7 tips for a successful home automation

For the last eight years I’ve been busy improving with home automations, also called domotica. The time that I invest divers strongly per period, sometimes I don’t do anything for months, and then I find a new technology and I go all in with my spare time. In these years a lot of I’ve used a lot of different technologies, brands and platforms for my smart home.

I’m pretty happy with my current home automation setup and I got asked a lot by people that visited my house “How do I get started with home automation?”.

Let’s start with sharing my 7 rules for home-automations.

My requirements for a successful smart home

1. Keep it simple

Main requirement, people should not notice that you have home automation in place. Everything should work as is normal for your guests. The next two tips are about that. I would call this rule; think about the babysitter.

The main rule for home automation –> think about the babysitter

Your babysitter will not have your home automation app installed or interest to visit the mobile website. Also she wouldn’t be able to use your voice assistant as she doesn’t know the names of the lights. Make sure that every light is controllable by everyone that visits your house.

2. Maintain physical switches

Lights must be controllable by physical switches. Phones and apps are nice, but we still need physical switches. Why? Think about your parents (in-law) and the baby sitter.

3. Do not depend on internet

Lights and devices that are critical around the house should work if the internet or your network is down. The basic functionality should always workj and not dependent on any Home Automation host, platform or Hub.

4. Avoid batteries

Avoid battery powered devices, there is nothing more annoying than replacing batteries.

This is easier set than done, sometimes you need battery powered devices. But if you do so make sure you measure battery level and build alerts and notification when the battery level becomes critical.

5. Avoid presence detection or geofencing

Geo fencing or presence detection might be the first thing that you want to use.  It was at least for me.

My advice do not use presence detection or geofencing to trigger scenes or automation. Using devices detection or geofencing with phones is great for knowing who is in the home. But do not, I repeat do not, trigger scenes that shut down all the lights if no-one is home based on phones. I’ve a great story about a baby sitter that called me very unhappy about all lights being turned off and also that every time she switched them on they went off again. This go back to the rule number 1; Think about the babysitter.

An easy solution for presence detection is using an alarm and check if the alarm is armed, but this is something for an additional blogpost.

6. Use an OpenSource software

Select an opensource platform for your home automation solution, avoid vendor lock-in. This way you’ll get the freedom of using and combining sensors and lights from different vendors, e.g. Philips Hue, all z-wave vendors, CaCu, mi-home, and hundreds more.

7. Start small and isolated

Home automation is great, yes it can be very rewarding for the family. You need to be aware that you will make mistakes in the beginning, you don’t want to make these mistakes with lights that are key for the day-to-day business for your family. Start in your office or on your desk, start by reading out sensors. Do a small proof of concept in a room or a light that isn’t used daily. We all know that you need more budget for additional home automation projects in the future, so you need buy-in from your family. Frustrating them at the start is not a good idea.

Any of these seven tips has a lot more details to share, I’m hoping to cover these in the near future.

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