Whether you are just now thinking about getting your first smart device, voice assistant, or new toy – we got you covered. This list of smarthome tips will help beginners out who want to get their feet wet, but will also help those long time smarthome veterans.
1. Plan Your Smart Home Before Building it Out
It’s a good idea to plan out how you want your smart home to be laid out. You’ll want to answer a few questions:
- What is my Budget?
- What are my Goals?
- What smart devices/non-smart devices do you own
Do you want to only automate a section of your home, are you trying to solve a specific problem, and will you expand into more things in the future?
Perhaps, automating your kitchen is your main priority, or your study.
If you have a hint or a feeling that you may be interested in something else, make note of it. Thinking about smart fridges in the future or maybe some new smart lights – just keep it in the back of your head.
2. Create a List of Everything You Want to Automate
One thing that I think anyone who is getting into the smart home automation world is they should create a list of everything that they want to automate.
Do you want only Security Cameras? Or Video Doorbells? Or do you want to go all the way and automate everything? Make note of the brands too if you already have that picked out.
This is an example:
- Abode Iota – Smart Security Alarm System
- Ring – Video Doorbell
- Philips Hue – Smart Bulbs
Next, You’ll want to make sure that they are all compatible! That’s right, these bad boys may be able to communicate with each other. I have a fantastic recommendation tool to help you with this task which I’ll go over later. Stick around 🙂
3. Secure Your Smart Home
You want to make sure that you secure all your smart home devices and your Wi-Fi network to protect yourself from hackers. Some easy ways to do that are to rename your Wi-Fi network name and to change your default passwords this way it makes a lot more difficult for hackers to get access to your devices.
A few major ones are:
- Change WiFi name
- Change all default passwords
- Create another WiFi network and separate your devices
Feel free to check out my full post on 11 Clever Ways to Secure your Smart Devices.
4. Stick to One Brand
If you’re a beginner to smart homes and home automation, then it might be a good idea to just stick to the same brand like Philips Hue (at first). Their smart bulbs work fantastically in the app together with their other line of products (Hub, Switch, Outdoor Light, etc.). Don’t mix up 3-4 smart bulb brands like LIFX, Hive, Sengled, or Kasa.
Then you’ll be upset when they don’t all work with the Philips Hue Bridge/Hub. That’s just asking for a headache.
Not to take away from the point that Philips Hue bulbs
No worries if you do mix them, IFTTT is always there to save the day – more on that later.
5. Place Voice Assistants in Good Open Position
Position your voice assistants in good open positions like in your kitchen or somewhere with a lot of open space to not have any interference. You don’t want to have a lot of objects blocking your voice assistant or it’ll be annoying when Alexa doesn’t hear you.
Another tip is not to place them near other voice assistants and mute them when you are not using them.
My nieces name is Alexis and sometimes her name can trigger my Echo Spot, pretty annoying sometimes! I just mute Alexa when my niece is over.
6. Don’t Connect Too Many Devices To Your WiFi
Seeing as the future Smart Toaster will need to connect to your WiFi too, many smart devices require to as well. Many of these devices can only connect to a 2.4GHz network, which can quickly become crowded.
Smart bulbs like LIFX all individually connect to WiFi network, so you’ll want to keep in mind how many of each device you’ll need.
Crowding your WiFi network with a ton of smart devices can cause slower speeds and slower download speeds. This is where utilizing Hubs can come in handy.
This is mainly advice is for the less non-technical people (No offense). But for those that are willing to try, or have more experience, can try things like installing a new router, using another Guest network, or other means.
There are plenty of other ways around this but I just wanted to throw this out for people who aren’t that technical.
7. Learn and Try Out IFTTT
IFTTT stands for If This Then That.
This is great for creating routines and hooking up smart devices that aren’t natively compatible with each other. It really opens the door and lets you control multiple devices from one place but it does require a little bit of like work but nothing too complicated.
- You tell Google Assistant to “Get Into a Christmas Spirit”
- Your Christmas Tree Lights Turns On
- Christmas Music starts playing
- All the other lights dim
This is all possible with IFTTT. It really is up to your imagination on the limits it has.
8. Save Money and Get a Smart Thermostat and Bulb
2 of the biggest ways to save money through Smart homes and home automation is getting a smart thermostat and/or smart bulbs. They can really help you save energy on your electric bill. Smart bulbs are usually LED and are considerably more longer-lasting.
A Smart thermostat is more efficient and gives you more control over your home.
9. Get a Smart Switch Instead of Smart Bulbs
So one thing that I see a lot of beginners do or make a mistake his they buy 5 or 10 smart bulbs for one room when an easier solution to this would just be to do the legwork and install a Smart switch or smart dimmer. This way you can control multiple bulbs with a smart switch.
Smart Bulbs require you to always leave the light switch on because it must already be turned on for it to work. You can turn it off via the App, but the switch needs to be on. This makes the light switch obsolete at that point.
