Home automation DIY can be seemingly easy, depending on the product. Everything can seem completely overwhelming when you’re just getting started with smart home technology.
We understand that, and we’re here to help.
As the home automation market continues to soar, you’re confronted by seemingly endless products promising plug-and-play functionality. It’s all too easy to get caught up in analysis paralysis merely thinking about the possibilities of a new system rather than putting it into practice and enjoying all the benefits of a smart home.
Luckily, if you take a step back and think carefully about your needs, you could be automating your home in a way that works for you, and with much less effort than you might imagine.
If you want to update your home, the first question you should ask yourself is whether you want a simple, smart home system or a fully automated household.
If you’re quite happy with a basic wifi thermostat or Amazon Echo so you can introduce Alexa to your household, you won’t need to worry about calling in the pros, but how about if you want a more complex system?
Before you get bogged down in the nuts and bolts of installation, decide whether your prime driver is convenience or security when you’re looking at a smart home. This will to a large extent inform the type of system you build out.
Once you’ve got a clear idea of the sort of system you want, it’s time to think about the installation side of things so you can budget accurately before you start buying equipment and getting set up.
Make no mistake, time spent at this stage can save you a great deal of money and headaches later down the track.
Home Automation DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
With so many smart home devices and appliances touted as plug-and-play, it might seem tempting to take the work on yourself.
Before you even think about that, though, be completely honest…
Are you practically inclined and quite comfy with the tech involved to take this on yourself, or is that just wishful thinking?
You’ll need some proficiency with both electric and IT, so it’s more than a case of simple DIY.
If this sounds like you, DIY home automation will excite you rather than intimidate you, and there’s never been a wider choice of smart home devices you can get up and running yourself.
You’ve got 3 broad choices when it comes to installing home automation:
- DIY Installation / Self-Monitoring
- DIY Installation / Professional Monitoring
- Professional Installation / Professional Monitoring
1) DIY Installation / Self-Monitoring
Taking the home automation DIY route and sidestepping any kind of paid-for monitoring service remains a cost-effective and flexible way to get started today.
If you choose to do things yourself, you’ve got 2 courses of action:
- Buy a simple starter kit or something more comprehensive with everything you need to be included
- Invest in a hub and add compatible devices as you go
As with every aspect of automating your home, what you do here depends entirely on what you want from your smart home. Your options are almost limitless, so we’ll give you some pointers.
Think about the future of your smart home and consider these simple ways to kickstart your home automation DIY …
3 Easy Ways To Get Started with Home Automation DIY
If you like the idea of automating your lights so you can enjoy the benefits of more natural lighting indoors, a simple starter kit from Philips is a great way to test the waters of DIY smart home installation.
You can tweak settings to an exceptional degree so merely pressing a button can bathe your room in different colored light according to your mood.
Tailor your lighting to slowly increase in intensity as the morning kicks in then you can wind down toward mood lighting in the evening all without needing to think about it.
If you want to use voice control, this starter kit is compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit.
You’ll also be able to pair up with any Nest devices or products in Samsung’s SmartThings ecosystem, so you’ve got a very flexible base to work from with this simple but highly effective starter kit. With the bridge, 4 bulbs and all cabling included, you’ve got no need for professional installation to make your home smarter.
- Completely customize your lighting with millions of color combinations at your fingertips
- Replicate natural lighting indoors so you can wake to a gradually brightening room and ease into your day
- Bridge included, so you’ve got all you need to get going straight out the box
- Initial functionality will obviously be limited to lighting
Perhaps you don’t want to call in the professionals and start digging deeper, but you want a little more than control over your lighting…
The cornerstone of any home automation DIY is a rock-solid hub. With the highly adaptable and stable Hub 2 from Wink, you can take full control of your connected devices in-app on your smartphone.
It’s the flexibility that’s arguably the key selling point and the reason for Hub’s continued success. The hub will happily communicate with most major protocols including Zigbee, Z-Wave, and Bluetooth.
