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Getting Started with Home Automation

Thinking of getting started?

After months of paper work, finally..... You have gotten your keys to your new home. Now what? The beautiful, dreamy image of an ideal home comes in...

but stop. Let s roll back a little.

Decide on the automation(s) you want

First, whip out your floor plan and strategise your army of smart gadget.

Automatic Lightings - On-demand lights in certain areas e.g. entrance, kitchen/yard, bathroom are definitely needed. You will be thankful for these little angels in scenarios like walking home hands full, getting busy in the kitchen and walking to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Not to forget areas that require motion sensor so that you can activate lights handsfree anytime you need them.

Mood Lighting - dimming to save energy? Mood lighting is more than that. Coloured lights set the mood for different events. Dimming the lights not only saves energy, but also gives off a cosy and relaxed atmosphere.

Convenience on the go - Forget to turn off something? Most Smart hubs are equipped with remote access functions. You can control your home even if you are miles away from home.

On-demand Spotify connection - Most hubs can be connected to a Spotify account; you may need this feature especially if you need music to soothe your soul often. You can also request for specific songs to be played depending on your K-mood.

RSS feeds on Singapore news/weather conditions/road conditions - some softwares/hubs allow for updates on news and weather inside or even before you head out of your home. May be good to carry along an umbrella if weather turns grey or bring in the clothes rack when the rain comes in. With the new Google Home coming to Singapore, to this feature is way more accessible.

Automated Cleaning - Robots are in demand now, especially when robots are being sold at a really affordable price. The advantages of having a robot allows you to trigger it to start cleaning when you are out of your home, on a run or even hanging out with your friends. Trust me, this trusty little helper will do its best cleaning the corners of your home, even under your bed and shelves. Most of us who have used it, cant live without it.

Climate Control - Cooling/heating systems in Singapore is very much a necessity; despite its high cost. We have received many requests to manage air-conditioners and heaters due to its high cost if unmanaged well. The worry is not about forgetting to on/off the cooling/heating systems, but more on the decision fatigue of remembering the task/chore.

When do you need to start planning for your smart home?

When do you need to start planning for your smart home?

I would say during renovation. Note that most smart switches need neutral wires to work*. If you own a new unit, check with your electrician if he can add on an additional neutral wires for the switches you’d like to call smart. If you own a resale flat, you may want to take this opportunity to decide on re-wiring; if not the first option is fine too. We have identified a few immutable(s) below:

Location of Modem & hub - Centralise them!!! Without these 2 bff working together, you can forget about automating anything at the far ends of your home. Plan this seriously and get your contractor to lay CAT6 and above cable to the ideal spot. The last you'd want is for your smart home to fail due to weak signals.

Number of lights - Next, you may need to decide on which lights to be dimmable; if you intend to have dimmable switches, you may need an additional dimmer relay on top of that switch. You will need an electrician to fix up the switch relay or dimmer relay during your renovation.

Location of Switch - There are many switches in the market, all with pros and cons. You should always work/live with one that gives you the option of turning on the lights/appliance should the smart switch fails on you.

Location of Ceiling fans and its components - If you are a fan of traditional ceiling fans, you can consider automating it. However, you may need to allocate space for the speed controller.

Location & number of Power Point plugs - Determine the number of devices you want to “make smart” via smart plugs and also the location of voice-control gadgets you intend to put; preferably one in each room. If you are looking at Smart Homes, you will need to cater for at least one power point plug for your smart devices on top of your daily activities.

Number of gangs per switch

Smart switches are limited by the number of gangs attached per switch. Smart switches like Fibaro and Xiaomi has a maximum of 2 gang per switch. Hence, limiting the design features of the switches. Non-Neutral Smart Switches are limited by the maximum voltage it can take in.

This is one of the limitations we face when we integrate smart homes after electrical setups have been done. i.e. if the switches has more than 2 gangs, we will need to combine the sets of lights to make up a maximum of 2 gang.

*With recent changes in the industry, smart switches can now be retrofitted into already renovated homes. i.e. smart switches now can work with wiring with or without neutral wire.

As of 17 June 2018

Research research research

or maybe, speak to someone who had worked on home automation.

Don’t get us wrong, we are for all the hard core DIY people out there; for brevity, let’s just call them DIY-ers. Here are some factors to consider for all DIY-ers out there.

Time - some smart gadgets need configuration/settings/updates/etc. Even though not difficult, expect the process to be tedious when you are integrating the various smart gadgets into the hub(s). Some of the UI are complex and not easy to understand and in some cases, programming is needed. DIY-ers-to-be, brace yourselves for an adventure.

Money - As much as we want to believe that we live in a perfectly integrated Smart gadget world, we have to admit that competitors will always be loggerheads; enterprises will always pick their friends and foe wisely. Behold your surprises, but not all gadgets are recognised by any hubs. There are just some gadgets that doesn’t work with some particular hub(s), but integrates perfectly with another. So, research (x3) and study (x3) before making any purchases.

Future proofing your home - Technology is never constant. New armies of smart gadgets are constantly innovated and it just gets stronger. These new armies can range from kick-starter projects to projects spawned from large enterprises marching all the way from different parts of the globe. Working on your home may be one off, but ensuring that your home is equipped with scalable technologies, that can withstand the test of time will accrue comfort in the long run.

Last but not least, owning a smart home is a journey filled with thrill and excitement. Speak to us if you have any questions on the various smart gadgets!

Post updated 18 February 2019

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