Creating a DIY smart home may actually be easier than you think.
Although the industry is still in its infancy, many products have already come far enough for the everyday home owner to create their perfect automated home – all by themselves.
Today we’re going to talk about why you should consider setting up a DIY home automation system, what hardware is available for you to use, and several other important things to consider.
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Why setup DIY home automation?
People choose to automate their homes for a variety of reasons. Using smart devices in your home can make life so much easier, but we think there are a few specific reasons you may want to consider setting up a DIY smart home.
Having a security system integrated with your smart home can give you peace of mind whenever you’re not at the house. From ensuring your Amazon packages aren’t picked up by porch pirates, to checking in on the dogs, to simply having a live camera feed to check up on things. Including some form of security system in your DIY setup is an easy decision to make.
It’s not a stretch to say that we’re all getting just a little lazier as tech progresses. With the help of smart home automation, we now have the power to control almost everything in our house from the comfort of our couch. Automating small tasks around the house can have a big impact on your life, reducing our menial, day-to-day recurrences, and saving time to spend on more worthy causes.
Yes, controlling our houses from the couch is pretty comfortable, but what’s even more comfortable is the ability to adjust things like the thermostat right from your phone, or even by simply asking your smart speaker. One of my favourite things to automate in my home, is to trigger a temperature increase in our bathroom right as we wake up in the morning. No more cold toilet seat for us!
As I mentioned in the above point, with a DIY smart home, you can also setup tasks based on a schedule. You can completely customize your home to work around your schedule and make your day just that bit more enjoyable. Why not trigger your porch light to come on when you’re due to arrive home? Or setup your coffee machine to start brewing when you wake up?
What it all comes down to really, is efficiency. People like to make their homes smart because it makes their lives easier. Not having to worry about so many little things, having more time to focus on what really matters, while simultaneously improving quality of life.
Managed Systems vs. Complete DIY Automation
When it’s time to start putting together your DIY home automation system, you’ll soon realize that you have a lot of options. One of the first distinguishments to make, is between “managed” and “self-managed” systems.
Many companies have put together their own completely managed systems for home automation and security. You usually pay a monthly fee for these services, but there’s far less for you to figure out, and often the company will install and setup everything for you.
However, there are some concerns with using a managed system. The primary concern is that the provider normally stores all of your data, and has full access to it. Often there is nothing to stop them from them using that data or even selling it to other companies.
It’s important to note that the same goes for many devices that you could integrate into your DIY home solution, but at least you have the option to swap devices out and choose between a selection of brands. With a managed system, you’re all in or you’re all out.
A self-managed home automation system would normally be made up of devices from a variety of manufacturers, and setup to your own specifications. You have choices about how you setup your system, but you’re also responsible (most of the time) for anything in it, including some troubleshooting.
Then there are complete DIY home automation systems, that don’t use components produced by device manufacturers, and instead use more raw components to create a fully custom system. For example, there are a number of circuit boards, like the Raspberry Pi, that you can include in your system. This normally requires soldering, coding and essentially creating your own devices from scratch.
For the purposes of this article, we’re assuming you fall mostly in the self-managed system category, where you expect to purchase devices and set them up without too much work.
Setting up your own home automation system
In order to truly automate your home, you first need to set it up as a smart home.
This will involve purchasing and configuring devices, as well as connecting them all together.
You’ll need various things, and the devices you include in your system will depend on your needs and wants, as well as your budget.
Components you should consider buying
For your home automation DIY project, you should consider adding the following components.
The hub is the “brain” for your smart home operation. It’s the device that all the other devices connect to, and is essential in your DIY home automation build.
If you want to keep tabs on everything happening inside and outside your home, some good smart cameras should be added to your system.
Other Security Devices
Other security devices can be added, such as doorbells, smoke alarms, motion sensors, door/window open and close sensors, and GPS tracking devices.
There are many smart door locks on the market with a variety of features to consider. Just think about when you get home from the grocery store, fumbling for your keys, struggling to get inside – smart locks solve that problem.
For lighting you have several options – the first of which is smart bulbs. Smart bulbs allow you to literally control the bulb independently or as part of a group. You can also control lighting with switches and smart plugs, as you’ll see below.
Switches can be used to control lighting, or anything else that’s controlled by a switch! Most smart switches retain the manual switch functionality (i.e. it works exactly like a non-smart switch) but they can also be controlled wirelessly.