You’ll be able to perform a wide range of duties from taking remote control of access to automating your home. To do this, you’ll need to invest in the necessary devices. Hub 2 works with over 400 devices from all the major players.
A dependable hub with the compatibility and versatility of Wink Hub 2 is an absolute must for any DIY smart home system you plan to build out over time.
- Enables you to control a broad spread of devices in your smart home from a camera and video doorbells through sensors, thermostats, and alarms for a complete solution
- Control is super-simple using intuitive Wink app
- Exceptional protocol support with Z-Wave, Zigbee, Bluetooth for a sufficiently flexible system
- Some reported glitches with Schlage locks
When it comes to digital assistants, the enduring Alexa continues to go from strength to strength.
The range also keeps on widening, and Echo Show is just rolling over into a 2nd iteration with a vibrant, 10-inch HD screen bringing your Alexa experience more fully to life.
Beneath everything, you’ll get a highly capable smart speaker. Bass is powerful and commanding with overall sound quality highly detailed.
Alexa can hear you even in hectic environments. From here, the amount of control you’ll enjoy depends only on your imagination and how many compatible devices you hook up.
Hands-free calling is another substantial benefit, and you’ll also be able to make video calls to anyone with the Alexa app, Echo Show, or Echo Spot.
Taking Alexa to the next level and ensuring the bar remains high for Google and Apple, Echo Show is a superb way to achieve home automation DIY-style.
- Enjoy Alexa at her finest with a vibrant high-def screen to complement full voice control of your smart home
- 8 mics and noise cancellation means Alexa can pick out your voice even across a busy and noisy room
- Take charge of all connected devices so let people in even without standing up or change the temperature as you ask Alexa to cue up your next movie
- Reasonably expensive if you won’t make full use of the screen
2) DIY Installation / Professional Monitoring
Maybe you’re quite comfortable installing basic smart home equipment, but you want the peace of mind professional monitoring brings.
Some smart home systems like Samsung’s SmartThings offer optional monitoring while there are also purely security-based approaches to home automation like the Ring Alarm we’ll explore right below.
With professional monitoring, starting out at around $10 a month, you’ll typically get backup service for your central hub in the event of power going down. You’ll also be able to access video footage stored on the cloud.
As long as you’re clear about compatibility, this approach to home automation saves you the cost of professional installation with the added security of someone having your back around-the-clock.
Rather than bewildering you with multiple options offering fundamentally the same thing, we’ll stick with the very best, Ring’s Alarm which is part of smart homes worldwide…
As we repeatedly mention, there’s no cookie cutter solution to building out a smart home. The more personalized a solution you take the time to seek out, the more seamlessly and successfully you can make technology work for you the way you want it to.
For many people, the only way they really want to upgrade the intelligence of their home is on the security front.
So maybe you want an alarm but you’re not sure you want the commitment a full professional installation. If so, Ring’s full home security system comes with the option of taking up professional monitoring around-the-clock from as little as $10 a month. You won’t be locked into any long-term contracts or stiffed with unreasonable cancellation fees either.
You’ll be able to control your alarm and Ring doorbells in-app and you’ll start with a free trial to the monitoring service. After this point, you can get access to video recordings for that modest monthly subscription without being locked into a restrictive contract.
This is the go-to option if you want to save money and automate your home the DIY way without sacrificing professional monitoring.
- Everything you need bundled from sensors and detectors through the base station and range extender
- Absolutely tool-free installation with no need to call in the professionals
- Adjustable sensitivity to prevent false alarms and streamline your security without the cat causing constant mayhem
- Multiple users have access to all system information so think long and hard if you have service staff or children you don’t want having full privileges
3) Professional Installation / Professional Monitoring
Once the preserve of science fiction, it’s now possible to automate your home without needing to lift a finger then ensure that it’s monitored 24/7 so you can sleep easier, relax when you’re on vacation knowing your home is secured and reap all the convenience of smart home appliances you can control from your smartphone.
When you take this approach to automation, you’ll need to commit to a contract, and you don’t have the equipment. If you need to sever the contract, expect a penalty fee.
