Congratulations! You are about to embark on the fun, frustrating, and addictive journey of building a DIY smart home.
Chances are, you already have one or more components of a smart home (i.e. Amazon Echo, Google Home, Sonos Speakers, Hue Lights, Samsung SmartThings, etc.).
Getting all of the products to work together can be as frustrating as getting my kids to play together nicely. But when it happens, it can almost be magical. And the good part…Anyone Can Do This!
My DIY Smart Home
My first experience building a DIY smart home involved hacking together a bunch of different products. It was great when it worked, but it was very unstable and often caused more headaches than benefits.
For example, lights shutting off when you want them to stay on, thermostats making it too hot or cold, false alarms sending me and my wife constant alerts on our phone. Unfortunately, It was NOT the magical experience I expected. However, this is a common theme in the evolution of a smart home.
My smart home today is a different story. My family and I never come home to a dark house or walk into a dark room. The house tells me (literally through a speaker) if the kids left a door open. My house automatically locks the door if someone forgets. My house automatically shuts the blinds when we leave or when it gets dark. The house responds to my voice commands to control the lights, locks, garage door and TV. My house sets the lighting perfectly for relaxing or watching TV. My house automatically turns off the lights if they are not needed.
I like to call the experience “incredible convenience”
I like to call the experience “incredible convenience”, but the benefits go well beyond that. Your family if safer and your power bills will be lower.
I personally documented a $28.99 monthly savings in my power bill after installing my Alexa compatible thermostat (you can also use a Z-Wave Thermostat or smart air conditioner) and lighting automation. My kids were always leaving the lights on!
I originally used a Nest Thermostat, but now I use an Ecobee Thermostat.
I want to share my ideas and experiences with you. This include the products I recommend (and use), how to setup those products, and how to integrate and build your DIY home automation. Let’s begin by starting with the right products.
The Foundation of Your DIY Smart Home
Your smart home needs a few core products that will form the foundation for everything you create. You want to make sure that these core products will continue to be supported and developed, and that they will have the best available security.
For that reason, I highly recommend that you select mainstream products that are used by many people and backed by larger companies.
The core products I use in my home and that I recommend for you are as follows:
- Amazon Echo – Voice control for your smart home plus many other features that you will use daily. The Amazon Echo product line comes in various sizes and form factors. You can use any of them for voice control of your smart home.
- Phillips Hue Light Hub – WiFi and ZigBee (or Bluetooth) connected LED light bulbs that are great for lamps and other secondary lighting areas in your home. The Phillips Hue product line includes multiple bulb sizes, including an LED strip. Additionally, they have standard dimmable white bulbs and dimmable bulbs that can change to any color.
- Samsung SmartThings Home Monitoring Kit – Your smart home hub that connects everything together and allows you to build DIY automation projects (this is where the magic happens!). The Home Monitoring Kit is a great value that includes the Hub, a SmartThings Motion Sensor, two SmartThings Multipurpose Sensors and a SmartThings Outlet. Don’t worry if you don’t know what this means right now…I’ll explain and show you how to use these items later.
Budget Note: Your smart home is an investment in convenience, safety and energy savings. We all want to buy everything immediately, but this is not practical for most people. The products listed above are in my recommended buy order based on the benefits you will receive from each one. The Amazon Echo does much more than provide voice control for your smart home, which is why I recommend starting with it first.
What Can Your Smart Home Do With These Products?
With these products, you can start enjoying the magical experience of a smart home in the first week. The first time you turn the lights on with your voice will be a thrilling!
I literally laughed out loud with excitement and amazement when I turned on my kitchen lights with just my voice. This list below is just a tiny sample of the limitless DIY smart home automation projects you can build the first weekend you have these products.
DIY home automation projects you can do the first weekend:
- Turn on / off or set the dim level of the lights with your voice
- Automatically turn the lights on when you walk into the room or when a door opens
- Automatically turn the lights off if there wasn’t motion in the room for 15 minutes
- Receive a text or push notification when a door is opened or if a door is left open more than 5 minutes
- Turn on / off any device that plugs into an outlet
Honestly, it is impossible to list all of the DIY home automation projects you can build with just these core devices. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
In the beginning, you should start with simple projects and then get more creative as you learn. You will find that the simple projects with lighting are the ones that you will get the most value out of on a day to day basis.
My First DIY Smart Home Automation Project
My first DIY home automation project was super easy, but it is used every single day by my entire family.
When someone walks into my family room / kitchen area, three lights automatically turn on 30 minutes before sunset to 30 minutes after sunset. Conveniently, these same lights automatically turn off if there isn’t any motion in the room for 15 minutes. The lights are accents lights and not my primary room lighting. They include two hue lights above my fireplace mantel, one hue bulb in a lamp in the middle of the room, and the under cabinet lights in my kitchen controlled by a SmartThings outlet.
This setup is a perfectly simple, but incredibly useful project. The accents lights are on so you can see, but you aren’t blasted with the main room lighting every time you move. I will show you how to setup this project plus many more in the projects area of the website.
Build Your DIY Smart Home
Young or elderly, it’s time for you to jump into this adventure and build your DIY smart home. The benefits are great: “incredible convenience”, safety and energy savings. Using the right products and proven setups found on this website will ensure that you build a smart home that works!I can’t wait to see what we build!
Learn more about the core products below.
- Amazon Alexa – Voice command for your smart home plus a lot more.
- Philips Hue Lights – Easily add voice controlled lights in your home.
- Samsung SmartThings – Your home automation hub for advanced automation.
Let’s get started!
P.S. Please leave a comment below to ask a question, help someone else or share your experiences. Thanks!
8 thoughts on “Create a Smart Home – Step 1”
I have an Echo dot in one room (called Alexa) and another room nearby (called Echo). I have a smart plug in Echo room. How do I set a voice command only to control smart plug in the Echo room so it doesn’t control the Alexa in the other room? Seems simple but I can’t figure it out.
I’m assuming you are using a group command such as “turn on lights”. Just make sure the two Echo devices are in a different group in the Alexa app. Only the lights/plugs in the group with the Echo device will respond when you get a group command.
I have a pair of “dump” bluetooth enabled speakers in my garage – dumb because they have to be re-paired every time I turn them off. I’ve created a routine to do the following: 1) Turn on speaker smartswitch; 2) Set volume to 5; 3) Play SiriusXM Channel Octane; 4) Say “Pairing” to re-pair the speakers. It worked for about a week, then when we changed Amazon prime accounts it all went to heck. I finally got everything working again on the new account, but it will no longer issue the “pair” command, and it no longer changes the volume (it stays at 2). I’ve also tried changing “pair” to “connect,” still won’t work. Any thoughts?
Switching Amazon accounts can make things tricky. I would just reset the devices to start clean. It will probably save you time and frustration in the long run. I have articles on how to reset Alexa devices on the site if needed.
Hi Jason Could you please tell me why smart home plugs recover after power outage
I assume you mean the smart plug turns on after a power outage. This is specific my device and brand. Some device allow you to set the behavior after a power outage. For example, Philips Hue allows you to determine if the lights should turn on or return to the previous state after the power is turned back on.
Have set up routines on Alexa to turn on smart lights. Also set one up to turn off smart lights. Only want to inactive them when I go away. Can Alexa enable a routine with a command, “like good by”?
Yes, you can start an Alexa routine with any custom command. Check out this post for step by step instructions for creating a custom Alexa command.