How to Make Your Home a Smart Home

Smart homes have a lot of say in which electronics are shaping the future of the North-American marketplace. I can only imagine what this will entail for the real estate market in a few years - You can see the impact that smart-home technologies are already having in almost any electronics category you can think of.


The mandate of a smart home is essentially to increase your home's efficiency, as well as the lives tied to it. Smart technologies generally offer people with ways to gain some level of remote access to the many functions your appliances, security systems, gadgets, access points, or any other electronic devices, so that you can accomplish what you’re trying to achieve by simply commanding it to do so with a few clicks or voice commands on your smart phone, smart watch or smart hub (which you can connect to your phone as well. - Also, if you don’t know what a hub is, you will in a moment…)



If your interest in smart technologies has sparked over the last couple of years, we welcome you to read on for a “Smart Homes for Dummies” crash course.


Integrating smart home products in your home is achieved by creating links within different software. Each electronic device that hones smart technology that is able to integrate with a home's network has some sort of software that can achieve this through mediums such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or others. Once a device is "linked" to a hub or smart phone, you can take it a step further by creating “rules” for your hub or specialized software (Such as IFTTT) to follow. Devices may be linked to each other directly (IE a smartphone to a smart tv), or through a hub (IE a smart tv, smart light and smartphone to amazon echo).


To break it down and delve into detail, I will use a basic example of how a lightbulb can harness automation. Doesn’t get much more basic that a lightbulb, does it?


There are a few roads you could travel in order to implement a smart lightbulb in your own home… as well as a few tools to pave the way.



Generally, “Smart” electronics consist of hardware and some form of programming to automate one or more functions. Depending on the programming you require, you should add-on different integrations that aim to efficiently fulfill your specific needs.


“Linking” a lightbulb to your smartphone can be done in several ways - Depending on which technologies you are interested in using, and what kind of goals you hope to achieve by linking it to the other smart technologies you own.


Your options for configuring a "smart light", in the realm of lightbulbs include (but are far from limited to):



1- Buy a smart light bulb and link it to a hub or smartphone -


Such products offer overall advanced performance upgrades such as built in battery backups (these are built into the light bulb, and can perform functions such as automatically switching a light on, using backup power, when it senses a power outage), colour changing functionalities.




amazon echo dot hub

Amazon Echo Dot (Hub)


2- A smart plug -


It plugs in to an outlet and comes equipped with a powerful but basic mechanism that allows you to remotely switch the lightbulb that you plug into it on or off. The premium end of the smart plug spectrum includes software that can track energy consumption and includes intuitive scheduling capabilities.



3- A smart hub -


For optimal functionality, you can link a smart lightbulb to a smart hub (via wi-fi, bluetooth etc.) or smart phone. Keep in mind that you can simply plug a "dumb" lamp to a smart plug to render it "smart". To set up advanced options (for those who prefer playing with advanced functions) and integrate your new hardware with any of your home's other "smart" alarm systems, music players, washing machines, garage door openers, amongst others, you can either attach it to a smart hub (Such as the hub pictured on the left *Amazon Echo Dot), or you can "create" a hub out of a smart phone or computer using software such as IFTTT. You can configure your software to instruct your smart light to turn on if it senses the smart garage door opening (remember, you can link it to a smart plug if the garage door opener does not include integration software, and configure the smart plug.)




smart plug for smart home

TP-Link WiFi (Smart Plug)


To take things a step further with the lightbulb, you might want to consider the potential advantages of purchasing a smart lightbulb over a "dumb" lightbulb that is connected to a smart plug.


- Whether you would like to be able to dim your light as well as control whether it is just “off” or “on”. (Can be configured to dim front entrance lights when the basement television is on, for example)


- Do you want your light to simulate your presence when you’re away, to thwart intruders from entering your home when they are on your front porch? (You may want to use a smart lighbulb and command it to flash different colours to simulate an emergency vehicle flashing)


- Do you want to be able to configure your light bulb using voice commands? (You may want a hub for the home and connect that to your smart phone for remote access)


Once you fully grasp the opportunities available to you for the type of hardware you are looking to integrate into your smart light, other electronics, such as mp3 players, thermostats, HVAC units, alarm systems, locks, televisions and washing machines can open doors to a whole new world of smart home integrations.


Let’s put things into perspective. If you have a lightbulb that you would like to have automatically turn on when someone is on your front porch, you will also require a motion sensor that is compatible with your home’s smart hub (IE Amazon Echo, Apple Home, IFTTT on your computer or smart phone etc).




philips smart colour lightbulb

Philips hue Smart Lightbulb - 16 million colours


1- To achieve this, connect your smart hub-compatible motion detector to a power source and mount it on your front porch. Proceed to test it on your hub or smart phone to ensure it responds. Then proceed to do the same with your light and create the links and rules you need them to abide by.


2- You can now configure your hub and have your light bulb turn on once your motion sensor detects movement. This can be done in a number of ways and specific instructions depend on the hub and type of lightbulb, or smart lightbulb, you choose.




Smart Thermostat Ecobee Ontario Alberta and BC

Ecobee Smart Thermostat


Toronto-based Ecobee's Smart thermostats are products that my colleagues work with on a daily basis. Once your thermostat is installed, a series of sensors can be mounted in different rooms. Once your hardware is installed, Smart Home Works will help you to install a secure and easy to use app on your smartphone.


Your smartphone is then rendered into a hub of sorts. This will allow you to monitor, control and adjust the temperature in different rooms, no matter where you are in the world.  A hub such as Apple Home or Amazon Echo can offer ways to automate functions such as setting temperature based on conditions you stipulate. If the basement television, which has been programmed into your phone (via software such as IFTTT) or the hub, is on, then adjust the basement’s temperature to 15 degrees Celsius. If a lightbulb is plugged into a smart plug upstairs and you’ve linked the smart plug to your hub, you can set it up to also turn the light off when the basement’s television is turned on.


If Kevin Mcallister from Home Alone had access to IFTTT, an iPhone and a hub such as Samsung SmartThings or Amazon Echo in the 90’s, the antagonists wouldn’t have stood a chance! With the click of a button he could have turned on the “I’m gonna give you till the count of ten to get your…”, activated a dim red light and sounded his parents home security alarm. The "Sticky" Bandits would have had a chance to rethink their lives with full heads of hair, fewer scars, less limping... maybe some dignity...


Additional smart appliances include, but are not limited to:


Smart televisions and streaming services


Smart fridges, washing machines, dryers, dishwashers.


HVAC systems' smart fans and vents


Outdoor plant watering sensors


Smart locks, security cameras


Smart fire and CO2 detectors.


As always if you liked this blog then please read some of our other HVAC blogs - We are always happy to get your input, so don’t be shy


If you are interested in upgrading your home to a smart home, we can help you start with a new Ecobee smart thermostat and the right kind of advice to pave your way to having the smartest home on your block.



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