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Room-by-Room Guide to Home Automation

Written by | Updated January 31, 2020

Now that smart home devices are becoming more affordable and easier to install than ever before, you might want to expand your own home’s collection of smarter technology.

With this in mind, we put together a room-by-room guide to home automation and recommend the best smart home devices to help you make your life easier, safer, and more energy efficient.

Indulge Your Inner Control Freak

Smart home products can control just about everything in your home… except your kids.

lifx smart led bulb

Automatically turn your lights on and off, set them to an appropriate brightness, and set timers while you’re away or lounging on your couch.

samsung smarthings hub

With a smart home hub you can set your TV’s recording schedule, manage your stored programs, and decide where to watch them, all from your smartspeaker or phone.

August Smart Lock + bridge connect

Find out who’s knocking at your door with a live security feed on your phone. Unlock the door for guests remotely—or lock it if it’s a stranger.

smart thermostat

Smart Thermostats

Use your smart thermostat to automatically control the temperature in the house. Not only will you feel more comfortable, but you’ll also enjoy the pleasure of a lower energy bill.

white plug with blue/green logo on the side

With smart plugs and outlets you can easily control anything from your sprinklers to your lights while you’re away.

co detector

You can integrate your smart home system with smoke and carbon monoxie detectors to set off an alarm if increased levels of carbon monoxide or smoke are detected.

entryway

Entryway

Forgetting your keys is a huge hassle, and that nagging worry about whether or not you locked the door when you left on vacation can ruin an otherwise relaxing trip. A smart door lock not only keeps your home safe—it gives you quick access and lets you rest easy.

Our Pick
Kwikset Kevo Smart Lock

Kwikset Kevo Smart Deadbolt

Some smart locks look like regular deadbolt locks but with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi capability. Other locks have touchscreen keypads to give you a high-tech look and the convenience of a backup code. You can set your lock to sense your smartphone so it automatically locks the door when you leave and unlocks it when you get home.

You can also set rules for your lock, like programming it to arm your security system whenever the door locks. And you can control your lock remotely, so you can lock or unlock the door for a neighbor, whether you’re across the world or snug in your own bed.

living room

Living Room

Turning lights on and off isn’t exactly a major inconvenience, but smart bulbs offer quite a few surprising benefits for your home and your wallet. Smart lightbulbs last ten times longer than regular bulbs, and they only consume 8.5 watts of electricity as opposed to the 60 watts eaten up by conventional bulbs.

Our Pick
Philips Hue Smart Lightbulb

Philips Hue Smart Lightbulb

Smart lights like Philips Hue lightbulbs are easy to install—it’s as simple as changing out a lightbulb. Once your new light is in, you can use your smartphone to change the color, dim it to your desired brightness, or have it turn on and off at certain times of day.

The scheduling option puts your lighting to work as a safety feature as well, because having lights turn on and off throughout the evening can trick potential burglars into thinking someone is home even when the house is empty. You can also wwitch on your front porch light and the path lighting before you leave the office, so you’re not fumbling around in the dark when you get home.

More Living Room Home Automation Ideas

Door and Window Sensors. Sensors will tell you immediately if a door is open or ajar, and will work with your home security system to alert your alarm company in the event of a home security breach.

Inter-Device Communication. All your devices—phone, laptop, TV, entertainment system—will be able to talk to each other, creating a seamlessly interconnected media and communications network inside your home.

Robotics. Teach your home how and when to clean itself by integrating robotic technology—like pool cleaners, window washers and robot vaccums like Roombas—into your home automation system.

Motorized Control. Anything that moves can be controlled through home automation. Adjust the curtains, shades or blinds to keep the late afternoon sun out of your eyes without getting up. Fold up your Murphy bed without having to bend or stoop over.

kitchen

Kitchen

If your household is like most, your kitchen is probably a common gathering place, so it’s a perfect location for a smart speaker like an Amazon Echo or a Google Home.

These affordable devices can help you operate other smart devices in your home using voice commands, but they also offer nifty features all on their own.

If you’re baking and you use the last of the sugar, there’s no need to stop what you’re doing to make a note. Simply say, “Alexa, add sugar to my shopping list.” The next time you’re at the store, pull up the Alexa app on your smartphone and you’ll see everything you’ve added to your shopping list.

Our Pick
Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon Echo Dot

You can also use your smart speaker to play music, make phone calls, listen to news, check the weather, help you get answers to important questions (“Alexa, why is the sky blue?”), set timers, play games (Jeopardy is one of our favorites), and more.

More Kitchen Home Automation Ideas

Saving Energy. Home automation is the perfect tool for managing your family’s power consumption and making your entire home more energy efficient. Automatically switch off lights and appliances when not in use or during specific times of the day. Stop heating or cooling an empty house all day long and opt for a smarter approach to indoor climate control.

