The Top 3 Questions People Have About Home Automation:
- Is it expensive?
- How do you install home automation?
- What smart features can be brought into the home?
These are big questions, and as technology continues to advance, our options for home automation have advanced, too.
But what is it really?
Since smart homes and automated features have become more accessible, a lot more people are looking into getting a piece of this technology. A smart home can have a ton of variable features, but in essence a smart home incorporates different linked devices. These linked devices communicate to ‘automate’ several functions around your home, essentially making your life much easier.
While in decades past, the idea of a smart home was an opaque, space age concept, it’s now a reality that many people are bringing into their home, both for reasons of convenience and practicality.
Just like our phones, computers, and basically all other electronics have made leaps and bounds from twenty years ago, so have smart home features. Likewise, decades ago a home computer was expensive, much slower, and much less accessible. Smart homes are much the same.
These days, a family can implement smart features into their home without a heavy toll on the budget. Instead of smart homes being limited to the ultra rich, they’re moving into the average home. As they become more common, people have been able to get more details, recommendations, and as a result, the industry is open, accessible, and increasing in popularity.
What’s the point?
Consumers have more opportunity to explore the possibility of implementing a smart home into their lives, without relying on a big box company to tell them what to choose. That means interested homeowners can choose from a variety of features that fit their life, without the influence of a third party company that’s only interested in pushing a product.
13 Smart Best Home Automation Ideas
- Idea: Automated Security Goal: Instant notifications for incidents while you’re away
- Idea: Automated Garage Doors Goal: Banish forgetful panics when you leave garage doors open
- Idea: Thermostat Control Goal: Adjust thermostat to have a perfectly comfortable environment when you get home
- Idea: Nighttime Assistant Goal: Use voice commands to turn your lights off
- Idea: Easy Wakeups Goal: Helps you wake naturally by gradually increasing light
- Idea: Automated Motion LIghts Goal: Motion activated lights provide extra security
- Idea: Don’t Come Home to the Dark Goal: Lights are set up to turn on as you return home
- Idea: Water Saver Goal: Sense issues with water leakage and prevent water damage
- Idea: Stop Hitting Snooze Goal: Alarms won’t stop until you get up to turn it off
- Idea: Fence by GPS Goal: Improves geofencing to be more accessible, and just as effective
- Idea: Keep Your Safe, Safe Goal: Delivers security alerts when your safe is being tampered with
- Idea: Don’t Forget the Laundry Goal: Sends convenient notifications to remind you when the laundry is done
While those are the 12 most popular, useful, and really the neatest smart home ideas in short, they get a lot more detailed than that.
Here’s what you need to know about our top home automation ideas:
Automated home security is often one of the first places that people look when they’re converting to a smart home. Things like motion sensors have been around to protect our homes for a while, so a smart security system is taking it to the next level.
Why do people start here first?
Without a doubt homeowners would tell you that their house is an invaluable asset. With all the investments put into our homes, keeping them secure is a natural first step.
To be instantly notified if there are any security concerns while you’re not there to watch over your home.
How It Works:
In essence, a smart home security system uses an assemblage of sensors and triggers to detect unusual activity. First, the system determines, or is given the information, that you’re not home. When you’re not home, sensors are triggered by motion and activity in specific location points. If these sensors detect potential break ins or trespassing, you’ll receive an immediate notification.
These are also a popular option because it can be done by yourself at home, although if you’re not comfortable with a DIY security installation, there are plenty of professional companies that offer this service.
If you decide to do your smart security upgrade through a company that offers the service, in most cases they will provide the gear you need. However, if you choose to do it on your own, you’ll also need to get your own equipment. If that’s the case, here’s what you’ll need:
Connection With Your Smartphone: Because the point of this system is to let you know what’s going on when you’re not there, your system needs to communicate with your smartphone. Smart security systems almost always provide this, but double check before you get your equipment.
Area Triggers: What these do is essentially use your smartphone GPS to determine your location. From there, it assesses whether you’re home or not, and when you’re not, it prepares to monitor your home for you. The tech these triggers use is called ‘geo fencing,’ although there are other options to trigger your location as ‘away’.
Basically, if your location triggers don’t work by way of geo fencing, you can use a variety of other softwares like Tasker or IFTTT to enable this type of functionality.
Security Motion Sensors: These sensors are fairly self explanatory, and they’ve been a staple of security systems for a long time. Most people are familiar with these, since they’re so commonplace.
