20 Best Home Automation Ideas
Smart tech is no longer solely for the richest or most technically savvy among us. With smart phones and particularly with popular voice assistants becoming more ubiquitous, the world has become used to relying on technology to make every aspect of our lives easier. One of the most fertile grounds for this is in the home. Here are our best home automation ideas.
Ideas For Home Automation
Also called smart home technology, home automation is the electronic control of household activities. More advanced automation connects home features to a network, in order to control, program and monitor their use. The backbone of the network is usually Wi-Fi. This device network is referred to as the Internet of Things.
Automated homes utilize a centralized system for simple and more complex home features and appliances, like controlling lights, locks, heating and cooling systems, indoor and outdoor cameras, security systems, blinds, sound systems and even coffee pots.
Most products use software that remotely controls home features through a device connected to the internet; for example, a homeowner can lock their front door from the office using their smartphone. They can fill a cup to the proper level using a voice command. Home automation also refers to the use of sensors, like an HVAC system automatically turning on and off based on home occupancy.
There are several ways these devices can be controlled. Sure, you can control your thermostat the old-fashioned way, but you can also control it from your phone. You can tell your Amazon device to make your every wish come true with Alexa. The same goes if you want to use Google Assistant or Siri from Apple. Let’s get into what you can do.
Home Lighting Automation Ideas
Some of the first smart tech came in the form of light bulbs – perhaps because there's something appealing to the human ego about being able to say "let there be light" and having a group of connected smart lights come on.
The gold standard in this area are lights that can change to any color in a spectrum so that you have full control over the ambience in your home at any time. While these are the most customizable, they also tend to be the most expensive. White bulbs are often cheaper. These bulbs usually allow you to control the color temperature as well.
Another consideration for anything is whether you just want it to connect to your smart phone via Bluetooth or if you need it to hook into Wi-Fi. If you want to be able to control devices with smart assistants, you’ll want to make sure to get the Wi-Fi enabled lights or a connecting bridge device.
Of course, not everything has to rely on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when it comes to lights. If you just want motion sensors, that’s certainly something that can also be accommodated. Homeowners will sometimes use these on a patio or porch for safety or security purposes, but you can also use them indoors to turn on a light when you walk into a room.
Heating And Cooling Automation Ideas
In the heating and cooling space, the smart thermostat allows you to control the temperature and turn the heat and the AC on and off remotely. You can also program the thermostat to keep a certain temperature during the day when you’re at work and adjust when you get home.
Nest is owned by Google and was a first-mover in this area, but similar competing thermostats are available from Sensi and Honeywell. Both Nest and Honeywell claim to offer the ability to learn your preferences over time, depending on the model you get.
Home Security Automation Ideas
Home security is another area that’s been revolutionized as tech has become cheaper and more connected. You can get everything from traditional motion sensors and security cameras to video doorbells and smart locks.
As just one example, you have the ability to see who’s at your door without leaving the bathroom if someone shows up with a delivery at the wrong time. You can communicate with them and tell them where to leave it.
Some companies sell things like water level sensors so you can be notified of a potential leak even if you’re away from home. You can also get smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Smart locks work by letting you punch in a code at minimum. Some of the more advanced ones allow you to let someone have access either temporarily or permanently when a device they own gets in the appropriate Bluetooth range.
If you have two Amazon Echoes or Nest Audio speakers, they can be used as an intercom to talk between rooms. That sounds a little old-fashioned, but it can be useful. I’ll keep going for now, but I’ll give you a bit of my personal experience later on.
A note of caution here is that this is probably one area in which you don’t want to mix systems. If it’s a security system, you want to be sure it’s all going to talk to each other. You’ll also want to know about redundancy. What kind of backup is there if the power or internet goes out?
Home Entertainment Automation Ideas
This is where things really get fun for me. There are several ways to do this. However, as a point of illustration, let me tell you about my personal set up. I have a smart TV, an Amazon Fire TV Stick, an Amazon Echo and a Harmony Hub.
This enables me to accomplish the following in about 30 seconds:
“Alexa, turn on Kevin’s TV.”
“Alexa, play program on [streaming service].”
The Harmony Hub is the really cool part of this entertainment setup. It allows you to take devices that otherwise don’t hook up to any other hubs and connect them with Google Assistant or Alexa. So, I can tell it to play discs on my not smart Blu-ray player.
Home Kitchen Automation Ideas
Another area people spend a lot of time in is the kitchen, and this too has its fair share of smart gadgets. One I’ll talk about even claims to cook the food for you.
Let’s start with faucets. There are multiple brands of smart sink now that will let you do things like ask for specific measurements from your sink at a certain temperature. This can be particularly useful if you don’t have measuring cups around. You can also have a preset for watering plants.
