How to Create a Smart Home Without the Internet
The first thing that always comes to your mind when you hear the term home automation is the internet.
And if you are looking to make that necessary transition into the world of smart homes, the internet is one of the essential components you want to prioritize. Of course, this isn’t surprising, especially if you take into consideration the magnitude of the impact the internet has had on our lives.
The beauty of having your smart home devices and appliances connected over the internet is that it gives you complete control, and you can monitor and regulate all your automated devices from anywhere in the world.
Another reason that perhaps makes the internet indispensable is that just like their counterparts such as computer gadgets and smartphones, smart home devices need regular updates to function optimally. And this is only possible with internet availability.
However, having all your home appliances connected to the internet has its fair side of challenges.
First and foremost, many appliances hooked up over the internet are known to have poor security, and this makes them highly vulnerable to hacking incidents.
Without proper security measures in place, your information and personal data are always at great risk. On top of this, smart devices are usually relatively more delicate and more prone to failure and breakdowns than their traditional or analog counterparts.
Due to these concerns, most homeowners are exploring alternative options, and one of them is creating a smart home without the internet.
The good news is that you can practically create your smart home without using the internet.
This implies that you won’t have to ask a third party to adjust the thermostat or turn off the lights for you. You only need to execute these commands yourself! Sounds amazing, right?
Also, it means that during a power outage, you won’t experience any problems. What’s more, you will enjoy more peace of mind brought about by very few privacy concerns.
However, building your smart home without the internet is easier said than done. The whole process can be daunting and time-consuming. You will have to do lots of research to correctly figure out what works best, determine what is compatible with what, and find the right devices and appliances.
If you are looking to build your dream smart home without the internet, you are in the right place.
Today in this post, we want to provide you with a detailed and extensive article on how to accomplish this tough task.
Look for a central gateway that supports a wireless protocol
Every smart home, whether connected to the internet or not, needs a brain to control it.
Unfortunately, a significant number of these brains require the internet.
Thankfully, there are a few options that offer some amount of local control. So, what are your options when it comes to choosing the best non-internet based smart home hub?
Hubitat: Our recommended option
Usually compared to SmartThings in terms of customizability, Hubitat is a highly affordable hub that is compatible with a broad range of smart home appliances.
Very few smart home hubs can claim they function locally as effectively as Hubitat.
It offers amazing local features that make it a popular choice among DIY fanatics and developers. And one of its major strengths is that it can fully operate and run its rule-based automation engine without an internet connection.
What’s more, it is capable of executing other functions offline including geofencing and smart home control.
This unique hub usually connects to devices through Wi-Fi or IP, and this can be great news for individuals who might want some of their devices to access the internet.
The Hubitat hub comes equipped with built-in Zigbee and Z-Wave radios to make it easy for you to integrate your many smart appliances with it. You only need to plug a Z-Wave or Zigbee stick into the hub to connect your devices and appliances for total local access.
Other notable smart home hub options include SmartThings and Wink that offer some level of local control, though they will occasionally reach out to the internet for some features.
On the other hand, Home Assistant is a create-your-own hub solution that allows you to create a smart home from scratch without an internet connection. Though Home Assistant has a relatively more polished interface, you should expect to set up things manually.
We highly recommend Hubitat because the setup procedure is extremely user-friendly.
Look for either ZigBee or Z-Wave appliances and devices
After you have created your local hub with Hubitat, your next step is finding the best devices and appliances to keep your automated home up and running.
This means that you have to ditch your Wi-Fi-based switches, plugs, lighting fixtures among others. This is because a significant number of smart Wi-Fi appliances connect to the internet, even when you use them with a local hub.
Currently, Z-Wave and ZigBee are arguably the best wireless protocols currently ruling the market when it comes to smart home products.
Unfortunately for you, they are not compatible and regardless of their striking similarities, they have multiple differences as well. This implies that you’ll have to make a choice and choose your preferred option.
Knowing what to use is key to having a hitch-free and smooth smart home.
