Building a smart home is an exciting adventure, a way to add the most up-to-date technology and design a space just for you. Lights come on when you want, in the colors you prefer, favorite music plays in rooms, digital helpers know when it's time to leave for work — and the best route — and locks and sensors keep watch while you're tucked away sleeping, whether you're a night owl or early riser.
As you begin your adventure, this guide will help you as you decide what kind of smart home you want. We'll walk you through decisions to consider before you start buying your very first IoT device, from the kind of voice assistant you want speaking to you daily to the best devices to consider given your budget.
Once you've got your bearings, you can head over to our smart home products guide, details on every kind of connected device you may be thinking to add from smart locks to lights to security.
At GearBrain, we're excited to help you build your new smart home. Let's get started.
Today, the homeowner has so much to choose from when it comes to selecting the right smart home solution. They also need help in understanding how all this technology works in order to determine which products/services you need. We've put together a list of articles which we know can help you understand the basics in building a smart home solution:
Smart Home Systems
Learn how your smart home works, including the way all these products speak to each other
Want to buy your first smart device but don't know where to start? These are the guides for you, overviews on what to consider before purchasing any connected appliance or product. In other words, read these first before you click 'buy,' or head to the store:
- How to make your house a smart home: This article helps you understand the basics in building a smart home system.
- From B to Z: How your smart home speaks wireless: This article explains the key wireless protocols you need to know when building a smart home.
- 5 questions to ask before purchasing a smart home system: GearBrain has put together a simple buyer's guide for the first time users of smart home devices. Here are questions you need to ask yourself which will help educate you on the options for you to consider before you start down the road of building your smart home.
- Here are 6 cool, smart home systems to consider: This will help you learn more about the alternative smart home systems on the market today.
- What is IFTTT and how it can help you run your home: Learn how IFTTT (stands for If This Than That) can be used to control all of your connected devices no matter what type of connected devices you have in your smart home.
- 5 best places to shop for smart devices: If in the market to buy any of these new connected devices for the home, here is our recommendation on the 5 best retailers to help you find the right device or devices for your smart home.
- 5 smart home installation services to hire that will set up (nearly) anything you buy: Here you will learn which companies can assist you in getting started in building your smart home as well as help troubleshoot any issues you might have if you installed devices or systems by yourself.
- 5 professional installers that can create the ultimate smart home space: If you don't want to build a smart home by yourself and just want to call a guy to do it, then this article will help you learn which guy to call to build your perfect smart home.
- Building a new smart home from the ground up: Here are the options to consider: And if you want to build the perfect smart home from the ground up, here you will learn which companies which specialize in building customized smart homes in the U.S.
Smart Home How-To for Renters
Live in an apartment? There are plenty of smart home devices you can use
If you're a renter, you probably have less control over what you can do inside your living space. (Landlords can be like that. We get it.) But that doesn't mean you're left out of this smart home revolution. There are tons of devices you can add into your rented space, and we have some guides that focus on exactly you and your requirements:
- Can renters fit a smart lock to their front door? This article will show you what you can do with smart locks on your rental property.
- The renter's guide to installing a wireless smart video doorbell: This article will show you how to install a wireless smart video doorbell in an apartment as well as show you how to remove it when you leave.
- Best smart security camera options for renters: This article will provide you with a list of the best smart security camera options you can choose from to use in an apartment.
- The best removable and landlord-friendly smart home tech for renters: Do you want to buy smart home gadgets but don't own our home or dwelling? No worries. In this article, GearBrain can educate you on the connected devices which can be easily installed and then removed from your home when you decide to leave.
- Is the smart home market leaving apartments behind? With all the talk about smart homes, why isn't anyone talking about smart apartments? In this article, we help you understand how to use connected devices for apartments and the benefits they offer homeowners or renters.
- The best smart tech to secure an Airbnb: Are you an Airbnb owner who is thinking of adding smart devices to your rental property? If so, check out this guide on the best smart gadgets we recommend for you to use in an Airbnb property.
- 7 IoT devices for the smallest of apartments: Here is a list of the 7 must have IoT devices for apartments.
