Today it is possible, due to technology, to easily implement home automation in your existing home without the need for cavity walls and miles of cable to run through your house.
It is in fact so easy that you can do it yourself without hiring a professional.
I love automation in any form and see it as a helpful tool to assist in everyday tasks and when it comes to home automation, it can contribute to safety and energy savings.
You may be new to home automation and would like to know:
What Is Home Automation?
Home automation is as the name implies: Automating your home devices.
Devices in your home like air conditioners, lights, TV’s, fan’s, sprinklers and more can be programmed to turn on or off on a schedule or various other conditions.
These devices can also be grouped together to control that group with the touch of a button or a command.
Some devices are not limited to only being switched on or off but can also have functions like dimming or changing the color of the light bulb/s or changing channels on your TV.
Types Of Home Automation
There are 3 types of home automation implimentations:
- Power line systems
- A wired system
- Wireless system
Power line home automation systems make use of the existing wiring in your home instead which makes it less expensive than our wired systems at point 2. This can get complex and require additional devices and converter circuits though.
With wired home automation systems, you have a centralized system where a local computer communicates with the main controller consistently and tons of cable runs through your roof and walls to connect all your devices and touch control panels together.
You can, of course, attach wireless devices as well and your touch control pads can be mounted on the wall or made portable.
You need cavity walls for all the wires and space for the computer, amplifiers, and more. The good thing about it is that it is mostly not reliant on the Internet to work.
Wireless home automation systems are what I will be talking about. It is really a simple task to add any form of home automation to your home.
The downside is that in many cases these home automation devices and apps are reliant on the Internet. Which in turn means that your device will need to have a good signal to your Wi-fi router.
Automation Triggers and Funtions
What can you do with home automation?
There are only a handful of functions you can perform when it comes to devices in all honesty of which turning something on or off would be the main function of home automation.
The true power in home automation comes from adding triggers to control devices in your home or multiple devices at once from the one trigger and also stringing routines and events together.
You can trigger an event or routine in the following ways (there may be more – but these are the common ones):
- A voice command
- Motion detection
- Date and time
- A virtual button
- Day or night
- If a door is open/ed or close/d
- GPS Location
An example of a voice command I use is saying: “It is bed time.” This will switch my TV in the living room off along with the lights and decoder. It will then ask me what time I want to set the alarm for and continue to play some relaxing sounds in the bedroom.
Is This Useful?
Apart from saving me a bit of time doing this manually in the above example, it is perhaps not that useful but it makes sure that everything I want to be switched off is off and it acts as a reminder to set my alarm, as the start of each day may differ for me.
Is home automation meant for lazy people that do not want to do menial tasks like switching off a light?
It can be but home automation can also be functional and useful as it is for me.
You can turn things on or off on a schedule or motion detection that can save energy or have your sprinklers give water on a schedule but only if it is not raining.
This will save water and also your valuable time watering the garden by hand.
Home automation can also control smart locks, security cameras and detect a water leak in your house.
Imagine you are on vacation and the geyser bursts (which happened to me before) but you have a water leak sensor that triggers an event to switch off the main water supply. Yes, you can do this.
In essence, home automation can save you valuable time while taking care of important tasks automatically and looking out for your safety.
7 Easy Home Automation Devices To Add To Your Home
Without further adeu, let me show you how easy it is to add some functional automation to your home without breaking a sweat or breaking the bank.
1. Day | Night bulp
This is probably the easiest and most useful device I ever installed around my home. I have a Day-Night bulb plugged in at my front door and the back door.
They have a little sensor built-in that switches the light on when it gets dark and switches it off when the sun comes out. These energy savings light bulbs last me for many years before they need replacing.
You plug them in and simply forget about them and they will come on at night and switch off during the day.
Amazing. I love these light bulbs.
2. Sonoff Switches
Obviously there are other brands but Sonoff is so user friendly, affordable and easy to install and it is what I am using.
There are a variaty of Sonoff devices you can get but obvious choices are the:
- Sonoff Mini
- Sonoff Touch Panel Switches
- Sonoff Basic Smart Switch
Sonoff uses the Ewelink app for its devices and can be used with devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant which gives it voice commands capability.
The Sonoff mini is a small box you can put behind switch boxes to make an ordinary switch (like a light switch) smart without changing the current faceplate.
This allows you to still manually switch on the light but also gives you the capabilty to remotely operate the switch, schedule the on and off state, and use the switch with voice commands.
This is ideal for single switch boxes but for switch boxes with more than one switch, I recommend the following:
The Sonoff Touch Panel Switches replaces your current switch box faceplate and ranges from 1 to 3 buttons to control your devices.
Most of the Sonoff switches require a neutral wire but you can get a more expensive switch that do not require this. It also connects to 2.4GHz and not 5gHz on your WiFi router. You can have both enabled for most routers.
This will again make your devices that it switches on or off smart and capable of controlling remotely or by voice.
If you do schedule the device to go on and turn off on a schedule, the schedule will keep going irrespective of having an Internet connection.
For the last ‘must have’ switch is the Sonoff Basic Switch.
You can install it on the cable that leads to your desk lamp for instance or on a power strip cable and then anything plugged in on the other end is now a smart device.
