Home automation is an exciting project for any tech enthusiast, but there are some pretty common mistakes that people new to home automation make that can really sour the experience or cause major headaches down the line.
So here are some tips for the all-important planning phase of your home automation project.
Of course, your plan is always subject to change since few of us automate our homes in one go, unless you are wealthy enough to do it, that is. Still there should be a few broad guiding principles to help you craft something that works and won’t be more trouble than it is worth.
While it is very tempting to go full on Jetsons in your automation endeavors, you should keep in mind that the more complicated a system is the more prone to failure it will be, and the harder it is to track down problems when they do arise. It’s better to identify core systems that will have the most impact on your life and automate those rather than everything. Ask yourself if you really need motorized blinds or shades. Do you really need to have dimmers on every light you own?
Chances are that there are plenty of things that you could automate that you’ll either end up never using or will actually get in your way.
Don’t Be A Scrooge
I would never criticize someone for being responsible with their money and there is no one who can say home automation is cheap, but one of the biggest mistakes new home automation owners make is failing to provide room for growth in their systems.
Try to envision what sorts of additional automation features or home expansions you are likely to a have in the future and buy core infrastructure that can handle a little more than you are putting in right now. Don’t buy hubs, routers, and other central control equipment that will just handle what you need right now. Spring for the slightly bigger model and save yourself money and frustration issues further down the line.
Back The Right Horse
Everyone likes a fire sale, and when something becomes obsolete stock gets dumped quickly and cheaply. You may be tempted to snap up obsolete stuff or products that don’t look like they will be supported anymore in the future. The problem is that home automation gear represent a long-term investment and the first time you hit a snag, need replacement parts, or are desperate for support, you may need to replace all that cheap stuff you bought anyway.
Many people who live in older homes find that when they install home automation gear they encounter reliability issues all the time. As it may turn out, the quality of electrical wiring in your home may not be up to scratch for modern automation gear. Before you start the project it is a good idea to pay a professional electrician to evaluate your home wiring and identify sources of interference or electrical fluctuations that may cause damage to your sensitive stuff.
You may also find that some older homes have walls that are poor at letting wireless signals through, so you may have to install devices such as powerline WiFi extenders in order to get everything to work together.
It makes a lot of sense to install home automation systems while you are doing planned home renovations anyway. This is an opportunity to make space for wiring and rackmounts so that everything is out of sight.
However, once again, people make the mistake of not adding enough room for expansion.
It doesn’t even have to be a lot; just adding slightly wider conduit or channels can really be helpful in the future.
Air For Everybody
Speaking of space, make sure the places where you have lots of heat generating systems have enough ventilation. The last thing you want is a system failure because you forgot to add ventilation to a closet, basement, or attic. Heat-related problems can also be infuriatingly hard to pinpoint, and the damage from overheating electronics often only manifests in the long term.
Planning the control system for your home automation is a pretty important step in the whole process. On the one hand we want to avoid the dreaded “wall acne”, which is the rather nasty term for having a ton of controls on the wall. On the other hand, when we condense all of our controls into a menu-based touch system it can actually make things that should be simple too complicated. If you need to perform five button taps or presses just to switch a light on or off then your system is failing at its main goal of making your life easier. Identify the controls that you need to use most often and give them dedicated switches. Other things that you seldom have to adjust or are largely automated you can converge into single touchscreen controls.
DIY Would You?
Home automation does not need to be a DIY project. This seems like an obvious thing to say, but a lot of people have the idea in their head that home automation is DIY or nothing.
While you should be an active participant in the design of your system and should even buy the components yourself, do not be afraid of getting a professional to install everything and help you make decisions. The truth is that you can cause serious and costly problems if you don’t know what you are doing, and tampering with high-voltage electrical systems can be very dangerous. On top of this, certain types of equipment have warranties that require installation by a professional, so check the fine print.
You Can Do It
If you plan well, get advice from people who know what they are doing, and and budget appropriately, there is no reason why your home automation project should not be a complete success.
While planning is of course needed and very important, you also have to be mentally prepared for the job you have set yourself. More than any technical setback it is your motivation that really needs to be in the right place. You have to keep your final goal clearly in mind and believe in the project’s outcomes.
Home automation can be mentally challenging and fraught with unforeseen issues that crop up as you try to make things work. It’s easier now than ever, but every situation is different and creative problem-solving is a must. Giving up halfway should not even be an option.
The fact of the matter is that you can get it all done, if you start to tell yourself otherwise you are going down a difficult road. So quit with the negativity, OK?