The Definitive Guide to Setting Up a Smart Home

Setting up a Smart Home system may initially seem confusing, but our comprehensive guide will turn you into an expert in no time at all!

More than a simple high-tech gimmick, a Smart Home is designed to simplify your life and take your day-to-day living to the next level. A Smart Home can make your house safer and more energy efficient and save you money and time when utilized to its full potential.

If that’s not enough, a Smart Home system can dramatically improve the quality of your daily life. From waking up to the right tunes to coming home to soft lighting and a hot meal in the oven, and even preventing a possible break-in while you’re on vacation – a Smart Home’s features are as extensive as they are impressive.

And all it takes to operate is your smartphone.

This guide will show you how to discover your Smart Home’s full potential. You’ll learn about the amazing benefits of setting up an automated home system, all the features and devices available, and how to use them collectively for the ultimate Smart Home experience.

What Exactly is a Smart Home?

A Smart Home is a communication system connecting all your electronic devices. It centralizes their command into a single unit you have complete control over – creating a fully harmonized ‘ecosystem.’ 

Upgrade your house to a Smart Home. With a simple click or voice commands fed directly to your smartphone, you can control all your appliances, heating system, lighting, gaming, Automated gardening systems, and security system.

The Top Benefits of a Smart Home

Setting up a Smart Home offers many benefits – some designed purely for comfort and enjoyment, others to make your home safer and more energy efficient.

  • Control your gadgets without being anywhere near them – Remote access is undoubtedly one of the most valuable benefits of a Smart Home. If it’s electronic (think coffee maker, oven, air conditioning unit, cordless vacuum cleaner, garage door, etc.), you can control it from afar – be it upstairs in your bedroom or 200 miles away.
  • Streamline and heighten your home’s security – You can make your home safer by tapping into your security system and controlling things like lights and doors. When you are away for business or pleasure, you can set up alerts for unusual movements, check out the security cameras, turn lights or alarms on and off, and even open the front door for your teenager if they’ve forgotten their keys (again!)
  • Full customization – No two homes or families are created alike, so no two Smart Home setups are identical. You can customize your design to suit your (and your families) needs and desires. Choose the features you want to add and none of what you don’t.
  • Individuality – Most systems allow individuals living in the same home to create and store their own distinct setups. Voice assistants can also detect different voices to better tailored experiences.
  • Ease of use & upgrade – You don’t need to automate everything in your home simultaneously. Start with a simple setup until you get used to it, and add more appliances and features as per your needs and budget increase.
  • Increase your property value – A fully automated Smart Home is a great investment in more ways than one. When it’s time to sell, a Smart Home is more appealing to buyers and can potentially increase property value.

Choose the System that Suits your Needs and Appliances

Your first task is to identify the Smart Home ecosystem that will work best with your setup, i.e., your smartphone and appliances. Because there’s no point having your heart set on a specific system if none of your gadgets are compatible.

Here’s an overview of the three most popular automated home ecosystems in the market:

  • Google Home – With lots of shortcuts that make controls easy to execute, a high-quality voice assistant (that actually understands what you say and can keep up with your commands), and compatibility with Android devices, Google Home is arguably the most user-friendly popular option. You’ll also find that most high-tech appliances are compatible with Google Home.
  • Amazon Alexa As the first automated ecosystem to be released, Amazon Alexa continues to be the undisputed market leader. It is compatible with more devices than Google (and Apple, detailed below), although follow-up commands can easily confuse it. Its answers are also not always spot on. The main downside is that Alexa only responds once you open its app on your phone when away, so you can’t just voice your command out of the blue. If you are just starting to fit out your new home and need to buy all new gadgets, however, then it might be worth your while to check out compatible devices on Amazon – they are, after all, among the most affordable.
  • Apple HomeKit – If you’re a dedicated iPhone user, the Apple HomeKit is your most obvious choice, although it is not the best ecosystem overall. The Siri voice assistant is notoriously weaker than those mentioned above, although it is improving quickly. The major upside of AppleHomekit is its security, which extends to higher data privacy compared to Google and Amazon.   

This brings us to the next point…

Data security – something to keep in mind

All three ecosystems habitually track and collect your voice interaction data to improve their services. While you can control how much data is stored to some extent, know that some data collection is unavoidable.

There are other lesser-known ecosystems, but it’s worth checking what system they rely on. For example, Samsung SmartThings is marketed as an independent ecosystem, but all it has done is incorporate Google Home into its platform.

Smart Home Commands – a World of Possibilities

There are various ways to set up control of your Smart Home, although not all methods are available in all ecosystems.

Here are the most common:

  • Voice commands All the major ecosystems incorporate voice commands to varying degrees of success. Google Assistant is the most responsive and best at picking-up casual speech, while Siri and Alexa can be hit-and-miss.
  • Geofencing A very cool and useful control, geofencing uses your location to make smart choices. For example, you can set up your air-conditioning unit to automatically turn on when you’re ten miles from home in summer or your front door to unlock when you’ve pulled up to the driveaway. Awesome when you’re returning home with two handfuls of shopping bags!
  • Remote control – The classic and most useful way to control your Smart Home appliances. Simply tap into the system on your smartphone and change what you need, when you need it, wherever you happen to be.
  • Schedules If you have a set weekly routine (leave for work and come home at the same time, are always out on a Thursday night, etc.), you can bypass the daily commands and, instead, create a specific set schedule that does it all without prompts. 
  • Scenes/Activities – You can set specific schedules by setting different scenes. This way, you can simply input ‘sleeping, partying, relaxing, reading, exercising, etc.,’ and your pre-set schedule for that activity will jump into action.