Egg Monitoring. Just how old are these eggs? Are they starting to go bad? A smart fridge or smart egg tray can track that for you, and you’ll never wonder again.

bedroom

Bedroom

Smart Plugs. You can use your smartphone to control power to a smart plug, making smart outlets like the Conico WiFi Smart Plug an inexpensive, energy-saving device for any room. If you don’t want to swap out your regular lightbulbs for smartbulbs in bedroom lamps, smart outlets are another easy way to give you smartphone control over your lights. And if you connect the outlet to your smart speaker, you can enjoy the convenience of voice-activated light and appliance control.

Music. With smart speakers like the Google Home Mini or Amazon Echo Dot in different rooms in your house, maybe you want to listen to your favorite podcast in bed while your partner is rocking out to their favorite music in the kitchen.

Our Pick
Nest Protect

Google Nest Protect Smoke/CO Detector

Carbon Monoxide Detectors. Your home automation system can detect increased levels of carbon monoxide in the air and set off an alarm if you’re in danger. It’s a far more reliable method than the old, standalone detectors from the hardware store—you’ll never have to worry about the alarm failing because of a dead nine-volt battery.

nursery for a baby

Nursery

If there’s one good reason to make our homes smarter, it’s to protect our kids. Smart video monitors have progressed quite a bit from their grainy beginnings. Nowadays, they’re hi-tech marvels that not only offer live video but can also provide night vision, two-way talk capabilities, temperature sensors, and even sleep tracking for your kiddo.

Our Pick
Nanit Smart Baby Monitor

Nanit Smart Baby Monitor

No more rushing into the nursery at the first sound of crying—with smart video monitoring, just pull up the app on your phone and take a peek into the nursery.

You can check on your baby and see if they need your help or if they’re just fussy and trying to settle down. As an added bonus, you can use saved video footage to capture great shots of your little one and share cute moments with family and friends.

bathroom

Bathroom

If you’ve never been halfway to work and wondered if that flatiron is still plugged into the outlet,  you might be interested in learning more about smart outlets.

Our Pick
Conico WiFi Smart Plug

Conico WiFi Smart Plug

Smart Outlets. Outlet controls allow you to integrate any of your home’s older, “dumb” lights or appliances into a new automation system. Turn lights on and off remotely. Manage smaller, window-style air conditioner units. Monitor the amount of energy these appliances use, so you’ll know whether it makes sense to upgrade to more energy efficient models.

hallway

Hallway

One of the first smart home devices on the scene was the smart thermostat. And while it may be old news, it’s still one of the smartest investments you can make for your home.

You can program your air conditioning and heating systems to use less energy during certain hours of the day, like while you’re away at work or while you’re sleeping. You can also program the thermostat to know when you leave the house by attaching rules to it like, “If the security system is set to ‘away,’ raise the thermostat to eighty degrees.”

A smart thermostat is a truly convenient way to save time and money—and leave a lighter carbon footprint.

Our Pick
Nest Learning Thermostat

Nest Learning Thermostat

The Nest Learning Thermostat is one of the best on the market, and it can also serve as a hub for your other smart devices. It’s easy to use, and its motion sensor detects when people are around, so it even does some of the programming for you by learning your normal daily schedule.

The first few weeks after it’s installed, you can manually adjust the temperature to your comfort level, and after that it will use the patterns it detected during the learning period to start adjusting the temperature automatically.

laundryroom

Laundry Room

You open the washing machine to put in a new load and the odor of mildewed clothes hits you: you realize you completely forgot to switch the previous day’s wet load to the dryer. You sigh, restart the washer again, and hope you don’t forget it this time.

If this sounds familiar, a smart washer could be the perfect solution. Smart washers not only alert your smartphone when they finish a load and remind you to switch it to the dryer, but also sense the size of the load and adjust the detergent and water levels accordingly.

Our Pick
LG Turbowash Smart Washer

LG Turbowash Smart Washer

Smart washers like the LG TurboWash have even more handy features like specialized cycle settings and a speed-wash setting that only takes fifteen minutes.

Another great feature is the LG SmartThinQ app and its ability to communicate with the washer to help you troubleshoot problems and come up with a diagnosis—potentially saving you some pricey service calls.

basement

Basement

Anyone who has ever dealt with a basement flood due to a burst pipe or a faulty water heater knows that it’s not easy to recover from. Water Leak Sensors (also called flood sensors or moisture sensors) can help you worry less and may even stop a leak from turning into a flood. 

Not only can excessive moisture in your home lead to structural problems, but it can also contribute to the growth of mold, which can cause major health problems in some people. Moisture sensors can alert you to standing water and persistently damp areas in places you wouldn’t notice them, like inside the walls.

Our Pick
Samsung SmartThings Water Leak Sensor

Samsung SmartThings Water Leak Sensor

Placed near the floor, these sensors can detect the presence of water and alert your phone. More importantly, they can be connected to other smart devices in your home, like your main water shut-off valve, and automatically send an alert to shut off the water in case of a leak.

You can also connect the sensor to your smart lights upstairs, setting them to flash if a leak is detected, so you’ll be alerted to a problem even if it happens in the middle of the night.

backyard

Backyard

Pets. Your pets should enjoy the benefits of home automation as much as you do. Connect a food dispenser to make sure they’re always fed on time. Set up a schedule for locking and unlocking the pet door to keep unwanted critters out. Install a pet camera and know by just checking your phone whether they’re in the house, out in the yard, or digging up the neighbor’s flowers.

