Home Automation DIY

Get all the info you'll need on DIY home automation, and get ready to create an economical and efficient network of connected home systems.
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Photo by: William Psolka

William Psolka

By: Sean McEvoy

If you're considering upgrading an existing home automation system or installing a new one, exploring the ever-expanding field of home automation DIY may be an option. As home automation becomes more commonplace, the devices, software and hardware required to automate your home's various systems are becoming more user-friendly. That said, DIY home automation is generally still not recommended for novices—in particular, if you're going to be working on any system that interfaces directly with your home's electrical grid (unless you have solid electrical engineering chops) you should seek professional help.

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For expert-level tinkerers, though, DIY home automation can be an extremely appealing project—especially for those who also happen to be cost-conscious. Professional home automation installation and maintenance can come with a significant price tag, so the ability to install and maintain your own system could potentially offer great savings over time.

The most fundamental function of any home automation system is to integrate electrical devices with each other. In the past, the systems controlled through home automation were often hard-wired to a home's electrical system. Modern systems are often connected to the home's computer network, letting homeowners control them remotely from any computer or mobile device—this also means that in addition to expertise with electrical systems, those with computer software and hardware expertise will be particularly well-suited for DIY home automation projects.

For DIY home automation beginners, setting up a whole-house home automation system can be a major technical challenge, even for those with serious technical knowledge. However, for smaller-scale systems or ones that control only a few aspects of home automation, homeowners may be able to install their own home automation networks, even without a great depth of technical expertise.

The main systems controlled by home automation are security, lighting, HVAC and outdoor sprinkler systems. In addition, there are many other uses for home automation, including the use of robots for interior cleaning, pool maintenance and exterior landscaping. In terms of DIY home automation, home entertainment and home lighting are two systems that can be quite easily configured without professional training or expert knowledge.

Many systems that control lighting or home entertainment operate on a timer that plugs into a wall outlet or connect directly to the home's electrical grid, so that some or all of the home's lighting fixtures and electronics can turn on or off at predetermined times. The chief benefits of lighting and entertainment automation are energy and cost savings, but automating these systems may also have a hidden security benefit—a well-lit home with entertainment appliances running may be less of a target for criminals.

Automated lighting and entertainment systems will require a connection to the home's electrical grid; they can be controlled remotely or via in-home controls. DIY lighting and entertainment automation can be quite simple, requiring only a power source and a connection between lighting or entertainment fixtures and an automation hub device. Using this straightforward approach can be a great option for small homes or single rooms, allowing homeowners to control lighting and entertainment via in-home controls, or, if the automated system is connected to the home's wireless network, from anywhere with an internet connection.

More complexity is involved in DIY projects to automate a home's security system (audio-visual expertise), HVAC (heating and air conditioning expertise) or sprinkler system (plumbing expertise), or if the homeowner wishes to create a whole-home automation system controlled remotely or by an in-home hub. Additionally, whole-home automation of lighting and entertainment systems for larger homes or multiple rooms/areas of the home may require significant expertise.

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