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A Smart Home Guide for Beginners: Where to Start

Wednesday, April 21, 2021   /   by Earl Gaddi

A Smart Home Guide for Beginners: Where to Start

Devices, appliances, and environmental systems around our homes have become WiFi and internet enabled as the Internet of Things (IoT) has grown exponentially. This has resulted in smart home technology, which allows you to control nearly everything electrical in your home from a single device (typically a smartphone or tablet), regardless of whether you are inside or outside.
This is an understandably complex and perplexing new world. It is, however, simple to embrace with a simple start. Let's look into the fundamentals of setting up a smart home.

What is a smart home?

Smart homes are made up of all the devices (including appliances) that can be controlled and automated remotely over the internet via a home wireless (WiFi) network. From home security systems and kitchen appliances to something as simple as a lightbulb or an electrical outlet, smart home devices are everywhere.
Your smart home system can be controlled using an app installed on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, which allows you to connect and control your smart devices. You'll never forget to run the dishwasher or turn off the lights again with hands-on monitoring, control, and automation.

Other advantages of smart home automation, aside from the convenience of having everything at your fingertips, include:

Increased comfort: With better lighting and thermostat control, your home will always be at the perfect temperature when you arrive home or wake up in the morning.
Better energy efficiency: Having more precise control over unused appliances and devices means consuming less energy.
Increased security: You'll never have to worry about your belongings when you're not at home with home security and camera integration.
Added security: Don't worry if you leave something on the stove or oven unattended; you can turn them off remotely!
Better understanding: Smart home systems can give you a lot of information about your habits and how you use your devices around the house.

Where should I start?

When designing your smart home, the most important factor to consider is a smart system app or hub. While most systems apps don't require a physical hub to give you control over your devices, a smart hub makes voice commands much easier. The following are some of the most popular smart system apps and hubs:

Amazon Alexa; 
Google Assistant;
Samsung SmartThings;
Wink Hub. 

If you're primarily interested in home security and environmental control, you can contact a home security or monitoring company, or even your cellular or internet provider in some cases. Home monitoring is available from Bell, Telus, Rogers, and ecobee, with some even including additional automation features.
Note that the services listed above require a monthly plan, and you may be charged a fee if you want to add more devices or appliances.

Smart devices to get started with

The next step is to choose some smart devices to connect to your smart system so that you can get started right away. When installing smart devices, the main difference you'll notice is the extra steps required to connect them to your WiFi network. It may appear complicated at first, but manufacturers always include simple setup instructions, and if you run into any problems, they usually have excellent customer service to assist you.
When looking for these kinds of products, it's always a good idea to look at customer feedback and reviews on multiple retailer's websites. You'll also want to double-check that they're compatible with your smart system app to avoid the hassle of having to manage your home through multiple apps.

Smart home hub: You'll still be able to control everything through your smart system app, but the voice command capabilities of this option mean you won't always need your phone to control your home. Some hubs, such as Amazon Echo and Google Nest, also function as speakers, allowing you to listen to your favourite music whenever you want.
Range of prices: $50 to $400
Smart thermostat: This device is more than just a programmable thermostat replacement. Have you forgotten to turn down the heat when you leave for the day? It's no problem! Your home's heating and cooling can be controlled and automated from anywhere. Some smart systems can even track your habits and adjust the temperature automatically as a result.
Range of prices: ~$40 to $300

Smart light bulbs: You can now control the intensity, timing, and even colour of these intuitive LED options, which are not only more energy efficient than their incandescent counterparts. Simply replace your existing bulbs, connect to your smart system, and leave the rest to your fingers.
The price range is $5 to $60.
Smart switches: A modern alternative to traditional switches and dimmers, smart switches eliminate the need to replace bulbs and provide complete remote control of your room lights. Imagine never having to get out of your comfortable bed or dinner to adjust the lights!
The price range is between $20 and $80.

Smart outlets and power bars: Yes, even an outlet or a power bar can be smart! Simple objects such as lamps, fans, and basic coffee makers are transformed into remotely programmable and automated devices using these devices.
Range of prices: $11 to $40

Smart cameras: If you use a regular CCTV (closed circuit television) camera system, you know how frustrating it can be to sift through hours of footage. Smart cameras’ intuitive motion sensor technology allows them to record only when motion is detected. They can also notify you of any motion detected and you can even view the video feed in real-time using a mobile device or computer. Now if you’re on vacation and someone attempts to gain entry to your home, you can immediately contact authorities.
Price range: ~$50 to $500+

Smart door locks/deadbolts: With a smart lock, you’ll never have to worry about fumbling for your keys with an armload of groceries. The mobile phone in your pocket will unlock it as you approach the door. Some locks are also code-enabled, while others can still use a traditional key in the event you forget your phone. You can also text one-time entry codes to family, neighbours, or even service providers if urgent entry is needed.
Price range: ~$85 to $350
Smart range/stove/oven: Replacing your existing stove with a smart stove is a culinary game changer. You can pre-heat, adjust, and shut it off remotely. A smart oven’s intuitive cooking technology can even make automatic adjustments based on what you’re cooking so you end up with the perfect dish, every time.
Price range: ~$850 to $10,000+

Once you've made your home smart and are comfortable with your smart devices, which can be found at most big-box stores, you should definitely look into what these other smart appliances have to offer.
Of course, there is a learning curve here, and upgrading your home's technology is a big change, but the benefits of convenience, energy savings, and overall comfort and security make it worthwhile. Best of luck!