In this section, let us briefly examine some similarities and differences between ZigBee and Z-Wave to help you make an informed decision.
It is worth mentioning that Z-wave devices usually broadcast at a relatively long range, allowing you to set up devices further apart.
On the other hand, ZigBee appliances create fairly larger mesh networks, implying that if you have lots of such devices, distant won’t be an issue.
So, instead of every single device connecting directly to your smart home’s central hub, each appliance can link up to the nearest device to form some sort of a chain to reach the hub. The signal jumps from one device to the next until it finds the hub. Its Z-wave counterpart can only make four hops.
This may mean that if you are looking for a greater range, ZigBee is the best option. However, you should know that Z-wave can connect devices as far as 550ft away, while ZigBee can only manage 60ft. Of course, ZigBee somehow mitigates this problem by allowing you to hop devices until they seamlessly connect to the hub.
In terms of power consumption, ZigBee appliances require less energy and will, therefore, last slightly longer between battery replacements. So, if you are planning to use numerous sensors, locks, security cameras and other appliances that will consume a considerable amount of power, the ZigBee is the ultimate option.
Another point to note is that Z-Wave operates on the lesser-used radio frequency, the 908.42MHz radio frequency, whereas its ZigBee counterpart runs at 2.4ghz radio frequency which also used by other Wi-Fi routers and devices, so there is a possibility that it can suffer from some interference.
What this means is that ZigBee can be prone to congestion issues.
However, ZigBee boasts one notable advantage over its Z-waver counterpart. It uses encryption and thus deemed to be an extremely secure wireless protocol.
Both Z-wave and ZigBee wireless protocols are almost universal and offer great compatibility.
Currently, there are many manufacturers out there that produce thousands of ZigBee and Z-wave smart home products. While most popular brands are now compatible with both protocols, some only support one standard.
Z-wave supports Kwikset smart locks, August smart locks, and the Logitech Harmony Hub Extender products. On the other hand, ZigBee supports Amazon Echo Plus, Philips Hue, Belkin WeMo Link, and Active Hive heating products.
As you may have realized, both standards have their disadvantages and advantages. However, two primary factors should influence your final decision.
- If the distance between your smart appliances is short or you intend to connect lots of devices, then ZigBee should be your best option.
- On the other hand, if you want to only connect a few devices and would also want to create a fairly large distance between them, go with Z-wave.
Did you didn’t know that it is possible to use both standards if you can get the right smart home hub?
A hub such as Wink or SmartThings can support both protocols. However, appliances using one protocol won’t benefit from any mesh network offered by the other protocol. But, the important thing is that you’ll at least be in a position to control all your devices.
Now you can automate your home
After choosing your preferred local smart home hub and have equally purchased all the home automation Z-wave/ZigBee devices and appliances, it is now time to put everything together.
As an expert in the home automation niche, I can assure you that this is by far the most stressful phase you’ll encounter.
You first need to purchase an array of contact, motion, temperature, and water sensors. These sensors are, however, affordable and you may only need to spend somewhere in the range of $25 to $70 on every single sensor.
Of course, things can get very different if you are going to automate a larger part of your home because you’ll need more sensors and this can be costly.
Bearing in mind that you are designing a smart home without the internet, it is best to design a smart home that correctly anticipates your needs and preferences and initiates a proactive action accordingly.
This is quite the opposite of internet-reliant smart homes that reacts to a voice command. So, after having your house filled with sensors, you will now proceed to learn and understand your local hub’s automation engine.
At the basic level, your best option should be the IFTTT (If This Then That), a free web-based service that lets you create a chain of simple conditional statements.
For instance, if your living room sensor detects movement, turn on the lights. With a decent smart local hub at your disposal such as Hubitat, you can come up with many complicated options to suit your needs.
With time, you will be able to invest in new appliances, master the rules of the game, and issue new voice commands.
If you have ever wondered if it is possible to build a smart home without the internet, hopefully this article has answered your questions.
So, if you are still planning your home automation, you can consider if creating a smart home without the internet is an option for you.