Welcome to Smart Home Automation

This site suggests popular home automation products that have been purchased, installed, and tested by the authors. 

Your Smart Home

Where's your center?

This question should be asked and answered before purchasing your first smart home product:

  • Can I rely on WiFi and the cloud to automate my home?

Or

  • Do I want local control of my home without relying on the internet?

If your installation is small and casual, you can probably rely on the internet and get by without a hub or controller.  


However, with minimal expense and setup, your home can operate on its own, so we suggest hub and controller solutions.

Hubs and Controllers

At this time, these are two best and most popular products to consider:

SmartThings is quick to install and setup, and the functionality is sufficient to bootstrap your home into the smart world within the hour (given a few peripheral devices of your choice).  One of the most important features that it supports is lighting scenes.  The app's UI is a little clumsy, and there’s only this mobile app access - no web or desktop app).  We've also noticed on occasion that the status and commands aren’t always as reliable as they should be. This will improve as SmartThings has so far become the most popular and has wide product and community support.


Wink is also quick to install and setup, and also has functionality to bootstrap your home into the smart world quickly (with a few devices).  It also supports lighting scenes.  One of the biggest advantages of Wink is that it’s wireless so doesn’t have to be colocated with your router by an ethernet cable.  Not only is wireless convenient, but it allows you to place the hub in a central place within your devices for better range and reliability.


Note for developers: SmartThings uses the Groovy language, which is a nice derivative of Java.  Wink uses a web/http-based API.

Devices

You have many kinds of devices to choose from, but the most popular first devices are switches and outlets (or plugs), along with motion sensors.  


Second are thermostats which are improving and especially valuable in more extreme climates.  


Cameras are also popular but require video handling which is beyond the scope of these hubs and controllers.

Protocols

There are many protocols that a device can support, but mostly it's down to WiFi, Z-Wave, and ZigBee.  

  • WiFi is common but then depends on your network, and also consumes too much power for battery-operated devices, so usually they have to be plugged-in, which can be a hassle for devices like motion sensors.
  • ZIgbee is low-power, but is a proprietary protocol, and can interfere with WiFi which can result in poor range.
  • Z-Wave is probably the best choice as it’s low-power and operates on a different frequency than WiFi.  Range is still not great (300ft max outside with clear line-of-site, but usually only 50ft inside, but can be as bad as 10ft through heavy walls).  However, it operates as a mesh network so devices can act as repeaters which can help.

Switches

After you’ve settled on a protocol (although you can mix and match), you have two more basic decisions.  

  • Are these going to be in-wall switches, in-wall outlets, or in-line outlets (that themselves plug into the wall, and into which you can plug your devices)?
  • Are these switches indoors only, or do they need to operate outdoors?  

With these parameters in mind, your selection will become clear.


For an inline indoor switch, we recommend Inovelli (on Amazon)


For outdoors, we recommend GE (on Amazon)


Note for electricians: when installing an in-wall switch, pay close attention to whether the switch requires a neutral wire and whether your junction box has one. 

Sensors

There are many sensors available (water, light, doors, etc), but the first sensors people usually want are motion sensors (usually PIR, passive infrared detectors).  Again, Z-Wave based sensors work well for this as their battery life can last up to two years.  We’ve found one motion sensor in particular that has the best capability, reliability, and lifespan, which is made by EcoLink (on Amazon).


Beyond all the above, cameras are popular, but outside the scope of these controller hubs and devices.  We’ve installed many cameras and many brands (Foscam, Hikvision, D-Link, Nest) and can recommend ReoLink (on Amazon) cameras for their quality, functionality, and reliability.


Stay tuned for more about voice integration, IFTTT, entertainment, locks and security.

About Us

MindMyHome suggests popular home automation products that have been purchased, installed, and tested by the authors. 


Most of these popular home automation products are offered by Amazon as well as SmartHome.com and a few others.  


MindMyHome is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com

Mentioned in this article