As the home automation market continues to swell, you’re confronted by seemingly endless products promising perfect plug-and-play functionality. You’re also faced with deciding whether home automation DIY is up your alley, or if hiring a professional is the better choice.
How can you get started, though?
Luckily, if you take a step back and think carefully about your needs, you could be automating your home in a way that works for you, and with much less effort than you might imagine.
If you want to upgrade your home, the first question you should ask yourself is “Do I want a simple smart home system or a fully automated household?”
If you’re quite happy with a basic smart thermostat or Amazon Echo, you won’t need to worry about calling in the pros. However, what if you want a more complex system?
Before you get bogged down in the nuts and bolts of installation, decide whether your prime driver is convenience or security when you’re looking at a smart home. This will, to a large extent, inform the type of system you build out.
Once you have a clear idea of the sort of system you want, it’s time to think about the installation side of things so you can budget accurately before you start buying equipment and getting set up.
Make no mistake, time spent at this stage can save you a great deal of money and headaches later down the track.
Home Automation DIY vs Hiring a Professional
With so many smart home devices and appliances touted as plug-and-play, it might seem tempting to take the work on yourself.
Before you even think about that, though, be completely honest with yourself.
Are you practically inclined and quite comfy with the tech involved to take this on yourself, or is that just wishful thinking?
You’ll need some proficiency with both electric and IT, so it’s more than a case of simple home automation DIY.
If this sounds like you, home automation DIY will excite you rather than intimidate you. There’s never been a wider choice of smart home devices you can get up and running yourself.
You have three broad choices when it comes to installing home automation:
- DIY installation for a self-monitoring system
- DIY installation for a professional monitoring system
- Professional installation for a professional monitoring system
DIY Installation For A Self-Monitoring System
Taking the DIY route and sidestepping any kind of paid-for monitoring service remains a cost-effective and flexible way to get started today.
If you choose to do things yourself, you have two courses of action:
- Buy a simple starter kit or something more comprehensive with everything you need included
- Invest in a hub and add compatible devices as you go
As with every aspect of automating your home, what you do here depends entirely on what you want from your smart home. Your options are almost limitless so we’ll give you some pointers.
Think about the future of your smart home not just the present and consider these simple ways to kickstart your home automation DIY.
Three Easy Ways To Get Started with a DIY Smart Home
Take care of climate control and your entry system while upgrading some old appliances to dip your toes in the smart home waters.
Smart thermostats make a highly effective starting point with home automation. Once installed, you’ll get a shallow learning curve and user-friendly functionality. Beyond this, you’ll get to experience an uptick in convenience while shaving a few bucks off your utility bills.
What makes ecobee4 stand out, then?
First, you’ll get Alexa Voice Service baked in. This saves you needing to invest in an Echo device. You’ll also be free to use Google Assistant. Compatibility extends beyond this to IFTTT, SmartThings and much, much more.
By building sensors into your system, you can enjoy superior and completely consistent climate control with none of those annoying hot or cold spots.
Even though you’ll likely struggle to manage the 23% savings on your electricity bill trumpeted by ecobee, you should notice a definite dip in consumption. Keep your expectations reasonable and every little counts with this wifi thermostat!
You should note that the ecobee4 is hardwired so it might not make the best fit if you’re renting. For homeowners, though, there’s arguably no better smart thermostat on the market.
At the upper end of Ring’s suite of smart video doorbells, the Pro sits just below the pro-grade Elite. What pushes the price up with this model, then?
The 1080p video gives you high-def footage of all visitors. You’ll be able to communicate using two-way audio even if you’re miles from home keeping you connected around the clock. Night vision ensures there are no black spots.
Coming with 4 interchangeable faceplates, you can make sure your entry system is matched to your décor.
If you can’t quite get the angle you want from your Doorbell Pro, wedge and corner kits are available separately so you can work around this.
Installation is straightforward assuming you’ve got doorbell wiring already in place.
If you’re looking to stay abreast of coming and goings at your smart home even when you’re away, Ring has you covered with Doorbell Pro.
One of the perfect pieces of tech to get started with in your connected home is a smart plug. Wemo offers a first-class example, but what makes it so good?
The stackable design is a flat-out winner and lets you use a pair of Minis in a single outlet.
You won’t need to invest in a third-part home hub, so you’ll be able to get going right out the box with no further investment and no extra hassle.
Compatibility is impressive with both Alexa and Google Assistant supported along with If This, Then That.
Simply slip this smart plug into any regular outlet then plug any small appliance into the smart plug. You can then control those appliances remotely. So, from fans and heaters to lamps and coffee machines, you can smarten up some old devices and dip your toes into remote control.
DIY Installation / Professional Monitoring
Maybe you’re quite comfortable installing basic smart home equipment but you want the peace of mind professional monitoring brings.
Some smart home systems like Samsung’s SmartThings offer optional monitoring. There are also purely security-based approaches to home automation like the Ring Alarm that we’ll explore right below.
With professional monitoring, starting out at around $10 a month, you’ll typically get backup service for your central hub in the event of power going down. You’ll also be able to access video footage stored on the cloud.
As long as you’re clear about compatibility, this approach to home automation saves you the cost of professional installation with the added security of someone having your back around-the-clock.
Rather than bewildering you with multiple options offering fundamentally the same thing, we’ll stick with the very best, Ring’s Alarm which is part of smart homes worldwide.
