This is my smart home tech tour, where I’m going to cover all of the items I’ve used to build my smart home setup. From lights to plugs, heating and speakers. If you want to see the full tour on YouTube, scroll down and you can watch it there. But otherwise, here’s a write up of everything I’ve done.
One of the first and easiest things I changed around the house were the lights. So I’ve swapped most of the bulbs out for either Philips Hue or LIFX, probably the most popular brands when it comes to smart lights.
In my living room I’ve got a few floor lamps with LIFX colour bulbs in, these are about £50/$40 each. And then behind the TV I’ve got a 5 meter LIFX Z strip. This is stuck to the back of the TV with 3M tape, and gives a nice ambient glow when watching movies or gaming, you can get the starter kit for £80/$70, and each additional meter is £30/$25. I’m using a total of 5 meters. The TV I’m using here is the 55” C9 OLED by LG, the picture quality on this TV is incredible, and I use it mainly with my PlayStation 4 for gaming or watching Netflix most evenings, but if you want to see a full living room tour, check out my 2020 room tour which I’ve linked above.
Then in the kitchen I’ve got 2 ceiling lights that I’ve replaced with colour bulbs. Usually I have them set to a warm white, but I can change them to any colour combo depending on the mood or scene I want to create. I’ll show you how I create scenes later, it’s pretty cool.
Under the kitchen units I’ve actually installed a really cheap amazon LED strip, these cost about £15/$15, and look pretty nice. They are then plugged into a smart home plug so I can turn them on and off remotely, I’ll explain more about these plugs later too on how I turn normal items into smart items.
In the master bedroom I’ve got a few lamps, all using Philips Hue bulbs, a side note you will need a £40/$50 bridge to control all Philips hue bulbs, whereas LIFX don’t need one. You can get these bulbs in most fittings, so you should be able to replace any of yours too. I’ve linked to the ones I use in the description.
On my desk I’ve got a couple lights, I’ve got the LIFX Beam on the wall that can be set to any colour combo, and I’ve got another Z strip behind the desk too. The beam on the wall was about £150/$150, and I’m only using a 1 meter Z strip so that’s £80/$70. If you’ve seen my original desk tour video you’ll notice this has changed, I’ve got another video planned.
I want to show you how I use speakers around the house to control my lights and other smart home tech. So I’m using Google Assistant, which means most of my speakers are Google Home or Nest speakers, however I do have a few compatible ones too. I’ve got a Google Mini in the hallway which I often use for voice commands to turn the lights on and off, and these are super cheap at around £25/$50.
Then I’ve got others around the house including a Harmon Kardon on my desk which I use to play Spotify while I work. In the living room I’ve got another Harman Kardon on my shelving unit, and these kick out some serious bass. These are around £150 each.
But my favourite speaker is the Google Home Max in the kitchen. I only recently got this to replace one of the Harmon Kardon speakers as it was on sale at £200/$300, and this is incredible. These can be paired to create a stereo setup if you’d rather, but even just the one on it’s own is really impressive. It really fills the room.
I’ve then got a few more Minis dotted around the house like on the landing and in the bedrooms.
But these speakers aren’t just here to play Spotify, they act as the microphone for all of my voice commands too.
Creating scenes and themes
I mentioned earlier that I use scenes for my lights, this means I can create a scene or a theme for each room in the LIFX or Philips app, then call it using Google Assistant.
So a few examples I use around the house include a scene called Vibe in the kitchen, which changes the lights to these colours, it completely transforms the room with one command.
Then in the living room I’ve got a few different scenes setup including one called Daytime which turns all the lights bright white, which is perfect for a dark day. Another called Retro where the lights all turn different purples and pinks.
These scenes are great for creating a mood or a vibe you want to set, just by changing the light colours.
Another awesome piece of tech I’ve been using for the last few months is this vacuum.
But let me start by saying it does not replace a decent handheld or normal vacuum, but it’s great for what I need it for.
So I have it set up to vacuum the downstairs once a day, it’ll work its way around the rooms on it’s own picking up dust, dropped food, forgotten dreams, cat hairs and so on. And as it’s not very tall, it’ll easily fit under most furniture like the tables and chairs in the kitchen, and even the shelving unit I’ve got in the living room.
So it’s clever enough to map out the room using sensors, and it’ll pretty much cover the entire room. You can even see in the app the route it’s taken, how much time it’s spent cleaning and you can manually start and stop it too, either through the app, tapping the top of the device or just using a voice command.
