This smart home system build is for people living in rented apartments who cannot modify their wiring or other aspects of their home. All device suggestions are wireless or non-intrusive so your landlord shouldn’t have a problem.Read more
Welcome to the IOTPad
We write about how to build the best home automation system (or smart home) for the common homeowner. The IOT in TheIOTpad refers to “the internet of things“. This refers to the network of physical objects embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for connecting over the Internet. Many smart home products use WiFi, Bluetooth and the latest technological innovations. We review the best products and systems so you can find one right for you.
Here you’ll find straight forward advice on home automation products that can be easily sourced. You won’t find any custom components that you have to solder or hack to make work
Once you’ve learned what a smart home is and what home automation can do for you and your family, it is time to get started putting a system together. It can be a little daunting and there are a lotRead more
This is the first step in our How to Build a Smart Home series, which takes a beginner through the process of selecting the right components for their home automation needs. Read this article if you don’t yet have aRead more
Smart Home Systems
Smart Home Hubs
The Wink Hub 2 is a classic hardware smart home hub that includes Z-Wave and Zigbee radios. It works with Google Home and Amazon Alexa. The Wink Hub is a great choice if you want a wide range of device options and if you don’t mind a little tinkering.Read more
SmartThings is Samsung’s foray into the smart home — and it is a worthy entry worth full consideration if you are starting a new smart home system. This review covers the 2018 version of the device, often referred to as v3 or 3rd generation. There are plenty of devices that connect to it so you will be able to make a very versatile smart home.Read more
Smart Home Thermostats
The Stelpro Maestro smart thermostats are a great money-saving addition to line voltage heating systems like electric baseboard heaters. This review covers both the Controller-Thermostat as well as the Thermostat. Now, you can have a smart thermostat even if you have electric baseboard heat.Read more
The ecobee SmartThermostat and ecobee3 lite are highly recommended Wi-Fi smart thermostats. They are relatively easy to set up and will start saving you money on your energy bills right away. Both units work with popular voice assistants and the ecobee4 include built-in Amazon Alexa.Read more
Smart Home Lighting
We highly recommend the Lutron Caséta Wireless light switches due to their reliability and ease of use. Smart switches allow you to control them like normal switches, through an app, or with voice control. Lutron has been making light switches for close to 50 years and they serve the residential and commercial markets.Read more
Building the Best Smart Home System
The ideal smart home has these features:
- Easy to Use
- Expandable, Upgradable, and Backwards Compatible
- Smart, but not Gimmicky
1. Easy to Use
This really shouldn’t have to be on the list because we think every home automation system should be simple to use – there is no reason to have a complicated system, but they are out there. You should never have to invite a technician to your home to install or tweak your system. If it takes a specialist to install or modify, the system is far too complex.
You should also be able to install a new component and program it within a couple of hours. Ideally, it should take less than an hour, but when it comes to home improvement, things always take longer. If you have to spend an entire Saturday installing and configuring a light switch, then the product manufacturer has failed.
Finally, controlling the system must be simple. One app should be all you need to operate your home. You shouldn’t have to open one app to adjust the lights and another to adjust the thermostat. The control app should also provide a full view of your home from the control panel – one glance should tell you the lights are on, the garage door is down, and the temperature is set to 72 degrees.
To put it simply, your smart home should just work. It shouldn’t be a hobby that you are always having to tweak.
2. Expandable, Upgradable, and Backwards Compatible
Most smart home hubs can control 200 or more devices – many are theoretically unlimited. However, systems controlled by Bluetooth or WiFi do have limits to the distance they can transmit commands to. Large homes should be just as easy to expand as small apartments.
Systems should also be able to expand into other products in the future. We don’t know what is coming down the road in the future. Systems should be able to adjust in the future by offering new features and products. This leads us to the next point, which is upgradability, since new products may require new control software.
In most cases, upgrades to a system should be done via software updates sent over the internet. Much like cell phone upgrades, home automation upgrades should be done quickly and easily. This means the hubs must be designed with enough power to allow new software to run without becoming sluggish.
Uprading will eventually require a new hub to account for new technologies so new hubs must be backwards compatible. A new hub should not require you to install 12 new switches in your home.
The ideal system will allow you to chose from a wide variety of components from whichever manufacturer you prefer. This is a challenge with the range of proprietary communications protocols on the market, but it is achievable. Think about it, you can use an iPhone to call a landline or an Android phone. You can send a text file from your Mac at home to your Windows PC at the office. Smart home systems should be no different.
This will require IOT standards to be established and agreed to by the various manufacturers and programmers, but it is doable.
4. Smart, but not Gimmicky
Of course, smart homes should be smart. However, they aren’t currently as smart as they should be. Yes, your Nest Learning Thermostat is quite smart in that it can learn your temperature preferences, it keeps track of your energy use, and sends you a report on how you are doing. However, thermostats are one of the few product groups that has this level of intelligence. We need all of our devices to track power consumption and to ask you if something seems odd. Wouldn’t it be great if your oven sent an alert to your phone after it has been left on an hour longer than the timer you set?
Right now, a lot of devices (especially lighting) are gimmicky. Do you really want your lights to turn purple? Do you really need to turn your lights off by voice command if you are standing right next to the switch? We know that “the smarts” will develop and overtake the gimmick, but we can’t wait for that to happen.
Last, but most definitely not least is security. Our smart homes must be secure – just as secure as our cell phones and online banking. Security is challenging, especially since we also want ultimate flexibility and universality. However, device manufacturers cannot skimp on security just to add another gimmicky feature. Security first, features later – we can’t stress this enough.
So there you have it, our vision for the smart home. It boils down to: be smart, be secure, and make it easy for us to adjust.
At theIOTpad, this is what we are searching for. We hope you follow us on the journey.