Smart DIY Home Automation Reviews

 

Welcome to the World of Tomorrow!

Welcome to my home automation website. Here you will find reviews of the most popular automation products you can order with a click or a tap today. I’ve brought together virtually every product category anyone interested in home automation could want in one place.
On this very page though, you will only see the highlights and best products of all categories, so if you’re looking for something specific, I’d recommend a visit to the dedicated reviews page instead.

As someone with a deep interest in all things tech, and especially in automating my home, I have been frustrated by how fragmented the information out there is. Anyone hoping for an all-in-one solution either has to prepare themselves for serious disappointment or be prepared to shell out a fortune to have a professional make all the hard choices for you.

If, on the other hand, you have the patience for it, you can gradually automate your home at a pace and price that suits your budget. You can decide which things are a priority to automate first and leave the true luxuries for later.

Route to My Heart

The key feature of any home automation device is that it can talk to other things through various network technologies. So an obvious place to start is building the kind of network your home needs so that things that need to talk to each other can actually do it.

The humble home network router is probably the most common automation hub you’ll find. Most people already have them and if you only have a few smart home gadgets it’s fine to use whatever your internet provider decided to throw in, but when you become more serious you’ll need better reliability and capacity. I’ve reviewed quite a few routers here, but just to save you some time, here are my top picks. If you want to go for it your own way, you can also check out my buyer’s guide.

Best Overall: Netgear AC1750 Smart Wi-Fi Router

Netgear is a pretty well-known name in the network hardware world and their reputation is not bad by half. This sexy little number from the company definitely has a nice futuristic and angular look to it.

Although the AC1750 is somewhat pricey, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more powerful and versatile device in this price class. This is almost the perfect choice for small to medium home automation projects.

Ultimate Home Automation Pick: Eero Home WiFi System

The Eero system is one of the most interesting and home-automation-friendly WiFi solutions I’ve ever seen. It brings the power of an enterprise mesh network to your home, so you’ll never be out of WiFi coverage. There are still some bugs to work out, but if you want a cutting-edge solution that’s more or less future proof, this is it.

The Hub of Activity

Some of these network hubs are specifically designed for home automation only. You usually have to make sure that your devices are specifically designed to work with them, but in general they use way less power than something like WiFi or even Bluetooth. You can check out the full-fat list of reviews here, but here’s a preview of the best ones.

Top Pick: Wink Connected Home Hub

The Wink hub is probably the most logical solution for those of looking for an all-in-one solution. It supports almost all the important protocols and lets you mix and match a variety of devices that would usually not run on the same. This was a clear winner for me.

Small Business Choice: VeraEdge Home Controller

The VerEdge only works with WiFi and Z-Wave, but it will handle 220 devices, so that makes it perfect for more professional applications and that’s why it’s my small business choice.

Adapters and Extenders

While the hubs may be the nerve center of your home automation system, you may need to extend their reach a little bit every now and then. In general there are two ways to do this – powerline network adapters and WiFi extenders.

You should go ahead and check out those two review pages, but my favorite example from each category is right here.

Top Rated Powerline Network Adapter:
ZyXEL PLA5456KIT 1800 Mbps AV2000

High bandwidth, good encryption, and no real bugs to speak of. I couldn’t find any reason not to both like and want the ZyXEL AV2000 adapter.

If you don’t feel a spark from any of these, I’ve also created a buyer’s guide to make the choices more clear.

Best WiFi Extender:
NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 Desktop WiFi Range Extender

It’s fast and it looks damn sexy. This AC1900 extender from NETGEAR does the Nighthawk range proud and I’m 99% sure you’ll love it too. If the price doesn’t cool you off, that is.

Feeling the Heat?

Regulating the temperature inside your home is certainly something you should never have to worry about, but “dumb” thermostats are not exactly the most refined way of doing so. This is one of the most popular and often first automation category people look at. I think the ones I have reviewed are hot stuff, but this is the best of the bunch.

