Home Automation DIY — Is It the Way to Go?


With the Internet of Things and Home Automation trends sweeping the consumer tech world, you are probably wondering — should I call a vendor or is a Home Automation DIY setup the way to go? Thankfully, with a host of inexpensive HA products now on the market, putting together your own wireless automation setup is the perfect way to begin building a cool digital smart home at your house or even if you live in an apartment. The drilling required of a wired HA setup is a thing of the past!

Does this sound interesting? Let’s take a closer look at what it takes to add home automation to your residence.

Home Automation DIY: Look For Open Architectures

With the wide array of manufacturers now in the Home Automation DIY space, choosing one becomes a difficult proposition. One very important factor to look for is whether or not the company uses an open architecture for their product line. This matters when choosing the Home Automation hub for your setup.

An open architecture means you won’t be tied into a specific manufacturer’s products. So if you really like a dimmer from one company and a light from another, you are able to use them with a HA hub based on an open architecture. This added flexibility helps you easily expand your HA system once it is up and running at your residence.

A Starter Kit Makes Perfect Sense for Your Initial Foray Into HA

Many home automation manufacturers offer starter kits that remain a great option when you are first setting up a HA system. SmartThings, a company garnering a lot of buzz in the home automation sector that was recently acquired by Samsung, offers two different levels for their HA starter kits and three levels if you are more interested in a home security focused setup.

All starter kits from SmartThings are based around their hub which features an open architecture, which means it supports easy expansion as needed. For a basic home automation setup, the Smart Home and Smarter Home starter kits retail for $199 and $299 respectively. The cheaper kit actually offers some simple home security functionality, with the three included sensors — presence, open/closed, and motion.

The more expensive starter kit adds another open/closed sensor and power outlet that lets you turn on a light or other device when one of the sensors is triggered. Adding additional switchable power outlets lets you program a setup where lights are turned on and off when a person leaves or enters a room, or even to potentially scare off an intruder that triggers one of the sensors. Additionally, you can control these outlets using the SmartThings app for your smartphone or tablet computer, giving you an idea of the kind of flexibility offered by building your own home automation setup from scratch.

Initial setup of the SmartThings hub is easy, as it simply requires you to hook up the hub with your High Speed Internet system — a process that takes only 15 minutes. After first using your system, new ideas for automation will probably become plentiful. As mentioned earlier, system expansion is easier with an open architecture, and SmartThings offers a host of compatible devices made by themselves or other third-party makers.

Other Names in the DIY Home Automation Space

The popularity of SmartThings combined with the publicity of the Internet of Things has led other manufacturers to enter the DIY Home Automation sector, including some industry veterans, like the security company, Honeywell. Tech giants like Apple, Google, and Microsoft are also getting in the game in a variety of ways. Apple’s HomeKit allows you to control third-party devices using your iPhone or iPad, while Google famously acquired smart thermostat maker, Nest, a few years ago. Something similar to HomeKit for the Android platform is a reasonable expectation.

When getting started with HA, the important thing is to first figure out what you want your HA system to accomplish; then choose an initial starter kit with an open architecture, and finally enjoy the easier life provided by your digital smart home. Expect the number of products in this space to continue to grow over the next few years. Soon, the old-fashioned light switch will go the way of the 8-track and the rotary-dial telephone.

Photo Credit: Lars Plougmann