Then once finished it’ll find its way back to the charging dock ready for the next day.
Now it’s not bad at what it does, and although it can do both cleaning and vacuuming, it won’t scrub areas where there are marks or stains, so it’s not designed to be your only vacuum. Plus, if you’ve got a thick pile carpet it’ll leave wheel lines where it’s been, rather than your typical vacuum lines.
Prices vary depending on what you get, but this particular one is currently £450/$400, although I’ve seen it in a sale on Amazon for as low as £200.
Heating and hot water
A couple of years ago I changed the heating and hot water thermostats to the Hive system, which basically lets me control it all via an app as well as integrating into Google Home.
The physical thermostat lives in the hallway, and it shows you the basic info you need, including the current and target temperatures. You can spin the dial to adjust the temperature when walking past, or tap the buttons on the top to boost either the hot water or heating. So no different to a normal thermostat really.
But it’s the home integration which is where it’s useful.
So in the Hive app I can create routines or schedules for both the heating and hot water, setting multiple start and finish times throughout the day. I have a few quick buttons too, which I’ve set up for different temperatures or routines.
Also while I’m out I can check what the house temperature is before I return home, boosting it if it’s too cold.
And while I’m at home, if I’m feeling really lazy, I could use the app or voice command to set the thermostat, without leaving the room or going downstairs to check it.
A feature I’ve used a few times is Holiday mode, so while I’m away or planning to go away, I set it to reduce the thermostat temperature and stop the hot water routines until a day before I return home. I got this from Amazon for about £200 which included installation.
So smart plugs are an awesome option for making non-smart items, smart. These let you control any normal household items such as lamps, TVs, coffee machines or items you can’t reach the plug for, like a washing machine or dishwasher.
I use TP Link plugs, which cost around £30/$20 for a pair and don’t require a hub as they just use WiFi. I use them for the LED strip I have under my kitchen units, a dehumidifier in my ensuite and even my Christmas tree lights each year. These plugs can be grouped together in Google Home, so when you use a routine, they will act like any other smart item.
So when I say ‘Lights on’ in the kitchen, it not only turns the LIFX bulbs on, it’ll turn the LED strip on via the smart plug.
And you know what it’s like at Christmas, it’s always a pain climbing behind the Christmas tree to turn the lights on and off, so by plugging them into one of these I can do it via the app or speakers. What’s great about these plugs are the routines you can setup, so my outside lights are set to come on at sunset and turn off a midnight each night.
But they also act as a normal plug too, so you just tap the button on the front to turn them on and off.
I use Google Assistant to control my home, so it kind of combines all of the individual apps from each piece of tech into one place.
The other apps are all great and you can’t replace those with the Google Home app, but once you’ve set your devices up, you can just stick with Google to control them all.
It also means I can group several tech items into rooms, scenes or groups and essentially control them all in one single voice command or routine.
Take the kitchen room for example, if I said ‘Turn the Lights ON’, it would turn all of the lights on including the bulbs and the plug, I don’t need to do them separately.
Or when I say “morning”, it will turn the bedside lamps on, tell me the weather and start to play my preselected playlist.
What’s great about the app is, you can see which lights are on, which speakers are playing music, or start and stop any other tech you’ve got linked. Again, no need to open each separate app to complete the job.
But why bother?
You might wonder why bother, why spend more money on smart tech when normal tech is absolutely fine. Some items really don’t need to be smart or controlled via an app, it’s a bit gimmicky and would be fine without. However, when you factor in the time spent doing things manually, like turning lamps on and off, leaving appliances on standby when you could have them turn off via a smart plug, you can start to see the benefits. I even have a routine that turns all plugs and bulbs off at midnight, as I’m usually asleep by then. So if I’ve forgotten to turn the loft light off, at most it’ll be on until midnight, not for days or weeks.
Then there’s the huge benefit of accessibility. If you or someone you know have difficulty reaching light switches or plugs, you can have items retrospectively made smart with either a bulb or a plug. That’s a huge advantage for probably a lot of people, old and young. In fact I think my grandparents would benefit from this.
So that’s all of the smart home tech I’m currently using on a daily basis around the house, all of which are pretty affordable on their own and most don’t require any serious installation.
But there are loads of other items I want to add to my home, possibly smart locks, cameras and a ring doorbell. I might even get a couple of those Google Hubs with the screen, but I don’t really need any.
Have you got any suggestions for me, anything I should be adding to my setup?