Top Pick:
Nest Learning Thermostat, 3rd Generation

This is the product that put home automation back on the lips of the general population. It’s no understatement to say that Nest has created something revolutionary here, and like the iPhone this has become an aspirational product. It will be a long time before someone beats the Nest Learning Thermostat.

Clever Soul Music Systems

It’s surprising how much we rely on audio in this video age. Music and podcasts make up a major component of our daily media diet. You can bet your bottom dollar that there’s a home automation angle to audio as well.

There are two kinds of devices that fit the bill – multiroom audio systems and internet radios.

When it comes to the multiroom speakers, we are into the domain of the well-heeled automator, but the internet radio category has a lot to offer for digital audio enthusiasts too.

These are my favorites in each category.

Best Multiroom Audio Speaker: SONOS PLAY:3

This is a stonkingly good speaker that Sonos has only improved with better software and doing away with the need for a special bridging device. Yes the PLAY:3 is pricey, but in terms of value for money it’s right at the very top in my opinion.

Best Internet Radio:
Grace Digital Mondo GDI-IRC6000 Wi-Fi Music Player

There’s a reason Grace is at the top of the internet radio pile and the Mondo is a good case in point. It does everything just well enough to satisfy what you’d want as an internet radio listener. This is a product that clearly comes from someone who understands their customer. The Mondo should be in design textbooks illustrating the correct balance between specifications and cost.

Smart Green Fingers

While home automation makes us all think of our houses, you shouldn’t forget that your garden is also a part of your home. It’s also the source of a lot of backbreaking work. Luckily there are solutions to two of the worst offending chores – mowing and watering.

Yes, you heard right. With a robot lawnmower or an automated sprinkler controller you can automate two of the least fun jobs that need to be done to have a luscious lawn. There are a lot of juicy options on my review pages, but these two choices stood out in each category.

Best Robot Lawn Mower: WORX Landroid

I’ll be the first to admit that the Landroid is not the absolutely best robotic mower that money can buy. However, for most people most of the time, this robot will do the job you need at a price that regular mortals can afford.

If you have a mostly square, mostly flat, and relatively small yard the Landroid should be perfect. If however you have a tricky, large-ish yard with relatively steep grades, maybe look elsewhere – a bit further up the price range.

Best Sprinkler Controller: RainMachine Touch HD-12

The RainMachine won me over with its friendly interface, great looks, and cloud-independence. It also supports IFTTT, which means this is one flexible solution that you’ll struggle to top at the asking price.

Feeding Frenzy

What use is it automating everything when your poor dogs or cats still have to be fed by a neighborhood kid who’ll mess up your Netflix queue and eat all the good food from the fridge? Why not automate the feeding too with a neat smart pet feeder. There are a few different types to choose from, but overall this is my favorite.

Top Pick: Feed and Go Smart Pet Feeder

The GoSmart feeder bucks the silo-style trend to give us a flexible and elegant way to keep your pet fed with a variety of healthy meals. It may not enable you to go away for long, but it will actually improve your pet’s quality of life and that’s always worth considering.

Let There Be Light!

One of the easiest things to automate is your home’s lighting. The earliest automation systems invariably were meant to control lights. Today the LED rules the roost and the Smart LED rules the lighting when it comes to home automation.

I reviewed a bunch of smart lights, but these are the two best ones in my opinion.

Top Pick:
Philips 456210 Hue White and Color Ambiance A19 Bulb Starter Kit

If you want an affordable and gentle transition into home-wide lighting automation, this kit from Philips is an excellent place to start. Three bulbs and one controller unit; you can add another 47 bulbs without any additional requirements. Pretty sweet.

Second Pick:
LIFX Color 1000 A19 Wi-Fi Smart LED Light Bulb

A great, if slightly more expensive, choice of light. However, the LIFX does not need a central controller and each bulb connects straight to your hub. If that configuration appeals to you this is the best choice, if you ask me.

