Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Limit smart home devices to one room so you don’t feel overwhelmed by the new tech and its capabilities.
  • Start with simple gadgets like smart light bulbs and plugs, focusing on a familiar space like your bedroom.
  • Progress through stages to master automation skills for more rooms, eventually expanding to whole-home automation, advanced devices, and more efficienct wirlesss connectivity options.

If you’ve never purchased a smart home device before, you might be wondering where to put all these new gadgets. How about limiting yourself to one room?

Why Start Your Smart Home With a Single Room?

The Echo Show 10 smart display.

The sky is the limit when it comes to smart homes. Depending on how capable your network is, you can have more than 50 devices connected and interacting with you, your family, and each other. What you might not have considered is starting simply with a single room. Cost is certainly a factor, but I think the biggest reason is to prevent smart home newcomers from being overwhelmed.

When you first start using smart home devices, it can be a nuisance to execute voice and in-app commands, only to have to leave the room you’re in to see if your kitchen smart lights changed to the right color. Limiting your smart tech to four walls, a floor, a ceiling, and maybe some windows, should be all the space you need to buy your first gadgets.

With the single-space setting in mind, I’ve put together a three-stage system for a new smart home user. Each new level is more complex than the last, but nothing should be overbearing. And while I’ve used some time-span indicators (weeks, months, etc.), these are only projections.

Picking Your First Smart Room

Welcome to the world of smart home devices. You’ve been thinking about automation for a while now, and I applaud you for jumping in headfirst. But remember: you don’t have to invest hundreds of dollars to get your first devices networked and controlled. In fact, at this stage, I’d recommend starting with as small of an arsenal as possible.

Arguably, the more important decision may be where to place your first smart home device. I recommend starting with whichever bedroom you sleep in. This is a space you’re very familiar with, and that there’s a door that lets you close off the other parts of your home. Isolating your first smart home devices to your bedroom gives you a small arena to play around in, and is less cumbersome than implementing tech in places like your kitchen or living room.

Smart light bulbs and smart plugs are good starting places, and they’re usually quite simple to install. You’ll be up and running in less than 10 minutes in most cases, and you’ll be able to see the results of your labor right away. If you’ve never owned smart home devices before, there’s nothing that beats the feeling of issuing a voice command, or in-app prompt, and watching bulbs change brightness and color.

You could also invest in a smart speaker, smart display, or streaming device. Devices like the Amazon Echo lineup and Google’s Nest Audio speakers can do quite a lot, but the Alexa and Google Home apps are terrific at onboarding these types of products while providing the user with thoughtful instructions and ideas on how to use them.

echo dot 5

Echo Dot (5th Gen, 2022 release)

$35 $50 Save $15

With improved audio and seamless integration with Alexa, the Amazon Echo Dot 5th Gen is the best budget smart home hub option for your home.  

Play around with various voice commands and touchscreen features. Check the news and weather, play some of your favorite songs, log into your streaming accounts (for services like Netflix and Spotify), set alarms, and create reminders. Like I used to tell my grandmother (who is now better than using her Alexa ecosystem than me): you’re not going to break your smart home devices, and if you do, there’s probably a way to fix (or reset) them.

As far as connectivity goes in your bedroom, two of the most common wireless protocols are Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and I suggest sticking with one or both of these control methods when you’re starting out. The more advanced wireless standards can wait.

Master Automations to Make Your Home Even Smarter

tp-link tapo 2k header

The next stage of your Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem can begin a few weeks or months after you’re accustomed to your new high-tech bedroom.

When it comes to smart lighting, smart speakers, and streaming devices like the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max, you’re an expert on all the basics. You can change a bulb color or start playing music in seconds flat, and maybe you’ve started messing around with some of the more advanced automation skills of your smart home hub. My advice: Keep it up!

One of the most useful aspects of smart home devices is the ability to program them to do specific things when an action takes place. These if-this-then-that capabilities (not to be confused with actual IFTTT applets, which we’ll get to later) are often billed as Routines and Skills for platforms like Alexa and Google Home. Luckily there are plenty you can set up for a bedroom space!

An easy suggestion is a Good Morning routine. Let’s say you have a smart speaker, a smart plug, and a sunlight lamp connected to said plug. Using your control app, you can set up a workflow that automatically reads off the morning headlines and powers on your sunlight lamp (by powering on your smart plug) when you say “good morning.”

The Arlo Essential Indoor Cam (2K)

Arlo Essential Indoor Cam (2K)

$60 $80 Save $20

Enhance your smart home security with the Essential Indoor Camera. It has an Automated Privacy Shield that is designed to protect your privacy by giving you the control to open or close it from the Arlo Secure App. You can also view details with crystal-clear video in 2K resolution and you don’t need to turn on the light to check in on your home, kids, and pets with Night Vision.

In Stage Two, you may also want to upgrade some of your existing equipment or add new devices altogether. I’d still stick to the bedroom, but maybe you’ve decided you actually want a smart display next to the bed, so you move your smart speaker downstairs. Or maybe you invest in a plug-and-play security camera or video doorbell.

One thing I like about Wi-Fi cameras is that you can usually view live footage and receive notifications on multiple screens, including phones, smart displays, and even streaming devices and certain smart TVs.

A Smarter Home Is Waiting for You

A Hubitat Z-Wave Hub


By now it’s been several months to a year since you first invested in smart home tech, and it’s time to spread your wings. So let’s open that bedroom door and expand!

When you begin adding smart home devices to other rooms in your home, you can start fine-tuning your ecosystem. This might sound like you need to be a network expert, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Even wireless, whole-home audio systems and all-inclusive home security platforms are designed for the average consumer to set up and use (I’d recommend Sonos for the former, and SimpliSafe for the latter).

It might now be time to add some more advanced connected gear. Maybe it’s time you upped the ante and add a smart thermostat to your IoT collection. This is a great way to start using a device that impacts multiple rooms in your home, without having to invest in a bunch of new peripherals.

Sonos Era 100

As long as you don’t need Google Assistant, the Sonos Era 100 is a fantastic smart speaker. It has all the functionality of an Echo Dot or similar speaker, but with a much nicer sound profile.

You’ve also been reading a lot about smart home products, and are thinking you’d like to switch over to Zigbee or Z-Wave for wireless connectivity. While there’s nothing wrong with sticking to Wi-Fi, control methods like Zigbee are an enticing alternative, because it requires less power, while providing a safe and reliable network with greater coverage (the same goes for Z-Wave).

If you’re jumping the Wi-Fi ship, there’s a good chance you’re going to need a new smart home hub to control your equipment. There are many models to choose from, and if you don’t want to part ways with some of your earliest hardware, you’ll be glad to hear that devices like the Amazon Echo Show can function as a Zigbee hub.

One of my favorite things about running a smart home is the limitless potential. The more you use the tech, the better you’ll be at deciding how to make your devices work for you and yours. Down the line, you can even manage and build custom automations for multiple properties! But it always pays to start small.

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By John P.

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