March 3, 2024

20 Smart Home Tips For 2023

Whether you're remodeling your beautiful home in San Francisco, Los Altos, Atherton, Hillsborough, or starting a new house build in Palo Alto, there's a lot that goes into automating your new smart home. A small cottage in Burlingame, or a large mansion in Atherton can both enjoy the most of what home automation has to offer.  Technology in home automation field moves quickly just like technology advancement in general.

1. Shop around  — not all prices are equal when it comes to high ticket items

When it comes to your smart home, you may think that everything is going to be close to absurd in price, but this is not the case. Certain equipment, mostly doorbells and security camera related equipment, gets discounted regularly by places such as Best Buy and other big box retailers. Don’t spend the amount on the dealer’s website when you can be saving your money for other aspects of your smart home.

2. Have a consultant give you a quote before trying to do it yourself

Many home automation companies don’t charge a consultation fee. They may have some insight into your project that you may not have thought about before. Some items that you want to install may also require a lot more work than what it may seem. Once you’ve got a consultation, and get a quote, you’ll have a much better idea who to work with and your budget — along with if you actually can do it yourself after all.

3. Don’t forget the basics, every project is going to require some wiring and other aspects you may not have considered

When you’re planning your project, think about the full scope. That means every single minuscule aspect of your project. Something as simple as a new thermostat may require special wiring, which your home may not even be outfitted for. It’s very important to consider all the outlying aspects of your new addition.

4. When remodeling, plan ahead

While you may think that you aren’t going to want certain items installed, especially to save cost, think again. Many people decide not to pre-wire for things such as speakers in certain rooms, but the reality is that it won’t really cost you much extra during the construction phase. What will cost you the most money is if you decide you want to do it later, without the wiring already existing. This can cost thousands more to fix at that point, so always think ahead. When it comes to kids rooms it may seem like they aren’t going to want things like that, but as they get older they most likely will.

Wiring can be tough, so it's best to plan ahead

5. Do you really need an 8K TV, and other technobabble marketing?

It’s nearly impossible for human eyes to notice the difference between a 4K TV and the new high-end 8K models. The thing that we do notice, however, is the price tag. Lots of products try to lure consumers into buying a higher end model, but sometimes its definitely not worth the extra cost. Make sure you consider all the alternatives before spending a large portion of your budget on marketing tactics — it could always be used somewhere more sensible.

6. You can do a lot more with your WiFi than you think

Most WiFi systems now offer things such as cutoff times (perfect for keeping the kids off your system during dinner) and parental controls. Make sure your system has the ability to make the most of them. Lots of generic WiFi systems with no controls cost around the same as the additional products allowing full parental control. We’ve written in depth before on a few options, but make sure you’re up to date on the newest products for this year before purchasing.

7. Beware of vulnerabilities before buying some items

Not all products are entirely secure. While this may be more important for some things than others, it’s always a very important consideration. The days of cyber attacks are becoming more common, and with new smart homes being tied directly to network connections, the more vulnerable a home can be. It’s very simple to fend off these would-be attackers, but your system needs to always have the right components and be up to date. Some products have some very nasty flaws, such as the Doorking models used for opening front gates.

Think twice before purchasing some equipment

8. What system is right for your home?

While certain systems such as the Lutron Caseta, RadioRA3, Lutron Home Works for lighting, and Control4 or a Savant Smart Systems for smart home automation might seem very enticing, they’re not always necessary. Some systems can be done much cheaper while only sacrificing a few options that the higher end option would have. Of course, this depends entirely on your needs, as the higher end products do have extra functionality. Some systems such as Lutron Caseta offer more simple switches, at a much lower price.

9. What kind of speaker system should I get?

There’s a lot of different types of systems to consider. While Sonos is an easy and wireless option that connects effortlessly to most systems, it generally works best for a smaller setup. For real speaker power, and a full 5.1 or 7.2.1 setup, you’ll likely want to get some integrated ceiling and in-wall speakers. Of course, this is something to consider for your individual setup, and something to go over with your consultant as well.

10. What kind of cameras should I get for my home?

There’s definitely a lot to consider when purchasing cameras. Between every available brand such as Nest, Arlo or Ring or OEM POE hard wired IP cameras — any kind of model and feature can be added to your home. Security is very important, and depending on your home you’ll probably need some unique features. Things that seem unimportant, such as floodlight or spotlight cameras, can actually be quite important to your setup. Make sure you know exactly what kind of camera you need in your home before spending the big bucks on your new setup.

