Smart homes are all the rage right now. From voice assistants to TVs, bulbs to switches, outlets to locks, motion detectors to vacuum cleaners… The list of smart devices on the market seems neverending. While the voice assistants from the big chains often draw people to the technology, there’s a lot to consider when transforming your house into a smart home. Asking yourself “why” you want a smart home and carefully evaluating what technology to use can dramatically change what components you choose.

Today I’ll examine a few possible reasons, leaving the choice of which system, communication protocols, etc for future posts. A smart home, if improperly planned, becomes a burden that doesn’t quite work right. But taking the time to think things through can make things easy.

I want to use less electricity

Electricity bills are high, and they’re only going to get higher. North American utility providers predict that most people will increase their electricity use by 30% within the next 5 years. As more people make the switch to electric vehicles, we could see that number increase even further.

The first step to controlling electricity usage is to track your usage. Tracking dishwashers, clothes washers, and clothes dryers although easy, takes quite a bit of manual work. Tracking TVs, light bulbs, outlets, and everything else, well, that’s not nearly as simple.

If you own your home, you can get a smart breaker box or power monitoring system installed by a licensed electrician, but that’s a very expensive route. Although it may track your usage, breaker by breaker, it doesn’t break it down to say, “you used 20 kWh from basement lights on such-and-such a date.” This leaves a lot of guesswork to the user.

Thankfully, renters and homeowners alike can make use of various devices that track the device’s power usage. With the right central piece of software, like Home Assistant, you can pull up the data and discover that you’ve accidentally left your cellar light on all week. Or you can determine that your A/C unit is running on high when there’s no one in the house (and turn it off).

For power-savers, motion sensors are another piece of equipment worth considering. Setting these devices throughout the house can help lights turn off automatically if they don’t detect motion or activate when someone enters a room.

I want to make things convenient

Convenience is a huge motivator for installing smart devices. Most people work a regular (or at least semi-regular) schedule, allowing them to come & go at set times. We all have routines, and it would be great to have coffee brewed, the TV tuned into our favourite programs, and the appropriate lights all activated for us in the morning.

Having the doors unlock themselves just as we get home, the heating/cooling adjust based upon our presence, and items added to our shopping lists when we run low (or run out) can make things more comfortable.

For the convenience folk, you’ll want a setup with routines, voice activation, and geo-fencing. Most of the main smart home systems have these options to some degree, so it depends on what specifically your routine involves. Take some time to think about your daily routines, and find devices specific to automating those routines.

Do you like to listen to the radio when you wake up? Many voice assistants can be set up to play the morning news.

Do you always launch Netflix on the TV when you get home from work? You can set your smart TV to do just that. Heck, for some devices, you can set it to play a specific show on Netflix.

There’s a lot of ways that a smart home can make life a little more convenient, so take that extra moment to consider your current routines and what can be automated to make life just a little more comfortable.

I need to automate something specific

Personally, this was my gateway to smart tech. I had a very specific use, and picked up exactly what I needed.

Of course, things changed over time and I expanded and found other uses, but this is probably one of the best ways to get started.

What specific uses might be helped?

Well, how about automating garden watering and ensuring proper moisture, PH, and nitrogen levels. There’s tech for that.

Or building a security system to monitor the garage, yard, house, etc. Yeah, there’s smart tech for that too.

Some people like to set up pet monitoring systems to track when they eat, poop, play, etc. This tech can be pretty helpful if you have a pet that requires special care.

If it’s fitness & wellness routine tracking or triggering a camera to stream trains that go by during the day, there’s equipment available. Your specific use case may be just of value to you, or it may be useful to many people. Either way, there’s specific smart tech to help you out.

I want a cutting-edge Smart Home

There are a lot of people that like to be on the cutting edge of technology, always seeking the latest, greatest thing. Smart home tech is much the same, with new devices launching constantly. If you’re reading this, chances are good that “cutting edge” isn’t your goal. If it is, perhaps you’ll be more comfortable reading tech blogs.

Everyone tells me I should

This is another reason that I’ve often heard. People that have taken the time to think about and plan out their smart homes love to talk about how convenient it is, how they save power or any number of other benefits they experience. Whether they’re saying get onboard or making you feel you need to “keep up with the Jones” and get on the smart home bandwagon, I have news for you: you don’t need it.

Don’t get me wrong. I love some elements of having a smart home. But some parts are annoying, too (like when the WiFi goes down, so nothing “smart” works anymore). If you don’t have a purpose for it, there’s no point setting one up. It can be aggravating, annoying, and troublesome if it isn’t something for which you have genuine use.

It’s ok. Really.

Why do you want a Smart Home?

I’ve provided 5 possible answers, and there are as many more as there are people with computers.

It’s important to ask this question before ever buying your first piece of smart equipment. After all, no one likes having a dozen different “smart” devices that won’t communicate with each other, cooperate, or accomplish something of use to them. Having to run a half-dozen (or more) apps on your cell to manage your devices can be downright rage-inducing, especially if you aren’t sure which app controls the one specific device you need.

Think about why you want the smart home and what it is you want it to do for you. Once you figure that out, find out what’s out there to accomplish your goal.

I’ll get into more considerations, like privacy, communication frequency, voice systems, control hubs, and specific equipment, in another post. But I will say one thing I wish I had known when I first started: smart switches are better than smart bulbs. If you have the option for a switch or a bulb, choose the switch EVERY TIME.

Trust me, it’ll save you a lot of headaches later on.

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