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What Is Home Automation?
Home automation lets you automate a lot of basic functions around your home.
Home automation is when you use different smart home devices and smart home protocols to automate and remotely control various aspects of your home. It lets you spend less time flipping switches or pressing buttons because things just work (mostly) on their own.
Using home automation doesn’t mean you’ll never have to do anything manually around your home again. But the most common home automation routines, including those for smart lights, smart locks, smart thermostats, and smart outlets, can make your life a little easier.
What does home automation do?
Home automation, as we know it today, focuses on several key features:
- HVAC systems
- Home security equipment
- Electrical outlets
- Smoke detectors
- Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors
Anything from a smart light bulb to a smart refrigerator can contribute to your home automation system.
These various devices “automate” your home by following the rules you set for them. Instead of having to turn lights on manually with a light switch, you can set your lights to come on automatically at 7 a.m. when you wake up. Instead of having to remember to lock your front door every day when you leave, you can set your smart door lock to lock automatically every day at 8:30 a.m. Home automation security doesn't always mean you'll pay big bucks for a complete home security system.
Save money and energy with home automation
Home automation can shave off a good chunk of your monthly energy bill and can be an affordable alternative to expensive home security systems. Smart devices such as locks, thermostats, light bulbs or outdoor spotlights, outlets, and sprinklers can be enhanced to their most energy-efficient schedules or even turned off remotely. In short, control = savings.
And even though smart devices are typically considered "vampire" devices, meaning they use power while not in use, you still save energy and money. This vampire energy is necessary for you to control your device remotely, otherwise, the device wouldn't be able to respond to your request. Your device's standby power should only cost you a few cents each month. Your home automation device definitely won't use the same amount of power in standby mode as it does while turned on.
How does home automation work?
Home automation works through three main functions:
- Remote control
Schedules are simple routines you create yourself through your devices. For example, you can have your lights turn on at a certain time or set your smart thermostat to kick on the heat if the temperature drops too low.
These routines can be complex, where you have multiple smart devices perform different functions together. For example, you can have the radio turn on the morning news, the lights slowly brighten, and the coffee maker turn on at a certain time each day as part of a “good morning” routine. They can also be as simple as turning on the front door lights at a specific time every day.
Self-learning capabilities put the “smart” in smart devices. Self-learning is a step up from scheduling and makes your smart home feel actually smarter. And it can help your home automation system assist you more effectively without much work on your part.
For example, with self-learning systems, you go from setting schedules for your thermostat to having your thermostat set the schedules itself because it’s learned when you are and aren’t home.
Most of these devices rely on the location of your smartphone and perform actions accordingly.
Remote control is the most basic aspect of home automation. It lets you control your smart home devices even when you’re not right by the system control panel.
Whether you’re across the country or across the room, you can use an app on your smartphone, tablet, or a portal on your web browser to control functions of different smart objects in your house.
Prime examples of this include door locks and light bulbs. Smart locks and bulbs let you lock and unlock doors, open garage doors, and turn lights on and off with just the tap of a button in an app. If you get to work and realize you forgot to lock the front door or turn off the living room lights, no problem. Just open your mobile app and control them from there.
This type of control can extend to include security systems, which you can arm, disarm, and monitor from anywhere in the world—as long as you have an internet connection.
How to set up home automation
When setting up home automation, there a some choices to consider. First of all, you need to decide which smart home protocol you want to use for your home automation. The most popular protocol is Z-Wave, but you can also choose Zigbee, Wi-Fi, or Thread.
The protocol you choose will then determine which smart home devices you can add to your home automation system and how you control them. You can also use multiple protocols if you have a hub that can support them (such as Samsung SmartThings).
One of the easiest ways to get started with home automation is through a home security system. Many home security systems, like Vivint, ADT, and Abode, include home automation system support. You can add in smart devices and control them through a mobile app.
If you don’t want to sign on for a whole system, you can still make smart devices work together through a smart home hub (like Samsung SmartThings) or a service like IFTTT.
You don't need a hub to control smart devices, since each smart device will have its own app. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't get one. A smart hub enters the scene to make your life easier if you want a centralized place to connect and control multiple different smart devices, instead of jumping between apps. A hub will also allow you to connect devices with different home automation protocols, and authorize the devices to work together.
Home automation can be as affordable as a single smart plug or as expensive as a complete home security system. It just depends on how many devices you want to use and which aspects of your home you wish to automate.