Automate Your Life: Setting up your Smart Home


When I first heard about smart homes, I had assumed that you would need to rewire your whole house just to have remote control of your lights. Thankfully, that's not the case and making your house smart has only gotten easier over the years. From color-changing lights to smart thermostats and audio equipment, there's a lot you can do without a full home renovation. Our champions have pulled out some of their favorite, easy setup smart home accessories - check them out below!

Google Nest Thermostat Programmable Smart Wi-Fi Thermostat for Home by @ricardo_ortega

When it comes to smart home devices to improve the quality of your home, one of the best is an upgrade to a smart thermostat. Most of my experiences with thermostats was frustrating, with imprecise temperature settings and frustrating controls. I've even had them break an A/C unit on a hot summer day. When I upgraded to a smart thermostat, I found it was much easier to control my home temperature, as I could quickly make adjustments on my phone. I could even monitor the system while I was away. That just leaves the question of which smart thermostat should one buy? I highly recommend investing in the Google Nest Thermostat as a start-up.

The Google Nest Thermostat helps you balance your usage, reduce your power consumption, and is even Energy Star certified. The Google Home app is an easy way to program and adjust the temperature as well as set up schedules for when your house should warm up/cool down. It provides a built-in motion sensor and touch controls and can use your smartphone’s location to know when you leave or return to your home. It also works with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for voice controlled temperature changes.

Smart Thermostats are a game changer if you're always fiddling with your house temperature. Its far easier to dial in the exact temps you want and can help keep energy usage down (no more over-compensating by cranking the thermostat when its hot/cold!). They're a great entry point if you're looking to make your house smart and provide some of the most immediately noticeable changes over traditional home equipment. And when you're ready to upgrade, the Nest Learning Thermostat is the perfect next step!

Nanoleaf Shapes

Smart home electronics don't need to be purely utilitarian. While you can certainly pick up smart bulbs that offer plenty of light customization, like dimming and color, they'll still blend into the background of your home. Nanoleaf's Shapes panels, on the other hand, are a statement piece.

Coming in a wide range of shapes, such as lines, hexagons, and triangles, Nanoleaf's Panels attach directly to your walls and can be customized to your hearts content. Each light can be individually set and all shapes work with each other, making the possibilities just about endless. Combine triangles and lines to make a blooming flower of reds and yellows. Alternate hexagons and squares for an intricate, rainbow pattern on your accent wall. Or, check out our Nanoleaf article for a slew of spectacular ideas.

But Nanoleaf's shapes aren't just about lighting your space either. Not only are they fully customizable, but they're reactive! Connect them to your TV or computer and they'll mirror your screen colors, extending your games and movies beyond the barriers of your electronics. Or, if you're feeling in the mood for a game, Nanoleaf Shapes are touch capacitive and come loaded with several games, like memory match and light-based whack-a-mole. Don't just make your home smart - make it playful!

Google Nest Audio Smart Speaker by @Rye_Bread

I am absolutely horrific when it comes to time management. Ask anyone that knows me and they’ll tell you that unless I have alarms set for everything, I will run behind schedule. There’s one device I own that does its very best to keep me organized during my day-to-day and even gives me some entertainment on the side: my Google Nest Audio. This smart speaker can get loud, and that’s exactly what I need it do be. My main purpose for it is an obnoxious alarm clock ( it’s extremely effective at that). I also use it to control my Wyze devices, such as my Smart Plugs and Smart Bulbs. A feature it includes that I don’t see advertised very often is its ability to play background noise at night with sounds ranging from white noise to rain. Bonus: It will quack upon request.

I’ve had my Nest Audio for almost two years now and I can honestly say it’s a piece of tech that I’d find hard to go without. It’s become a part of my daily life and it does exactly what I want it to. A lot of folks use the smaller Google Nest devices, and I have a few kicking around as well, but the Audio is by far my favorite. As the name suggests—it can also be used as a speaker for music or the occasional podcast. I’m happy to report that it excels at that too. Nothing like folding clothes while listening to a documentary on the history and implications of 1986’s Transformers: The Movie. This smart speaker will be with me for as long as it lasts, and if it ever does give up you bet I’ll be buying another.

Raspberry Pi 4

A Raspberry Pi may not sound like a traditional smart home recommendation, but can provide a lot of benefits to any smart home. Loading Home Assistant onto your Pi 4 will localize your your smart home to just your house - no more pinging Google or Amazon to turn on your lights!

Privacy is just the beginning, though. With Home Assistant, you can create far more robust systems to personalize your home specifically to you. Set up incredibly in-depth routines that close smart blinds and turn on lights exactly fifteen minutes before sunset. Or, if you connect to a motion sensor, you can have it turn the lights off in a room if it doesn't detect movement for a specific amount of time. Does your phone have an RFID chip? You can set up a station where all you have to do is tap your phone on the way out the door to turn off all lights in your hose.

Home Assistant also lets you create your own smart home devices, though it requires a bit of know-how to do so. While Home Assistant does have graphical interface for setting up Arduino projects and other routines, you can go above and beyond and create smart home devices from scratch, such as sprinkler systems and voice boxes for Home Assistant.

A Raspberry Pi is a great way to take your smart home to the next level and make your smart home truly yours!


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