Although I have tons of interests, I am a tech geek at heart. I love playing with new gadgets to see how they can make our lives “easier”. After combining several gadgets together, some DIY electrical work, and configuration settings, we were able to make our house do some cool tricks just with the sound of our voice.
We started small and mainly used home automation to off turn off our master bedroom lights from our phone so we wouldn’t have to argue about who should get up! But after some more pieces, the possibilities seemed endless.
Devices (everything is under $200!):
- SmartThings Hub – $99
- GE Iris ZWave Light Switches – $20 – $40 each
- Harmony Hub – $100
- Amazon Echo a.k.a Alexa – $180
- Wifi Extender (Optional) – $100
- Sonos AMP, Play 1, and Play 3 – $199 and up
SmartThings is a neat home device product because there is no monthly fee and is compatible with both ZigBee and Zwave protocols which are the 2 most common. You start off connecting it to your Wi-Fi and downloading an app on your smart phone. There are 3 ways to connect lights for home automation.
- Outlet – plug a wireless communicating outlet into the wall and plug your lamp into the outlet.
- Bulb – Replace bulbs with a wireless communicating Bulb
- Switch – Replace the wall switch with a zwave switch.
We mainly used switches. If you know how to turn off the control panel, use a screwdriver and move 3 wires from your old switch to the new one, you don’t need to hire an electrician.
Harmony Hub integrates with SmartThings and can control your entertainment system. It also allows your phone to function as a universal remote. Since our hub was on the other side of the house from the router and behind a cabinet, we needed to add a Wi-Fi extender to give it a stable connection.
Amazon Echo is a cool device on it’s own. Think of Siri but better and for your house. Integrating it with SmartThings broadens it’s possibilities tremendously. Sonos also works with SmartThings to allow you to turn on and off playlists.
It’s not perfect, for example, you have to say “turn off good night” but nonetheless pretty cool.
Next on the list, garage door control that senses your proximity based on your phone’s GPS location. If only I could make it move the elf!