Be sure to safeguard the switch as it is live electricity and you do not want someone tripping over the cable and electrocute themselves.
Put it in a sealed container as an example and because it has only neutral and live wires that you connect, you still need to make sure that you connect the earth leakage wire to the other end of the cable to make it safe.
3. Google Home Mini Smart Speaker
You can obviously opt to go for the more expensive Home Assistant Smart Speaker but I am using the Mini and it is an awesome product for the price.
This is such a lifesaver in many respects for me personally.
You can ask it any factual question but more than that it is great for reminding me of calander events, give voice control over all my smart devices and remembering things.
Anything I need to remember I will just say: ‘Hey Google, remember that <the thing it needs to remember> is in <the place I put it>’ as an example.
If I cannot remember where something is I just ask: ‘Hey Google, Where <is the thing in question>’ and she will tell me.
It is great for setting alarms, adding to your lists (like shopping lists), and playing my favorite tunes on Spotify. (It also supports other music streaming services, radio channels, and pot casts)
Do you need to listen to your favorite music track on a more powerful speaker? No problem. Google Home Mini can connect to bluetooth speakers and I connect mine to my 5.1 surround sound Samsung Soundbar for music.
You can optionally get a Google Home Hub and ask her for a recipe or a quick meal and it will be displayed on the hub which can be more convenient than getting the recipe audibly.
The features do not end there as more and more devices are supported by Google Home which brings me to the next easy to install smart device.
4. Goolge Chromecast
We all know (I think we all do) that Chromecast can cast anything from your mobile device to your TV or your laptop screen depending on how you want to use it.
That makes it possible to cast all those streaming apps on your phone in full HD and even 4K if your TV and Chromecast supports it.
Combining Chromecast with your Google Home Mini gives you a powerful function for playing media on your TV through a voice command.
The way I use it:
You can link your Netflix account to your Google Home Assistant and specify which profile on Netflix it needs to use.
Then by saying: ‘Play <movie or a series name>’ on Netflix, it will play that title on my TV using my Netflix profile. Nice. but I took it a bit further.
Since I like organizing my playlist on Netflix, I know what movie I want to watch that evening. So I use the command: ‘Movie night’ and the following happens:
My TV and soundbar switches on if it was off, my lights dim and turns purple, my aircon comes on to regulate the temperature and the movie (I pre-selected and just added in the routine) starts to play on Netflix.
Now there is movie night!
But this brings me to the next device and question: How do I control, schedule, change channels, and more on my TV? Or other remote-controlled devices.
This is simple and very affordable to to.
5. Broadlink RM4 Pro
The Broadlink RM4 Pro can literally replace any remote you have. If it does not have a profile for your remote, it can learn the remote buttons.
What is more: You can link it with your Google Home Assistant.
With the Broadlink RM4 Pro, you can create Scenes where you can string a sequence of buttons on a remote and other features. These scenes can be activated by Google Home in one of its routines or voice commands.
The absolute awesome thing about the RM4 Pro is that it comes with a temperature and humidity sensor built into the USB cable.
So now I have my fan come on to the speed and wind type when it is bed time and the temperature is above 24 degrees Celcius and it will switch off if the temperature is below 24 degrees.
All of the remotes loaded on the Broadlink app will also be available to operate from your mobile phone.
6. Water or Gas Valve Controller
There are fancier devices to operate your sprinklers but this is so affordable and works great for me.
All it is, is a device that moves a metal arm up or down (depending on how it is mounted, it can be left and right ) that opens and closes a water valve or a gas valve.
Together with my devices mentioned above, I can have my sprinklers turned on or off when I want or it will automatically turn the sprinklers on with a schedule if it is a sunny day. Else it will not run the schedule.
This is very useful in my opinion.
The same device can be used to turn your main water valve off and if you decide to get a wetness detection smart sensor, you can have the main water supply shut off when water leaks in your house.
7. Robot Vacuum Cleaner
A good robot vacuum cleaner is a definite must.
I recently got one that was very affordable and is doing an amazing job. The one I’ve got is not the top of the line and yet it does a better job than I can.
Pet hairs are a big problem and a huge hassle to clean. Having 3 pets ourselves, our robot vacuum cleaner makes quick work of picking up most of the hair.
The model I’ve got can be scheduled to clean the whole house, is voice-controlled, can be asked to clean a certain area, can add virtual walls to the map of your home, and add no-clean zones.
It can also do a standard clean, or you can switch the suction to strong or turbo mode. The last two options are recommended for carpets.
It also has a mopping feature which is not that great but it is able to mop up small spills and light stains.
I was so scared that this is a gimmick that I waited a long while before taking the plunge.
I am now so grateful that I did.
All the items I mentioned is very affordable and makes it possible for anyone to own a complete home automation system.
Yes, depending on your needs and size of your home, you may need more than one Google Home Smart Speaker or Broadlink RM4 Pro device.
Other items to add can include smart bulbs, smart door locks, motion sensors and security cameras.
Now that you have an idea what home automation is about, it is up to you to decide if it is useful and worth it.
If anything it may make your life a bit easier.