If you have guests over it’s a little bit easier to understand and use a smart switch.
If you have guests over, they may accidentally turn off your light switch which has smart bulbs. Now you have to annoyingly turn it back on or put a label near the switch to not touch it.
A perfect place to use smart bulbs would be your bedroom.
Not to say that these aren’t awesome in other places too like the living room either, I love setting the mood for a movie night on my couch.
10. Check The Smart Compatibility
Wouldn’t you be upset if you bought a MyQ Garage Opener and you thought it would work with Alexa but it didn’t? Well, that can happen.
Before buying smart devices, check out if they are compatible with each other. A great tool I’ve found online is from Smart Home Solver. They let you build out your smart home and check for compatibility.
11. Don’t Over Complicate Workflows in IFTTT
It’s really easy to get caught up in IFTTT. You can easily spiral into automating the silliest things. While this can be a great tool, just be mindful not to over complicate your workflows in IFTTT.
Only Automate things that are useful and have purpose. If something is blatantly not meant to be automated, there’s no point in trying to do so.
Try not to have too many hops or steps or chain effects either. A simple workflow is always the best.
12. Basic Safety
When handling any sort of electronics you want to make sure that you are careful. Here are some examples:
- Installing a Video Doorbell – Make sure you turn off your breakers
- Plugging something into a Smart Plug – Make sure its not an AC Unit
Make sure that you stay safe. If you are using something like a smart plug, make sure you are reading up on the correct AC/DC voltages specifications. Believe it or not, people have actually left Amazon reviews with images that they blew their smart plug up because they plugged in an AC unit into it.
That is wayyy too much power to be flowing through that little dinky smart plug.
13. Alexa Skills
Check out Alexa Skills! A lot of people don’t even know these exist for their Alexa devices. All Alexa Devices can use Alexa Skills. Just download the Amazon app and enable Alexa Skills.
There are a bunch of awesome Alexa Skills that let you play trivia games or other cool stuff.
- Alexa Find my Phone
Questionof the Day
- Trivia Games
- Ambient Noise (help you sleep)
Again, these all work with any Alexa devices. Check them out!
14. Easter Egg Things to Ask Alexa
There are a bunch of hidden easter eggs Alexa has. There are a lot of fun things Alexa knows. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Alexa, I am your father!
- Alexa, I’ll take the blue pill
- Alexa, Who is Jarvis?
- Alexa, I’ll be back
There are over 200 different easter eggs! Here is a bigger list.
15. Get a Smart Smoke detector
Getting a smart smoke detector can be the last thing on someone’s mind. But did you know there are Smart smoke detectors?
Isn’t it annoying when the battery in your smoke detector goes out? That loud sound that just won’t stop.
A smart smoke detector like the Nest Protect solves all of that and more.
16. Adjust Smart Bulb Colors to Which Movies You Watch
One of the cool tricks about using Philips
Not too many people know about this, check out the Hue Sync app from Philips. You can even sync your smart lights to your music and games!
17. Use Voice Assistant to Make Calls
So you can actually use your voice assistance like Alexa or Google Home to make phone calls! Many people tend to not know this or forget.
This could be great if your hands are full maybe you’re doing some laundry or other chores. As long as your accounts are synced up to your contacts you can actually just say “
18. Use Amazon Devices to make Video Calls to Each Other
One of the awesome things about Amazon Spots/Shows is they can video call each other! You can even enable the Drop setting so they don’t have to answer. It may sound creepy but if you have young kids at home without any adults or a senior relative, this is a great alternative.
19. Use Voice Assistant to Set Alarms or Reminders
Most people only use Alexa or Google to check the weather, but if you’re in a quick rush, use your voice assistant to help you out.
When I’m busy running around and I want to jot something down, I just ask Alexa to remind me to do something or I set an alarm. Pretty handy.
20. Setup Security Camera to Show on your TV
Nest and Arlo are just a few examples of security cameras that you can use to display on your TV! Arlo can be streamed using the Arlo Apple TV App. Whatever security camera you get, make sure you check first.
This is an awesome feature if you’re watching TV and hear something weird outside your home.
21. Understand Privacy Policies
When people get a new toy, they immediately rip it open and try it out. I know I did when I first got my first couple smart devices. It’s also important that you understand what privacy you are giving up and the settings.
An example of this is did you know Alexa and Google record you pretty much all the time? There are exceptions to this, you can turn the mic off. But they store those recordings for a period of time. Make sure you check your settings so you can delete them or change the configurations to fit your needs.
22. Set your Coffee Maker on an Automatic Schedule using a Smart Plugs
If you’ve ever used smart plugs, you can know that it can bring a lot of convenience to you like being able to turn on whatever you want. With that smart
- Coffee maker
- Kitchen/Living room lights
- Slow Cooker
Utilizing your smart plugs in creative ways so they solve a lot of problems and make your life much more convenient.
