The animated series from the 1960s, The Jetsons, showed what life would be like for the futuristic family home filled with “smart” gadgets. And while we still haven’t achieved the ability to fly around in cars, there are a number of home automation devices that can make your life much simpler today. Automated door locks provide safety for your family, security cameras allow you to check in on your home while you’re taking a summer vacation and lighting controls offer convenience and energy efficiency.
If you want to upgrade your home’s tech but aren’t sure where to start, the best advice is to just begin by taking a few small steps to automate certain items in your house.
What is Home Automation?
“Home automation” is a way of describing the connected nature of a wide spectrum of technological items in the home, dealing with everything from security and entertainment to energy, that can be programmed or learn to act on your half. Connected items are commonly called “smart” devices, and they can do things like turn the lights on when you enter a room, make sure that the coffee pot is turned on automatically so that you can enjoy a hot cup of coffee when you wake up, or control ceiling fans throughout several rooms and have them sync up with your home’s air conditioning and heating system to provide extra savings on your energy bill.
Is a Retrofit of Your Entire Home Necessary?
When you start the search for home automation devices to fit your lifestyle, you’ll soon discover that some items will require you to totally retrofit your home. However, that’s not always the case. Be on the lookout for gadgets that will plug into existing outlets so that you can automatically perform functions like having the lights turn on when you arrive home from work. If you do find certain smart devices that are not just plug-and-play, be sure to research the time and money that will be needed to make them work.
With so many different home automation devices available, you will need to find ones that are compatible with each other. It’s best if you choose a controller, called a “hub”, that is compatible with and can control many devices. Even if a smart controller that you are looking at has a way to automatically draw the shades when the sun starts to shine through your windows, and you currently think that you have no need for this device, it’s probably best if you purchase it anyway as you might decide to change your mind in the future.
Keep It Simple!
At their most basic, smart devices in your home can be programmed to turn things on and off without you lifting a finger, at times or under conditions designated by you. It is often recommended to start your journey into home automation by working with something small such as a space heater, desk fan, lamp or coffee maker. Smart outlets are a great example of a cheap and easy way to automate your existing appliances. For example, remote control of a power source could let you activate a space heater from across the room while you sit and enjoy your favorite television show. Without getting out of your chair, you can make a few taps on a free app and your heater will start toasting up the room.
Consider Smart Assistants
Trying something new is also highly suggested. You may want to consider trying a smart assistant like the Amazon Echo. It can play music, answer questions that you may have regarding the weather or make a telephone call to a friend or relative that also has an Echo. Best of all, the Echo can integrate with many other devices and function as your home automation hub, which can give you the ability to control garage doors, thermostats, fans, switches, sprinklers, televisions and much more.
As you can see, there are many affordable ways to start automating your home, and it’s easy to start small with individual devices if you want. Hands-free control can save you time, while devices’ programmability and learning capability can increase your quality of life by adding convenience, safety, and efficiency.
Beth Kotz is a freelance writer and contributor for numerous home, technology, and personal finance blogs. She graduated with BA in Communications and Media from DePaul University in Chicago, IL, where she continues to live and work.