Home Automation

diy home automationIf you’re looking to get started with DIY home automation, the first question isn’t how, but what? What are you planning to automate? Then, once you have the what, you can wade through the crowded milieu of home automation products, gadgets and gizmos, and focus on how to achieve what you want to do.

Home automation encompasses everything from the very simple (smart lighting) to the extremely complex (full-home security–both indoor and outdoor–including motion-activated video with smartphone alerts). Where you start will depend on your priorities, your home, and, very likely, your budget. Because with home automation, the sky’s the limit for both possibility and price.

Here are 10 simple steps on how to automate your home today in a nutshell:

  1. Set Up Smart Lights to Turn On/Off on Schedule
  2. Program Your Thermostat for Energy Efficiency
  3. Automate All Your Electronics, Appliances and Devices
  4. Install Smart Locks on Doors for Security
  5. Switch to Smart Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors for Better Safety
  6. Get a Programmable Irrigation System and Automate Your Landscaping
  7. Schedule House Cleaning with a Smart Vacuum
  8. Automate Your Garage Door for Peace of Mind
  9. Install a WiFi Video Doorbell for Security
  10. Connect and Control Your Home Entertainment with One Device

For more home automation options, see our list of The Best Smart Home Systems.

And to help execute on these steps and to further your research into DIY home automation, here are all 10 steps explained in greater detail along with the best-rated home automation products for each tip.

Step 1: Set Up Smart Lights to Turn On/Off on Schedule

The first step in DIY home automation is to install a smart lighting system, which is usually as easy to install as screwing in a lightbulb. Smart lights offer many advantages, such as setting your lights to turn on/off on timers (example: 5 minutes before you get home), when they sense motion (example: when you walk into a dark hallway), and under other circumstances. There are a range of products available, from simple motion-sensor lights to WiFi lightbulbs you can control via smartphone. Philips Hue smart lights offers one of the most trusted systems: simply install the bulbs and bridge, and you can wirelessly connect – and control – up to 50 lights.

Step 2: Program Your Thermostat for Energy Efficiency

Did you know that your thermostat controls accounts for about half of your monthly energy bill? That’s why a money-saving smart thermostat (~15% on cooling and 10-12% on heating) is the second step in home automation: moderately easy to install, a smart thermostat saves through scheduling, environmental sensors, and even your phone’s location (to adjust the temperature when no one’s home) – fully adjustable and controllable from your phone. One of the best rated, time-tested smart thermostats on the market is the Nest Learning Thermostat.

Step 3: Automate All Your Electronics, Appliances and Devices

The third step in DIY home automation is the smart plug, an easy-to-install device that allows you to control from afar your electronics, devices, and appliances. The TP-Link smart plug is an excellent option, offering accessibility via your smartphone and, what’s more, allows you to schedule auto-on/off (for example, at sunset) and set an Away mode, which will mimic the habits of someone being home.

Step 4: Install Smart Locks on Doors for Security

If your kids have ever forgotten their keys, or if you’ve ever been weighed down by too many grocery bags on the way to the front door (only to have to put them down to unlock it), you’ve probably wished you had a magic wand to open your doors. Enter the next step in home automation ideas: smart door locks, like the top-rated Schlage Connect Camelot Touchscreen Deadbolt. As easy to install as any lock, these smart devices do more than lock & unlock doors via smartphone; you can also set them to send phone alerts (general activity, tamper, and forced entry) regarding door activity.

Step 5: Switch to Smart Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors for Better Safety

The fifth step in automating your home, is to take care of your family’s safety. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors may be unsexy, but smart detectors are the key to knowing if there’s an emergency at home, no matter where you are. Look into only the best-rated devices, like the Nest Protect Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarm, which connects to your home’s Wi-Fi and sends alerts to your phone when it detects smoke, carbon monoxide, or low batteries.

Step 6: Get a Programmable Irrigation System and Automate Your Landscaping

The next step in DIY home automation is not about safety or security, but about simplifying your life. With a smart watering system, you’ll never again forget to water new sod or just-planted landscaping. Trusted systems, like the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller, save the day with smart watering – eight programmable zones, smartphone access, and (get this!) automatic adaptation to changing weather. Even better, smart water saves up to 50% off your outdoor water use.

Step 7: Schedule House Cleaning with a Smart Vacuum

If you hate vacuuming, the seventh step is going to be one of your favorite home automation products: a connected robot vacuum. Choose a well rated vacuum, like iRobot Roomba 980, and installation is as easy as setting an alarm clock. These Wi-Fi enabled vacuums are connected to your smartphone and let you clean, schedule, spot clean, and more, no matter where you are.

Step 8: Automate Your Garage Door for Peace of Mind

The eighth step in DIY home automation means you’ll never again ask yourself, “did I close the garage door?”. Update that clunky technology to a smart garage door opener, like the Chamberlain MyQ-Garage, let you double-check on your door’s status, remotely close the door, and even open your door, if the need arises.

Step 9: Install a WiFi Video Doorbell for Security

If you’re concerned with security, don’t skip this ninth step: install a smart doorbell, like the highly rated SkyBell HD. In simple terms, this waterproof video doorbell connects to your Wi-fi (and smartphone), and allows you to see and speak with visitors – whether you’re just out back, or all the way across the country (they’ll never know). It even supports motion detection, automatically alerting you to someone at the door (whether or not they ring the bell).

Step 10: Connect and Control Your Home Entertainment with One Device

The final step (for now) is more for fun than anything else: a voice-controlled, Alexa-connected device to control all your entertainment, such as Amazon Music, Prime Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn, as well as any other service you use (via Bluetooth). A top-rated option: the Amazon Echo, which can also be leveraged to Google questions, listen to your to-do list, order products, and more.