Keep your Home Clean

While our friendly robotic lawnmower friends are hard at work keeping the lawn in presentable shape, there’s a veritable army of cleaning robot choices that will vacuum your carpets, sweep your floors, scrub your tile and wash your dishes. OK, that last one is just a regular dishwasher, but the rest really are robots. I have a page full of reviews, but here are my favorites. If you don’t find what you want among these bots, there’s always my buyer’s guide to help you out.

Best Multifunction Cleaner:
bObi Robotic Vacuum Cleaner and Mop

The bObi is one of the most versatile and technically impressive robot vacuum cleaners you can buy today. It’s not the cheapest option, but the price is actually perfectly reasonable given all the things it can do.

Top Mid-range Pick: iRobot Roomba 650

The Roomba started it all and their products still have what it takes in a very competitive market. The 650 manages to sweep its way to the middle, sitting nicely between the RoboVac and bObi as a sensible choice. Nothing impressive, yet nothing broken either.

Security Control

Safety and security is one of the fundamental requirements we have in life, if you remember Maslow’s pyramid thingy from school, so anything that helps with that is going to be good all the way.

Our Smart Lock Pick: August Smart Lock

The August was my top choice as a smart lock mainly because it isn’t actually a complete lock – it’s a system that turns your existing lock into a smart lock, which is a much better solution if you don’t want to spoil your home’s current looks.

Best Garage Opener Controller: Chamberlain MYQ-G0201

A universal smart opener conversion kit from one of the most respected names in automatic garage door openers? Yes please!

Top Rated Water Sensor:
Samsung SmartThings Water Leak Sensor

The main downside of this water leak sensor from Samsung is that it needs a SmartThings hub in order to work, but it is such a slick product that not even this minor setback could stop it from being my top pick.

Best WiFi Doorbell:
Ring Wi-Fi Enabled Video Doorbell

My visit to the world of WiFi doorbells was not exactly pleasant, and the Ring doorbell is far from perfect, but if you need this type of security it is the best I’ve seen.

Best WiFi Camera:
Wansview 1080P WiFi Wireless IP Security Camera

Packed to the brim with features and with a wonderful price to boot, there is no way that I could let the Wansview pass by. Versatile, user friendly and affordable – gotta love it when a plan comes together.

Power Automation

Home automation is worth nothing if you can’t power it all; sometimes automating something not meant for automation is as simple as taking control of the on and off switch.

So here we have two types of products that allow you to do just that. We have backup power systems to keep things going and smart plugs you can use to control the flow of power to any device that plugs into a wall.

Top Rated UPS:
CyberPower CP1500AVRLCD Intelligent 1500VA Mini-Tower Backup

This is a beefy solution to keeping the brains of your home automation system going. I was impressed with the looks, features, and overall quality of this unit. My benchmark is always if I would buy something myself; based on my research this is where my hard-earned cash would go.

Best Smart Plug: TP-LINK Wi-Fi

A slim form-factor and the widest automation protocol compatibility I have seen make this an obvious, albeit pricey, top choice for me.

Back to Basics

I think you’ll agree that we have almost every base covered, but for a full understanding of all the smart possibilities in your home, it’s good to look at some crucial background information as well.

You’ll definitely want to get an overview of the main home automation protocols as a baseline.
One protocol, WiFi, needs a bit more detail, so I’ve also explained WiFi standards separately from the rest, on this page.

If you’re curious about the origins of home automation, check out this short piece that I wrote giving the Cliff notes version of the history of automation. Or instead, you may want to have a sneak peak at the future of home automation, to keep you excited for the long term of this amazing technology revolution.

In preparation for your home automation adventure there are also some common problems that crop up; you should know about these before you buy even a single automated light bulb.

If by the end of your automation experience you’re still doing anything yourself, it’s probably because you want to.
Why wait to get with the program? Get some things to program and kick back as they do your bidding.