6 Tips for the Road Ahead—to Your Smart Home

Now more than ever, your smartphone and your voice can make you master of your domicile. Image: iStock.
Now more than ever, your smartphone and your voice can make you master of your domicile. Smart tech makes sense in your current home or the one you are moving to. Image: iStock.

Smart home technology is among the best things to come out of Silicon Valley in recent years. The ability to control your home from your smartphone or with your voice, even when you’re not there, can be quite compelling. 

Summer can be the perfect time to convert your living space to a smart home. Many people move during the summer, whether it’s for a new school, a new job, or just a change of pace—and getting a fresh start lets you plan your smart home out from scratch. And even if you’re just making changes to your current home, pleasant summer weather makes it easy to install both indoor and outdoor gadgets. 

Here are six things to do to prepare for and set up your smart home this summer.

[1] Determine Your Budget

First up, as you would with any major home improvement project, you need to determine your budget. How much you want to spend will set the tone for all of the choices you’ll make going forward.

You can find smart home options out there for nearly any budget, from a smart speaker and smart lighting for under a hundred dollars to pricier setups of refrigerators, doorbells, cameras, thermostats, and more. How much you want to spend is entirely up to you.

[2] Choose a Digital Assistant

Once you’ve settled on a budget (or a rough idea of one, at least), the next step is to decide which digital assistant you want to use to control everything. The standard options are Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google’s Assistant, and you will be much better off by selecting just one of these for your home to keep things simple. Each of these is available both on smartphones and via smart speaker.

Digital assistants are all the rage in smart homes. Google Assistant runs on this Google Home Mini speaker and processes a vast array of voice commands to control your home or check on weather and traffic conditions on the route to work. Image: Digitized House Media.

Generally speaking, Alexa, which is found on the Echo line of devices, tends to have the most integrations with other smart products. Google Assistant, available on Apple iOS and Android phones as well as the Google Home line of speakers, is excellent at answering questions and handling the things you’d expect from a smart assistant but lacks the accessory integration of Alexa. 

Siri, available on all current Apple devices, including iPhones, iPads, Macs, Apple Watches, and new HomePod speakers, lags pretty far behind both of the alternatives as a digital assistant and integrates with fewer devices on the market, but this is improving slowly. If you elect to go this route, be sure to look for accessories that are compatible with Apple HomeKit.

[3] Use Smart Plugs to Make Existing Appliances Smarter

If you have appliances you like but you wish they were just a little bit smarter, you can use smart plugs to add some basic functionality. Belkin’s Wemo line is a popular example, but there are other brands available too. 

The Wemo Mini smart plug is a popular choice to make your non-smart appliances controllable from your smartphone or voice commands. Just plug them in and off you go. Image: Belkin.
The Wemo Mini smart plug is a popular choice to make your non-smart appliances controllable from your smartphone or voice commands. Just plug them in and off you go. Image: Belkin.

Smart plugs can allow you to wirelessly control anything plugged into them from either your smartphone or a digital assistant—the Belkin products work with both Alexa and Google Assistant. You can turn the appliances on and off, set schedules, and check the status of the plugs. A common use is to plug lamps in to control lights remotely, which makes an easy and convenient way to start your smart home.

[4] Transition to Natively Smart Appliances and Accessories

You can also replace your existing appliances and accessories with Wi-Fi connected versions. Common choices here include thermostats, smoke detectors, doorbells, and TVs. Some of these can actually help make your home more energy efficient and end up saving you money over time—the Nest Learning Thermostat, for example, should pay for itself in about two years, and it helps reduce your home cooling costs—making it a perfect summertime choice. 

If you’re ready for the big leagues, you can move up to something like the Samsung Family Hub smart refrigerator, which has a giant touchscreen built into the front. This fridge not only lets you place notes and messages on the screen but also automatically monitors the contents inside and lets you know when you need to restock. Pretty cool.

[5] Set Yourself up for Success When Packing

If you’re moving into a new home and already have a few smart devices you’re planning to transfer, take some time to set yourself up for success. For existing electronics, make sure you pack them properly to avoid damage and help you get up and running in your new place as quickly as possible. That means using plenty of padding to protect these from damage. And, perhaps most importantly, it means keeping cables organized so that you have what you need when you go to reinstall your smart devices in your new home. 

If you have smart devices that will require more intensive setup in the new home—such as thermostats, security cameras, or big flat-screen TVs that need to be hung on a wall—consider hiring an installation professional to handle the work to reduce some of the inevitable moving stress.

Kick Back and Enjoy Your Smarter Home!

Whatever smart home tech you end up choosing for your current or future home, you’re sure to love the convenience and futuristic features. Get those projects started and enjoy the rest of the summer!

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Victoria Schmid
About Victoria Schmid 2 Articles
Victoria Schmid enjoys writing about technology for the “everyday” person. She is a specialist in online business marketing and consumer technology. She has a background in broadcast journalism.