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Creating a smart home might sound like a huge undertaking, and it can be difficult to know where to start. But it’s not as hard as you might think! There are a lot of projects that you can do in just a few minutes or over the course of an afternoon to get started. These four will introduce you to some of the principles of creating a connected home and add a bit of cool factor to your house.
Install a Nest Thermostat
The Nest thermostat kicked off a huge amount of interest in smart home technology, and paved the way for many new entries into the market. It’s also a great way to get started on smartening your home because it’s dead easy to set up—which is one of the reasons that we included it in our list of five smart home products you should be buying. To install it, all you’ll need is a Phillips screwdriver. There’s even one included in the Nest box, though you might find it easier to use a set of your own to take advantage of different sizes.
According to Tom’s Guide, which has a great guide on how to install the Nest, the whole process should only take about thirty minutes, and it’s quite easy. Of course, it should be noted that Nest recommends that you have a Nest-certified professional installer do it for you, but if you’re even remotely comfortable working with electronics, you shouldn’t find it very difficult. And if you like the thermostat, you can also get the Nest protect, a smart smoke and carbon monoxide detector.
Smarten Your Lights
The lights in your home get used all the time, and it’s easy to take them for granted. You walk into a room and turn them on, and turn them off before you leave. But there are so many more cool things you can do! We’ve shown you a few dedicated smart lamp systems, like the Phillips Hue and the Holi smart mood lamp, but if you want to start with the basics, all you need to do is purchase a Belkin WeMo and plug your lights into it, as we detailed in this post about how to smarten your lights with WeMo.
The WeMo setup lets you put your lights on a schedule, operate them remotely with an app, use the attached motion sensor to control them, and even to integrate with IFTTT triggers. The great part about setting up your lights with WeMo is that no tools are needed—just download the app, plug the switch into your power socket, and you’re ready to rock. And once you get the hang of it, you can start integrating WeMo with other appliances, too.
Switch to a Smart Lock
There’s nothing that says “smart home” like unlocking your front door with your cell phone. And with the recent proliferation of smart locks, it’s become easier than ever. We profiled a number of options in our article on five great smart locks, and new locks from reputable manufacturers like Yale and Kwikset are hitting the market all the time. In addition to being able to unlock the door with your phone, you can enable proximity-based unlocking, give temporary keys to people who need access, and have the door automatically locked behind you.
For most of these locks, all you need is a screw driver to remove your old lock and install the new one—it’s one of the easiest upgrades you can make.
Create a Motion Capture Security System with Raspberry Pi
If you’re ready to take the next step in smartening your home, Raspberry Pi is the tool for you. Both the Pi and the Arduino are fantastic tools for automating your home, and we’ve written about a few different projects you can take on, like this Arduino-powered nightlight and sunrise alarm. One of the most useful projects we’ve discussed is creating a motion capture security system.
Installing this system requires a Raspberry Pi, a webcam, an SD card, and a power supply for the camera. It also requires a bit more technical expertise for installing drivers and things on the Raspberry Pi, but our tutorial outlines how to go about doing all of these things, so it’s a great first project for an aspiring Raspberry Pi home automator. And it’s significantly cheaper than most standard home security systems!
These four projects are some of the best for people interested in starting to create a smart home without going through the hassle that’s required for some of the more advanced projects. If you’re feeling motivated, you could easily complete all of these projects in a weekend. So what are you waiting for? Pick a project and start smartening your home this weekend! (Don’t forget these six smart home projects you can tackle in a weekend, too.)
What are your favorite simple smart home projects? What would you recommend for first-time smart home enthusiasts? Share your thoughts below!