As we repeatedly mention, there’s no cookie cutter solution to building out a smart home. The more personalized a solution you take the time to seek out, the more seamlessly and successfully you can make technology work for you the way you want it to.
For many people, the only way they really want to upgrade the intelligence of their home is on the security front.
So maybe you want an alarm but you’re not sure you want the commitment a full professional installation. If so, Ring’s full home security system comes with the option of taking up professional monitoring around-the-clock from as little as $10 a month. You won’t be locked into any long-term contracts or stiffed with unreasonable cancellation fees either.
You’ll be able to control your alarm and Ring doorbells in-app and you’ll start with a free trial to the monitoring service. After this point, you can get access to video recordings for that modest monthly subscription without being locked into a restrictive contract.
This is the go-to option if you want to save money and go the home automation DIY route without sacrificing professional monitoring.
- Everything you need bundled from sensors and detectors through base station and range extender
- Absolutely tool-free installation with no need to call in the professionals
- Adjustable sensitivity to prevent false alarms and streamline your security without the cat causing constant mayhem
- Multiple users have access to all system information, so think long and hard if you have service staff or children you don’t want having full privileges
Professional Installation / Professional Monitoring
Once the preserve of science fiction, it’s now possible to automate your home without needing to lift a finger and ensure that it’s monitored 24/7. This means you can sleep easier, relax when you’re on vacation knowing your home is secured, and reap all the convenience of smart home appliances you can control from your smart phone.
When you take this approach to automation, you’ll need to commit to a contract and you won’t own the equipment. If you need to sever the contract, expect a penalty fee.
As long as you’re intending to remain in your home for some time to come and you don’t mind being locked into a contract, this professional approach is costly, but effective and offers total peace of mind.
So, now that you’ve had a chance to think about the three different methods you can employ to get the full benefits of smart home technology, we’ll touch on some of the downsides of home automation DIY installation.
Sure, you’ll save money and feel like you’re getting a bargain, but you should at least ponder the following areas. You’ll want to ensure doing it yourself really is the best way for you to make your home smarter.
Four Flashpoints with DIY Home Automation
- Electrical Wiring and Control Systems: If you’re only going for a simple, stand-alone device like a thermostat, you can do it yourself. However, for more complex smart home systems, there’s little alternative to hiring in an electrician when it comes to wiring. This is really not an area safe to mess around with unless you’re competent and qualified, so make sure you know what you’re getting into upfront.
- Door Entry Systems: Fitting something as central to your home’s security as door entry systems is not a time to think about cutting costs. Again, if you’re comfortable installing your smart lock or garage door entry system, feel free to do so. If there’s any element of doubt in your mind, call for professional assistance or risk a gaping hole in your security system
- Aesthetics: Unless you’re a capable handyman with an eye for design, you might get the DIY installation done, but end up with a mish-mash of cables and wires. Consider whether or not it’s worth paying out for the expertise of someone who does this day in and day out.
- Network Capacity: If you start indiscriminately adding smart devices to your home WiFi network, you run the risk of overloading it. It’s pointless trying to save money on installation if you end up with Internet the speed of a dial-up! As always, if you know what you’re doing, there’s no issue here.
6 Common Problems with DIY Smart Home Devices
While you can save both time and money doing things yourself, we’ll finish up with six more issues you might encounter if you choose a home automation DIY installation.
1) Getting an Incomplete System
One of the principal dangers of opting to build out a system is not having the stamina to follow through on your plans for a full smart home. It’s all too easy to think about what you’d like to have rather than making it happen.
Instead of coming out of the blocks with full home automation, there’s a danger you’ll end up with a limited and incomplete system if you try doing it all yourself.
2) Wasting Money on Incompatible Devices
Getting rid of that huge heap of remotes is a driving motivator for many people who relish the idea of controlling all their appliances from their smart phone.
You need to make absolutely sure you don’t skip the planning stage if you want to build out your own system. Think about communication protocols and compatibility. The last thing you need is to waste money on devices that just won’t work together.
3) Failing to Strengthen Your Network
Smart home devices working through the IoT can end up putting a serious strain on your home network.
One of the leading benefits of professional installation is the way you’ll be guided through optimizing the network.
If you’re constructing a wider-ranging, more robust smart home, make absolutely sure your network is up to strength.
4) Missing Out on Features
It’s all too easy to end up controlling isolated devices remotely without really making the most of the features at your disposal.
When you’re limited to the material provided by manufacturers to help you use your equipment you can end up scratching your head and wondering why you ever bothered doing it yourself.
5) DIY Can Be Difficult
Most people think installing smart home technology will be as easy as popping up a bookshelf.
Don’t underestimate the technical knowledge required in places along with the need to be fully aware of electrics while also being pretty IT-savvy.
Again, if home automation DIY is not for you, there’s absolutely no shame in choosing a pro-grade installation and hiring the job out.
6) Lack of Customer Service
If you run into problems, it’s nice to have live help in whatever form it takes to get you back on track.
By installing your smart home equipment yourself, you generally benefit from the same level of support you get with paid-for services.
Think about how comfortable you are installing and operating equipment and how much help you think you’ll need on ongoing basis.
Whether you choose to go completely DIY with your smart home, or to call in professionals for installation or monitoring, if you take the time to plan carefully, getting the smart home of your dreams is much easier than you might have feared.
Both options have their strengths and weaknesses, so think about that in relation to your own circumstances and choose the level of professional input that makes sense.
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