The technological advances of today are mind-boggling and amazing, and this extends to our very own homes. One incredible advancement as of late is that people can have access via their mobile devices to a home automation system from anywhere in the world.
What exactly is home automation? Home automation describes a home where nearly all programmable devices are set up around your home, such as sprinkler systems, thermostats, lights, electrical outlets, lights, door and window locks, security cameras, alarm system, heating and cooling systems, and more.
How Home Automation Works
Home automation is run through a network of devices that connect to the internet via various communication tools, such as Wi-Fi, ZigBee, Bluetooth, and more. Through these interfaces, devices are managed remotely through voice controllers like Alexa or controllers.
Several devices have sensors that will monitor any changes in temperature, motion, and light to gather information about what is going on around the device. The user will trigger the actuators to make changes to the physicality of the device, such as switches or motors or motorized valves that control the device via remote.
There are three levels to how home automation works. We'll use a security camera (like a Nest) for this example, but you can perform these three levels from almost any home automation system.
- Monitoring: Users can check on devices remotely by using an app. For example, many home security systems use a camera set at the front door so you can log in on your phone to see who is at your door.
- Control: The user can remotely control the camera or device, like moving the camera to see the surrounding areas.
- Automation: Automation is when devices are set up to trigger each other. For example, a sound goes off if the armed camera detects movement.
Some home automation systems require hubs, while some mobile applications connect to a router, which then connects to an IoT device. A hub is an additional cost to the IoT device, so it is usually preferred when there is no hub at all.
When you are setting up home automation, remote control is paramount. Remotes are set up via a mobile application or a voice assistant.
Mobile applications allow the user to control a device remotely in real-time. They can shut off the light, unlocks doors, or control heat settings.
Voice assistants use your voice as a means to control devices, such as security systems. Most IoT devices use voice assistants such as Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant.
Why Should you do DIY Home Automation?
There are many good reasons to set up DIY home automation.
There are so many ways to make our homes more convenient today and why not? With smart home automation, you can control nearly everything without having to get off the couch. Some may think that home automation is lazy, but we think it is practical and common sense.
By having everything run at the touch of a button or the sound of your voice, you can do multiple things at once, emulating the ‘being in two places at once" theory that most only dreamed of. Now it’s a reality with a DIY setup, and life can be easier and more productive than ever.
With automated home features, it is possible to experience more comfort than ever before. Need the coffee turned on so that the last drop is brewed by the time you wake up? Set a timer. Are your bathroom tiles too cold for your feet in the morning? Set a timer to warm them before you wake up.
Controlling the volume of music as you make dinner or dimming lights from the sofa as a movie is about to begin will not solve the world's problems, but it will sure help ease any troubles your day has had.
Security cameras in and around your home that can be viewed via smartphone or other device eliminated a lot of stress. It is no secret that thieves work hard when you aren't home, so keeping an eye on packages delivered or on your house in general offers peace of mind when you are away.
Saving precious seconds in our day is priceless. Having your home set up for automation makes life go a little smoother and helps save steps by setting up timers and using voice controls, rather than having to walk up and downstairs, across the room, or even outside in bad weather.
Components to Consider if Doing DIY Automation
If you are going to do DIY home automation, consider purchasing the following:
The hub is known as the ‘brain’ of the smart home setup. It is what all devices are connected to and is critical in DIY home automation.
Cameras are needed if you want to see what is going on outside or inside your home.
Additional Security Devices
You can add several other security devices to your smart home, including doorbells, motion sensors, GPS tracking, window sensors, and more.
Smart bulbs will allow you to control the light on its own or along with others.
You can control lighting with switches, along with anything else that a switch controls. These switches will likely work with or without a smart switch.
There are several smart locks with various features. With a smart lock, you can go on your smartphone or other controlling device and unlock the door before you even get there.
Most people have heard of popular smart speakers like Alexa and Google Home, but others run on the same or similar software. Controlling your smart speakers is as easy as speaking.
