I'm here to talk all things home automation. If you have an interest in using technology to make your life easier, stay around and learn from my mistakes.
How Home Automation Can Make Your Life Easier
Decades ago when I got started doing home automation with the patchwork of technology that was available, it was a true mess. If you think having Insteon, X10, Zigbee, and Z-Wave available these days is hard to keep up with, you can't imagine how bad things were. Even within the same technology, you never knew if you would be able to get a new component working in your system. And when you did, it didn't usually last for long without needing some TLC.
These days, that is a different story. Even basic equipment off the shelf at Home Depot and the software that goes on your phone with it is pretty good. The old guard like GE and Honeywell are still out there, but new rivals like Quirky Wink, Insteon, and Lowes Iris are really pushing home automation into the main stream. Even X10 is still kicking around.
With that being said, there are several things right off the bat that you can expect to benefit from any of these systems:
- Less thinking - don't worry about arming your security system before you leave, your smart home knows when you left!
- Less stumbling - never walk to the bathroom in the dark or fumble for switches and stub your toes again
- Better security - make lights come on and off while you are on vacation so that noone even notices that you're gone
- More convenience - have the smart lights outside turn on to greet you when you pull in the driveway
- Less waste - your smart thermostat can turn off the AC when you leave and cool the house off before you get home, saving you money!
If that is not enough for inspiration, this site ranks home automation ideas and tells you how to implement them. There are plenty of others if you just take a few minutes of searching to find them.
What You Need to Get Started
Some things you can do with simple electronics. For instance, you can pick up motion sensing light switches from Home Depot that will turn on your lights whenever they sense movement in a room. Just don't install them in your bedroom. That's a lesson learned. It turns out, I roll around in my sleep way too much and having the lights come on all night is no fun.
Other ideas will require a home automation hub. That will let you connect to your devices from anywhere via your wireless network at home while the switches and lights in your home will talk via Zigbee or Insteon to save power and lower costs.
Generally, a hub is going to run you anywhere from $150 to $400. But lately, some of the new companies have discounted them to attract new customers. Wink is one that has run promotions with Home Depot periodically. Just keep your eyes open for good deals. Along with the hub, you'll need switches and lights to automate whatever you want to tackle first. I recommend starting with something small, making sure it works well and really makes your life easier, and then buying more equipment as you have money available and ideas to implement. Before you know it, you won't even have to touch a light switch to get around your house!
Stay tuned for more detailed write-ups of the equipment and software I have in my home.