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This Old House - Do-it-Yourself

3 Tips for Getting Started with Your Smart Home

Written by Victoria Schmid Posted On Thursday, 11 October 2018 14:00

Smart homes have become a scene straight out of The Jetsons—you can turn on your lights, set your thermostat, close the garage door, and start some music with a single voice command. But the world of smart homes can seem a little daunting if you haven’t set one up before.

These simple steps will help you get up to speed, choose the basics for your smart home, and start enjoying the benefits ASAP.

1. Make Sure Your Internet Connection Is Up to Speed

Before diving into the deep end with smart home gear, check your internet and make sure it’s up to the task of powering a smart home. You’re going to want a reliable internet connection and a high data cap (or none at all!) to get the most from your smart home.

While a single smart device isn’t likely to require much bandwidth, as you add more, the total can add up—especially if you stream video or do other intensive tasks at the same time.

2. Choose Your Voice Assistant

Before you start buying a bunch of gear for your house, decide whether you want a smart assistant to help control it all. Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google’s Assistant are all great in their own ways, but the smart devices they integrate with for voice control vary quite a bit. That means you may need to select your devices based on which assistant they’re compatible with.

Alexa

Alexa offers by far the most integrations of any of the assistants. So if voice control of your smart home is important, it’s probably your best bet. You can get Alexa on smartphones and the Amazon Echo line of devices.

Siri

Of the three voice assistants, Siri has the fewest integrations, is available on the lowest number of supported devices (Apple only), and is generally considered the worst of the three as a voice assistant. Siri is best if you’re heavily invested in Apple’s systems already. Siri comes on iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and HomePod speakers.

Assistant

Google Assistant sits at a middle ground between Alexa and Siri. It offers fewer integrations than Alexa, but it’s by far the best as a digital assistant for questions, thanks to Google’s amazing machine learning abilities. Assistant can be found on pretty much any platform, including the Google Home smart speakers.

3. Start Adding Your Devices

Once you’ve decided which assistant is right for you, start looking for compatible devices. Some of the most common devices for smart home beginners include smart thermostats, video doorbells, and smart lighting.

Smart Thermostats

Thermostats like the Nest Learning Thermostat provide several benefits:

● They learn your preferences, so you don’t have to adjust them much.
● They are very energy efficient. Typically, the Nest will pay for itself in energy savings after about two years. Beyond that it’s all extra money in your pocket.
● You can control them from your smartphone and adjust the temperature before you get home.

Nest isn’t the only maker on the market, but it’s probably the most talked about. It looks great, and it works great. What more can you ask for?

Video Doorbells

Video doorbells are becoming quite popular. You can see who’s there without having to get up, and even talk to them directly—even if you’re not home. They’re also a nice deterrent to package theft, which is becoming more and more common. Ring makes a great video doorbell.

Smart Lighting

Smart lighting is another popular choice. Besides the usual smartphone control and automation, smart lighting like the Philips Hue comes in an array of colors. You can set the color and color temperature to pretty much anything you can imagine, which is amazing for setting the mood. The bulbs also last for years and use very little power, which is great for both your wallet and the environment.

There are many more smart home options to explore, and more are getting added all the time. But this list should get you off to a reliable and safe start. What are you waiting for? Get busy and start enjoying the benefits of a connected home today.


 Victoria Schmid enjoys writing about technology for the “everyday” person. She is a specialist in online business marketing and consumer technology. She has a background in broadcast journalism.

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