There are also smart refrigerators. This is the one that seems the most forced to me. There are features like cameras so you can see what you have. Maybe if you’re at the grocery store, this is useful. Samsung’s refrigerator has a streaming music function, but it would be cheaper in my mind to just get a speaker.
Ovens get a little interesting. There are ranges that will remember your cooking presets for given dishes. You can also connect it to Wi-Fi to give it commands to preheat and also get temperature notifications from your phone.
Then there’s the superstar toaster oven air fryer. The most advanced model from Breville features an autopilot mode that professes to help you through all the most finicky bits of whatever you might be cooking in the device.
Outdoor Home Automation Ideas
There are a few different outdoor gadgets worth mentioning. I suppose the first one could be used indoors as well, but when I think of temperature probes, I think of grilled meats. There are multiple probes that will let you monitor temperatures wirelessly from your phone.
I’m also a massive fan of anything that converts your existing system into something that’s connected. It’s often cheaper to do the conversion than invest in totally new tech. It also keeps perfectly good devices out of landfills. The myQ Smart Garage™ Control allows you to convert major garage door openers sold after 1993 into smart doors that can be remotely controlled.
Convenience Home Automation Ideas
There are certain things that are just convenient and don’t fit anywhere else in this article.
One of my favorite gadgets I own is this system that converts my blinds into motorized smart blinds. Depending on how many windows you want to do, it can get a bit expensive, and the Wi-Fi bridge for voice command is separate (it’s a Bluetooth connection by default), but it’s awesome to be able to give a voice command and have the blinds obey.
Not everything needs to be earth shattering to be useful either. For example, it’s really nice to get a notification when you receive a new package or to be able to ask about the weather before walking out for the day. Voice assistants can even make shopping at home easier.
Benefits Of Home Automation
It’s not an expensive luxury reserved for the wealthy or even a home feature only accessible to techies. Technology today is almost limitless, featuring devices for every room of your house. Plus, homeowners aren’t just buying these devices for the tech aspects; smart technology has some obvious benefits.
- Easier Home Sale: It may be hard to put a specific number on the amount that adding smart technology will increase your home’s value. However, younger home buyers in particular may be extremely interested in a technologically advanced home with all the modern conveniences. Really, anyone could be interested based on the next few bullets.
- Energy Efficiency: Home automation allows energy-consuming tech to limit your usage level, so the lights aren’t left on all day when no one’s home, and the sprinkler system won’t turn on during rain. Features like lights and thermostats use sensors to make sure they don’t turn on when they aren’t needed.
- Money Savings: the automation and programming you can do with these smart thermostats could help you really lower the electric bill. A study conducted in support of the Nest Thermostat C – the first smart thermostat of its kind and the most popular – found customers save 10% – 12% on heating and 15% on cooling, averaging $131 – $145 a year.
- Home Security: From a home safety point of view, it provides some major security advantages, like activating security systems remotely, viewing security camera footage through your device and receiving text alerts any time the system is tripped.
- Accessibility: You could be forgiven if you think that no one needs to have motorized blinds with voice control. Although I will admit that part of the appeal of getting them originally was that it felt like something my favorite superhero would have, it goes deeper than that. Like many in America, I have a physical disability that requires the use of a wheelchair and limits my ability to accomplish various tasks requiring fine motor skills. Being able to do things like turn on the TV and open and close the blinds via voice control greatly enhances independence for a segment of the population.
Warnings About Home Automation
There are a ton of benefits to home automation, but there are also some things you need to be aware of before jumping into this with both feet.
- Potential for significant upfront investment: When you add the ability to connect via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, that adds something to the price. You also need to think about how much you want to do. When I did my blinds, I have a bay window, so I needed three motor units and the Wi-Fi bridge. I knew it would be cheaper to retrofit than to buy new blinds. But it was still a significant chunk of change. You might do a bit at a time.
- Think about redundancy: If the smart functions aren’t working because the Wi-Fi is down or for whatever other reason, it's a good idea to have a backup in place. Inevitably your Wi-Fi is going to go out and you will have to reset certain devices. An example of redundancy is that I use both Google and Alexa. If one of them is being obstinate, then I can usually get the other to perform the task. If neither works, I know there’s a problem with the device they’re trying to control. It’s like my own diagnostic testing. So, if you use home automation for accessibility and independence, have a backup plan.
- Wi-Fi security: Anything connected to your Wi-Fi is also a potential gateway onto the rest of your network. So, if your blinds get compromised, that’s an avenue for someone to get to your security cameras. At the very least, make sure you run the firmware updates whenever they come out. There are some people who choose to maintain separate Wi-Fi networks for their connected devices, reserving separate space for their phones and computers.
The Bottom Line
Home automation technology is designed to make everything easier, from turning on the lights to helping you cook. It's not perfect, but it opens up a lot of possibilities as long as you are aware of the limitations.
Now that you've made your home smarter, time to turn your attention to something else. If you're interested, you can read about adding curb appeal to your home.