As long as you’re intending to remain in your home for some time to come and you don’t mind being locked into a contract, this professional approach is costly but effective and offers total peace of mind.
Now you’ve had a chance to think about the 3 different methods you can employ to get the full benefits of smart home technology, we’ll touch on some of the downsides of home automation DIY installation.
Sure, you’ll save money and feel like you’re getting a bargain but you should at least ponder the following areas so you can make sure doing it yourself really is the best way for you to make your home smarter.
4 Flashpoints with Home Automation DIY
- Electrical Wiring and Control Systems: If you’re only going for a simple, stand-alone device like a thermostat, you can do it yourself but for more complex smart home systems there’s little alternative to hiring in an electrician when it comes to wiring. This is really not an area safe to mess around with unless you’re competent and qualified so make sure you know what you’re getting into upfront
- Door Entry Systems: Fitting something as central to your home’s security as door entry systems is not a time to think about cutting costs. Again, if you’re comfy installing your smart lock or garage door entry system, feel free to do so. If there’s an element of doubt in your mind, call for professional assistance or risk a gaping hole in your security system
- Aesthetics: Unless you’re a capable handyman with an eye for design, you might get the DIY installation done but end up with a mish-mash of cables and wires spoiling the streamlined effect you’re going for. Consider whether or not it’s worth paying out for the expertise of someone who does this day in, day out
- Network Capacity: If you start indiscriminately adding smart devices to your home WiFi network, you run the risk of overloading it. It’s pointless trying to save money on installation if you end of with Internet the speed of dial-up! As always, if you know what you’re doing, there’s no issue here
6 Common Problems with DIY Smart Home Devices
While you can save both time and money doing things yourself, we’ll finish up with 6 more issues you might encounter if you choose a DIY installation…
1) Getting an Incomplete System
One of the principal dangers of opting to build out a system is not having the stamina to follow through on your plans for a full smart home. It’s all too easy to think about what you’d like to have rather than making it happen.
Rather than coming out the blocks with full home automation, there’s a danger you’ll end up with a limited and incomplete system if you try doing it all yourself.
2) Wasting Money on Incompatible Devices
Getting rid of that huge heap of remotes is a driving motivator for many people who relish the idea of controlling all their appliances from their smartphone
You need to make entirely sure you don’t skip the planning stage if you want to build out your own system. Think about communication protocols and compatibility. The last thing you need is to waste money on devices that just won’t work together.
3) Failing to Strengthen Your Network
Smart home devices working through the IoT can end up putting a severe strain on your home network.
One of the leading benefits of professional installation is the way you’ll be guided through optimizing the network.
If you’re constructing a wider-ranging, more robust smart home, make absolutely sure your network is up to strength.
4) Missing Out on Features
It’s all too easy to end up controlling isolated devices remotely without really making the most of the features at your disposal.
When you’re limited to the material provided by manufacturers to help you use your equipment, and you’re also trying to use gear from different brands, you can end up scratching your head and wondering why you ever bothered to try doing it yourself.
5) DIY Can Be Difficult
It’s all too easy to think of installing smart home technology will be as easy as popping up a bookshelf.
Don’t underestimate the technical knowledge required in places along with the need to be fully aware of electrics while also being pretty IT-savvy.
Again, if DIY is not for you, there’s absolutely no shame in choosing a pro-grade installation and hiring the job out just like you’d take your car to the dealership.
6) Lack of Customer Service
Something you won’t run into at smart home, but other sellers might give you a lack of customer service.
If you run into problems, it’s nice to have live help in whatever form it takes to get you back on track.
By installing your smart home equipment yourself, you generally benefit from the same level of support you get with paid-for services.
Think about how comfy you are installing and operating equipment and how much help you think you’ll need on an ongoing basis.
Whether you choose to go completely DIY with your smart home or to call in professionals for installation or monitoring, if you take the time to plan carefully, getting the smart home of your dreams is much easier than you might have feared.
Both options have their strengths and weaknesses so think about that in relation to your own circumstances and choose the level of professional input that makes sense. For more information visit the smart home blog.
Source: All Things Home Automation