Just in case you haven’t used these before:
These sensors go active when you’re not home, and are activated when there’s motion in your house. Then, a security alarm is sounded if any movement is found.
Smart Garage Door Closer
Now we’ve discussed home security overall, but there are some specific factors and ideas you should keep in mind when developing your home automation system. One of those ideas is getting a smart garage door closer to ensure that your home is secure.
If you’ve ever been driving from point A (your home) to point B and thought, did I close the garage door behind me?, then this is perfect investment for not only your security, but your peace of mind!
The goal of a smart garage door closer is to sense if the door has been left open, and automatically close it for you. That way, if you accidentally leave it open and leave your home vulnerable, it will only take a short time to close again, ensuring the safety of all inside. So how does this sensor work? We’ll talk a little more about that, and the different set up methods below.
How It Works:
By connecting your garage door opener to your smartphone and other adaptable technology in your home, you can make it “smart.” For example, specifically-placed sensors can recognize where you are in the home, or if you’re in it at all. Or, you could do something as simple as setting timer for the door to shut. Below, we’ll go over a couple the different set up options you utilize to make the most of this previously simple technology.
If you want to set up a smart garage door closing system in your home, here’s two methods to consider:
Use entry sensors: Entry sensors are placed in a door frame, or in this case, along either side of you standard lifting garage door. When the two sides of the sensor separate from one another, it will trigger your desired command, in this case, closing the door behind you.
Geofencing: As we discussed above, geofencing uses location data from your smartphone to pinpoint your location and perform designated tasks depending on what that data tells a specific system to do. For this application, if you leave a location certain range, the door would close. You can set this up to be based on your home’s WiFi network or, if you’re worried about getting locked out when spending time outside, you could set your own radius.
Motion sensors: While similar in theory to entry sensors we discussed above, motion sensors can be beneficial for this automation task because they can also sense whether your home is occupied. That way, if those sensors believe your house is empty, you can program your door to close.
OR, some simpler options:
Timers: You can automate your garage door to close at a certain time of the day to ensure you’re locked up while at work or school each day. Or, you could set a timer for later in the evening, so you can rest easy knowing your garage door is closed each night.
Real-time alerts: If you want the ability to, in fact, leave the door open if you’ve left the house, for example if you have a guest on their way or a delivery being dropped off, you could set up real-time alerts for your smartphone. That way, rather than closing automatically, you’ll receive a push notification on your phone, at which point you’ll be able to leave it as is or, if you just forgot to close the door behind you, you can close it with just a touch of a button on your phone.
We recommend the Chamberlain MyQ Smart Garage Opener for this task.
3. House Warming (& Cooling)
A constant battle in most homes, agreeing on the perfect thermostat temperature can be tough. So when you finally find a middle ground, you may want to consider automating the task to optimize the heating and cooling throughout the seasons year round.
If you purchase a smart thermostat, it will continuously monitor your home temperature, and adjust accordingly to either heat or cool the space to your desired temperature while you’re at home.
You can also set it to default to a more energy-efficient level while the house is empty during the day and – get this – if you utilize smartphone control capabilities, it’ll adjust back to your set temperature shortly before you arrive home. More on that nifty trick below:
How It Works:
A location sensor, a device that takes advantage of the geofencing concept we discussed earlier, can be attached to your person or car to track your location data and automatically command your A/C to adjust from the energy-efficient setting, to the desired temperature you selected by the time you’re about 15 minutes away.
Now if you’re a little leery about a tracking device of sorts, you can usually set up a “home” mode that you can access from your smartphone.
A Connected Thermostat: Automating the heating and cooling in your home requires your thermostat be compatible to home automation in the first place. There are a ton of models out there, most notably the Nest (linked below), but there’s a variety of other options out there, too with just as good reviews!
Location Triggers: Sync up your fancy new thermostat with location sensors to take advantage of the energy-efficiency (aka money saving!) features automating your A/C can provide! That way your system will know when you’re close to home to warm it up/cool it down to your liking.
We recommend the Nest Smart Thermostat for this task, but you might also like the Ecobee.
4. Goodnight Google, Lights Out Alexa
The ‘Goodnight, Google’ feature can be connected to your home automation hub. With just the power of your voice, you can control your smart home lights.
