October 6, 2020

Smart Home, The Final Chapter

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It's done!  My house is smart!  Check it out! 🙌 

This is the third and final installment covering my home automation project.  If you read my earlier posts,  you know it took a good amount of research to decide which platform to use to hub my smart home, what to automate, and what to buy.  Because of the wide range of possible devices we could connect, including the ones we already owned, we chose Amazon Echo (Dot) as our hub.

SMART HOME HUB - AMAZON ECHO DOT:  $49.00. 

 

COMMON AREA LIGHTING, 4 DIMMERS + INSTALLATION:  $183.00

We automated all of the lighting of our common areas. They can now be turned on and off individually or by room, and where we have dimmers the lighting of course can be dimmed.  This required the purchase of 4 smart dimmers and 2 smart plugs for the plugged-in lamps.  

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I’m not very tech savvy, but I was able to set up the Echo Dot myself.  I was able to easily set up the smart plugs as well.  But we did need a Handyman to install the smart switches.  Oscar, who is super knowledgeable,  made it all happen.  

HOME THEATER SOUND BAR + INSTALLATION: $500.00

 

We also bought and had Oscar install a Samsung Sound Bar which has Alexa built in. To my delight, he was able to hang the Sound Bar BEHIND my TV so I don't have to look at another apparatus!  It serves as a home theater system since it has an integrated sub-woofer, and it does sound great. It can also play Amazon Music.  But here’s the rub: neither Apple Music (which is where my entire library of music resides) nor Spotify are available on the Samsung Soundbar.  The Sonos Beam does have both available.  I purchased this one because it’s cheaper, and I have a Samsung Smart TV as well. I figured that since Apple Music and Spotify are available via the Echo… 

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After several days of searching I found a work around: I can use the Samsung Soundbar as a Bluetooth speaker connected to the Dot!  It’s an extra step, but it works. I can also run my Apple Music from Apple TV through the Soundbar, using the regular old remote control (but that feels so antiquated now!). And, we still have our Apple Home Pod, where we can still play our music seamlessly.

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BEDROOM LIGHTING: $86.00

 

We also replaced our bedroom nightstand light bulbs with smart bulbs. Herein lies my favorite “skill”.  Not only can we turn the lights on and off with voice command, but I also created a “routine” where I can have the lights dim on – slowly – over the course of 10 minutes leading up to when my alarm goes off.  This is a great way to “gently” wake up – more so now when the sun is rising much later than my normal wake up time. I was able to set this up myself too!

RATING THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE

TOTAL PROJECT COST: $800.00 (to date!)

 

We're still sorting out the commands, and the difference between a routine and a skill. Once in a while Alexa says that a device isn't responding, to check the network connection. Oscar recommended that  we upgrade our modem and wireless router.   He says that the Comcast equipment we have isn’t all that great, and we now have 10 more devices connected to our wireless network in addition to 2 computers, phones and iPads – and they all suck bandwidth.  The system he is recommending would cost another $300.00 plus installation. But I’m going to give it a few weeks to see how big of an issue it becomes.

 

Having said that, we're quite happy with the lighting automation – it’s pretty cool to be able to turn lights on and off when your hands are full, when you don't want to touch anything until you wash your hands, when you leave home, come home, and go to sleep.  Or, simply because you don't want to get up to flip a switch. 

 

We also like that we were able to connect our Nest Thermostat, and now control it via Alexa as well. 

 

It was the Soundbar set up was frustrating: it took me a long time to figure out the work around.  But in the end, even though it would have been easier with Sonos, the Samsung that I got was $70.00 cheaper.  Maybe someday Apple and Samsung will play together.  Regardless, we got a decent home theater system at an affordable price.

We haven't installed the smart lock that I bought because I will need to add another deadbolt to my door (I can’t use it with the one that the building provides).  And, I am still jones-ing for the robotic mop and vacuum, but that’s another $1,000, so it will wait.  

 

I would grade the whole project an A- because of the headaches with the Soundbar.  But all in all, we’re having fun playing with our new toys, and will likely continue to automate more things over time.  

 

I'm keeping the extra smart plug for my Christmas tree – so that I don’t have to crawl under it to turn my lights on and off!  

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I’m not very tech savvy, but I was able to set up the Echo Dot myself.  I was able to easily set up the smart plugs as well.  But we did need a Handyman to install the smart switches.  Oscar, who is super knowledgeable, made it all happen.  

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