11. Should I get a projector or a larger TV for my home theater?

Projectors have definitely come back in popularity in recent years. It’s possible to get a 4K quality screen and projector for a similar price as some of the larger TV models at a comparable price. The benefit of projectors is the portability, as most screens have the ability to retract as to not block important views after movie time. The size taken up by a projector/screen setup is generally much less cumbersome than an 85" TV. Of course, as I’ve said too many times in this article, this depends entirely on your own home theater.

Projectors can be placed to maximize space

12. Its very important to keep your server rack clean

While it may seem like the server rack is something that can be tucked away and the mess of wires can be hidden and forgotten about — that is entirely wrong. It’s very possible to overheat and short out components and cause a very large headache for your home automation system. Be sure you have a technician come and organize each wire as it will save you quite a lot of time and money that would have to be spent fixing your server rack after the fact. It’s also possible to clean up a lot of components yourself if you’re feeling handy, with a few simple tips.

13. Picture Frame (ART) TVs are cool, but are they necessary?

While marketing has made picture frame TVs seem like a got-to-have-it kind of merchandise, they might not always be practical. Spaces in which picture frame TVs are most needed are ones where homeowners can mask them as a beautiful art piece when not in use. They’re meant to be tucked away, and not the forefront of every room. Generally, bedroom setups are the most common place to see this type of TV, so make sure you’re not spending the big bucks on something like this when it might not serve its intended purpose there.

14. Make sure you’ve got security signs to fend off possible intruders

Security signs are a very inexpensive (and usually free from your provider) deterrent to keep intruders away from your home. Ask your provider for a few, and they generally will be very happy to give them away. The placement of your signs is very important as well, as you need to make sure they’re placed very visibly for would-be intruders to see before they attempt their heist.

Keeping security signs front and center keeps away intruders

15. Make sure you have a strong and reliable network

Things like WiFi shouldn’t be taken lightly in your smart home, as not having a well connected network will cause many headaches later. Make sure devices are all within a safe range of each other to avoid spreading your network too thin and having network outages. It’s an easy thing to overlook, but a well meshed network with equipment that matches the speeds you’re paying for will be well worth the time and effort.

16. Consider a smart lighting system for your home

A lighting system that wakes up with you and can be remotely controlled can not only save you money on electric bills, but make your day flow much more smoothly. It’s simple to add in some switches and app controlled devices such Lutron Caseta switches and dimmers or more advanced systems such as Lutron Radio Ra2 or HomeWorks keypads, along with a Savant system. While not always the cheapest option, it’ll make up for itself in cost with efficiency.

17. Invest in your camera system and footage storage

While feeling like having a camera system in general is a great deterrent to crime and theft, things don’t always go that way. It’s very common for systems to malfunction and have data loss when they’re purchased with frugality in mind. Make sure you invest in equipment that can store plenty of data in case you need to take something to the police. The NVR device that records camera footage is equally as important, as without it you cannot save any data from your cameras. Whether you have a physical device, or use a cloud storage system, make sure either is reliable. There’s nothing worse than reviewing your camera footage and finding out that its been corrupted or erased because you purchased a bundle deal.

18. Consider mounting some iPads in your home

Savant is a very versatile system and the amount of app control that it offers is unparalleled. However, it’s even more amazing to be able to connect most of your smart home to an iPad. Most larger homes in the Bay Area for example take advantage of this, and place one or two in a hallway or bedroom, as an iPad can control multiple aspects that other devices would need to be installed for. Music control, temperature control, and much more can be controlled from a single iPad — saving a lot of money on other products.

Climate control with a touch

19. You can automate a lot more than you’d think

When you think of home automation and smart home, the terms tend to go from light switches to app controlled music and temperature, but there’s a large amount of ideas that have been automated in recent years. Things like sprinklers have even been tied to home automation systems, and they’re very useful when it comes to the summer months. Check around when thinking of ideas for your home, because there’s a chance that if you want to automate it, you’ll be able to.

20. Throw in some plants

Believe it or not, there’s a wide variety of beautiful plants that can mesh together perfectly with a smart home. From low maintenance to tropical, they’re all beautiful and can even be regulated with your temperature controls and lighting systems. Don’t be afraid to pick out some greenery for your smart home.

Some greenery adds a touch of flare to any smart home

Service Areas covered: Monte Sereno, Campbell, Los Gatos, San Jose, Pebble Beach, Carmel, Monterey, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Woodside, Hillsborough, Saratoga, Cupertino, Menlo Park, Tiburon, Belvedere, Mill Valley, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Burlingame, Portola Valley, and Atherton.