You can purchase the top smart home devices even if you're watching your budget
Look we get it: smart home devices can add up, and sometimes we get overwhelmed with what we need to buy first, or what kind of budget we need to set aside to get started. Luckily, there are options for any budget, whether you have a $100 or $1,000. These guides can offer you some suggestions on where to start, no matter how much you want to spend at the start:
- How to start your smart home with just $100: This article will help you get started in building a smart home on a very small budget.
- How to build a smart home for less than $400: This article will help you learn how to build a smart home on a budget of less than $400. You can see which are the key devices to help make your home smarter and save money.
- How to build a smart home for between $1,000 and $2,000: This is the game plan on building a smart home when money is not an issue.
- How to create a $170 budget smart home security system: Alexa, Ring and Wyze can help you put a security system all on your own, and in your budget.
- 14 smart home devices to lower your bills and save you money: These smart home products are kind to your wallet even after you buy them and put them to use in your home.
Smart Home Hubs
Hubs help smart devices speak with each other, and then with you
Many smart home devices need a hub in order to connect to the internet and then to each other. While not all do, it's good to understand which brands are more dependent on these than others. We run through which hubs you may need, and to learn if this is something you might need at your home:
- Best smart home connected hubs: GearBrain's list of the best connected hubs which can streamline and simplify your smart home by syncing all your connected devices together.
- Which smart home hub is right for you? Everything you need to know: An article which will help you find the best smart home hub for your house. You will learn if Amazon Alexa is the best device to power your smart home or if you need a more dedicated hub or no hub at all.
You can now control devices inside your home just with your voice
More connected devices are coming to the market that can be controlled just with your device. This could be Amazon's Alexa, Google Assistant or even Apple's Siri. You can certainly check our thoughts on this way of controlling our home through our piece, Voice Is The New App. But we also encourage you to take a look at the different digital assistants, what they can do, and which one you may find you prefer. What's key here is that you're likely going to pick one, and then build your smart home around that specific digital assistant. So understanding how they work, and which one may fit into your life the best, is good to do before you start buying a lot of devices for your new smart home.
Alexa is Amazon's digital assistant and here's how you can use it to control your home
Alexa is Amazon's friendly digital assistant, and tied to the Amazon eco-system which also includes Ring video doorbells. Here are a few guides that will walk you through some of Alexa's better known products and how the work:
- Here's how to get started with Amazon Alexa: This guide is your first stop to know how to use Amazon's digital assistant in your smart home.
- Amazon Echo Dot (2018) review: New look, new sound - still just $50: A good review of Amazon's 3rd generation of Amazon Echo Dot (2018)
- How to teach Alexa to recognize your voice and create a personal profile: A solid How-To on getting Alexa clued into your preferences and data.
- New 2018 Amazon Echo Dot vs 2016 Echo Dot: Should you upgrade? Not sure if you should upgrade from an old Echo Dot to a new one? This article will provide you with enough information to help you decide which Echo Dot is right for your smart home.
- New 2018 Amazon Echo Plus vs 2017 Echo Plus: Should you upgrade? This article will help you see the differences between Amazon Echo Plus 2018 and 2017 versions which you can use to determine if you should upgrade.
- Amazon Echo Plus 2nd Generation Review: An Echo speaker and Zigbee hub that can connect to even more smart devices in your home.
- How to set up a second Amazon Echo - and why your smart home should have more than one: Want to learn how to setup your Amazon Echos to talk to one another? This article will show you how and the benefits for connecting multiple Amazon Echos.
- Amazon Echo: Best AI Digital Assistant For Any Smart Home: A good review on Amazon's first smart speaker.
- Amazon unveils a new $99 Echo plus other Alexa goodies at surprise event: An update on the new Amazon Echo as well as the other new devices Amazon launched which you can control using Amazon Alexa.
- Review Amazon Echo Dot: Echo's Little Brother with A Lot of Skills: A solid review on the Echo's little brother.
- What are Amazon Alexa Skills?: Do you know what Alexa Skills are? This article will help you learn what are skills and how you can find the ones you need to help run your smart home.
- We ♥ Alexa: An article with examples of the commands you can give to Amazon Alexa.
