Home Automation – Smart Devices on the cheap

Home Automation – Smart Devices on the cheap

Read this article if…

Are you someone who hasn’t quite pulled the trigger on Home Automation or Smart Devices but have been thinking about if for a while.  Are you about to just dip your toe in the water but not wanting to spend hundreds of dollars on the ‘flavor of the month’ bulb, or thermostat?

This post is a practical and cost effective guide to actually “see” what an investment in Home Automation will/could look like. I do have individual posts that goes into more of a Product Review which I will link off the bulleted items below. Therefore in the meantime, let me give you a high level view of how I approached this, it took the shape of having:

  • Amazon Echo Dot Devices ( times 3)
  • Plugs: TP Link Smart Plugs
  • Lightbulb: TP Link Smart Lightbulb
  • TP Link Multicolor Smart Lightbulb
  • Honeywell Thermostat

My Home Automation Selection Process

This solution took into account usability features, every device on here was Amazon Echo aware.  Certainly, I could use “Alexa” to control it, perhaps not fully as you can do from the native app experience but there were Amazon Echo Skills that did the basic tasks and its always improving.  Most of all TP Link offers the same capability you will find from your HUE and Phillips products for usually less than half (1/2) the price.

I have quite a few standing lamps so in certain places where I don’t necessarily want Smart Lightbulbs, I opted for Smart Plugs. The benefit of doing Smart Plugs is extensible as well, anything you insert in the smart plug be it a lamp in my case or, a Christmas tree, or a whatever.  As a result the decision was made to go also with a Smart Thermostat as well since I replaced my HVAC unit and it made sense to get a new thermostat as well.

All in all, my investment was just under five hundred dollars $500.00 with the Thermostat coming in at just over one hundred dollars $100.00 and the three (3) Amazon Echo Dots with the special accounting for one hundred and fifty dollars $150.00.  So you can see that one half ½ of the cost was directly associated with two (2) out of five (5) products i.e. 40% of the items reflected 50% of the costs or put differently 60% of the items could be purchased for around two hundred and fifty dollars $250.00

My Approach

So my approach can be summed up this way:

  • One item, i.e. the Thermostat was purchased because my hand was forced due to a replacement of my ailing HVAC system
  • The Amazon Alexa I strategically purchased around Christmas because I could get 5 of them for $39.99/each. The deal was 5 Amazon Echo Dots for $200.00 or something like that if I recall. They are usually $49.99 each
  • I really wanted to manage my lighting system in the living room and dining room first. The living room is mainly standing lamps and the dining room is a ceiling light, admittedly, these were impulse buys, but I did look at HUE, Phillips, and settled on TP Link because of the price.
  • Finally, I wanted to then manage the lights in the bedrooms, and those were my final purchases.

As a result, roughly now its safe to say that the ALL the rooms where a family spends most of the time has lighting that is a part of home automation.

My Purchases

Rather than go into details here, I am going to point you to some existing blogs I have on this topic and where I don’t as of yet, I will list the item till I do a product review on it.

Great Programmable Touchscreen Thermostat with Geofencing

Everyone should have a Voice-Controlled PA like Amazon Echo

Smart Plugs – Regular electrical outlets are so yesterday

There are some product reviews that have been done on this so you can see the buying process in more detail. I hope it gives you some clarity and cut down on your research. Let me know if it does or doesn’t, and if you have any specific questions.

My Feedback

Furthermore I will have to say that management of setting temperature in the house, determining that my kid has the light off and goes to bed, ensure that the dining room light isn’t inadvertently left on all night is completely different. Granted, some can say lazily, but I prefer to call it efficiently.  All the lights on some sort of schedule, and when I am away on holiday, business trips, etc., I turn off the schedule and have them set in the off position

As an aside… I could set an “away mode” but I found it easier to just turn off the schedule.

Most noteworthy on the topic of when I go on holidays, I turn the Thermostat in the OFF position and when I am flying back, before I go to the airport, from my phone, using the App, I turn it back on and the schedules picks back up.  The convenience I love the most though is that in the middle of the night I can either ask Alexa to “set my home temperature to “X” degrees” and that happens. Conversely, I pick up my phone and do it through the app, the idea here is that I didn’t/don’t have to get out of the bed to do that anymore.

In conclusion if you have been thinking about entering Home Automation, there are these reasons and approach I listed above.  This post shows  explain the “How”, the “What” and the “Where” of how I did it. Leave me some feedback, let me know your thoughts please?

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7 Replies to “Home Automation – Smart Devices on the cheap”

  1. Have you seen the video clips of the lady asking Alexa is she worked for the CIA? Call me paranoid, but I just have an issue with these things having internet connections. I fear privacy violations, hacking, and more.

    I have remote start on the cars. My wife thought the battery was going bad in her remote. I turned on the car, but then it wouldn’t allow me to turn it off. I tried the regular key, turning it on and off. No luck. Thankfully I had a few 2032 batteries in the command center (home office), so I replaced them in her remote.

    I remember reading a story about a couple that got a divorce. The woman kept the house and forgot to change the password on her thermostat. The ex husband would turn on the AC and set it to 60 degrees during the day on her while she was at work and other things that drove up her electric bill.
    Home automation is still in its infancy, but I worry that there are a lot of bugs to get worked out.

    1. All Valid Concerns @Scott I wouldnt sell them short, but they all have mitigation elements you can undertake. Thanks for putting the concerns here, easier to manage and folks can learn as well. So.. by the numbers

      1. Regarding Privacy Violation, yep, get that and I agree. For the overly concerned, the Amazon Echo line of products [the only one i have tested] comes with a mute button which stops it from listening, notwithstanding that, only the wake word i.e. by default “Alexa” will have the device recording what it is hearing. It does need internet to work, so there is no way around that, at most you can manage what it is recording. One more thing on this topic, yo can clear the cache of all recordings and history directly from the mobile App or Website.
      2. That seems really freaky, and your conclusion about home/auto automation being in its infancy is evident here. But yes, more than ever we are dependent on easy access to batteries, i did a blog on only using rechargeable batteries as well because of this dependency. Check it out
      3. I heard about a similar story as well, but theres also the story where it is saving lives in the case of that person who had that abusive spouse and while in the middle of a domestic violence situation the Echo device contacted the police… I inferred from this that there was a trigger that the abused individual set up ahead of time.

      I understand your points above, but just like i said when people told me “I will never go to the cloud”, I have always understood, that this is they way we are headed, and you can lead or follow. I prefer to take ‘early’ albeit adventurous steps with the knowledge that some things are not fully baked yet. Great comment, shows that this message is still a debatable and not decided upon position.
      Cheers mate.

  2. I do want to automate. I just don’t think I want it in the command center (home office). I do have a few remotes to turn on machines, and a clapper hooked up to the virtualization lab I have.

    1. Little by little mate, no rush on these things, as you said, this is opening up your ‘command ctr’ to the internet. You have to get it right all the time, bad guys just needs to get it right 1 time.

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