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How to turn your home into a smart home

Today is the day you transform your home into a smart home! There is a huge amount of smart devices available today to help with home automation and help you reclaim some of your precious time and sanity. Smart devices can be controlled by a digital assistant and can be utilized to complete simple task and routines, from turning on lights, changing the thermostat, and even locking doors. The most popular smart devices are designed to play music and movies, but home security smart devices like window and entryway alerts, locks, and cameras are becoming more and more popular. Presently there are a handful of smart home platforms you can choose, but Amazon, Google, and Apple's HomeKit hold the biggest market. Don’t worry too much about ecosystem loyalty though, there is a little bit of wiggle room as most smart home devices now work with both Amazon and Google's platforms and a lot of devices also work with Apple's HomeKit.

Since I have a ton of Android devices, I chose the Google Assistant to run my smart home, but if you have a great deal of Amazon or Apple devices it might be simpler to remain with that ecosystem. When you choose which platform is appropriate for you to run your smart home you then have the daunting task of choosing the smart devices that will really make your home a smart home. I have three classes for smart devices: entertainment, appliances, and security.

By now you most likely know about the most common smart device, the smart speaker. Amazon Echo, the Google Home speaker, as well as companies like Bose and Sonos produce smart speakers. These speakers make it possible for you to play music through your entire home, or even different music in various rooms of your home. The Nest Hub, Nest Hub Max, and Amazon Echo Show even have the an additional advantage of having a screen on them also, which makes controlling your media just as your other keen home gadgets considerably simpler.

Now, your T.V... A ton of new T.V.'s can be controlled from your Amazon or Google smart devices, but if you don’t want to buy a new T.V., they sell devices that can attach to your T.V. and make it possible for if to stream from all the web-based services, like Netflix and Hulu, and they're generally a reasonable price. Google's Chromecast is especially helpful with its "Smartcast" feature. You can project media from your Android, iPhone, or any Chrome browser over Wi-Fi to a Chromecast enabled device. This makes it simple to project a media from your phone to your Livingroom T.V. and then cast it to your bedroom T.V. Amazon's Fire stick has this feature also and Amazon has a ton of Alexa enabled devices inthe home theater category, like sound bars and audio receivers. Both companies allow you to utilize your voice to control your media equipment, just tell either Alexa or the Google Assistant what media you need to play and on what particular screen. The Apple T.V. also has a casting feature called Airplay where you can stream media from pretty much any Apple device with a screen to your TV.

For smart lighting, there are generally two approaches. You either make the light bulb smart or you make the switch smart. You can also use a combination of these two approaches because some light fixtures you find just are not going to have a smart bulb equivalent to the ball that the light fixture takes. Philips, GE, and a few other companies make the smart bulbs. These smart light manufacturers make LED bulbs that can typically be categorized into three groups: plain white, bulbs that go from daylight to warm white, or multicolored bulbs. These types of bulbs either connect through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and some may require a hub that you will need to connect to your Wi-Fi router. Smart lights save you a lot of time and steps throughout your house. You can turn all of your lights off at night with just your voice, you can make sure you turn them all off while you're away from home through the smartphone app. typically you can create routines with them so you wake up with your lights dimming up with sunrise colors and you can usually set geofencing with your lights so they automatically turn on when you arrive home and turn off when you leave. There are also other accessories you can get with your smart lights like wireless dimmer switches that you can assign to control a variety of lights in your residence. Philips Hue probably has the most accessories and different types of smart lights available today. For smart light switches some popular brands out there are Wemo, Casa, Ecobee, and Lutron. These switches connect to your home's Wi-Fi network and replace the switch you have in your existing wall, allowing you to either control the lights with the switch, a phone app, or with a smart assistant. These are a great option if you're doing a home remodel or building a new home where you already need light switches anyways or if you just don't want to or can't put smart bulbs into a fixture.

Next up, let's talk climate control, and mainly we're talking smart thermostats here. These are thermostats that are Wi-Fi connected and can be controlled by your smart assistants. Some popular ones include the Nest Learning Thermostat made by Google, the Ecobee 4, and various smart Honeywell thermostats. Some you can program like more traditional thermostats with weekly schedules, others like the Nest, learn your usage patterns and use artificial intelligence to predict what the temperature should be set to. Most of them now allow you to stick sensors in different rooms around your house to give you a true home temperature. Most smart thermostats will also work with the big three smart assistant platforms and their installation is pretty easy. I did it myself and it took only about 25 minutes. The Nest thermostat has a handy companion app that walks you through the entire process.

Smart home appliance have taken the market by storm lately. Your typical home appliances have become smart home devices, such as your stove, refrigerator, washing machine, and also home accessories that can connect to your smart home platform like smart blinds, robotic vacuum cleaners, smart scales, and smart plugs. Smart accessories are typically going to cost you more to buy than there none smart counterparts, so if you're just starting your smart home, my recommendation would be to get some smart accessories first that mesh with your smart home platform and then get appliances as you need them over time. Smart plugs are a great way to help transform your home into a smart home. They turn any appliance into one that can be simply turned on or off by any of the major smart home assistant platforms.

Lastly, smart home security systems. Home security has been around for a while with brands like ADT, CPI, and Brinks, but Google’s Nest, Amazon’s Ring are quickly gaining attention. These systems are generally cheaper and more adaptive to your needs. You can add, remove, and move around these devices to meet your specific needs, and I generally find them a better use of my money than paying for traditional home security. Smart security devices include a home base, sensors for the doors and windows, motion sensors, cameras, smart locks, smart doorbells, and a key fob to disarm the system.

Once you choose your smart home platform and start buying devices and accessories for your smart home, you're just going to be amazed at how easy it is to start automating some of the most mundane aspects of your life. Like turning off the lights in every room of your house with your voice, or do things you could only have dreamed of years ago like a thermostat that you never have to adjust because it's learned how you like to keep the temperature in your home, moving through your house with the same music playing on multiple speakers in multiple rooms, or asking your smart assistant for your Roomba to clean the kitchen after you've finished making dinner. Smart home devices have the power to really change your life for the better.

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