Recently a few people have been asking me about my smarthome and how it works. This post is taking the place of quite a few emails and I hope will be more thorough than an email would be. If you have questions or need help feel free to comment and I'll try to help out!
We have a pretty smart home compared to others. I have spent quite a bit of time, money and more time setting it all up and am very happy with how it works. Read on to figure out how to give your ordinary home an upgrade!
The Hardware I Use
The core of our smarthome started with Amazon Echo (Alexa). This is a voice command speaker from Amazon that allows you to do many things.
These little guys are awesome. Dots are about the same size as a hockey puck. Their sound quality is not as good as the full size Alexa but the Dot can connect via an AUX cord or via Bluetooth to an external speaker making this a powerful home automation device. *One additional thing to note that is pretty cool is that if you have multiple Dots/Echos and they can all hear you at the same time Amazon put in some software that recognizes which one you are closest to and turns off the rest so that there isn't confusion.
These are great for mounting your dot in odd places. I have one outside on my patio that is mounted upside-down to the ceiling. The Dots have a rubber-y base that doesnt allow double sided tape to stick and there isn't a way to get them to screw into anything so this will allow you to stick or screw your dot onto/into any surface you can find.
Check out www.MountMyDot.com for more pics and info
Full Disclosure - I made these myself on my 3D printer. :)
The Wink hub is the central point for the SmartHome project. This is similar to the next item on the list (Samsung SmartThings Hub) but this is the first one I went with. I also own a SmartThings Hub and think that it will be a little easier to setup and use than the Wink Hub was.
The Wink Hub acts as the bridge for all of your devices, connecting them to Alexa. This is a passive device that you can put in a cabinet/office/out of the way but is required to connect everything and make it work.
This is the item that I am the least familiar with. I just got mine and set it up a few days ago. So far it seems to connect to a wider range of things than the Wink Hub does so I recommend this over the Wink.
Again, this is just the bridge. It connects everything and lets Alexa communicate with all of your devices.
The Nest Thermostat is a great tool to replace that old analog "programmable" thing on the wall. I have installed one of these in the last few apartments/house we have rented and now in the home we own. It is a little touchy when it comes to automatically sensing when you are gone becasue I work from home so there isn't a set schedule. The main upside here is that I can control the temp from my phone and also via Alexa!
I recently replaced our old manually programmable irrigation controller with this Wi-Fi controller. It is great! It allowed me to take pictures of each zone so I don't have to remember what 'Zone 1' means anymore. It connects to a local weather station so if there is rain in the forecast it doesn't run the sprinklers and the best part is that I can turn zones on and off and program it all on my phone. So if there is a zone that needs more or less water it is super simple to change what I need to change. This came in a 8 and a 16 zone version. I have 9 zones so had to buy the larger one.
These wall switches are Wi-Fi enabled switches that allow you to control anything on a switch already. I have a big lamp in my dining room that uses special Edison style light bulbs that are not available with Wi-Fi so I just replaced the switch in the wall and now I can control that lamp.
*Important note on switches vs. light bulbs - If you have Wi-Fi light bulbs in a fixture but turn off the traditional switch they are connected to then your light bulbs are worthless, they won't work. When evaluating lights/switch choices around your home you may want to think about having to keep a switch on all the time or losing control of your awesome Wi-Fi lights.
These plug-in type switches are great for when you don't want to install a smart outlet or switch. I use these for controlling my Christmas tree, Halloween lights, lamps, outdoor party lights, etc. They simply plug into an outlet then you plug in the device you want to control to this module.
*Important Note - These come in a 3 prong (2 plus a ground) version which is called the "Appliance Switch" and one without the
These are pretty much the same as the above just a different brand and ones that I have owned for a while.
There are two versions of this. The one on the left is called the 'Insight Switch' and it gives you power consumption data, the one on the right does not give the same data but still connects via Wi-Fi and gives you the same capabilities with Alexa.
There are quite a few different Wi-Fi light bulbs now. These are the ones that Home Depot sells and seem to work pretty well. Alexa easily controls each device name and you can dim them from 1% to 100% of light via the app or with your voice through Alexa.
The Harmony Hub allows Alexa to control my television. Setup was pretty simple, you install an app then select the devices you have, then it programs everything.
It can control:
The main reason I put this in here is becasue we used to have a built in modem/wireless router from Time Warner that sucked. I pay for 300mbps down cable internet and as soon as I started using it my speed would drop to 3mpbs. One of the many techs that came out to my house suggested I go buy a nice wireless router of my own and it would take care of the issue.
This router has an app that allows me to prioritize a connection, not a huge issue when your internet is fast but if you had a lower speed test internet and wanted to watch Netflix or something then this would be a nice feature. You can also see all of the devices connected, remove/block them, see usage and more in the app.
We moved to Avery Ranch in October of 2015 and while we haven't been here long Stephanie and I know that this is a great community. In the questionnaire I filled out for the nomination committee here were questions anboit what I like and what I think should change. Given that this is a pretty awesome place to live there aren't immediately apparent things that need to be fixed.
Today's post highlights the first area that I think needs improvement and with my internet background is somewhere I think I can make a difference.
Our website has a discussion forum that only has a few participants and some of the most recent posts are from March of 2016, other topics haven't been updated in years. Our own Twitter account hasn't seen a new tweet since December of 2015. While Twitter may not me the best barometer of community involvement I think that with some time we can have great discussions and action coming from our neighbors.