The Basics of Smart Homes & Home Automation

Home Automation Ideas

People who are considering adding home automation wonder 3 things:

1. What can be automated?
2.  How much will it cost?
3. How do you implement?

You're probably wondering something similar.

Here's the deal:

With crazy advances in technology over the past two decades, creating a smart home has become an attainable goal for the masses.

A smart home refers to a residence with a variety of interconnected devices performing actions to save time, money, energy and more.

The concept of a smart home, and utilizing home automation has been around since the 90s but has been mostly only something used by the super rich, or people who are seriously into the tech scene.

So, what changed?

With tremendous advances in technology over the past two decades, home automation has become a much more mainstream concept. Rather than appealing to only millionaires and tech geeks, now most middle-class households would consider adding at least one smart device to automate some aspect of their home.

Along with advances in smart devices, the way we shop is changing. Big online retailers such as Amazon have made it easy to dig into the details of a product before committing to a purchase.

Here's the bottom line:

Gone are the days of sleazy salespeople telling you that you need the most expensive gadgets that in reality may not be best for your needs.

Nowadays, a smart consumer can spend the time to research, compare and make a more educated decision.

In this article, we will explore some of the best home automation ideas you can implement right away.

12 Best Home Automation Ideas

Automation Idea

The Goal

1. Smart Home Security

Get real-time alerts when something goes awry while you are not home.

2. Smart Garage Door Closer

Your garage will shut automatically if you accidentally leave it open.

3. House Warming (& Cooling)

Your thermostat will either heat or cool your home to your desired temperature right before you get home and turn it up or down to a more energy efficient temperature when you leave.

4. Goodnight Google, Lights Out Alexa

Have your voice assistant turn off your lights at bedtime.

5. Artificial Sunrise

Set up your lights to slowly turn on as the sun rises, or when you are due to wake up. If you're feeling fancy, add in a weather forecast.

6. Security Lights

Trigger exterior lights to come on when there is motion detected outside, and also every time a door is opened, or you arrive home at night.

7. Welcoming Party

Set up your interior lights to turn on when you arrive home. You can also add to this by making sure all your lights turn off when you leave.

8. Automatic Leak Detection & Mitigation

If there is a leak somewhere in your home, your water is shut off to avoid further water damage.

9. Get Your Lazy A** Out Of Bed

Stop hitting the snooze button by being forced to get up to shut off your alarm

10. Improvised Geofencing

Utilize the same functionality geofencing allows without having to upgrade to a system with it integrated fully.

11. Someone Touched My Safe

Get notifications either via text or email when someone is touching your safe or trying to break into it.

12. Laundry's Done!

If you aren't around to hear the buzzer go off, you get a text or email notification when your laundry is done. (So someone else can fold it! :))

So without further adieu, let's dig into the details!

1. Smart Home Security

Using home automation to up your home security is a common place people start when upgrading their home.

Afterall, your home is your most significant investment, so before you invest more into making it smarter, you need to start with making it more secure.

The Goal:

Get real-time alerts when something goes awry while you are not home.

How It Works:

You can take a few different routes here. Nowadays, there are a variety of DIY options to implement this, and many professional security companies have adopted this idea.

In either case, the general concept behind this bit of smart-home tech is configuring motion sensors and location-specific triggers to know when you're home or away, and to use that information to alert you in the event of a break-in.

What You Need:

What you need to implement smart home security will ultimately depend on whether you choose the DIY route or opt for a professional installation.

If you are more of a DIY sort of guy (or gal), here are the basics.

Motion Sensors: Standard in most home security systems, motion sensors will detect motion in a particular area. If you are away, movement inside your house will trigger your alarm.

Location Specific Triggers: The industry term for this is geofencing. Put simply; it uses the location of your smartphone to identify your location and uses that information to queue specific tasks. These tasks can include alerting you when a motion sensor is triggered, and you aren't home, or if your garage opens, or your back door, you get the picture.

If you already have a home security system set up that doesn't support geofencing, you can still set up similar functions within apps such as IFTT or Tasker.

Smart Phone Integrations: You need a system that can talk to your smartphone otherwise you can't accomplish this.

There are a ton of out of the box solutions for this that don't require any monthly payments. We suggest ISmartAlarm. For a reasonable price, it provides a great out of the box solution for smart home security.


2. Smart Garage Door Closer


To piggyback off of home security, having a smart garage door closer can go a long way in protecting your most significant investment.

The Goal:

Your garage will shut automatically if you accidentally leave it open.

How It Works:

Using a connected garage door opener, location triggers and motion sensors, you can create a smart garage door. Ideally, this means that if you accidentally leave the garage door open when you leave, it will shut for you. However, if you are working in the yard, the system is smart enough to know not to lock you out.

What You Need:

To implement a smart garage door system, you need similar items to create a smart home security system.

Entry sensors: These are placed along the sides of the door and are trigger when they separate.

Geofencing: As Mentioned before, geofencing uses your smartphone to determine your location. It then uses this data to perform a specific set of tasks. In this case, for example, you could set it up such that when your phone leaves the Wifi network area, the system will make sure the garage door is closed.

Motion sensors: Rather than being used to trigger an alarm, motion sensors can be used to tell if the home is occupied. This will help the system determine if you left and forgot to close the garage.

OR

Timers: Set your garage door to close at a specific time every day. For example, at 9 pm, so you know it will be closed every night.

Real-time alerts: If you like having the choice whether or not your garage door will close, you can set up automatic alerts if your garage was left open after you left. You can then use your smartphone to close the garage from anywhere.

To indeed have a hands-off smart garage, you may need to combine a few features. However, the best out of the box solution is by far the Chamberlain MyQ Smart Garage Opener. Read More About it Here


3. House Warming (& Cooling)

A pretty basic idea, housewarming will optimize the heating and cooling of your home.

The Goal:

Your thermostat will either heat or cool your home to your desired temperature right before you get home and turn it up or down to a more energy efficient temperature when you leave.

How It Works:

Use a location sensor to automatically trigger your A/C unit to change the temperature of your house 15 minutes before you arrive home. The only tricky part here is to account for people who do not have a location sensor. To combat this, you can have a "home" mode set so that it overrides the location sensor.

What You Need:

A Connected Thermostat: There are a variety of options available, the most famous being nest, but there are a variety of other options out there too with an excellent reputation.

Location Triggers: Queue up your thermostat to change the temperature when you are within a certain distance of your house.

>> You May Also Like: Ecobee Vs. Nest Thermostat


4. Goodnight Google, Lights Out Alexa

Goodnight Google uses the power of your voice to initiate bedtime. It is one of the most straightforward voice controls to add to your smart home.

The Goal:

Have your voice assistant turn off your lights at bedtime.

How It Works:

After your lights have been connected to your home automation hub, this is as simple as configuring your Amazon Alexa or Google Home to turn off your lights when you are ready for bed.

What You Need:

A Voice Assistant: Google Home and ​Amazon Echo are a few popular choices for this.

Smart Lights Or Connected Light Switches: Either will do, you need to be able to have your lights controlled via your voice assistant.


5. Artificial Sunrise

It doesn't matter if you're an early bird or a night owl, your body is pre-programmed to wake up when the sun is shining. Simulating this with your smart home can help maintain your Circadian Rhythm.

The Goal:

Set up your lights to slowly turn on as the sun rises, or when you are due to wake up. If you're feeling fancy, add in a weather forecast.

How It Works:

Once you have your lights set up to your home automation hub, it is as simple as setting up your lights to slowly turn on to match up with your schedule. Note, it is dependent on your hub how slowly you will be able to ramp up the lights, and in some cases, you may be limited.

To add in a weather forecast, you will need a highly capable software, or tie in the use of 3rd party IFTT software to trigger something as simple as a blue light for rain, yellow for sunny, red for hot, whatever you like!

What You Need:

Connected Lights: First things first, you need lights that connect to your smart home hub. From there its just setting them on a gradually brightening timer.

RGB lights: If you want to simulate weather forecast, you will need color changing lights to indicate different weather conditions.

Weather Connected Hub: If you would like to simulate weather forecasts, it is essential to have that information fed into your system during the time you are scheduled to wake up.


6. Security Lights

Motion sensitive flood lights are pretty standard, but there's a lot more you can do with outdoor security lights.

The Goal: 

Trigger exterior lights to come on when there is motion detected outside, and also every time a door is opened, or you arrive home at night.

How It Works: 

Taking the traditional motion sensitive flood lights a step further, you can use entry sensors and geofencing to make your exterior lights turn on when there may be an intruder outside, or when you as a homeowner intuitively need them.

What You Need:

Entry Sensors: Place them on the side of your doors leading outside to trigger your lights when the door is opened.

Smart Light Switch or Connected Lights: Your exteriors lights need to be accessed by your automation hub to be triggered.

Geofencing: If you want your lights to turn on when you get home but before you trigger motion sensors, you can add geofencing to turn on your exterior lights shortly before you arrive home.


7. Welcoming Party

When you get home, you want to be able to see. Setting up a welcoming party can help shed some light.

