"Building or starting a renovation of your house? Don't you think it makes sense to plan home automation in advance”?
Like with most things, it’s much easier to think at least a bit in advance. If you plan the smart solutions in advance, you will save yourself a lot of hassle in the future. It’s much more practical and cheaper to plan what you want to do and how you want to do it in advance. Moving and adding smart devices right after you’re done renovating will make you regret you didn’t stumble upon this article earlier!
In this article, we will explain how to plan home automation and why it's important.
Learn about what you need for a home automation project
Before you start, you need to decide on a few things about your DIY smart home automation project that will determine many of your future decisions. First one is to decide on wired or wireless home automation. Wired automation is recommended for business establishments, e.g. hotels, while wireless automation is better suited for home use. If you’re trying to make your home smart with as little hassle and cost, we recommend that you choose the wireless automation.
Secondly, you need to decide on a networking protocol. This is going to be the communication language between your devices. There are quite a few technologies you can choose from, like Z-Wave, ZigBee, Wi-Fi, UPB, etc. The protocol you choose will then determine your future choices and devices. Every new device you add will have to be compatible with this protocol and other devices.
After that, you need to pick your:
- Gateway. This is the communication line between all various devices and enables you to access them using just your smartphone.
- Sensors. Sensors are a part of the automation network that send data through the gateway, which then tells the devices what to do and how to do it.
- Actuators. An actuator can be seen as a motor that carries out a predefined order, triggered by the data sent from a sensor through a gateway.
This was only a short recap of what you need to start a home automation project. If you need more information on what you need to start with a DIY home automation project, we go much more in-depth about that in this article.
Steps to plan your home automation project
1. Who will use it?
First establish who will the smart home be for. Do you live alone or are there elderly people in the house? Do you have guests very often? Consider that other people might use the smart devices in the home. Make sure you put them where they need them. Will they be able to use it? For example, if they don’t know how to use a smart bulb, consider installing a smart switch instead. If you’re reading this article, you’re probably quite tech-savvy, but remember - most people are not. For some, even using an app might be challenging and those people might prefer using devices the “old way”. Talk to them, present the smart solution and implement it in a way so they can actually benefit from it.
2. What do you want to control?
Always start with what you want to do and not how you want to do it. What is your goal? To know when someone connects to your Wi-Fi, to have control over energy consumption, to receive an e-mail when the smoke alarm goes off?
Living spaces first, technology second. You need to work backwards to find your idea. Think of the repetitive things you currently struggle with. Think of a problem and then work your way to a smart solution. Don’t think in terms of what you can do with the cool technology you just saw, but rather how you can make your life easier.
But sometimes, you don’t even know you have a problem until someone points it out! You’re just used to doing things the way you’ve always done them. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a better way to do certain things.
Here are some of the possible use cases:
Remotely control your shades and windows.
Control your energy consumption.
Remotely control your water heating e.g. electric boiler.
Automate your lighting.
Control electric heating and ventilation.
Automate your irrigation system.
Measure and control pool and spa temperature, pumps and covers.
Remotely turn on/off your electronic devices.
Remotely check/lock/open/close your front, back and garage door.
Get notifications to your phone when an event happens (alarm goes off, the door opens, consumption threshold reached, etc.).
Have an open mind. There are countless possibilities. Don’t get too impressed by certain cool technology and start thinking only in terms of how could you use that technology. Instead, think about what you want to do and then start thinking about how to do it.
3. How do you want to control it?
After you’ve decided what you want to do, think about how will you use it. Will it be wired or wireless? Which network protocol will you use? Do you want to have a control panel? Do you want to control everything remotely? Will you turn on your lights with a switch or with your phone? And of course, don’t forget about your budget. Sometimes you’ll be forced to make a choice simply because it fits in your budget. And that’s ok - do what you can with what you have.
4. Make a plan of installation
You need to have a step-by-step plan for you home automation project. You need to put the whole project in scope, so you don’t overlook a critical part.
It all start with wiring. If you don’t set up your wiring with smart devices in mind, you will have lots of troubles down the road and possibly limit yourself in the future. The best time to plan your wiring is before you install it and when you have all your devices planned. Second best time is when you’re making a home renovation.
Think about the future. When you decide on wiring, networking protocol and smart devices, think how relevant will they be in the future. Is the technology new, upgradable, widely accepted, stable, etc.? You wouldn’t want your new smart home to be outdated and unsupported in 5 years. Quality products with warranty will last you longer.
If you pick a wireless module, you need to make sure that you install a deeper back box to have enough space for the modules. The wiring is absolutely crucial. Decide where the devices will be and if they need neutral wiring. Then make sure your electrician has clear instructions so all the necessary wiring will be in the right places.
You should have a building plan with all wiring and smart devices marked. Make it clear what is step 1, step 2, step 3, etc.
Here are some examples of what you could automate and how to think about it:
Automate your lighting.
Why do you want this and how will you use it? In which rooms will you use it? Will it be wired or wireless? Is the wiring not too old? Will you use smart bulbs or smart switches? Would you like your lights to automatically switch on when you move by? Then you should think about other smart devices, like a motion sensor, that will trigger the light. You want an RGB LED strip in your living room - how will you get the electricity there? Which brand of smart bulbs or smart switches will you use? Which network technology will you use? Make sure the devices are compatible with the chosen network technology.
Control your shades and windows.
Why do you need it and how will you use it? In which rooms will you use it? If you want the shades to go up in the morning, you will need to make sure you buy electric shades. If you want to close your windows with the smartphone, when it starts to rain and you’re away from home, you will need windows with an electric engine that opens&closes the window. Will you be able to get electricity there?
On the other hand, if you want to check whether your window or door is opened or closed, while you’re away, don’t forget the door window sensor.
And remember; never do anything you’re not confident with. It’s just not worth it, you could end up doing more damage than good. For example, if you’re not sure how to wire something correctly, better call an electrician. It will save you time and money.
It’s not easy to successfully plan and execute a DIY home automation project. If you’re not sure you’ll be able to do it, consider hiring a company to help you both with planning and execution. There are quite a few smart home integrators out there with more experiences and could possibly come up with better solutions for your smart home. You might want to pay a bit more in return to save your time and have a peace of mind.
if you want to create a smart home that will perfectly suit your needs and budget, plan ahead and plan thoroughly. That way you will make sure that everyone will be happy with the solutions and there won’t be any costly surprises. Make sure to predict how will you use it, create a building floor plan with all the wiring and smart devices marked. Pick the right technology that will communicate with and connect all your smart devices in one place . Only with a good home automation plan will you ensure, that you have a smart home you truly enjoy, without any surprises to your budget.