How to Build a Smart House or What It Takes to Build a Smart House

This is Still a Work in Progress Article

Questions I get from Family and Friends when they come over and see my Smart House

  • What does it take to make a Smart House? 
  • What should I put in my Smart House? 
  • What works and doesn’t work in a Smart House? 
  • Should I listen to Friends, Family, or blogs?
  • What is it going to cost me to make my house Smart? 
  • How do I start making a Smart House?
  • Will others admit they spent A LOT of money on products that started off Good but are now not?

The Answer is Simple. It takes time, research, and money to get it done. The main issues are picking the correct products that fill your current and future needs. 

Some of the items I’ll talk about are old technology, as it still does the job on essential functions that are needed for a few applications. 

I make sure all the items are well tested and work like they should before I make a considerable investment in them. 

Doing a Smart Home can be a gratifying achievement if you do it correctly. If you do it wrong, it’s a waste of time and money that you can’t get back.

I have A LOT of Smart Products in my home and have spent a lot of money at least $5,000+ over the last few years. Most I spent correctly, and some were not, but it’s all a learning experience at first.

I’ll do my best to help you get started and point you in the right direction.

Few things to remember

  1. Use Google and search- Family can be cheap and or give wrong information
  2. Watch Videos on the operations and setup- See first-hand information about the product
  3. Look at reviews on significant platforms- The BEST Source
  4. Look at reviews on Blog sites, but make sure the company isn’t sponsoring the blog as it might be bias- The BEST Source
  5. Use caution if all the reviews are too good to be true. No product is perfect unless it does one or two essential functions or old older technology
  6. Look at older reviews and see if users have updated them over time.
  7. Make sure to ask questions
  8. Start on One Project at a time, get a Smart Home Assistant, and then move to switches. Then when finished, proceed to outlets/plugs or what you feel needs to be next. Don’t try to take it all on at one time as it’s a learning experience.
  9. Don’t listen to product haters. They are just looking for attention from whoever will give it to them
  10. Look for Sales on products

 So, let's begin


Smart Assistants- THE MOST IMPORTANT PART

I personally like Alexa, I had Google for a bit, and she and I didn't mesh correctly. Apple's Smart Assistant costs too much, and when they get to a more reasonable price, I’ll get one.

The Smart Assistant is the Brains of the house that lets you control everything with your voice. They are now a hub that will allow you connect other devices, so you don’t have to buy more products to link other products.

I recommend for your first purchase- Echo Plus (2nd Gen) – Premium sound with a built-in smart home hub. They come in CharcoalHeather Gray, and Sandstone. If you want to go for the Big spend, I would recommend Echo Studio – High-fidelity smart speaker with 3D audio and Alexa. Also, the Alexa Music Plan.

This speaker has Great Sounds, Good Price, and Hub Features. The built-in Zigbee protocol is widely adopted in many Smart Devices. Even if you have a current Smart Home Hub, the sound and microphones on this are fantastic. You can still use your current hub with Amazon Echo, and all this will do is add coverage to the existing hub. They do have a cheaper version of the Echo (3rd Gen) or Echo (2nd Gen), but the sound quality isn't great, so I don't recommend it. 

I would use this device in Bedrooms that you'll play music in, Livingroom, Dining Rooms, Kitchens, Offices, or any other spaces you spend a lot of time or like to listen to music. You can also get the Echo Sub – Powerful subwoofer for your Echo and link it to the device for Great Bass.

I currently have 2 Echo Plus (2nd Gen) and 1 Echo sub in my Living Room, 1 Echo Plus (2nd Gen) and 1 Echo sub in my Bedroom, 1 Echo Plus (2nd Gen) and 1 Echo sub in my Garage and 1 Echo Plus (2nd Gen) and 1 Echo sub in my Office. I spend A LOT of time in my garage and office, so why not have some Great toons playing. Help the day go faster.

For Bathrooms, Garages, and Kids Rooms, I would recommend Echo Dot (3rd Gen) – Smart speaker with Alexa. They come in CharcoalHeather GrayPlum, and Sandstone. Another recommendation for the Kids Rooms is Echo Dot with Clock.

