Are you creating a smart home or considering it? It can be overwhelming with all of the options and the rapidly changing technologies out there.
Slowly, we’ve been adding to our smart home setup piece by piece. Here are the things I’ve learned and how we have been approaching this newer aspect in homeownership.
1. Choose the base system wisely
We approached choosing the base system of our smart home by considering the voice assistant we use most. The first smart speaker we had in the house was an Amazon Echo Dot. We purchased it at a deep discount during one of Amazon’s big sales. But even though Alexa is a widely used and popular voice assistant, we ended up giving her away and switching to Google and their Google Home smart speakers.
Why? As avid Android users and happy Nest Thermostat owners (Google purchased Nest in 2014), it made more sense for us to continue adding devices by or compatible with Google and their (at the time, budding) smart home line.
But this choice could be different for you. In my opinion, the best base options to choose from are:
- Alexa (Echo)
- Google (Nest)
- Apple (Siri/HomeKit)
2. Consider how you want the components to work together
With Google as our choice, we knew we couldn’t afford to buy everything at once. So, as mentioned above, we started buying components one by one. Are there options of components created by other companies that work with Google but might cost less? Sure! But once we started seeing how Google/Nest manufactured devices were made to work together, it was a no brainer for us.
We had a Ring Doorbell to start out and had even upgraded to a Ring 2 when our original stopped working but a few months later Google announced the Nest Hello and the Nest Secure (coming from Simplisafe). This is when I really started falling in love with the Google Nest platform.
Opening up the Nest app and seeing all of my components in one spot, grouped by rooms – it really makes me happy. Knowing that my cameras will email me captured footage if my Nest Secure alerts or our Nest Protects start going off to show me what may have caused it; or that our Nest Thermostat will shut down our system if the Nest Protect detects smoke, therefore, helping slow the spread of a possible fire – it all makes me feel so much safer.
So research your components and know how they work together. How the apps might integrate. How it makes your life easier. Because that’s the whole point of a smart home.
3. Figure out how to mix it into your personal style
For me, it was important to keep my warm white Edison bulbs and dimmer switches. That meant smart switches and plugs rather than smart bulbs.
So we began incorporating Kasa Smart Plugs by TP-Link (<– this 2 pack is a great deal!) into our rooms. I started small with our living room and master bedroom lamps, then added our playroom sconces, our sons’ bedroom lights (2 Ikea clamp lamps and this strip lighting), and most recently, our bedside sconces.
Each plug can be named or grouped together so you can target one light or the whole room. In our master bedroom, I can turn on my own bedside lamp by saying “Ok, Google – turn on Nicole’s light”. Or turn on the lights in the whole room by saying “Ok Google – turn on the lights”. The Google Home Minis/Nest Minis will know which room you mean by what room they are assigned to. If you want to target another room, just say the name you assigned it in the Google Home app -> “Ok, Google – turn on the lights in the playroom”.
If you have Google Home Minis/Nest Minis in each room, but no surface to place it on, this mount holder is a great option. Our sons’ room is small so we saved room by not having any furniture beyond the built-in lofted bunk beds. But the mount holder keeps the Google Home plus cord nice and tidy, tucked under one of the beds.
I’m still working on convincing my husband on the smart switches, but those will be definite upgrades in the near future.
4. Consider the long term
Research companies to see how they treat their products and customers.
Recently, Google made the unpopular decision to discontinue their Nest Secure alarm system and threw us and the rest of their current users into a panic. Google has pledged to continue supporting the system and their current users as well as making additional components available for expanding current systems.
Ultimately, we’re still happy with Google/Nest products and their integration in our home. But this could definitely push away other potential customers who feel their trust in the tech giant could be misplaced after this debacle.
Homeowners are diverse in what they want and need and the smart home industry reflects that. There is no one-size-fits-all solution so it’s important to research and consider what best fits into your life.
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Edit 1/27/21: Just found (and purchased) last night, a 4-pack of Kasa Smart Plugs for only $26.99 on Amazon!30