You’ve been thinking about smarthomes. You want to build your own but aren’t sure where to start. Well, you’ve found your start. When you are done reading this guide, you’ll have all the tools you need to build your smarthome.
What is a smarthome?
Many people define smarthome differently. To me, a smarthome is a home that provides some combination of comfort, energy efficiency, security, lighting, etc. aided by technology that allows these systems to be automated, integrated, and available for remote control. For example, turning on your outdoor lights automatically at night, being sent notifications when a visitor is at your door, and automating the house temperature to the right level when you’re home are examples of smarthome functions.
Is a DIY smarthome for me?
There are many good reasons to build a DIY smarthome. You can greatly improve the utility, safety, and security of your home. The tough question is “Is it worth it?” Building your own smarthome will take time and money. I’ve been on a path of automating and improving my DIY smarthome for over 6 years. Although there have been frustrating moments, my family has come to rely upon the conveniences and safety our smarthome has given to us. I certainly think it is worth it.
What do I need before I start building my smarthome?
You’ve decided you’d like to build your own smarthome. Great! You need to lay a solid foundation because you won’t be building it overnight. Like most projects, proper preparation and planning are the keys. Here are the preparatory steps to take before you even make your first smarthome device purchase:
- Make sure your home network is strong. Most, if not all of your smarthome devices will rely on your home network and possibly your Internet connection to function properly, It is paramount you take the time to make sure you have a good connection everywhere in your home where you think you might install a smarthome device. For most people, this means making sure their Wifi is up to par. For some paranoid people like me, this also means having backup cellular Internet.
- Have a plan to protect your home network from Internet of Things (IOT) device hacking. Smarthome devices are notoriously insecure. In fact, many smarthome devices attract hackers as soon as they are online. It’s best to plan your security up front. This starts with choosing a good router and firewall and to control what your smarthome devices can access in your home. Here’s how to choose a good router, (I personally use and highly recommend pfSense). Also, here are some tips on protecting your home network and how I isolate my IOT devices in case they are compromised.
Building a new home? Here are tips and ideas to consider implementing in a new construction smarthome.
What are the first steps to building my smarthome?
Now that you have a solid and secure network infrastructure, it’s time to build your smarthome. This starts with planning:
- Define your short, medium, and long term goals for your smart home.
- Determine your smarthome budget.
- Define the amount of time you have to spend building your smarthome. Does your budget and time availability fit your plan? If not, you need to go back and modify them.
- Inventory the devices you already have in your home. You may be surprised to know you’ve already started building your smarthome. Do these devices fit in your future plans? If so, make sure they are compatible with the devices you plan to buy.
If you are eager to get started and don’t want to wait until you have a fully built plan, you can get started on your smarthome in a few steps and with a reduced budget. This might be a great idea if you want to dip your toes into building a smarthome first. You can also check out my smarthome evolution to learn more about how I started and developed my smarthome.
Putting it all together: Your Smarthome Hub
The key to automating and integrating all of your smarthome devices is your smarthome hub. Hubs allow for remote control, and they allow smarthome devices from different manufacturers and categories to talk to each other. For example, a smarthome hub will allow an Aeotec motion detector to trigger a LIFX smart light to turn on when you enter a room. A smart hub will also allow you to send a voice command to a smart assistant to do multiple things at once, such as arm your alarm and turn off your lights.
Smarthome hubs also support popular smarthome protocols used by non-IP (WiFi or wired) and non-Bluetooth devices, such as Insteon, ZigBee, and Z-wave. These are mesh networks that use radio waves to foster communication between many devices within a house.
The only smarthome hub needed by many people is a voice assistant, such as Google Assistant or Alexa. These assistants allow for automation (via routines) and the integration of multiple devices. Others may need a more sophisticated smarthome hub like Samsung SmartThings or Home Assistant to have more granular control of automations. Picking the right smarthome hub is crucial and can be difficult. Here is some advice to help you pick the right smarthome hub.
Working on the smarthome build
You’ve done all the preparatory work (network is strong and secure, you have your goals and budget, and you’ve picked your smarthome hub). Now, it is time to go buy and build. The key is to pick compatible devices that can be combined to do what you want. Take your time, build slowly, and your home with be a sentient smart being in no time!
HomeTechHacker DIY smarthome resources
You can get all the tools and information you need to make your home smart by purchasing my book, The Smart Home Manual. Be sure to check it out!
Here are articles and other resources we provide that can help on your path to building your smarthome:
- 5 reasons you should make your home smart
- 6 places to get smart home help?
- 7 Tips for building your dream smarthome
- How much does a smarthome cost?
- Picking the right smarthome hub
- 19 home automation ideas for your smarthome
- Create a smarthome in 5 steps
- 4 Important DIY Smarthome Truths
- How to improve your home Wifi
- How to choose a router
- Why I chose pfSense as my router
- My first 2 hours with Home Assistant
- Zigbee, Z-Wave and Home Assistant
- Ecobee3 Lite Smart Thermostat Install and Review
- Make your own smart garage door opener for $15
- Tips for Building a New Construction Smarthome
I hope you have gained some knowledge and that this article has given you the direction to create the DIY smarthome of your dreams. Have you started building your smarthome? What are your goals? What hub are you using? Have you picked out any equipment? Contact me via Twitter or leave a comment and let me know!
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