Smart home DIY is an effective way to make good use of the extra hours at home

Safe Distancing

To combat Coronavirus Disease COVID-19 pandemic, work from home is becoming a new normal. Coupled with many safety restrictions for public premises, we’re spending a lot more hours at home than before. Smart home DIY is a great way to help us save time so that we can enjoy more on other activities like entertainment, exercise, gardening and so on.

We may not realize that our homes are partially ‘smart’ simply when we’re using a device that can access Internet like smart TV. In other words, upgrading to smart home is easier than we think. Consider the following 8 points before deciding whether smart home DIY is worth investing our extra time at home.

1. Do we need professional service to setup smart home?

Smart Home Monitoring and Control

Except for sophisticated and comprehensive smart home upgrade, most of the time we don’t need one. For future-proof setup, the smart home system must allow us to add any 3rd-party smart device. The standard wireless technologies for future expansion are Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, ZigBee, Bluetooth and so on. The system must also be compatible with smart speakers like Amazon Echo since voice control is becoming the new standard. Last but not least, the controller app should not be affected when the service provider goes out of business.

Smart home DIY can satisfy all the above requirement easily by using the most popular smart home starter kit. Smart devices have become so easy to set up and use that any smartphone user can do it easily. It’s not much different from setting up a smart TV except that we need to download the smart device app for configuration, monitor and control.

2. How much can we save with smart home DIY?

Compare with conventional home electronics, the smart version can cost more than 2 times higher. To justify the use of smart devices, we must have the need for smart functions like monitoring doors and windows from remote, controlling door entry, receiving alerts for suspicious activities and so on. These smart features are not possible with conventional home electronics.

On the other hand, when we compare with professional smart home packages, the DIY version is a huge saving. The professional packages are in the range of thousand dollars while the similar DIY packages are in the range of hundred dollars. For professional packages, we can choose what we need and what we don’t need. While DIY packages give us the freedom to start with a single device and expand gradually.

3. Will the smart home devices work in our home?

Power Rating

This’s the number one issue to pay attention to when choosing a suitable smart device. All smart devices from US where the power rating is 120 VAC will not work in most of the countries where the power rating is 220 VAC, even if they’re rated as number one in the world.

It’s disappointing that almost all top-rated authority posts do not talk about power rating. When we look at the specifications, this information is rarely shown either. This’s because all these posts are written for North American readers where power rating is not an issue.

Unfortunately, we can’t ignore power rating of the smart devices or they’ll blow up as soon as we flip the power switch. We’ve 2 options here:

  1. Choose smart devices that are rated as 100 – 240 VAC which are applicable worldwide.
  2. Choose smart devices from UK where the power rating is 220 VAC which is used in most countries (or from US where the power rating is 120 VAC).

Other Issues

In additional to power rating, there’re other compatibility issues to worry about. These other issues won’t damage the smart devices like power rating but they do affect the performance of the devices. For instance, if the paid subscription plan is not available outside US, then we won’t be able to benefit from the special smart functions. Worst still, these smart devices maybe worthless without these special functions.

This is where we come into the picture. We evaluate various aspects of smart devices carefully before we recommend them here. If we find shortfalls, we’ll highlight them so that the readers can make an informed decision.

4. What do we need to setup a smart home?

Regardless of smart home DIY or with professional setup, we need wireless connection and Internet access for smart home devices. For home Wi-Fi system with Internet access, a fiber broadband plan with unlimited access from local Internet service provider (ISP) is preferable.

While away from home, we use smartphone or mobile devices with data plan to monitor and control these smart devices via Internet. While at home, we can monitor and control smart devices directly via wireless connection.

Since home Wi-Fi system with Internet access is becoming common in most households, connecting smart devices to form a smart home system is straightforward.

5. Which smart home devices should we consider?

Home Security with Smart Technologies

Smart home security is by far the No. 1 reason that get people interested in smart home. There’re many smart security devices available for this purpose. And the implementation is a lot simpler than we think due to the advances in smart technology.

In addition to security, we can consider smart lighting where it’s playing a more important role now in setting the right atmosphere for working from home.

6. How do we plan for smart home DIY?

Once we’ve decided where to start, the next thing we need to consider is to plan when to place order. Ideally, we want the smart home devices to reach us before the implementation date. This’ll give us sufficient time to experiment with the smart features and test run the smart devices.

In general, we should place the online orders at least 10+ days in advanced, depending on the country location. Please refer to online stores’ shipment info page on the estimated delivery time.

7. How do we get the item from international online stores?

International Delivery from Online Stores

Volumetric weight (kg) = box volume (LxWxH) (cm³) ÷ 5000  OR  box volume (inch³) ÷ 305

One of the most frustrating issues when ordering from international online stores is that not all items are deliverable to our countries. We can either forget about it or engage a reputable global delivery forwarder in our country. In general, the online stores deliver the packages to a local warehouse (free local delivery) and the forwarder takes the packages and delivers them to our home address (chargeable international delivery).

An honest forwarder will help us to save cost by reducing the volumetric weight of the package to as small as possible before delivery. While a crooked forwarder will try to maximize the profit margin by inflating the volumetric weight of the package unnecessarily.

8. What do we need to worry when receiving the item from overseas?

Unfortunately, import duties is another issue that we may face with international online shopping. This’s where ‘Delivery Duty Paid’ (DDP) service comes into picture. Online stores may offer this service which saves a great deal of troubles and delays.

Only a handful of countries have “de minimis” import value (no import duty or tax below a minimum value). However, when the products are above “de minimis” import value, then DDP service becomes useful.

Welcome to Smart Living

For smart home DIY, we can always set up a smart home easily and quickly by starting with a plug-and-play smart device like smart light bulb or smart power plug. The next step is to try out various smart functions available in the device app.

One of the most useful functions is to let the smart devices to do their jobs automatically so that we don’t need to worry about them. As we gain more experience, we can proceed to add different types of smart devices to cover other areas of concern. Eventually, we’ll need a smart home controller or voice controller to manage all these smart devices.

And that’s when the fun begins!

Stay safe and be socially responsible.

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