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Smart Homes: 9 Tips for Starting or Upgrading Your Smart Home

Smart Home 9 Tips
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Items of Note:

  1. No Hubs. You don’t need a hub nowadays, with all of the hub-less smart home devices out there
  2. Amazon or Google You can do an Amazon Alexa-based smart home or a Google Home-based system – either works fine. Apple HomeKit and other systems are powerful but generally more limited
  3. Prerequisites:
    1. Decent WiFi everywhere you want to use a smart home device
    2. A smart phone or tablet
  4. (Optional) Some basic tools if you want to do any electrical work

The 9 Tips

  1. For Indoor Lights, Smart Switches Are the Way to Go so long as you have a neutral wire available.
    1. You can use whatever bulbs you want, including LED bulbs.
    2. You typically have more than one bulb in a fixture
    3. Bulbs will burn out at some point. Light switches won’t.
    4. Like every rule, there are exceptions
  2. For Outdoor Lights, try Dusk to Dawn Sensor Bulbs or Smart Bulbs
    1. Philips Hue bulbs cost $150 for a 4 pack with the hub. At $37.50 per bulb, that’s a crazy amount, especially if you have fixtures with 2 or more bulbs each. Gosund has comparable LED smart bulbs that are 2 for $25 and have no hub. That’s $25 less per bulb than Philips Hue.
  3. For outdoor cameras, you just have to do your homework, there are a lot of options. I’m spoiled by the Wyze Cams and want all the same features so I installed the indoor Wyze Cams with an outdoor enclosure and powered it by ethernet using a 5v ethernet to micro USB adapter and a powered switch. Please be aware that doing this voids the warranty on the cameras but for $20 I’m willing to risk that. That said, between the enclosures and a protective eve on your house, these things can easily stand up to the heat, snow, ice and rain. I’ve been super impressed.

    Wyze is coming out with an outdoor camera later this year so check the description for updates on that.

    Aside from the Wyze Cams, if you only need events, the Arlo Pro system is a good option but it’s not cheap at all and has issues of its own. Many of the reviews address its many glitches, like missed recordings, dead spots and weather issues. Going totally wireless (including no power cord) means you have to recharge batteries. Many reviews state that you have to charge the Arlos every 1-2 months, which sounds like a real pain to me. Plus, if you mount them anywhere that requires a ladder, that’s even more of a pain. They do, however, come with 7 day rolling cloud storage, which is pretty good. 1 Camera = $180, 2 Cameras = $278, 3 Cameras = $366 and 4 cameras = $400, etc. up to 6 cameras at $850.

    The Nest Outdoor cameras are also great cameras but they’re $190 for one or $300 for 2 and they still require power. There are expensive monthly fees for cloud storage and no SD slots for recording locally.

    By contrast, three Wyze Cams cost $60, plus $30 for power adapters, $26 for housings and $40 for a powered switch, then $27 for ethernet cables, so $183 for 3 cameras, 14 day cloud storage, no fuss and great features. That’s hard to beat.

