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I love home automation – it’s the coolest way to make you feel like you are living in the future.

My first dip into home automation was in the first house that I built. I wired the entire home with ethernet and had clumsy old devices that would control the lights, sound, and even had  a couple motion sensors. It wasn’t the greatest system in the world, but I could turn it on when we were away from the house and I know that the schedule would run to make it look like I was at home.

Fast forward 10 years later, I bought a new home, and so many things have changed. Wireless is huge in home automation, and there are millions of connected “things” you can add to your home. I decided to start off by buying a SmartThings hub that would act as the brain of my home automation system. I was fortunate to find them on Kickstarter, and immediately backed them. By doing this, I got a crazy amount of motion sensors, multi-sensors (which detect open/close, orientation, vibration and temperature) and outlets. It was enough to get a decent setup going. Paired with a smartphone, I could now control my house remotely and also see as people came/went from my house.

The greatest thing about modern home automation systems is how infinitely expandable they are (well, not infinitely, you can only have a certain number of devices on your network, but I don’t intend to ever reach this). If I want to add a new switch, I go into my app, search for the new device, and it’s automatically added to my network. I can add this to a new group and control the behavior within a few clicks. I set about making a floorplan of my house and laying out what I wanted to add to my system.

Currently, I have the following items connected:

  • Multiple in-wall z-wave outlets
  • Multiple z-wave switches to control lights
  • Multiple dimmable z-wave light bulbs
  • Z-Wave / Wifi Enabled Thermostats in two zones
  • Z-Wave motion detectors on all main doors
  • Z-Wave deadbolt lock on main door
  • Arlo Motion Detection Cameras
  • Amazon Echo – one for upstairs and one for downstairs

Together, all of these devices give me total control over my house. I can monitor anything that happens when I’m away and also get updates on my phone when certain activities are triggered. The coolest thing I found was this site, IFTTT.com, which allows me to create rules for my house. So, if motion is detected, then send me an alert. It’s that simple. It has also allowed me to create rules for devices that aren’t individually compatible to become compatible. Front door unlocks? Push a notification to me and then snap a picture of whomever walks through. Temperature drops below 75F? Adjust temperature to go up to 78. If temperature doesn’t change, send me notification of problem. It’s freaking amazing.

My favorite part of my home automation system is the Amazon Echo. It is honestly the coolest thing you can buy for your home. Alone, it is worth the purchase, but the fact that I can easily integrate it into my home automation system is even more amazing. “Alexa, turn on kitchen lights!” or “Alexa, trigger camera security” – it seriously feels like I’m living in Star Trek at times. I can control how lights are dimmed, I can play music, I can even send reminders to myself. It also integrates nicely with IFTTT – so I can create all sorts of custom commands.

I’ve only scraped the surface of what I’ve been working on, but I’m always expanding what my home is capable of. Up next on my list – the Ryobi Garage Door Opener, because when I’m riding my motorcycle, I’d love to have a geofence set up to open my garage door as I come around the corner instead of fumbling around for my garage door opener.