the latest encryption options. This goes a long way to allay security fears and ensure that no one can hack your devices.
When picking out your first smart home devices, the big question is compatibility: Will all the smart technology work with each other? If it doesn’t integrate, you could lose valuable control, or you might need a separate app for each device, which can quickly get confusing and complicated.
The good news is that now is a great time to start a smart home as compatibility is on the rise with the Matter protocol, a joint development between the major tech giants that is expected to be released later this year. Devices and brands are already announcing compatibility with Matter (we’ve got a bigger guide here), so when choosing new smart devices, we highly recommend looking for products that support or do Matter. Then you should be able to use one application, like Google Home or the Home app on iOS, to control most of the devices in your home, as well as one voice assistant – without worrying about compatibility .
Choose a voice assistant hub
You don’t need a voice assistant hub in your smart home, but it’s a great place to start, and voice commands can often control the rest of your smart home as well. Voice Assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant can help you set up routines to control many devices at once, add new capabilities, or schedule certain things like dimming the lights or arming a security system. In addition, they can answer questions, make lists, call people, and do other useful voice assistant things.
If you like listening to music, you can pick up something similaror , placing it in a central location, and connecting it to the voice assistant app on your phone. Smart displays like the You can hang on a wall or sit on a table to display video through the touchscreen and even live stream from your security cameras. And small speakers like the or the you can sit at your desk and listen for orders.
Add some smart lighting
Once you have a smart speaker (again, an optional but recommended step), one of the easiest ways to adapt smart home technology is to pick up some smart lighting as well. It might be easier than you think: Brands like itand — and more — make long-lasting LED bulbs designed to fit into existing sockets. These connect to apps that let you control the color, brightness and color temperature of the bulbs, among other things. You can create schedules for when you want the lights to turn off or dim and connect them to your voice assistant so you can give commands to turn lights on or off.
This is a great way to get some smart devices in your home because you can go as slow as you want (not all lights need to be smart) and experiment with what the bulbs are capable of. When you’re ready, you can add more bulbs or expand into other devices with confidence. And if you like smart bulbs, you might want to upgrade some lighting systems with smart switches that permanently add similar benefits no matter what type of bulb you’re using.
Pick out a few smart plugs
If you’re looking for more smart home territory to conquer, it’s time to explore smart plugs! These small devices are made to plug into existing outlets in your home. Then you plug in another device – like a lamp, coffee maker, diffuser, etc. – into the smart plug. With an app, you can now set a schedule to turn that device on or off at specific times, as well as monitor energy usage. In addition, many smart plugs are compatible with voice assistants to give quick commands and can be connected to more smart home routines that you may want to create. Kasa andsmart plugs are particularly reliable, among many other brands.
Upgrade to a smart thermostat
Next on the list: Get a great smart thermostat and replace your heating and cooling command center with a device that you can schedule on your phone, use it to save money, and get monthly reports on your energy use.it’s a great choice, , and many other brands have their own offerings. There’s a bit of wiring involved, but it’s easy to handle or a quick visit from the electrician.
Smart home security integration
Now it’s time to talk about safety. Smart devices are a popular choice for a range of security equipment for your home, much of it easy to do yourself (DIY), with and without monitoring subscription options. Here are some of the more popular options worth think about them:
Smart security cams: These cameras can be set up almost anywhere and usually come with motion sensors, two-way audio, spotlights and more. You can see them through an app and get many types of alerts – and today’s versions are usually smart enough to recognize packages, ignore cars and more.
Video doorbells: These are security cams designed for entrances and paired with a digital doorbell. They are a great security option even if you don’t have any other type of security system, and the battery versions like those offered byand especially easy to install.
Smart locks: Smart locks replace or upgrade your locks with a high-tech deadbolt that you can control from an app, create digital passports, document entries, and more. A smart lock is an excellent security upgrade when you feel more comfortable with your smart home, although they can be a bit bulky.
Smart sensors: These are security systems with a hub that interacts with various sensors, including motion sensors, door sensors, window and glass sensors, leak sensors, and more. They may be able to interact with other smart devices in your home. It is an expensive but more complete security solution that is often combined with a monitoring plan.
Get innovative with new appliances
There are so many places you can build your smart home next, and where you want to go is up to you. We recommend looking into things like smart speaker bars for your entertainment system, smart smoke detectors that let you know when the battery is running low, and smart blinds that you can open and close. You may also want a secondary smart speaker upstairs or in the bedroom as an alarm clock.
When you’re ready to take things even further, apps like Home in iOS, Alexa and Google Home will usually suggest ways to combine smart device actions or let you set routines manually. That could be a morning routine of starting the coffee maker, reading out the news, and turning on the lights, for example. People also like to have homecoming routines, romantic routines, movie night routines…you get the idea. It’s an easy way to test and find the settings that work best for you.
When it’s time to buy more appliances, you can search for those that can integrate with your smart home apps and send you alerts or messages. That could be anything from a smart temperature-sensing grill to a smart washing machine that tells you a cycle is complete. Again, look for the Matter protocol, which will help your devices stay secure and compatible with each other, and the sky’s the limit for how smart you want to make your home.