I will be looking into Introducing Echo Flex products as a replacement for bathrooms or other odd areas. I like having an Echo Dot in the bathroom so I can listen to music and have it sound good. I do like the idea of motion and nightlight that can be attached to it that would allow Smart lights or switches to turn on and off based on movement.

Another option for Kitchens, Living Rooms, and Master Bedrooms is Echo Show. They have an interactive screen that you can watch videos, see cameras, and make video calls.  It also can be used as a video intercom. Echo Show (2nd Gen)Echo Show 8Echo Show 5

Why Alexa?

  1. Echo works with all things smart
  2. It makes shopping a breeze
  3. Learn new things
  4. Add new skills
  5. Listen to music, sports, YouTube, and many other things
  6. Be a Pro in the Kitchen when using Echo Show
  7. Use it any place in your house or apartment
  8. Build custom skills easy from your phone, tablet or computer
  9. All Echo products can be used as home intercom systems.
  10. All Echo Show products can be used as a video intercom and video chat.
  11. I trust Amazon more than Google on what they do with the searches and other data they collect.
  12. Plus, a lot more. 


Smart Switches and Dimmers

Switches and Dimmers are the 2nd most crucial thing to start doing in a smart house. Switches are the most used item in a household and a significant one. Also, they get left on all the time or are hard to turn on if your hands are full. I would first start out changing the most used switches in your home. This will let you see the benefits of Smart Switches right away so you can plan out your future switches. 

Living room, Kitchen, Dining Room, Bedrooms, Bathroom main light fixture, Offices, Basement, Garage, Laundry Room, and Outside Lights would all benefit from Smart Switches. Also, this would be a great time to switch some to dimmers if your current or future LED bulbs support it. I like to save power, but it’s hard when lights get left on all the time. With Smart Switches, you can make sure they never are again.

Now I'm sure you're wondering why I said, “Bathroom main light fixture” Well, this can be a bit tricky. The main light makes sense to put in a smart switch but for exhaust fan, a heat lamp, or other switches. An old fashion countdown timer works best for those applications. You could put in smart switches for them, but to me, it would be a waste of money, and they would all look the same, so people would get confused about what one to use. I show the products listed below.

I went all-in with Leviton smart switches a few years ago and have had no regrets and never looked back, I have been playing with other new ones that come out, but they lack support or have issues.

Currently, I have 3 DW15P-1BW Plugs, 20 DW15S-1BZ Single Switch 25 DD0SR-DLZ remote switches, and 2 DW1KD-1BZ 1000w Dimmer Switches. If I had to guess, that’s around a $2,500 to $3,000+ investment in Leviton and its Smart Home Products. I still need to get a few more to have my whole house be on smart switches. You don't have to go as nuts as I have with changing out switches. Work at your own pace and at one that fits your budget. 

Using Alexa or Google Home, you can automate function and set timers without needing to put in ugly looking switches. You can also control most products with the native apps that come with the devices.

Why Leviton?

  1. Support Team is GREAT
  2. No hub and uses Wi-Fi to connect
  3. 3-way switches and dimmers
  4. Automate and create schedules
  5. Looks and works like a regular switch
  6. Leviton is a reputable company!!!
  7. Compatible with both Android and iOS
  8. Compatible with both Google Home and Alexa
  9. Can use the remote switches for three-way applications
  10. Can control it on a PC at https://my.leviton.com
  11. I love the timer option
  12. They didn’t try to toss everything they could thing of into a simple light switch. New products on the market do a lot more than the primary function they are meant for.
  13. 1,000% Worth the Cost

You can read my Full Review- Leviton Smart Switch or Leviton Smart Dimmer Switch


Home Music

As you can see from above, I use Amazon Alexa Products, so that means I listen to Amazon Music. I tried Apple Music, but it wouldn’t work with Alexa at that time, and now I don’t see any reason to change.

All music streaming services are the same, they can link to devise, and you can play it anywhere.