Whether you use the Google Home assistant or have an Amazon Alexa, your voice assistant can be programmed to turn off your lights when you’re ready for bed, without you having to leave your covers!
How It Works:
By going into your corresponding voice assistant app, you can choose options to sync up your Google Home or Alexa to other automated features in your home. By entering in your lighting information, you can turn on the ‘Goodnight Google’ or ‘Lights Out, Alexa’ command to use when it’s time for bed.
A Voice Assistant: As mentioned above, the Google Home and Amazon Echo are the most popular and widely-used voice assistants with this capability.
Smart Lights Or Connected Light Switches: In order to take advantage of the Goodnight, Google or Lights out Alexa command, you’ll need an automated lighting system that can be controlled by your smartphone. That way, when you open the voice assistant app, you can utilize your already-automated system with even more convenience.
But you can also wake up with a smart-home feature, read below for the sunrise option!
Just like you can turn lights out, you can also brighten your lights automatically using smart home automation. It’s scientifically proven that the human body’s circadian rhythm aligns with the rise and fall of the sun. And fortunately, you can mimic that indoors, no matter what time you wake up.
The goal here is to set up your smart lighting system to gradually turn on and brighten as you wake up for your day. You can plan to match the sunrise, or set it for your own personal alarms.
How It Works:
Depending on which smart lighting system you have, you should have the ability to adjust certain settings to set the brightness of your lights at a certain time, until they reach full capacity when you’re fully awake. However, do note that not all systems are made alike, and some lights don’t have as many bright/dimness settings to coincide with the sunrise effect we’re going for. On the other hand, some systems can not only mimic the sunrise, they can even give you a weather forecast.
Connected Lights: It goes without saying, but to have a smart lighting feature work in your home, you need a smart lighting system. So make sure you’re installing compatible light bulbs and fixtures in your home.
Weather Connected Hub: If you want those fancy weather forecasts each morning, you’ll need to make sure your smart hub software ingests that information each morning before you wake up. (Check out what the Amazon Echo can do) And if you want that forecast reflected in lights (i.e. blue for rain and yellow for sun) you’ll need color-changing lights to execute that effect.
Safe Security Alert
This home automation idea is intended to alert you if a safe where you keep your valuables has been touched – so you will instantly know if someone is trying to break into your safe.
To get instant notifications through email or text if there is any suspicious activity around your locked safe. Helpful if you have strangers or people you don’t know too well in your home often – i.e. gardeners or cleaners.
How it Works:
Vibration or motion detectors will sense movement around the safe, triggering an alert that will be sent to your phone in a text or email. Additionally, if you have set up a monitoring camera near your safe, you can check the live stream as soon as you see the alert to find out who is triggered the motion detector.
Motion sensors that will trigger the alert system if they detect any movement around the safe.
Alternatively, you could install vibration sensors, which are a little less sensitive than motion sensors and less likely to signal a false alarm.
Notification integration: establish how the message will be delivered to you and what it will say.
As a final option – monitoring camera attached to the safe or a wall nearby that live streams to your phone, so that you can see who is touching your safe instantly.
If you are too far from the laundry machine to hear its buzzer, you can get an instant notification to tell you when the laundry is done. This idea will help to prevent mildewing clothes from laundry forgotten in a washer.
To receive a text or email notification as soon as the laundry is finished, so that you don’t forget to take it out on time.
How it Works:
A vibration sensor will sense when the washing machine has stopped moving, and trigger an alert to your phone.
Vibration sensors that will sense when the washing cycle is finished based on the movement of the machine.
Notification integration to customize how you get your alert.
Know When the Kids Get Home:
If you have kids who walk home from school on their own, this home automation idea will alert you as soon as they have made it home safe.
To send you a notification as soon as your kids have made it through the front door, when you are not at home to greet them.
How it Works:
A motion sensor attached to your door will trigger an alert when it has been opened, letting you know that someone has entered the home.
Motion sensor to track movement of the door opening.
Additionally, security cameras that live stream to your phone so you can see who is entering your house.
Notification integration to customize your alert.
Building a Custom Smart Home on your Own:
You don’t need to hire a professional to install intelligent features in your own home. With the technology available today, anyone can build their own smart home with just the right knowhow.
With the right triggers, notification integration and a little creativity, you can customize a smart home for yourself.
Let us know in the comments below what automation ideas you would like to incorporate into your home. You might spark off more fun ideas!