  4. When it comes to Indoor Security Cameras, Wyze Cams can’t be beat, you can’t beat the Wyze Cam. Here’s why:
    1. They cost $20 or, if you want pan and tilt, $30.
    2. They’re full HD (1920 x 1080 resolution)
    3. They have a completely free cloud backup feature where all events are backed up to the cloud for free forever. No fees and you get 14 days of events backup at all times for all cameras
    4. 2 Way Audio
    5. Night Vision
    6. Continuous rolling footage with a MicroSD card
    7. SVery easy to mount and daisy chainable
  5.  Routines I went with the Amazon Echo system for several reasons. One is that you can get the echo dots really cheap. They’re $45 or $50 new but you can buy a previous generation version for $25 and they often go on sale. We have them in most of the bedrooms in our house and they’re awesome. You can also usually find them in the classifieds for cheap, like how we bought a full sized Amazon Echo and two dots for $80 and they all work great. You can also buy the new 7” Fire tablets that work as an Amazon Alexa and they sometimes go on sale as well. We got two for $90 on Black Friday which means we can video chat and see recipes, videos and more, so they’re super convenient. If you want to use these as an Alexa device, I recommend hooking them up to an external speaker as the speaker on these is pretty poor.
  6. Smart Plugs are the cheapest way to get your smart home going. are a great device to have and they can be really inexpensive. We use ours for all kinds of things, like controlling fans at night, lamps, cabinet lights, 3D Printers and more. They can often be found for $33 for 4, or sometimes even less when on sale. They’re easy to set up and very convenient. You can set timers and even use the Alexa app to create routines. I hooked up a small motor to a stick and created a routine to close my door automatically so I could be Wall-E level lazy and not get out of bed to close the door. The routine turns the motor on, announces something that takes about 5 seconds to announce on the Amazon Echo in my wood shop, then turns the motor off so it doesn’t burn out. It’s super dorky but super convenient.
  7. Smart locks are really smart these days. are still pretty pricey but they’re incredibly convenient. I purchased my smart lock and Amazon Cloud Cam combo on Black Friday but they typically start at around $200 – $250 and a great upgrade for your home. You can unlock or lock them remotely, use smart patterns and features, and more.
  8. Choose the right smart devices for your home – Other smart devices are really handy too. For $79 you can make any garage door opener a smart door opener, even programming it to automatically open or close when you come home or leave the house. I also have a smart sprinkler system which makes maintaining and updating your sprinklers a breeze, when you can control them from your pocket as opposed to running to the garage and back a hundred times. It also makes sure that your sprinklers aren’t on when it’s raining or has recently rained. Smart thermostats are nice to have as well, though I’ve found that mine doesn’t get much use. Maybe that’s the point – it’s pretty maintenance free, it uses a sensor to see when someone is home and then it controls the temperature based on that. You can even do smart devices that control your USB ports or power strips and each plug on it can be powered individually, which is pretty nice.
    1. Garage Door Openers ($79) – TAOPE: $69.99 https://amzn.to/2MiOwJl
    2. Smart Sprinkler Systems
    3. Smart Thermostats, like Nest
    4. Smart Power Strips with USB ports
  9. Take advantage of IFTTT – If This Then That is an app that allows you to apply logic to your different devices and applications. It allows you to use a recipe format called applets to specify what you want to happen when something else happens. We’ll get more into some of the applets as we go through the rest of the tips today but IFTTT can really add a lot of the ‘smart’ to your smart home.


• Get IFTTT: iOS: https://apple.co/30ZaSTk or Android: https://bit.ly/2Ww6Qmh
• $70 Smart Garage Door Opener: https://amzn.to/2MiOwJl
• Smart Sprinkler Controller: https://amzn.to/2EKnPXT
• Nest Thermostat: https://amzn.to/2I6DotM
• Smart Power Strip: https://amzn.to/2JNNaV6
• Smart Lock + Cloud Cam for $214.99: https://amzn.to/2Z26tO2
• $180 Smart Lock (August): https://amzn.to/2IaVqLp
• Smart Plugs (4 for $33): https://amzn.to/2EKpIUt
• Wyze Cam: https://amzn.to/2WihNbR
• Wyze Cam Pan: https://amzn.to/2EW6QlF
• 32 GB Micro SD Card for $7: https://amzn.to/2WhZy6b
• Wyze Cam Outdoor Housing (3): https://amzn.to/2HKi7ae
• Ethernet to 5V Micro USB (4): https://amzn.to/2JO7RQt
• Power Over Ethernet Switch: https://amzn.to/2WtX1VZ
• 100 ft Ethernet Cables ($7): https://amzn.to/2YVoiOw
• Nest Outdoor Cameras (2): https://amzn.to/2WwYpHj
• Arlo Pro Wireless Cameras: https://amzn.to/2WcSrMq
• Dusk to Dawn Bulbs ($4 each): https://amzn.to/2WcSrMq
• Gosund LED Smart Bulbs ($25 for 2): https://amzn.to/2JNvb0L
• Smart Light Switch ($19): https://amzn.to/2HNTj1f
• Smart 3-Way Light Switch: https://amzn.to/2ELyIJ7

1 thought on “Smart Homes: 9 Tips for Starting or Upgrading Your Smart Home”

  1. Hi, I’m looking at outdoor blinds being automated and want to set a weather station up to let my blinds know that once the winds get to a speed that they rise so they don’t get damaged ?

    Any ideas?

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