Why you might be asking

  • Great Pricing
  • 4 Plans to pick from
  • Depending on the plan you can use it on all Alexa products at one time
  • I love the Speaker Groups you can build for Intercom, Alerts or Music
  • In a cleaning mood, ask Alexa to play County Music “Group Name,” and it's done
  • Want to wake up the Kids, ask Alexa to Wake up the Kids. It looks at the kid's group and then plays some loud annoying music to wake them up.
  • It's nice you don’t have to use a phone or other device to push music to speakers
  • Has Apps for Phones, Tablets, Computers and Streaming Boxes.

Individual Plan- $7.99/month for a monthly subscription or $79/year for an annual subscription. Non-Prime customers pay $9.99/month.

Family Plan- $14.99/month or $149/year (available to Prime members only)

Single Device Plan- For $3.99/month, listen to Amazon Music Unlimited on a single Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, Echo Look, Amazon Tap, or Fire TV.

For Students- $0.99 a month

Alexa Music Plan Click for 30 days Free  Amazon Music FAQ

Music plans


Smart Speakers

I recommend getting more Amazon Echo Products. I am still testing other smart speakers, so stay tuned for updates.

With Echo, you can build music groups and use the intercom system across all the echo products you have. You don’t need to use multiple apps or different functions to make them all work together.

The echo does have the option to add in your current home stereo or system systems into the Echo platform.

Echo Input – Bring Alexa to your own speaker- Black or White

Echo Link – Stream hi-fi music to your stereo system

Echo Link Amp – Stream and amplify hi-fi music to your speakers

The full Echo platform has many options and features that will meet all your needs.

Smart Bulbs

FYI-You can always change out the light switch to a smart one and just put in normal LED bulbs.

I'm not really into color changing bulbs, but now with my Kids when they get older i'm sure they will be. 

Cree Connected Smart Bulb

  • Cheap
  • Built Well
  • Works with wink, ZigBee, SmartThings, wemo, Alexa or Google Home
  • Come in Daylight or Soft White
  • Easy to link
  • It can be turned on or off without using an App or Assistant.
  • Nothing special about them, just a basic bulb that does its job
  • I do wish they had a bulb bigger than 60 watts. They need a 75 and 100-watt bulbs

Phillips Hue

  • Expansive
  • Multi-Color
  • Multi bulb types
  • For the best results, you need the Hue Hub that costs extra
  • Great Color
  • Great Features
  • Built Well
  • Dimming features
  • Works with Alexa, Google Home hubs and Apple Home
  • Works with Smartthings, XFINITY Home, Vivint, Logitech, IFTTT
  • Indoor bulbs
  • Outdoor bulbs but are A LOT of Money

LIFX

  • Expansive to Start
  • Multi-Color
  • Multi bulb types
  • Great Color
  • Great Features
  • Built Well
  • Dimming features
  • Works with Alexa, Google Home hubs and Apple Home
  • Works with Smartthings, XFINITY Home, Logitech, IFTTT, brilliant
  • Indoor bulbs
  • Outdoor bulbs but are A LOT of Money

Be careful of Cheap Smart Bulbs.

  • They could expose your Wi-fi credentials and not have built-in security.
  • It could be made with chemicals and products that are harmful.
  • Might have sniffing software in them
  • Burn out fast, so you have to keep buying more and wasting money
  • Bad warranties
  • I know name brand items cost a lot, but they are usually more repeatable
  • And who knows what else

Normal Led Bulbs- I really like Cree LED Bulbs

Why Cree?

  • Built Well
  • Cheap Price
  • Great Warranty-10-year 100% satisfaction guarantee
  • Last a Long Time
  • Great Customer Support
  • Easy Warranty Service
  • Can Dim or be a normal bulb
  • Offer Daylight, Soft White, Bright White, Cool White- I prefer Daylight/Natural Light bulbs

I love using Daylight/Natural Light bulbs- They give off the light just like if you were outside and helps show things in the natural colors they are. No odd color affect on different products.

Info about Led bulbs

The light-emitting diode (LED) is one of today's most energy-efficient and rapidly-developing lighting technologies. Quality LED light bulbs last longer, are more durable, and offer comparable or better light quality than other types of lighting. Check out the top 8 things you didn't know about LEDs to learn more.

Energy Savings- LED is a highly energy-efficient lighting technology and has the potential to change the future of lighting in the United States fundamentally. Residential LEDs — especially ENERGY STAR rated products — use at least 75% less energy, and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting.

Widespread use of LED lighting has the most significant potential impact on energy savings in the United States. By 2027, the widespread use of LEDs could save about 348 TWh (compared to no LED use) of electricity: This is the equivalent annual electrical output of 44 large electric power plants (1000 megawatts each), and a total savings of more than $30 billion at today's electricity prices. Learn more about how energy-efficient lightbulbs compare with traditional incandescent.

The information above is from energy.gov

Smart Fans

Smart Fans are just starting to come to the market. I know if you're like me you spent a lot of money on fans in your home and don’t want to replace them. I found this product a few years ago and love it. It’s called BOND HOME and lets you take your current fan with remote and make it smart. The device is simple to install and use, you can't ask for anything better.

It currently works with Ceiling Fans, Shades, and Fireplaces. In the future, it will control more devices as they keep adding features.

Easy Setup

  • Download and install the Bond Home app. Connect the Bond Bridge to your Wi-Fi.
  • Press any button on your remote and wait for the green light.
  • You're all set! Now you can control your devices from anywhere.
  • Install the plugin in Alexa or Google Home
  • Control up to 30 devices
  • One Bond Bridge per home – 2500 sqft (more like 1,000 sqft)
  • Duplicates your RF or IR remote control

Easy Commands

  • Alexa, turn the master fan on 100%
  • Alexa, turn maser fan on 25%
  • Alexa, turn master light off
  • Alexa, Dim master light to 50%
  • Alexa, turn the master fan off

Why is Good

  • Kids hide the remotes
  • You can’t find the remote
  • Don’t want to get out of bed
  • Forget to turn the fan on or off
  • I do recommend if you get one, also get a smart plug as it sometimes loses connection to the internet, and depending on where it's at, It might be hard to reboot.

Smart Garage Door

The Best-Nexx Smart Wi-Fi Controller NXG-200 – Remotely Control Existing Garage Door Opener with Nexx App, Works with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, SmartThings (Need one per garage door) I have this on my Main Garage Door.

This device works GREAT, and I can use Alexa to open and close the garage doors and also have her make sure they are closed at night when I say Alexa its bedtime. 

Nexx Smart Wi-Fi Controller NXG-200– You will need one Per Garage Door

Nexx Smart Garage Adapter NXAD-200– Nexx Adapter is an accessory that allows Nexx Smart Garage to work with incompatible garage openers. You will only need this accessory if you have an incompatible garage door opener.

To check if your current opener works: Nexx Garage

MyQ Smart Garage Door Controller – Wireless & Wi-Fi enabled Garage Hub with Smartphone Control. It does NOT work with Alexa or Google. I have this on my 2nd Garage Door

This device works GREAT, but NO Alexa or Google Home support, so I can't open and close my garage via voice. I have a lot of things set up in my house so that I can say Alexa its Bedtime, and she will make sure all the lights are off, doors are locked, and I wish she would make sure the garage doors are closed and if not close them for me. 

MyQ Smart Garage Door Opener– Only Need One

MyQ Smart Garage Hub Add-on Door Sensor– If you have more then one door, you will need one for each additional door.

Liftmaster 889LM MyQ Control Panel– If your current garage door opener isn't compatible, then you will need one of these for each door. 

To check if your current opener works: myQ

Smart Cameras

Google Nest- Coming Soon

With Google pulling works with Nest, I am thinking about changing to Ring Products.

Smart Plugs

I didn’t think I would ever need Smart Plugs, but I soon found out that I was wrong. 

With everything in my house getting smarter and more complicated, you have to re-start things sometimes. You never thought of where the outlet or what is the outlet behind.

Stephanie loves to put tables, beds, or other furniture in front of outlets, and you can’t get to them. With smart plugs, you can turn them off with the App or use your smart assistants, and the issue is fixed.