What Do you Need to Set up a Smart Home?

Let’s start with the most obvious:

  • A reliable power source There’s not much you can do if your home is located somewhere that suffers power outages often. However, the best Smart Home hubs and appliances will have built-in batteries to pick up where the power cut leaves off.
  • A good Wi-Fi connection – If you choose to connect your devices via your home’s Wi-Fi, know that connection needs to be constantly reliable for them to work properly. Moreover, Wi-Fi connections sometimes suffer from ‘peak-hour traffic jams,’ making everything run a little slower.
  • A central hub – Every good communication system needs a central control center that filters command and delivers them to the right person. For a Smart Home, that’s the Central Hub – it takes your commands and sends them straight to the right device. Using a dedicated central hub, to which all your appliances are connected, will drastically decrease congestion over Wi-Fi.
  • Hardware accessories First up, you’ll need a smart speaker for the home, so you don’t have to pick up your phone whenever you want to yell out a command. Then, know that not all smart appliances are good to go without some help. Sometimes, they need accessories to connect to a Smart Home ecosystem. This is a device-specific need, so what accessory you will need will depend on the appliance and ecosystem you have.
  • Setting-up instructions – Most ecosystems and devices are relatively easy to set up, and all come with specific instructions.

Once you have all your accessories, devices, or hub connected to Wi-Fi and the app installed on your phone, it’s time to set up your ecosystem account and start personalizing your settings.

The Smart Home learning curve is not that steep: all systems are designed to be intuitive and user-friendly.

The Most Useful Smart Home Uses

As you might imagine, a whole world of smart devices is waiting to be plugged into your ecosystem. Here are the most useful ways to make the most of your Smart Home system.

  • Entertainment – Home theater systems, TVs, streaming devices, soundbars, speakers, and multi-room audio systems are the basis for building your Smart Home’s entertainment.
  • Gaming – Aside from the gaming hardware or streaming devices, you can set up specific temperature, fan, and light controls that are ideal for gaming. You can also connect smart plugs and power strips to operate while you’re at play and turn them off when you’re done.
  • Security – You can incorporate various smart devices into your security system. They include cameras, microphones, doorbells, locks, alarms, and light/movement sensors.
  • Health & Wellness – Just as varied is the word for smart wellness. Accessories and devices include air purifiers, sleep monitors, fitness trackers (for exercise reminders), scales, and exercise equipment. Link them all, access data anytime, and you can easily keep track of your health efforts.
  • Landscaping – A Smart Home’s features extend to outdoor areas. With a click of a button or voice command, you can control your garden watering system, cordless mower, fertilization system, weather sensors, lighting, and cameras, and even install soil-moisture and plant sensors so you can keep your greenery well-fed and in tip-top shape.
  • Cooking & kitchen cleaning – Set your bread baker to run overnight, and you’ll save on electricity and wake up to freshly baked bread! Likewise, you can set up your dishwasher to operate at off-peak times or the oven to turn on an hour before you get home (don’t forget to put the roast in the oven!) A smart fridge can keep tabs on your groceries and connect to recipe apps to suggest meals you want to prepare. A smart kitchen can also help compile a handy grocery list and maintain your fridge temperature at ideal food storage levels.
  • Housework – A Smart Home can streamline your cleaning chores and make your life easier. From robotic vacuum cleaners and mops to window cleaners and washing machines: invest in smart cleaning appliances, and you’ll save yourself hours of back-breaking cleaning work.
  • Pet care – Let’s not forget Fido! Automated feeders, water dispensers, electronic pet doors, cameras, and trackers can help ensure your fur baby is well-looked and always safe. Yes, even if you’re not home.

You want a Smart Home. What now?!

Once you’ve decided to upgrade your home to a Smart Home, it’s time to get down to business.

Your priority should be to assess your current electricity and internet systems. Can they handle the load of the devices and appliances you want? Get a professional to look over your home for greater peace of mind. Sometimes, homeowners might need to install new power points and/or Wi-Fi extenders to ensure all appliances can tap into the internet connection or Central Hub.

Next, it might be time to set a budget – particularly relevant if you start from scratch and must purchase smart appliances. At this stage, it’s wise to remind you that you need not have everything you need all at once when you start. You can set up a very simple Smart Home system that only operates your home theater system, for example, and add more appliances as time passes.

Once you are ready to go, there’ll be no stopping you!

Except, when something does…

Maintenance and Troubleshooting

Technology is there to make our life easier and more enjoyable. Unfortunately, some things can go wrong for a variety of reasons.

The most common reason for a mishap is a device lagging on updates. Keep that software updated (for ALL devices), and you’ll avoid plenty of issues.

If something isn’t working the way it should, here’s what you should check:

  • Connectivity – Devices will invariably get kicked off the Wi-Fi for mysterious reasons. If an appliance fails to respond, ensure it’s connected to the router/hub.
  • Check automation rules If a device is connected but failing to respond to a command, it’s sometimes useful to disable and re-enable its configuration.
  • Test your devices and systems individually A good way to know if a problem sits with the device or the system is to test it individually. This is particularly useful if the device in question is part of a group – say, if the lights should turn on when the front door is opened, but they are not doing that. 
  • Ask help from the manufacturer – Customer support helplines are there for a reason: to help!

Turning your beloved home into a Smart Home might take some prepping, researching, and decision-making. Yet the rewards are innumerable. We hope our Definitive Guide to Setting Up a Smart Home will help you create a plan of action to see you live in the smart home of your dreams.

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