On our most recent IoT Podcast, we actually had two very similar questions left on our IoT voicemail hotline from Tyler and Dan. Both are building new homes and are wondering how to best plan for their smart home needs. They also have some existing smart speakers and devices but are willing to make changes.
Since everyone’s home and needs are different, we decided to take a more generalized approach for anyone who is building a new home and how to decide the best way to plan ahead for making it smart.
First and foremost, you need to get your underlying infrastructure down. You don’t want a new home with pockets of bad network coverage. Yes, a mesh network is what we recommend but having extra ethernet ports throughout the home will be welcomed. We suggest Cat-5, 5e, or better yet, Cat-6 cabling run in the walls of a new home. Specifically, you might want ethernet ports in any rooms where a computer or smart television may be used.
Next is to choose a smart assistant platform or ecosystem. This helps because not all devices work with the three major platforms: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Google Home.
Once you’ve made this decision, you’ll have filtered out smart devices that won’t work with your system of choice. And to be honest, this choice is highly subjective. I use Google Home but maybe you prefer Apple Homekit or Amazon Alexa. HomeKit does work well but requires you to be an iOS user and I personally don’t want that limitation forever, even though I currently use an iPhone.
Regardless of your ecosystem choice, we recommend the purchase of one or more smart displays. Apple really doesn’t have its own display option, so if you chose HomeKit, you can skip this. Amazon and Google make a range of smart displays in various sizes, however, and they’re very handy for controlling devices by touch as well as viewing live footage from webcams and video doorbells.
From here, you should focus on what we think are the basics you’ll likely want for your smart home. You may not need all of these but plan for lights, smart locks, a video doorbell, a thermostat and regular webcams, possibly for both outdoor and indoor usage.
Again, the ecosystem choice will drive some of the decision making here because you’ll want to plan for devices that are compatible with that choice.
For existing homes, it may be simpler to purchase smart bulbs. However, when building new, we highly recommend installing smart switches, which can be used with non-smart lighting. The Lutron Caseta line is our recommendation because it works well and looks nice. You do need a Lutron hub for these switches but the benefit here is that these will work with all three ecosystems. There’s an added future value-add as well: If you decide to eventually install smart shades, the hub can control Lutron Serena products.
I’m a fan of the Ecobee line of thermostats mainly because it was among the first to offer remote temperature sensors. Others, such as Nest, do have optional sensors as well if you’d prefer a different brand. But again, Ecobee has HomeKit supported devices as well as non-HomeKit options that work with Amazon and Google. And if you chose Amazon as your preferred system, Ecobee offers a thermostat with Alexa built-in.
Choosing locks for your new home isn’t too ecosystem dependent as there are brands that support all three. Instead, we suggest considering what features you might want. Some locks, such as the August lock, can automatically unlock over Bluetooth as you approach your home, for example. We like locks that have some secondary method of unlocking, which is why I chose the Next x Yale: It has a capacitive touch keypad for unlocking with a numeric code. That’s handy for guests and for if you leave home without your phone to unlock the door. August and Wyze locks don’t come with a keypad but you can purchase an optional one that works with them.
Doorbell cameras are a tricky purchase because some require a monthly subscription fee while others offer limited viewing at no charge. Being a Google-centric home, I chose the $229 Nest Hello video doorbell and use the free tier of service.
That gives me five days worth of footage to view if needed although Nest no longer offers that due to a recent change in the Nest Aware subscription plans. The new free tier is limited to just the most three recent hours of video clips. For 30-days of full video storage, plan to pay $6 a month or $60 per year. More storage and an unlimited number of supported devices will cost you double. Stacey suggests the $160 Eufy video doorbell as another good option for non-HomeKit houses. It includes 4 GB of internal local storage so there’s no monthly fee.
For indoor cameras, there is a wide range of choices across all three ecosystems that share a commonality: They’re all fairly expensive. We’re fans of the Wyze Cams which range from $20 to $30 and can store footage locally on a user-supplied microSD card. You also get 14-days of free rolling cloud storage if you’re comfortable with that from a privacy standpoint. These work with the Amazon and Google smart displays although we’ve experienced a delay of 3 to 10 seconds when starting a live feed.
Our recommendation for outdoor cameras is the Arlo product line which works really well, run on batteries, and can also be plugged in if you plan ahead for outdoor power. These support all three smart home ecosystems as well. Wyze has announced an outdoor camera product but it’s not yet available.
Although those are the main products worth considering when planning a new smart home build, water leak detection systems might be valuable to protect your new house. You can purchase low cost sensors such as those from Honeywell, Samsung, and others. However, for a new build, it could be just the right time for a whole-home smart leak detection system such as the $500 Moen Flo or the $600 Phyn.
These don’t just detect leaks; they also can shut the water off when a leak is seen. Stacey also loves the Delta smart faucet she used to have: It supports voice commands for dispensing a specific amount of water and can be used touch-free.
Adding a remote garage door opener and sensor is relatively inexpensive but handy for closing the garage if you left home and forgot to close it. The Chamberlain MyQ lineup is a good choice here because the feature is built-in on certain models. Or you can add the functionality with an aftermarket sensor on just about any garage door opener.
To hear the voicemail question in full, as well as our discussion, tune in to the IoT Podcast below: