My smart home setup

Since around Christmas time I’ve been living in the future, that is to say, I talk to my home and sometimes it responds.

I get a lot of questions about my smart home setup, so I wanted to share a bit about what my setup is, how I use it and what my experience has been like so far.

My setup

Bedroom:

  • 1x Amazon Alexa Spot
  • 2x Philips Hue E27 Smart bulbs (white)

Living room:

  • 1x Amazon Alexa Dot
  • 1x Philips Hue Bridge
  • 2x Philips Hue E27 Smart bulbs (white)
  • 3x TP-Link HS100 Smart plugs

How I use it

I think like most people, I’m currently using Alexa to mostly control lighting in my home. Alexa, while functioning as a smart speaker, also works a lot like a smart home hub. You can group devices, name them and control them through either your voice with an Alexa device or through the app. I have three groups setup: one for the living room, one for the bedroom and one that’s everything. This allows me to not only control devices individually, but also to control multiple at once.

For example, when I come home I ask Alexa to turn on everything and all of my lights come on, or when I’m tired in the evening and move to my bedroom to continue watching trashy TV, I ask her to turn off the living room. I’ll be honest, it doesn’t get old either. I’ve had this setup for about 5 months now and it makes me feel like I’m in a sci-fi film every time.

Controlling the lights is mostly done by the smart bulbs, but two of the TP-Link smart plugs I have are also plugged into normal lights, one controls an LED strip light behind my TV unit and the other controls my fairy lights.

Using smart plugs for lights where I haven’t been able to change the bulbs has turned my previously non-smart lights into controllable smart things, which I love. Word of warning though, this only works for products that don’t have a stand-by mode.

Adding a smart plug to my TV or to my kettle for example, wouldn’t make them controllable. I would be able to cut power off, but when I turned them back on with the smart plug they wouldn’t magically turn on, they would just be receiving power again and be in stand-by mode.

My third smart plug I use in this non-smart way. It’s plugged into an air diffuser which allows me to turn it off with my voice when I go to bed, but when I come home I have to turn the diffuser on manually on the device itself after I’ve asked Alexa to ‘turn it on’, aka give it power. Side note: my friend, Abi, got me this diffuser and I would 10/10 recommend getting one, it makes mist and smells wonderful and brings me great joy on a daily basis.

My experience

First things first, investing in a smart home is really expensive. I was lucky enough to receive a lot of my smart devices as Christmas and birthday gifts, but my seemingly quite modest setup would be around £300 to buy straight up. Yikes!

I’m currently using a setup that all ties together with Alexa devices which I have found really easy to use and get started with. Setting up devices only takes a minute to do and you don’t have to be tech savvy to work it out.

On the whole, I love my little smart home setup. Not having to reach around furniture every time I want to turn a lamp on/off is delightful and being able to dim the lights when I’m watching a film makes me feel like I’ve got a home cinema.

As with all things based in technology however, sometimes it goes wrong.

I can’t count the amount of times I’ve asked Alexa to turn off the bedroom and it’s turned on everything in the living room. On other occasions devices just won’t respond or Alexa will only turn on half of the things in a room.

Alexa does also often just start-up because it thinks it’s heard the trigger word, and then proceeds to pick up background noises. This usually results in Alexa spouting out some random facts, or in once instance starting a game of Jeopardy, which to Alexa’s credit, is a really great game.

I can forgive it for its occasional moments of rebellion though, because I find my setup useful, it’s not just a gimmick. Sure I could live without it, but it’s convenient, and that I am here for.

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