The home automation market has developed rapidly in recent years, and it now provides a variety of options for turning your house or apartment into the Jetsons-age wonder long-promised by tech pundits.
Along with powerful new capabilities for controlling your devices, appliances and more, todayâ€™s home automation solutions make it easier than ever to set up a smart home, with no advanced technical knowledge required to enjoy the most streamlined offerings.
Whether youâ€™re looking for options to optimize your existing setup or are simply exploring the possibilities of creating a truly smart home, hereâ€™s what you need to know about home automation.
To Hub or Not to Hub
The first choice for any home automation setup is deciding whether you want to use a central automation hub. While itâ€™s perfectly possible to buy a variety of stand-alone automation devices like networked plugs and light switches, more consumers are choosing to integrate every smart device into a single home automation ecosystem with the use of a smart hub.
Most hubs include software that you can install on home computers, laptops or mobile devices to control connected appliances and smart components, while others rely mostly on voice activated technology to manage your automated devices.
Whatever you choose, make sure its networking technology is compatible with the other devices you plan to hook up to the home automation network. Wi-fi and Bluetooth are standard on many devices, but many others rely on network protocols built specifically for home automation, chiefly Z-Wave and Zigbee.
The hub market has advanced quickly, and these days the dedicated single-purpose automation hub seems to be on its last legs. Among the industry leaders in this segment is theÂ Samsung SmartThings hub, which allows you to connect up to 200 different devices and includes a battery backup in case your home power is interrupted.
However, most home automation networks now use multi-purpose networking hubs likeÂ Amazonâ€™s Alexa-enabledÂ line of voice activated devices, including the various Echo options and Fire TV edition. Like theÂ Google HomeÂ andÂ Apple HomePod, these devices fold home automation features into the existing voice-activated features that play music, read headlines and recipes, and otherwise manage your media consumption.
Home Automation for Appliances
With the use of smart switches like theÂ Wemo Switch Smart Plug, itâ€™s easy to turn any appliance into a â€œsmartâ€ appliance â€“ in the sense that you can turn it on and off with the touch of a button, or with a pre-scheduled routine programmed into your automation hub.
For the most advanced automated appliance features, youâ€™ll need to buy a product designed for that purpose, like theÂ Samsung Family Hub Smart Fridge, theÂ LG SmartThinQ fridge, or theÂ iRobot Roomba 890Â smart vacuum. These devices let you do things like program the vacuum to run only when youâ€™re not home, keep tabs on the contents of your fridge for a recipe or even place an order for more milk when youâ€™re running low.
Home Automation for Doors and Security
Automated home security options range from simple smart locks that let you make sure you locked your doors by checking your smartphone, to fully integrated home security systems like theÂ Abode Starter Kit, which includes door and window sensors to detectÂ intrusions, a security camera, and a key fob to automatically disarm the system when you enter the home.
Such systems usually give you the option to manage and install everything yourself, or you can choose to include a subscription for a professional security monitoring service, effectively turning the system into a (significantly cheaper) professional home security system.
Standalone devices usually operate along the lines of theÂ Nest Cam Indoor, which lets you remotely monitor a home interior, and theÂ Kwikset KevoÂ line of smart locks, which replace the existing fixtures on your door. By integrating sensors like theÂ Insteon Motion Sensor II, you can program your automation hub to adjust security concerns based on activity in the home.
Automated Home Lighting
Home lighting automation usually relies on an existing automation hub to control various smart bulbs and switches. Youâ€™ll need a smart switch like theÂ Belkin Wemo Light Switch, paired with automation-capable bulbs like theÂ Cree LED Connected.
Depending on the functionality of your hub or other controlling devices, you can do things like adjust the lighting levels or color with your smartphone, or even set up complicated lighting schedules that integrate with home security sensors to detect when youâ€™ve left the house for the day.
Home Automation for Heating and Cooling
Smart thermostats like theÂ Nest ThermostatÂ were among the earliest automation devices on the market, so itâ€™s no surprise that a wide variety of choices exist to integrate into your smart home setup.
Devices like the Nest can integrate with motion trackers and other sensors to learn your familyâ€™s habits and adjust the climate control schedule accordingly. Any smart thermostat should include remote on-and-off capabilities and other standard automation features.
Automated Home Entertainment
Smart home entertainment options mostly focus on features like letting you remotely control which speakers music is playing from, or pre-schedule entertainment configurations for specific times of day.
Automated entertainment hubs like theÂ Logitech Harmony HubÂ can even integrate with your primary automation hub to do things like adjust lighting based on the audio characteristics of the song thatâ€™s playing, or detect when youâ€™ve woken up and start playing soft classical music throughout the home.
Whether youâ€™re searching for an all-in-one integrated smart home system, or choose to mix and match individual components controlled by a central hub, the possibilities for home automation are nearly endless.
What home automation features do you like best? Share in the comments!