Should you DIY, or hire a professional to automate your home? I was wondering this exact same question a few weeks ago and I learned that for most homeowners (and especially renters) Home Automation can be done without hiring anyone and with quite a substantial savings to your wallet.
Should You Hire Someone to Automate Your Home?
Home Automation used to be complicated, but now with systems like Apple HomeKit, anyone can simply and quickly automate most features of their home without hiring a professional. Off the shelf products have become very affordable and easy to use for every member of the family.
After reviewing the three major systems – Apple (Homekit), Amazon (Alexa), and Google (Google Home), for me, HomeKit with Apple (and Siri) is my first choice. It is secure, works seamlessly over my iPhone, and connects to my computer and Apple TV that I already have at home.
For several years I used Alexa, but there were several events that caused me to shift away from Amazon, and switch over to Homekit. You can read more about why I changed in this article.
Now that I am completely in the Apple HomeKit Ecosystem, I know exactly what products to buy (look for the Homekit Logo), and I can relax knowing that they will quickly connect and “just work” right out of the box.
But I’m not limited to simple automations. With the Home App on my iPhone and a HomePod mini (or Apple TV) acting as a bridge, I can create complex scenes and automations for different events and times of the day.
How can I do home automation myself?
If you have an iPhone you are already half way to starting home automation by yourself. Every iPhone comes with the Home App which allows you to connect different devices, and control them from your iPhone, or even better with your voice using Siri.
HomeKit is the overall system name for home Automation with Apple and Siri. The Home App (or Siri) is how you control the devices. Briefly, this is how it works – your phone and whatever device you buy connect to each other over your home Wifi network, and that’s how they talk to each other.
But it doesn’t stop there. If you want to control your lights for instance while you are on vacation, you can, but you will need to either have an AppleTV or a new HomePod mini acting as a bridge. These bridge devices (you only need 1) are always connected to the internet, so that way you can control things anywhere anytime.
Of course, my first thought goes to security – and I can assure you that apple has you covered. Every communication between your phone and devices are end to end encrypted and the commands and controls are not stored on a 3rd party server. Basically it is impossible for your house to get hacked with HomeKit.
How should I get started in home automation?
Most people get started in home automation with a simple lightbulb like the Nanoleaf Essentials. I like this bulb and brand better because it is more affordable, and is easier to control than other brands like the Phillips HUE. They directly replace a standard light bulb and can be controlled via your phone, (no additional app is needed) or via Siri.
To install, simply open the Home app on your phone, and click the plus button in the top right. Scan the QR code, and then name the light (bedroom for instance). That’s it. It takes just a few seconds!
Then if you want to turn the light on simply say “Hey Siri, turn on the bedroom light”.
Of course you can get started lots of different ways – you don’t have to start with a light bulb. There are so many different accessories – here is a list of all the different categories of smart home devices:
- Air Conditioners
- Air Purifiers
- Garage Doors
You can read my complete story about how I got started in home automation on this blog post.
Is home automation necessary?
Home automation is not necessary, but can be extremely helpful, and of course lots of fun. You probably don’t realize it but you use a couple of forms of home automation already – your garage door opens and closes at the press of a button, and when was the last time you got off the couch to change the TV channel (yes, that used to be a thing).
As technology advances, and our lives get busier, there is no reason that you shouldn’t be able to control the lights or locks in your home with your voice. “Hey Siri, lock the doors” for instance.
I know that being able to control lights has made my home safer, and the security cameras around my house have given me a lot of peace of mind as well. Having everything interlinked and automated is a big plus.
Home automation used to be only available to the people who knew a lot of technical stuff, or could hire a professional to wire their home. Now, you can buy products and connect them yourself, knowing they will work, and that help is available on website like this one.
How does home automation work?
Obviously home automation seems to work magically- at least that how it should work!
In all actuality home automation works over the WiFi in your house.
Let’s say you have 3 devices – an iPhone, an AppleHome Pod and a Nanoleaf Light bulb. All three will connect to your home WFi Network.
When you press a button on your phone to turn on the light, your iphone “talks” over IP (Internet Protocol) using the HomeKit Accessory Protocol (HAP). It sends a secure command to a specific device address. This command gets broadcast over your WiFi network, until the device with the correct device address “hears” it, and does whatever the command is.
When we introduce the HomePod into the mix, now we can use the World Wide Web to broadcast our command from anywhere in the world. The same signal gets securely sent from your phone, but now instead of it being on your local network, it goes out over the internet. Your Apple HomePod mini is connected to the internet (the lightbulb is not) and the HomePod then sends the signal to the light.
All of this happens pretty much instantly, and seemingly magically.
What are examples of home automation systems
There really is no limit to home automation systems – whatever you think of can be accomplished, Most of the time it is easy to do right out of the box, but sometimes with some extremely complicated ideas it can be more difficult.
- Turn off lights anywhere in the house
- Automatically Locking your doors at a specific time of night
- package sensing cameras
- setting the temperature of your home from anywhere in the world
- open or close your blinds at dawn or dusk
- And much more
There are lots of different Smart home installation companies – but you really don’t need one. It has become very affordable and easy to create your own home automation setup. Plus when something goes wrong (which is very rare now) you can troubleshoot it yourself and save hundreds of dollars.
Speaking of savings a quick search said that it can easily cost over $15,000 to have your house automated by a professional, but a good DIY-er can accomplish the same task for between $2000-5000, using literally the very same equipment. That’s quite a savings. Plus you know you did the job yourself and can easily add or remove features as you like without having to wait for someone else to do it.
All in all, it is simple to automate your home using Apple HomeKit. Go ahead, buy your first automatic lightbulb and give it a try – I’m guessing you will find it much easier than you thought.