The Goal: 

Set up your interior lights to turn on when you arrive home. You can also add to this by making sure all your lights turn off when you leave.

How It Works:

Your interior and exterior lights will turn on shortly before, or right as you arrive home. They can be set up with location triggers, so your system knows when you come and go and adjusts the lighting accordingly.

What You Need:

Location Triggers: Also known as geofencing, location triggers use the location of your smartphone or other triggers to determine your location and initiates specific tasks based on where you are.

Connected Lights or a Smart Light Switch: Your lights need to be able to be controlled by your home automation hub. This function can be accomplished by installing connected lights or a smart light switch to control traditional lights.


8. Automatic Leak Detection and Mitigation

This idea is ideal for people who have a second home or spend a lot of time away.

The Goal: 

If there is a leak somewhere in your home, your water is shut off to avoid further water damage.

How It Works: 

By utilizing moisture sensors in areas that would be prone to leaks, you can automatically use the triggering of a sensor to shut off the water for your house until you can address the issue.

What You Need:

Moisture Detectors: You can place these in any area that may be prone to a leak. Ideally, you should put them near every sink, toilet, bathtub and appliance that uses water.

Smart Water Valve: You can purchase a smart water valve that will connect to your manual water shut-off system. Once the moisture detectors trigger, your smart valve will do the rest!


9. Get Your Lazy A** Out Of Bed

If you're like me, you tend to have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. If this sounds like you, then using this home automation trick will help you get your lazy a** out of bed in the morning.

The Goal: 

Stop hitting the snooze button by being forced to get up to shut off your alarm.

How It Works:

Once your alarm goes off in the morning, rather than merely snoozing, you have to scan a tag to turn off the alarm. The catch is that your tag is not within arms reach. We suggest putting this tag in the bathroom since that's where you'll likely be heading after waking up.

What You Need:

NFC (near field communication) tags: This is what turns off the alarm for you. Place it in the bathroom you use to get ready in the morning.

A Phone that supports NFC tags: For a list of compatible devices, click here.

Sleep As or Puzzle Alarm Clock App: These apps require NFC tags to disable the alarm


10. Improvised Geofencing

If you have an older alarm system, you may not have the ability to integrate some home automation ideas that involve geofencing. Here's a good workaround for that.

The Goal:

Utilize the same functionality geofencing allows without having to upgrade to a system with it integrated fully.

How It Works:

With a compatible app, you can place your phone against a unique tag (NFC tag), which will allow it to trigger specific functions. You can use this integration to utilize any home automation ideas on this list that require geofencing.

What You Need:

NFC tags: You will put this near wherever you will be when you want something triggered. For example, if you're going to automate your AC to turn off when you leave, place an NFC trigger in your car to activate the command.

A Phone that Supports NFC tags: For a list of compatible devices, click here.


11. Someone Touched My Safe

If you keep valuables locked away in a safe, you'll want to know if someone is messing around with it. This home automation idea can help.

The Goal: 

Get notifications either via text or email when someone is touching your safe or trying to break into it.

How It Works: 

If you want to make sure your kids, your spouse, the babysitting, etc. are not messing with your safe, you can add vibration and/or motion detecting sensors to it which trigger an alert.

What You Need:

Motion Sensors: These can be used to trigger an alert if someone touches your safe, even gently.

And/OR

Vibration Sensors: A bit less trigger happy than motion sensors, vibration triggers can sense when someone is trying to break into your safe actively.

Notification Integration: Where you get notifications is really up to you, but you need to have notification integration of some sort.


12. Laundry's Done!

Sometimes you don't hear the buzzer, or you leave the house and forget you have laundry going. This home automation idea will give you an alert when your laundry is finished.

The Goal: 

If you aren't around to hear the buzzer go off, you get a text or email notification when your laundry is done. (So someone else can fold it! :))

How It Works:

Using a trigger, you can get text or email notifications when your laundry is ready.

What You Need:

Vibration Sensor: You can use a vibration sensor to sense when your washer or dryer goes from vibrating to still.

Notification Integration: Once your laundry is done, you can use notification integration to send you a message.


Get Creative - Build Your Own Custom Smart Home!

With today's technology, what you can do with home automation integrations is only limited by your creativity!

Using a variety of triggers and a little bit of thought, you can turn your home into one big virtual assistant to help you with the everyday tasks you may be too busy to do yourself.

If you're like me, the appeal to home automation goes further than just convenience. Creating your very own smart home is just cool. Easy as that, right?

So what's next?

Let us know which home automation idea you plan on integrating into your smart home.

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