Remotely controlling a thermostat can save money and allow you to heat or cool your house while you're on your way back home. It can also be handy for when you are away, and the weather takes an unexpected turn. You can control the temperature to suit the climate.
There are plenty of automated tasks you can set up around your home that a solenoid valve or electric ball valve can be useful for. These valves control the flow of liquids and gasses within a system. You likely already have a plastic solenoid valve setup in your home if you have automatic sprinklers installed.
DIY Home Automation Ideas
You can find lots of fellow DIY people on sites like Instructables and Reddit that have automated and improved devices to work better, faster, turn on or help to protect their homes. Below you will find some basic, yet useful, DIY home automation ideas we've found on those sites that might work for you.
Scheduling Lights to Turn on
It is not uncommon to return home, especially in the fall and winter months, once the sun has set, leaving you to stumble upon your doorstep in the dark and enter a darkened house. Set your lights to a timer so that they turn on at the same time each day. Scheduling light to turn on and off will also save you from keeping a light or two on and will save power. You can even use the GPS on your phone to automatically turn off lights when you leave your home or turn on when you're just a block away.
Brew Coffee in the Morning
How wonderful would it be to wake up each morning to the smell of freshly brewed coffee? Set your coffee pot to a timer and have your coffee ready to drink each morning as soon as you can stumble down the stairs.
Close Garage Door
Setting a timer to close your garage door would save you a huge amount of worry, especially at night. If you have laid in bed and wondered if you remembered to close the garage door, you are not alone. Setting your garage door to a timer would save that worry and the hassle of getting out of bed to check.
Shut Off Devices or Wi-Fi at Bedtime
Use DIY automation to silence phones, iPads, and other electronics at bedtime. Turn phones to silent and ensure your child is not hiding under the covers late at night playing Minecraft with automatic shut-off.
An automatic shut-off time can be set for Wi-Fi as well, so you know the kids are not staying up late playing video games. Shutting Wi-Fi down will also help prevent them from visiting inappropriate sites while you are not around.
Mood Lighting and Dimmers
There are now color-changing light bulbs that will save money and set the mood for just about anything. These come with a remote, but you can also set up the lights to change when you open an app on your smart TV or speaking a command to a smart speaker.
Adding a dimming feature on lights will also allow you to reset the tone of the room without getting off the cozy couch. Adjusting light with remote control is a great idea for date nights or movie nights when you forget to turn off the bright lights.
Control the Heat When You Are Out
Keeping the heat low when you are out is also a great money saver and convenient for you. Set your heat to turn down when you leave the house and have it turn back up when you come home. Just like we mentioned in controlling the lights above, you can set the heat to turn on/off at a specific time or have it triggered by your current location.
Turn Security Cameras on Remotely
If you do not want the security cameras in your home running all the time, set them to turn on when the doors open and close. Once the sensors are triggered, that means someone is coming or going from the house.
This way, your cameras will not be recording you non-stop but are set to come on if motion is detected when you are away from home. This can also save on battery power so you don't have to worry about the camera being powerless when you actually need it.
Watering Indoor Plants
Tired of killing all of your houseplants because you never remember to water them? You’ll find some interesting setups on Reddit for regulating the watering schedule for your houseplants.
Some advanced systems will actually mix in nutrients or measure properties like pH levels to adjust with the help of small solenoid valves.
Have Devices turn on When You Enter a Room
Some home devices can be programmed to turn on or off whenever you enter or leave a room where they are. These are usually controlled by your smartphone or motion sensors and have a very sci-fi feel to a device responding to your presence. This can be anything like lights, music, or temperature control. If you really want, you can even program a round of applause so you can live your life like a sitcom star.
While it takes some research and equipment to set up your home automation system, it will save you time and perhaps money in the long run. Setting up your home as automated will save you peace of mind and may even be a little fun. The examples above are fairly basic and can get you ready for some more advanced automation ideas.