How to Build a Smarter Home

By September 11, 2015Buying Guides

Making our devices smarter is the latest trend in consumer electronics, so it only makes sense to have smart home to live in. While home automation has been a popular topic in the tech community for several years, it has recently been gaining notoriety in the general public. Now, you can control everything in your home from a mobile device whether you are on the couch or across the world.

There are a multitude of products available to automate your home and each one can operate independently to put enhanced control literally in the palm of your hand. To get the best results from home automation you should use a hub to connect all the different devices so they can communicate with one another. Z-Wave, Insteon, ZigBee, and WiFi are just a few of the protocols these devices can potentially operate on. Communication between them is not automatic, and without a hub to facilitate it, it can be impossible. The goal is to have complete control over your home’s functions. The following solutions are the most popular to build a connected home.


There are thousands of different options for home automation and 9 different protocols. This usually means one of two things. Either you buy items using the same protocol, or you have to control each solution individually. A hub gives you a third option by allowing all the devices to communicate with one another through one central location. This is fantastic, because you don’t want to have a different app to control each device. That would just make life harder. Hubs give you the ability to control all your automation easily from one point. You can even program events with certain settings, like shutting off the lights, turning off the HVAC system and locking the doors with the push of one button before going to bed. This is the biggest benefit of building a smarter home in my book. Without a hub your automation solutions cannot reach their full potential. Installation is extremely simple, and the benefits are astounding with two or more devices.

Access Control

With smart locks you can ditch the key and use a keypad instead or even just a phone to grant access. This is a big deal. You won’t need to worry about giving out a key to your home while you are on vacation. A code that cannot be copied or lost will work just fine in granting people access to your home. You can assign a houseguest or repairman with their own temporary code, and then delete it from the lock once they are done to prevent unauthorized access. Some advanced solutions actually allow you to send an electronic key to anyone with a smartphone to grant access to areas where you want available and restrict access to others. It is great if you need to someone to feed your pets while you are away.

Thermostats & Energy Saving Solutions

Smart thermostats may be the most well-known aspect of home automation, with good reason. HVAC systems are the leading energy consumers in homes, and automating them can save a lot of energy and money. Their smart functionality is quite brilliant. You can control your temperature from anywhere, set reminders for changing filters and have the device learn your preferred temperature programs. Some even have geo-fencing capabilities to sense when you are within a certain range from your house and turn on the system. This saves loads of energy. You don’t have to run the air conditioning all day just to have a comfortable temperature when you get home. One of the most popular smart thermostat brands, Nest , just re-launched after being acquired by Google and is undergoing a huge revamp. Setting up a system is very easy, and the benefits are immediate.

Lighting & Control

You have to live with indoor lighting every day, so setup it up just the way you want it. A great thing about automating the lights in your home is the ability to change the color output of the bulbs to suit your mood or activity. All smart bulbs can be dimmed. Some smart bulbs can change from warm to cool white and others have a full spectrum of RGB color changing. You can link up a whole room of bulbs to act as one, letting you get the perfect luminescence for every occasion. Smart plugs are also very useful because you can link them with other devices through a hub and set specific events. Adding smart lighting to your home theater allows you to go from a bright social setting to movie night with the push of a button. Installation is as simple as screwing in a light bulb, or plugging into an outlet.

Security & Surveillance

When it comes to protecting your home you want to be sure you are completely covered when you’re away. Automating your security system allows you to have up to the second notifications of what is going on at your home, no matter where you are. You can set push notifications to alert you when there is movement detected, and see real-time video of what is going on, day or night. If you are expecting a package you can find out instantly if it was delivered, and rest assured that anyone who comes near it will be caught on video. Installing a smart surveillance system might be a bit difficult, but it is a surefire way to assure that your property is protected and your family is safe.


One of the biggest benefits to home automation is getting instant notifications when something goes wrong. Having sensors installed in your house gives you ultimate information on your home’s carbon monoxide levels, water leaks, weather and temperature changes, smoke and even motion detection, no matter where you are. Early detection of a leak or fire can give you a chance to react quickly and reduce the damage to the property. Sensors range in difficulty when it comes to installation and can cover a very broad range of solutions.

Home of the Future

The trend in home automation is to move towards the unification of devices. Major companies are adding as many different partners into their ecosystem as possible. Logitec’s Harmony just announced that they will be partnering with Ecobee, Insteon, Lifx and August. Google acquired Nest and poured funding into the redevelopment and re-release of their products. It’s only a matter of time before you will be able to control every aspect of your home.

We are moving towards a more user-friendly home that is synced up with our lives like never before. How would you automate your home? Is there anything you would use that wasn’t mentioned in this article?

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Ryan K says:

    Great article! I’ve been looking into the different ideas and methods/products for a smart home. It’s nice to know that you can have several or just one smarthome devices, and have a hub to make compatibility a breeze.

  • christoph says:

    Very Nice presentation of what is possible today. In Germany the market is driven By System Integrators. We are still far away from the “Mass Market”. Big question is still Who will be able to sell / and how to sell. The Systems are still to complicate so the Customer Need the Integrator. I did yesterday a presentation in the German Smart Home Forum about our IoT solutions and how this will Chance Communication issues in this Market. Specially for the Integration / connection to the smart Grid and eMobility. Here we see also possible Business Models which will allow a reasonable ROI. L. G. Christoph

  • Russ Frisinger says:

    I have spent more than $1000 to automate various aspects of my home (three lights, a garage door, and some door entry status sensors), with truly very little success.

    Everything starts pretty easy. Then, the problem is the device communication stability with the internet. Change a router, the light switch can never come back to the internet. Delete a device accidentally and the device is never again seen on the app. This week I updated to iOS 9 and now my garage door app flashes to life and dies back to the “desktop.” The vision in this article is fine. The reality is not there yet.

    If bluetooth were as unstable as these devices, we would all be wired rather than mousing and listening untethered as we are now.

  • Kevin Ronald says:

    For a long time, I am looking for this flood sensor over the internet and offline, but can’t find the best thing, Fibaro Z-Wave Flood Sensor (FGFS-101) looks better and seems to work better. Except this, I have all controllers (electrical, water and temperature controller) in my home. I always prefer to shop Johnson Digital temperature controller, Siemens circuit breakers and fireye flame safeguard for my home industrial needs. I totally agreed with you that always prefer to shop leading brand controllers for all your industrial needs to build a smarter home. Thank you so much guys for sharing very informative blog 🙂

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