7 Ways to Automate Your Home
The term “smart home” can cover a broad number of devices, components, appliances and systems — all performing various functions within the home. As technology advances, so do the capabilities of these devices. Where it was once thought that a programmable thermostat was cutting edge, we’re now in a world where it can be controlled by a smartphone from anywhere.
There are several options when it comes to automating your home — from smart lights to robot lawn mowers and anything in between. Smart devices exist to help you save time, energy and money, aiming to make your life a little easier.
Decide What to Automate First
To determine what makes the most sense to automate in your own home, think of a typical day. What devices do you turn on and off on a regular basis? Do you regularly adjust the temperature in your home throughout the day? These types of repeated habits or activities are great places to start when considering what to automate. Next, take a moment to determine which ones are most important to you and begin there. You’ll have a much better idea of what may work for you as you start to shop for smart home devices.
Here’s a quick look at seven ways you can automate your own home.
1. Smart Lighting
One of the most popular ways to automate your home is through the use of smart lighting. With a smart lighting system, you can control your lights remotely or set them to turn on and off automatically. There are a few choices when it comes to smart lighting. You can purchase smart bulbs, which connect via your home’s Wi-Fi network or Bluetooth. There are also kits available to buy that control entire rooms.
Typically, a smart light is controlled via a smartphone app, which makes it simple to use. Through the app, you can create a specific lighting schedule. For instance, if you want the outside lights to come on and turn off at sunrise and sunset, you can do all that and much more through the mobile app.
2. Smart Plugs and Outlets
While you may often hear these two terms used interchangeably, there is a difference between a smart plug and a smart outlet. A smart plug resides on top of your already existing outlet. You’ll notice it sticks out a bit from the wall. Smart outlets, on the other hand, replace the outlets already in your home.
With smart plugs or outlets, you may not only set up automatic behaviors, but you may also save on energy. Plugged-in devices consume electricity, according to Energy.gov, even when they’re not in use, so a plug or outlet that turns off automatically — usually based on a schedule you create in the smartphone app — may come in handy to help reduce energy use in your home.
If you’re familiar and comfortable installing switches and fixtures in your home, then you’ll notice putting in a smart outlet is quite similar. Otherwise, if you’re even a little unsure, contact a professional electrician to help you out.
With smart outlets or plugs, you can create certain rules so that devices mimic your habits and lifestyle. For instance, you might want your smart outlet to turn a TV on or off so that it corresponds with your daily viewing time. Or, you could set the outlet to turn off at a given time each night, so that anything connected to it automatically loses power.
3. Robot Vacuums
Most robot vacuums connect to your home’s Wi-Fi network, which you then connect to through a smartphone app. Some of the more advanced robot vacuums have mapping features that can create floor plans of your home — to determine where they have vacuumed and where they have yet to clean. No matter how your furniture is arranged, robot vacuums are able to find a way to clean your floors.
You’ll discover that robot vacuums are easy to schedule around your lifestyle. You can tell the device when to start a cleaning cycle by going into the app and hitting a button. Imagine: You can watch a movie or read a book and get your vacuuming done at the same time. Before you start any cleaning cycle, make sure to pick up all loose toys or clothing off the floor to help prevent the vacuum from getting stuck on those items. It might also be a good idea to review the owner’s manual to make sure you’re operating the vacuum safely.
4. Smart Ovens
Smart ovens connect to your home’s Wi-Fi network, so you can pair them with your virtual or smart home assistant. All you have to do is tell the assistant to set the oven to a certain temperature and watch as it starts to preheat. Remember, please don’t leave the home when using your oven.
5. Smart Home Assistants
A lot of folks like to keep their smart home assistants in their family room, but it may also work well in the kitchen. For instance, you can have it keep a running grocery list as you prepare dinner or play your favorite songs while you make food. You can also ask your assistant to pull up a recipe and walk you through how to properly cook a meal. You can do all these things with just the sound of your voice — there is no need to pull out your phone and look for an app.
6. Robot Lawn Mowers
Robot lawn mowers are new to home automation. These battery-powered, Bluetooth-enabled mowers move independently around your yard cutting the grass. You can turn the mower on or off via an app. Setting up a robot lawn mower takes a little work, as it requires you to bury a perimeter wire — a few inches deep — around the edge of your yard to help keep the mower within the boundaries of your property. These mowers also have several safety mechanisms to help prevent a mower from running over a hose or lawn ornament. Make sure to read over the owner’s manual before operating the mower. Keep in mind that these devices are expensive, so you have to decide whether or not it’s worth the investment.
7. Smart Sprinklers
Smart sprinkler systems connect to your home’s Wi-Fi network to gather the latest weather reports. Then, the system determines whether or not you may need to water your lawn. If it does rain, the system automatically adjusts its schedule so it doesn’t overwater your lawn.
The vast majority of smart sprinkler systems can replace the system you may already have. This makes them a good fit if you’re looking for a way to save money and time as you’ll no longer have to manually determine the right sprinkler schedule or remember to turn off the system after it rains.
If you’re interested in a smart sprinkler system, you can either contact a professional and ask for a quote, or do a little research and find a do-it-yourself solution you’re comfortable with installing yourself.
Automating your home to be smart doesn’t have to happen overnight. It can be done gradually and systematically. Start by choosing systems or devices that fit into your budget and make small, incremental changes along the way. Keep in mind that as you add more features, you want to be sure that everything syncs up together, so be aware of integration. Take your time and find what works best for you.