The only issue I have them they stick out of the wall, and you can’t push the furniture fully against the wall. Smart outlets/receptacles are coming out and getting better with the technology, so I’ll be replacing the Smart Plugs soon. Smart Plugs will still be used in places space isn’t an issue or for something temporary.

For the function and issues, they solve they are GREAT, but they also cause some based on the size.

You can read my Full Review-Leviton Decora Smart Plug DW15P-1BW

Battery Backup (UPS) Uninterruptible Power Supply VERY IMPORTANT to not forget about

Everything anymore uses Wi-Fi, Wired Internet, or Cellular Data. You have Modems, Routers, Switches, or Access points in your house or business. You need to plan what to do if the power goes out, and your Smart Home and devices don’t work anymore. They are not cheap but will give you power for a short time but also help with marking sure you don’t blowup electronics or devices when you have power outages.

Some Options

  1. Whole House Generator- Very Expansive, but you can power your entire house while the power is out. I would love to get one, but the price tag is keeping me from it. I do work from home and do have power outages, but I have devices in place to help with it
  2. Battery Backup (UPS) Uninterruptible Power Supply
    1. One UPS for your Modem, Router, and Access Point- If you want the power to last longer, get a bigger UPS and try not to plug everything into it.
    2. If you have a switch, I would have one UPS for that as it uses more power
    3. If you have remote switches around your home or business, you will need a UPS at each one.
    4. If you have Access Points around your home or business, you will need a UPS at each one
    5. If you want to have your surveillance system work, you will need a UPS for it
    6. If you have security cameras around your home or business and want them to work still, you will need a UPS for each one that you want to work
    7. If you have a Desktop PC and need access to it, I would add a UPS, and if you have multi-monitors, only plugin one.

Recommendations for UPS

Modem, Router, and Access Points–  APC Back-UPS Lithium Battery, CP12142LI OR APC Back-UPS BE850M2 (I have 4 of them)

Switches– APC Back-UPS BE850M2

Desktops- APC Back-UPS Pro 500 Lithium-Ion BG500 OR APC Back-UPS Pro 1500 BR1500G (I have 3 of them) AND APC Back-UPS Pro External Battery Pack (for 1500VA Back-UPS Pro models) BR24BPG (I have 3 of them)

TVs- APC Back-UPS Pro 1500 BR1500G (I have 3 of them) AND APC Back-UPS Pro External Battery Pack (for 1500VA Back-UPS Pro models) BR24BPG (I have 3 of them)

Charging Devices- APC Back-UPS Connect 50 Lithium-Ion, Mobile Power Bank 120V BGE50ML OR APC Back UPS BE850M2  (I have 4 of them)

Smart Locks

Still working on, I'm starting to come around to the idea of controlling locks via Wi-Fi and or voice commands.

Currently, I use Kwikset Keyless Entry Locks for all my external doors. When I bought a new house in 2014, I changed all the locks out to something close to the 909 Smartcode from Kwikset. Easy to install and setup pin codes and backup key. Smartcode keyless or wireless locks are not cheap, so I'm not in a hurry to change them out for something new.

I do like the idea of seeing who and when someone opens a door. Yes, that feature is tempting, but it's not worth the cost of replacing locks. We mainly go in and out throw the Garage, so the front and side doors only get used for visitors and getting packages.

When I do start to change out locks, I’ll get one like the 910 Smartcode. I have some friends that have them and have no issues other than just had to make sure they had the ZigBee hub in the range of the lock.

The bottom line is waiting and do door locks at the end unless you need them now.

Smart Doorbells

Nest Google- Coming Soon

With Google pulling works with Nest, I am thinking about changing to Ring Products.

Smart Smoke/Carbon Detectors

Keep it Simple and stay with the Old-Fashioned Ones.

I spent a boatload on Google Nest Smart Smoke/Carbon Detectors a few years ago, and I learned to regret the purchase. 

  • They cost a lot, I got 10 of them, and WOW the bill was huge. 
  • They don't like humidity at all. 
  • Don't like fast temperature changes
  • Can be a pain to silence at 3 am
  • When you do silence them, they go and start going off again.
  • Support Sucks- they blame the temperature or humidity in your house for them going off.
  • I didn’t like them going off for no reason and right when we just had a newborn.

