Top 5 Best Value Smart Home Additions

May 9, 2018

Top 5 Most Useful Smart Home Products (in my house)

There are tons of connected products available for smart homes these days, and I’ve got a lot of them. Today on the hook up we’re going to take a look at the 5 smart home products in my house that get the most use and have the most positive impact per dollar.

Before we start, you should know that my channel is not nearly large enough for me to be doing paid promotions.  All of the opinions you’re about to hear are 100% mine and I have in no way been in contact with the makers of any of the products I’m about to mention.  There are however, amazon affiliate links down in the description if you like what you see and you’d like to support my channel.  Here we go!

Google wifi – Calling this a smart home product is a stretch, but having a wide reaching stable wifi connection is extremely important to avoiding service interruptions from your smart devices. I have between 35 and 40 devices on my network at any given time and many of my automations depend on a stable wifi connection.  One day my wife was lamenting not being able to use our wifi reliably while sitting by the pool and she told me to spend what I needed to in order to fix it.  Sure, I could have spent 6 or 7 hundred dollars  to set up a ubiquity system with a few access points, but I was trying to get the most bang for my buck.  For just over $250 I got the three base station google wifi system and my signal strength is absolutely amazing everywhere in the house, AND in the front and back yard.  At first I was skeptical of a network that is managed through an app on my phone, but I’ve yet to find something that I used to do with DD-WRT router that I can’t do with google wifi.  Google wifi has even become the primary presence detection for my home automations by sensing when certain devices connect and disconnect from the home wifi.  If you’re having trouble with your wifi signal I can’t recommend this product enough.

Auto Shades – my west facing patio gets absolutely hammered with sunlight from around 3-6pm every day. We love our screened in patio and spend as much time outside as we do in the house. These DIY motorized shades are perfect for making the sun less oppressive while still preserving the view of the pool.  The shades are controlled by a NodeMCU microcontroller and some high torque stepper motors. They can be controlled by amazon echo and support percentage based commands like this.


There are commercially available versions of these shades but they tend to be a bit pricey. I was able to make these two 6×6 sunshades for just under $175 total and they have been performing flawlessly for the last year, they even survived a direct hit from hurricane Irma, thankfully only as a category 1.  I’ll be publishing the code and making a video in the near future about how to build these shades for yourself.

Door and window sensors – Home security systems are very useful and a lot of people have them, but the most useful sensors in my house are sensors that are not included in the standard security ststem package. One of my favorite door sensors is actually on our back yard gates. Most bad guys will expect sensors and doors and windows, but gate sensors are significantly less common.  Our gate sensors are tied to an actionable home assistant notification that sends a picture of the person who opened the gate and the option to sound the alarms if we don’t like what we see.  Next week’s video will show the specifics of setting up this automation in Node-RED.

Another sensor that has been amazing is the door sensor on my 5 year old daughter’s bedroom door.  After an incident last year where she got food poisoning and was throwing up in her bathroom while my wife and I were on obliviously sitting on the patio. I set up an automation that toggles an alert after her bedtime.  If her door opens after bedtime it flashes the patio lights and sends a notification to our phones to let us know that something may be wrong.  It’s been a while since she’s been sick, but having this automation is fantastic peace of mind if my wife and I want to be on the patio or in the pool after her bedtime.

Cameras – I’ve had outdoor cameras set up on my property since 2006 when someone broke a window on my car while it was sitting in my driveway and snatched my laptop from the back seat. I originally had 2 cameras, then transitioned to 4, and now I have 9. I use analog cameras, and I was lucky enough to be able to pre-wire my house while it was being built so I have each camera in an optimal location with completely hidden wires.  Last year I upgraded my network video recorder to a system that includes an RTSP stream that can be connected to home assistant.  I use this system to send images in notifications and do basic facial and object recognition with OpenCV, it also records 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with no subscription fee.

I don’t really feel comfortable with indoor cameras for a host of reasons, but outdoor cameras are by far my favorite home automation product.  Wired cameras aren’t going to be possible for but there are tons of options available out there for every skill level, if you’re thinking about sinking some money into home automation in my opinion a good camera system should be very high up on your list.  I’ve helped a number of my friends install camera systems in their houses and I’ve included links to some of my favorite camera products down in the description.

The number one smart home product that I use is home assistant and it’s FREE. I absolutely hate having a separate app for every single product in my smart home. Not only does home assistant give me a centralized, secure, non cloud based solution to this multiple app problem, but it also allows all these systems to work together.  I can combine data from door sensors,  google wifi, ecobee motion and camera sensors to detect where people are in my house and control the rest of the house accordingly.  Home automation is certainly a hobby, but it’s important to remember that the main reason for automation is to provide a significant boost convenience and quality of life.  Having 10 different apps on my phone was certainly not convenient, but home assistant has changed all of that.

If you haven’t ever heard of home assistant I highly suggest you try it out.  All you need is a raspberry pi, an SD card, and a willingness to learn a new product.  You’ll be rewarded with a smart home system that rivals the $50,000 systems installed by control 4.  The Hass dot io version of home assistant removes all of the complicated linux aspect from home assistant and reduces the learning curve significantly.  Seriously, if you don’t know about home assistant go check it out right now, it will change the way you think about smart home integration.

I’ll be making in depth videos on each of these topics in the near future, so stay tuned.  If you’re particularly interested in one of the things that I mentioned in today’s video go ahead and post it down in the comments and I’ll move the most popular suggestions to the top of my list.  Next week be sure to tune in for a special collaboration between me and Dr. Zzz where we walk you through everything you need to know to get setup in Node-RED and start creating amazing automations.  If you enjoyed this video and would like to see more like it please consider subscribing.  And as always, thanks for watching the hookup.


Top 5 Best Value Smart Home Additions/Upgrades:

#5 Google Wifi:

#4 Automated Blinds (DIY – How to coming soon)

#3 Door Sensors (DIY – How to coming soon)

Wireless (except power) IP Camera:

Completely Wireless:

#1 Home Assistant:
Home Assistant Hardware:

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