Home automation is on everyone’s lips these days. People are always asking what home automation is all about and what they need to do to get an automation system installed in their homes. There are many home automation products in the market, and it is challenging to pick the product or brand that will satisfy your needs. Here is the ultimate cheat sheet on home automation to help guide you:
Home Automation Platforms
Before you go out shopping for a home automation system, you should decide what automation platform fits you the best. Available platforms include:
Consumer Level Automation
These are cheap and compact hubs that help run your smart home. You can quickly set them up in your home without hiring an expert to do it for you. However, you will need to know how to use them to get devices to pair and operate automatically in your home. The Enlight product page for each of these includes PDFs for your use. They include Samsung SmartThings, Insteon, Wink Connected Home Hub, Philips Hue Bridge, Icontrol Networks, Piper NV, Amazon Echo, and more. These automation hubs unify all your connected gadgets and allow you to control them from one app. You can control appliances and electronics in your home using Amazon’s voice control feature, Alexa. We recommend looking at each of the features and keeping the “big picture” in mind when deciding which hub to use.
Expert Level Automation
Since an expert level automation platform requires an expert to install, they tend to be expensive. Also, they are closed systems, which means they can only be used with software and hardware from a single vendor. For this reason, you have to contact the dealer to program it for you. This sounds inconvenient, but you should know expert level automation works well because they are stable. They include systems like Homeseer and Savant.
These are automation systems where you pay a monthly subscription for someone else to manage the system for you. This is common with security companies that have burglar alarms in their home automation security systems. They may ask you to sign a contract with them, which can either be short-term or long-term depending on the security firm. These companies include ADT Pulse, Link Interactive, Frontpoint, and others. Be sure to research fully before signing any contract. Enlight is an excellent source of information on the devices these companies use.
Home Automation Devices
The above options are meant to help you choose the system you need. Let us look at some of the products available in the smart home market:
Of all the home automation products out there, smart lighting is the most popular with users and manufacturers. There is growing demand for smart connected lighting products that is showing no sign of easing. These automated light bulbs save more energy and last longer than ordinary incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs. Some smart bulbs can display different colors depending on the atmosphere you want to add in your home. They include LIFX Color 1000, Philips Hue Connected Bulb, GE Link Connected LED, WeMo Smart LED bulbs, and more.
Smart thermostats are all the rage because you do not need to stand in front of them and adjust them. You can operate them using your tablet or smartphone, and you do not even have to be at home to control them. Some thermostats can also learn your preferred temperature levels, and you can schedule it to adjust themselves. They include products like Nest Learning Thermostat, Venstor ColorTouch, Honeywell Lyric, and more.
Other popular home automation products include:
Home Automation Protocols
Home automation protocols are the set of rules that determine how electronic devices communicate with each other. They can also be described as languages that smart devices use to talk to each other. They include:
Runs on a 908.2MHZ frequency band and utilizes a mesh network. A mesh network just means that one product can pass a signal to another Z-Wave product within its range until it gets to its intended destination. They all talk back to a hub for control.
ZigBee is similar to Z-Wave because it also uses a mesh network and is a short-range wireless technology. It runs on a frequency of about 2.483GHZ, which allows it to consume a very low amount of power. Many smart products are compatible with it.
A Wi-Fi network allows you to control the smart devices when you are at home and when you are away from home. This is not possible with Z-Wave and ZigBee because their networks do not extend beyond the walls of your home. You can also use your Wi-Fi router to control compatible smart devices in your home without buying a hub. The only drawback is that your smart devices will be dependent on Wi-Fi signal strength to operate smoothly.
With the information above, you can now shop confidently for home automation devices. Be sure to check out our index of products for more detailed information on specific products.