The Google Assistant is the Google digital assistant
Google's digital assistant is simply called Google Assistant, and there are myriad devices as well that this voice A.I. controls. Here are just a few devices that work with Google Assistant along with guides with tips on how to operate them:
- Google Home Mini smart speaker arrives to take on Amazon Echo Dot: A look at Google's new smart speaker, Google Home Mini and how it compares to Amazon's Echo Dot.
- 8 Ways Google will supercharge your smart home with new Home and Assistant features: An article with 8 ways you can use Google's new Google Home and their voice activation platform, Google Assistant.
- The Google Home starter kit: 6 Google Assistant devices to kickstart your smart home: This will show you which are the best smart devices to get to build a smart home using Google Home.
- Lenovo Smart Display 7 Review: A look at one of the newest, compact smart display that works with Google Assistant
- Google Assistant crowned smartest AI assistant: After an 800-question test, Google's digital assistant came in first, Siri second and Alexa third.
- Nest Hub Max Review: A Nest security camera baked inside a smart display that works with Google Assistant
- Google Home Hub Review: A Google Assistant touch screen device for your home with Google Assistant baked inside
- How to make free phone calls with Google Nest: A guide on how to use Google Assistant devices to make free phone calls just by asking.
Apple's voice assistant Siri can help you run your smart home devices
Those who own an iPhone, Apple Watch, Mac or MacBook are very (very) familiar with Apple's Siri. But the digital assistant can also help operate smart home products as well. The cornerstone of Apple's smart home plan is the HomePod, it's smart speaker. Apple's push to get Siri into more homes is continuing, and for those Mac users who find they leaning towards Siri, we have a number of guides that help you understand what the voice assistant can do:
- Apple HomePod to get soothing ambient sounds: Details on new HomePod features.
- How to train Siri to recognize just your voice: The smart assistant can learn you, and your needs. Here's how to set this feature up on your HomePod.
- Apple HomePod smart home speaker: Here are details to help you device whether or not to buy Apple's smart speaker
- Apple HomePod review roundup: Initial reviews on the smart speaker which praise its excellent sound but note that Siri may not be as advanced as Alexa.
- Apple launches HomePod, a Sonos-looking device meant to take on Amazon Echo: Information on Apple's smart speaker or digital assistant, HomePod.
Microsoft's Cortana is a smart assistant that is also working with smart home products
Microsoft does have a voice assistant named Cortana. It's not as widely used in the smart home space, even though it's well-known among Microsoft and Windows users. Here are some details about Cortana and how the digital assistant is making inroads in connected products.
- Alexa has a new playmate, Cortana: A look at Microsoft's voice activated systems, Cortana.
- Microsoft shows Alexa and Cortana working together: The two digital assistants are in beta tests to see if they can speak and connect with each other inside their ecosystems.
- Microsoft Cortana is now on IFTTT: A guide to using the Windows-based assistant with IFTTT applets to control smart home devices
Before you start buying smart devices, make sure the key products your eyeing work together
One of the biggest challenges you face when building a smart home is finding the devices that are compatible with each other. There is nothing worse than going out and buying a device and to come home and find out it will not work with your current device or system. GearBrain is here to solve this problem with our new smart home compatibility checker called The GearBrain. Using the The GearBrain, you can find all the compatible devices that work with a particular smart device, like Google Home or Amazon Alexa. Here is a list of just some of the connected devices you can see which devices work with them:
As you would add security to your tech devices, you'll want to consider making sure your smart home products are secure as well
Finally, one of the biggest concerns among consumers today is the security of their new devices. According to a recent research study by Houzz.com, they found more than half of the respondents to their survey would not buy a smart home device because they had security concerns. Here are two articles which will help you understand more about Internet of Things (IoT) security and ways to protect your new connected devices:
Smart homes can propel the way you live in the 21st Century
We hope these guides are helpful and prepare you for the next phase in the building of your smart home. Even though many of the new connected devices coming on to the smart home market might not be ready for prime time, we are very bullish on the market outlook. As more consumers understand how all these new devices work and determine which ones are right for them, we expect to see a big increase in adoption. We look forward to joining you on your new journey in building the right smart home for you.
If you need help installing any of these Smart Home systems or products , you can visit HomeAdvisor.com to find a local trusted professional.