You can plug lamps and many other things into smart switches. Anything that you want to control power to remotely or on a schedule can be done using a smart switch.
Firstly, there are the most popular smart speakers/assistants, Alexa and Google Home, but there are others that run on the same software or similar. Adding a smart speaker to your DIY setup can be very handy, because they allow control of the system by simply talking to it.
Controlling the temperature of your home from anywhere in the world can be extremely useful. We’ve even seen cases of people controlling the temperature of their holiday home from another country!
Why not add a vacuum and even more convenience to your home automation system? Set it to run on demand, or on a schedule that means you never see it, but the house is always clean – win!
Choosing and putting your smart home devices together
You should always start your home automation project with the hub, or whatever your method of controlling it will be.
Nowadays most devices are highly compatible with one another, but you should still pay close attention to the features of your hub, and ensure that every device you plan on getting is compatible before you place your order.
You don’t want to get into the final stages of your DIY smart home build, only to realize that something isn’t going to work and it ruins everything else.
By far the most common protocol (method of communication) for modern smart home devices is Z-Wave. And that is what we’d recommend starting with.
With more than 2,400 smart devices currently available on the Z-Wave platform, we’re sure you’ll find more than enough products to complete your system.
You can also often configure everything to work with an existing smart speaker, or your phone, provided they have Amazon Alexa or Google Home compatibility. If you’re considering going this route, you should ensure that every device you plan on configuring will work.
There’s nothing worse than a complicated home automation setup, where you need to use multiple apps and controls to achieve what you could have done on one singular hub.
What different things can you achieve with home automation
DIY Home Automation Ideas (Once Setup)
Ok, so setting up the system, connecting all your devices to a hub so that they can be controlled wirelessly is one thing. The next step to to automate your devices and ultimately use them to make your life easier.
Below are some of our favourite ideas for automating your smart home.
1. Turn Off Devices At Bed Time
This one isn’t just handy for your kids, but also for your own mental wellbeing. Not only can you save power, but you may also save yourself from bright distractions and improve your sleep quality. You could also consider automatically switching your phone to silent at bed time!
2. Turn On The Lights (or anything else) When You Get Home
You know the situation; you arrive home late from work, groceries in one hand, laptop, thermos and everything else in the other, you just want to get inside and put everything down. Save yourself the extra step of turning on the lights, and see clearly as soon as you step through the door.
3. Close Your Garage Door Each Night
Maybe you’re more careful that that with your garage door, but wouldn’t it put your mind at ease just to have confirmation that it’s closed – and without having to go out there and check it yourself?
4. Brew Fresh Coffee Every Morning
Some coffee machines already come with this functionality, but if your machine is not so smart, using a smart plug to turn your machine on and start brewing first thing in the morning will make getting your day started that much easier.
5. Add Some Mood Lighting to Date Night
If you install colour changing smart bulbs such as the Hue range by Philips, you can set your lights to automatically dim and/or change colour to set the mood on your date night. There are various ways you can trigger this, the simplest being manually, but you can also trigger light changes when you open Netflix on your smart TV, for example.
6. Turn Security Cameras On When Doors Are Opened/Closed
You may be uncomfortable leaving your security cameras running all the time, so why not set them up to only record when specific things happen? A great example of this is configuring them with door/window sensors to start recording only when someone is coming in our out.
7. Turn On Devices When Entering The Room They’re In
With some smart home devices, you can control them based on where you are (or really, where your smartphone is) in the house. Imagine how “sci-fi” it would be to walk into each room and your devices turn off and on as you do so!
8. Control WiFi On A Schedule
Want to stop the kids from playing games or browsing the internet late on school nights? Setup your wifi to only operate at certain times and under conditions which you control.
9. Turn Down The Heat While You’re Out
Live in a moderate climate and want to save on your utility bills? How about turning your climate control off in the home while you’re out – and even better, turn it back on once you’re within a certain proximity of your home.
10. Turn Off/On Devices Based On Other Device Status
Ok, so it would probably get quite tedious setting up all these different rules for each individual device – so why not set some of your devices to simply be reliant on whatever one main device is doing? For example, if you want to turn the WiFi off when you leave the house, you could set your lights and other devices to also turn off when the WiFi disconnects.
This article summed up everything you need to know when setting up a DIY home automation system.
We know that this information could be perceived as fairly general, and so we’ll be adding an article with our “ideal home automation setup” which will include the specific devices we’d pick, in early 2020. So watch out for that!