Tips and best practices for optimizing your smart home

You’ve discovered the fundamentals of establishing your good residence, now it’s time to lift your recreation. I’ve spent years putting in, configuring, and tweaking dozens of good residence merchandise in just about each product class. Alongside the way in which I’ve discovered loads of the secrets and techniques they don’t inform you within the guide or the FAQs, starting from modest ideas that may make your good residence configuration much less advanced, to important selections that may prevent from having to begin over from scratch just a few years later.

Right here’s my finest recommendation on easy methods to optimize your good residence, digested right into a dozen prime suggestions and finest practices.

1. Select a grasp platform firstly

echo vs homemax primary 1 IDG

Lately, an Amazon or Google/Nest good speaker or good show can fill the function of a sensible residence hub (and a few Amazon Echo units are geared up with Zigbee radios)..

There are three main good residence platforms in the marketplace, and your good residence will in all probability have a minimum of one in every of them put in: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple HomeKit. The trade now revolves round these three techniques, and just about each vital good residence gadget that hits the market will assist a minimum of one in every of them, if not all three.

These platforms are completely different, after all. Alexa and Google Assistant are voice assistants/good audio system first, however the addition of options that may management your good units has develop into a key promoting level for every. HomeKit is a special animal, designed as extra of a hub that streamlines setup and administration. However since HomeKit interacts with Siri, it too gives voice assistant options—offered you could have your iPhone in hand or have an Apple HomePod.

All three of those platforms will peacefully coexist, however you positively don’t want each Alexa and Google Assistant in the identical residence, and managing each will develop into an ordeal as your good residence grows bigger. It’s additionally utterly high quality to make use of HomeKit for establishing merchandise after which utilizing Alexa or Google Assistant for management. You probably have a HomeKit hub gadget (both an AppleTV or a HomePod), you’ll need to use it, because it actually does simplify setup.

2. You don’t essentially want a sensible residence hub

samsung smartthings Christopher Null / IDG

Lately, you’ll solely want a DIY good residence hub like Samsung SmartThings if need to undertake a extra bold residence management effort.

Within the early days of the good residence, two wi-fi requirements, Zigbee and Z-Wave, have been going to be the long run. These low-power radios provide mesh networking options which might be designed to make it straightforward to cowl your complete residence with good units without having to fret about protection gaps or congestion points.

The primary downside with Zigbee and Z-Wave units is that they require a particular hub that acts as a bridge to your Wi-Fi community, so you possibly can work together with them utilizing a smartphone, pill, or your laptop (whilst you’re residence and while you’re away, through the web). Samsung SmartThings is the one worthwhile DIY product on this class at current; its solely credible competitor was once Wink, an organization that’s now on its third proprietor and which has a questionable future at finest. The Ring Alarm system has each Z-Wave and Zigbee radios onboard, nevertheless it’s way more targeted on residence safety than residence management.

So simple as SmartThings and Ring Alarm are, you’ll nonetheless face a studying curve to grasp them, and in case your home-control aspirations are fundamental, you would possibly discover it simpler to make use of units (and the apps that management them) that join on to your Wi-Fi community and depend on one of many three platforms talked about above for integration. It’s price noting right here than the 800-pound gorilla within the good lighting world—Signify, with its Philips Hue product line—now gives households of good bulbs that depend on Bluetooth as an alternative of Zigbee, in order that they don’t require the $50 Hue Bridge.

That mentioned, nevertheless, you’re restricted to controlling 10 Hue bulbs over Bluetooth. The Hue Bridge is required past that, and it’s additionally required when you arrange Hue lighting fixtures, including its outdoor lighting line.

The bottom line on this point: Unless you want to build out a highly sophisticated smart home system, I recommend sticking with products that connect directly to your network via Wi-Fi, rendering a central hub unnecessary.

3. Range issues can create big problems

The downside of installing Wi-Fi only gear is that everything in the house will need to connect directly to your router. If your router isn’t centrally located and your house is spread out, this can create range issues, particularly in areas where interference is heavy: the kitchen, bathrooms, and anything outside.

Your best bet is to check your Wi-Fi coverage both inside and outside the house before you start installing gear. Make a map of dead zones and decide whether you can live with them. If not, you’ll want to consider relocating your router or moving up to a mesh Wi-Fi network with two or more nodes. You can read more about mesh Wi-Fi networks here.