23. Smarten up Your Sprinkler System with the Rachio
Did you know there was smart sprinkler systems?! Boy, they are making everything smart and it’s awesome. Just to name a few cool fun facts:
- Automatically adjust your irrigation schedule based on forecasts in your location
- Smart Integrations: Alexa Google, Nest, etc.
The Rachio is one of the best. Figured I would share these cool smart devices that may not be known to the general public.
24. Get a Smarthub and Connect Everything
Controlling and connecting all your devices can be great. One of my favorites is the SmartThings3 hub. It’s cheaper than the 2nd generation one and has some good improvements. This keeps you from a bunch of different apps and lets you control and configure them all from your smart things app.
25. Leave Your House Keys at Home and Use Keyless Door Entries
There are a lot of popular smart door locks that unlock in a number of ways.
- Geofencing (When you’re in proximity to home, it unlocks)
- Keypad (Code to Unlock)
- Remote unlock via App(for other guests when you’re not at home)
Take advantage of smart door locks, further secure your home and lose those house keys!
26. Be Aware of Your Environment
WiFi is normally not that good in spaces like your garage. Some building materials suck for wireless signals.
Ever put a device that needed WiFi in one room and been unable to connect in the next room?
Sometimes you just need a more robust network. If devices don’t connect, moving the router can be a pain.
Make sure you are aware of where the internet isn’t strong in your home. Buy a WiFi extender if you need to. It’s better to be prepared rather than finding out your devices are too far from other to work.
27. Don’t Cheap Out on a Security System
There are a lot of security systems that can hook up to other smart devices. Make sure that you spend the time and money on the high quality systems. You wouldn’t want to buy a security system made by a knock off chinese product. Some examples of why this can be bad are:
- Their support sucks or is non-existent
- App crashes, no developers to work on it
Smaller unknown companies can go out of business and no longer support you or provide future upgrades or updates. Best to shell out a few extra bucks for that kind of peace of mind.
Check out my post on the best DIY Smart security systems with no monthly fees. It is the ultimate guide with a lot of good recommendations and advice.null
28. Get a Cheap Camera to Watch Your Pet
If you just want a camera to keep an eye on your pet that’s probably better not to drop 3 to $500 on security system just to watch your pets it’s probably better just to get a few wyze cams which I really affordable
A fantastic way to watch your pet is to get a cheap indoor camera like the Wyzecamera. It is really affordable, being well under $40. Wyze offers 2-way communication and has video recording options.
A few other ideas to use them are for are keeping surveillance on:
- Construction site at when unattended
- Renovations at another house
- Monitor home while on vacation
29. Get a Pet Feeder When You’re Too Busy/on Vacation
An automatic pet feeder can be great for when you just don’t have the time to feed your pets or when you’re on a short vacation. They can feed multiple times a day, help keep them on a diet, and more. The coolest feature from my favorite pet feeder, the xyz, lets you record your voice and play the message back when its time for them to eat!
30. Set Your Smart Device (Echo, Spot, etc.) to Play Music as Alarm
If you have something like the Amazon show or the Amazon spot you can actually set an alarm and have it play your favorite music as an alarm. It’s a nicer way to wake up instead of that annoying alarm sound!
31. Research Motion Sensors that are Pet Friendly
So if you’re a pet owner and thinking about using sensors in your home or maybe getting a Smart Security System you want to make sure that you do a little bit of research into the motion detection sensors. You don’t want the motion sensors to set those off from your pets as that can be kind of annoying.
For example, the SimpliSafe motion detector can be customized to accommodate your pets. Their indoor cameras can be programmed to ignore pets too.
Research Future Products Before You Buy an Old Version
If you are close to pulling the trigger on a smart device, try researching to see if there is a newer version coming out. Look for news on release dates, keep up with conferences that display newer tech coming out in the near future. A great example is the CES (Consumer Technology Association) where they debuted a lot of new products coming out. https://www.ces.tech/Topics/Home-Family/Smart-Home.aspx
32. Put Your Voice Assistant Mic on Mute for Some Privacy
A lot of people are aware that we pretty much have no privacy. I think the NSA has proved that point already, but a great way to still try to get to privacy is to mute your mic on your Amazon or Google device. Muting the mic can be pretty easy depending on which version you have, but some have the mute buttons right on the device.
Don’t forget to mute those Voice Assistants when you don’t want them listening in! They record everything you say to them.
33. Know About Privacy Policies
34. Create Daily Routines
A great way to take advantage of Smart homes or home automation is to get involved with IFTTT and set some routines up. For example, Every day at 8:33 a.m. turn off all the lights and change your temperature on thermostat so that you can save some money on that energy bill. IFTTT again, is really flexible and there are so many things you can do with it.
35. Over Smart Everything
I know this can be hard to do once you’ve falling down the rabbit hole. But I warn you to only “Smarten” things up in moderation. Before you know it, you’ll have 60 smart bulbs installed, or an IFTTT routine for everything.