Our Pick
Nest Outdoor IQ camera

Google Nest Cam IQ

Security Cameras. Was that a burglar or just a raccoon? Check the outside cameras via your tablet or smart phone and find out, without getting out of bed. Or check the interior cameras to look in on the place when you’re away.

Pool Safety. Adjust the pool lighting before you take that late-night dip. Easily and automatically manage the pH level. And pool motion sensors help keeps small children safe by alerting you whenever something—or someone—falls in.

Glass Break Sensors. Are you sure you’d hear it if an intruder broke a downstairs window to get inside? Your home’s glass break sensors will make sure you know all about it, the moment it happens—and so will the police.

garage interior

Garage

Like a front door lock or a heat styling tool, a garage door is another part of your home you don’t want to worry about when you’re out and about.

A smart garage door opener with Wi-Fi lets you see if your door is open or closed, and you can operate it remotely from anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection.

Our Pick
Chamberlain MyQ Smart Garage Door Opener

Chamberlain MyQ Smart Garage Door Opener

You can also set it to alert you when the door opens and closes, so you’ll know when family members come and go. Some smart garage door openers can even serve as a hub for other smart devices in your home.

house exterior

Exterior

Heating. Make sure your home is always evenly heated to exactly the right temperature. Utilizing smart thermostats will adapt to wintertime temperature preferences, so you can always enjoy a perfectly cozy home without having to do anything at all. You can even add roof or sidewalk heaters to prevent icing and snow buildup.

Our Pick
Ring Doorbell 2

Ring Video Doorbell 2

Doorbell Cameras. See who’s at the door before you answer it, receive a package delivery and never get stuck talking to a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman again.

Sprinkler Control. Wise water management can help save you money—and if you live in a drought-stricken area, it might even be mandatory. Home automation lets you turn your sprinklers on and off remotely, from inside the house or across the country.

Check your water usage levels whenever you like. You can even add outdoor moisture sensors so your system will always know when the yard needs watering—and when it doesn’t.

FAQs

Do I need a SmartThings hub to use SmartThings products?

While a SmartThings hub is ideal to ensure a smooth installation and setup of your SmartThings home devices, it uses Zigbee and Z-Wave protocol. That means other hubs that use those protocols can also work as the brain of your smart home. Whenever shopping for new smart devices, it’s always a good idea to check their compatibility with what you currently have in your home.

What is the best smart home hub to use?

It’s a matter of personal preference and compatibility, but if you’re starting from scratch, we like the Wink Hub 2. It supports several different protocols, including Zigbee and Z-Wave, making it compatible with a wide range of smart product lines (including Ecobee, Philips, Nest, Schlage, Yale, and Chamberlain). If you already have at least one smart device in your home, keep in mind that it may be able to do double duty and also serve as a hub for other devices. Amazon Echo and Nest Thermostat are two examples of smart devices that are also hubs.

If I’m just starting out with smart home devices, which should I get first?

Here at SafeWise, safety is our top priority, so we recommend starting with smart security products. Most smart security systems can double as a smart hub for your home, so they’re a great place to start. Check out our Top 3 Smart Home Security Systems Available Right Now for our most recommended systems.

home automation timeline

The idea of managing all the functions of a home with a centralized control system dates back to at least the beginning of the 20th century. The earliest working prototypes of automated houses debuted in the 1930s at World’s Fairs in Chicago and New York City, but those homes were never intended to be commercially available.1

It wasn’t until the invention of the microcontroller during the 1970s that marketing a fully-wired, “smart” home automation system became economically feasible.

With the growth of computer technology over the last fifteen years or so, the home automation industry has taken off.

  • In 2012, the estimated value of the home-automation market was around $3.6 billion.2
  • Smart-home device sales doubled the following year3, with 1.8 million new system installations nationwide.4
  • Some analysts expect 12 million new residential system installations in 20164 and an estimated overall market value of as much as $16.4 billion by 2019.2

How We Chose the Best Smart Home Devices

To bring you information about the best smart devices for your home, we researched the wide range of smart home devices available, talked with smart home device experts, and drew on our own experiences with smart technology. Visit our methodology to learn more.

The Final Word

The best thing about smart devices is the opportunity to make your home work for you, whether you’re at home or away. Imagine coming home after a long day at work, having your door automatically unlock when you approach, your security system disarm, and the lights come on, welcoming you in with a warm glow.

The temperature is just how you like it, and you ask Alexa to play some soothing music while you relax. When it’s time for bed, a simple voice command locks the door, arms the security system, and turns out the lights, and you can rest well knowing you’ve built a smart home system that fits you like a glove.

Written by SafeWise Team

The SafeWise Team is here to help you keep your home and family safe. Whether you’re looking to pick a security system or identify and remove common risks in your home, we’re here to help you find the best products and well-researched answers. At SafeWise we combine our years of experience in home safety and security with user reviews and feedback to help take the guesswork out of living safe. Learn more

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