Maybe in a few years when the technology is better, I’ll give them a try again. That’s a BIG MAYBE I WILL.

Remember- Replace your Smoke and CO detectors EVERY 10 YEARS

Remember- Replace your Smoke and CO detectors batteries one or two times a year

Remember- Test your Smoke and CO detectors MONTHLY

Don’t be a fool and get Yourself, Kids, Family, Friends, and Animals Killed by not checking on the items keeping you safe from Fire and CO. Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, the selfie, and the TV will still be there after you check the detectors.  

 

Change batteries
Smoke alarms

Smart Thermostat

Google Nest- Coming Soon

Smart Motion Detectors

Still Working On

Smart Home WiFi

Most of us rent modems/routers from our internet provider, and most of the time, they are not new. When the modems/routers get returned, they get refurbished and then back into a customer's home. That helps the provider keep costs down, but we still get charged a rental fee for a new or used modem/router. Modems/routers don’t last forever, and depending on where they are in your home, walls or heat can affect how long they last or perform. I have had issues with my modem/router forever, I get a new one, and it works well for a year or two then start to act up. I have bought my own modem/router and still the same thing. I might have bad luck, but you see people in blogs having the same issues.  I rent my Modem/router from Comcast, and I have a brand new XB6 since I moved to the 1GB up and 35Meg down plan. I found renting to be better as if I have an issue with the modem/router I go to the Comcast Store and say give me a new one. If you bought your device, you have to get with the manufacturer on the warranty that usually only lasts six months to a year.

Everything anymore is Wi-Fi enabled, or Wi-Fi connected so not having a good modem/router/wireless is terrible for everyone in your household or business. TV, Laptops, Computers, Tablets, Phones, Phones, Cell Phones, Gaming Consoles, Printers, Streaming Boxes, Cameras, Switches, Plugs, Outlets, Powerstrips, pacemakers, Smart Assistants and the list, goes on and on. Who would have thought that washers, dryers, fridges, and microwaves would connect to the internet? The right question is, what doesn’t connect to the internet nowadays?

Your Modem/Router/Wi-Fi is everything anymore, and it needs to cover your whole house or property, so all of your devices do what they are intended they need.

To achieve that task, you can't rely on the equipment your internet provider provides anymore. You need something better and more powerful, and that’s where MESH Wi-Fi comes into play. You want fast and reliable speed for all of your connected devices.

What is a Mesh WiFi or Whole Home WiFi- a main router that connects directly to your modem, and a series of satellite access points, placed around your house or property for full WiFi coverage. Mesh WiFi will allow a single wireless network that would use the same SSID and password.

I achieved this by using Netgear Orbi Products. I have my modem/router from Comcast, which I turned off the wireless on (after everything was working) then placed one device in my basement plugged into my 48 port switch, but most of you will plug it into your modem, one upstairs in my living room and one outside. Do the setup in the Orbi App and bam you are done. Now I can do anyplace upstairs, basement, garage, driveway, backyard, or down the block and still be connected to my WiFi. I haven’t had any issues other than one's Orbi cant control, and that’s Comcast's upload speed. I need more then 35meg up for all the devices I have, but not ready to spend $199.00 a month for 1G up and 1G down.

Also, as your needs grow, you can add more satellite access points to extend your coverage.

You can read my full Netgear Orbi Review here

Old School Technology that still works

I know what you're thinking, some goofy kid talking about Smart Homes and the products that make it Smart. Then turns around and says some Old School Technology is still the best in any home including a Smart Home.

Well, its 100% true, why spend a lot of money on things that still work and will always work for the function they do.

Bathroom Exhaust Fans, Kitchen Exhaust Fans, Garage Exhaust Fans, Heat lamps, Closet lights, Shower lights, Pantry Lights and Many others

The items I have listed below are Old Technology that will still be relevant for a long time, Think about using the items below that are cheaper than putting in Smart Home Switches that don’t get used a lot. They will still help save electricity and turn off things when time runs out.

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