Assess Your Home Automation Needs

By Dwight Spivey

After you have a handle on how you want to go about managing your home automation devices, you need to figure out what your needs are before incorporating a home automation system into your abode. Following are several things to consider.

Your home’s size

What is the size of your home? This is a really important question when it comes to figuring out how many devices you’ll need to cover the bases in your home.

If you have a really large home, you’re going to need many more devices than someone with a smaller home. You’ll naturally have more needs:

  • More lights to control

  • Possibly multiple floors with multiple thermostats

  • More area to cover, so you’ll need to make sure you have sufficient signal strength throughout your home for your Wi-Fi (if your home auto system uses Wi-Fi for its primary means of communication)

  • More locks due to more doors

  • More motion sensors and door sensors, if you’re beefing up security in your home automation system

Yard duty

Do you have a yard to care for? Do you plan on automating any of your lawn care? You know, you may say you enjoy cutting the grass, but why not let a robot do the job for you, like you see here?

[Credit: Image courtesy of RobomowUSA.com.]

Credit: Image courtesy of RobomowUSA.com.

Outlets and switches

Do you need extra outlets and switches installed? During the course of your home automation assessment, you may find that you want to place devices or your system’s hub in a location that doesn’t already have an outlet or a wall switch.

If you do need them and know what you’re doing, by all means go for it. If, however, you are someone who asks your nephew to come over and plug up your new appliances, you most definitely will want to contact a professional electrician to handle the job.

Wi-Fi concerns

[Credit: Wi-Fi logo by Krish Dulal. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via

Credit: Wi-Fi logo by Krish Dulal. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Do you need to beef up your Wi-Fi network before you begin to install your home automation system? How can you tell?

  • Most home automation systems use hubs that connect to your Wi-Fi router so that you can communicate with the system remotely. In many situations, your hub should be located centrally in the home so that its range extends to the point that it can communicate with as many devices as possible.

  • Anything can block Wi-Fi signals, but some materials are much worse than others. Wood, plaster, glass, and cinder blocks aren’t too bad on your signal, but brick, concrete, ceramic, and metal are deal breakers. You may need to strengthen your network signals using range extenders — or adding a second router in some cases.

  • Does your current router support the networking standards your home automation system needs? You need to contact both the router manufacturer and the home automation system manufacturer to find out. Consulting their support websites should provide sufficient information, but if not, don’t hesitate to call them.

Existing home automation systems

Do you have an existing home automation system already installed? But the reality is that if you do already have a system in place, you want to make sure that any new devices you get will work with that system. That is, unless you plan on scrapping the old system totally in favor of something new.

The new devices don’t necessarily have to be from the same manufacturer as that of the current system. They should, however, mesh with the current system, or at least work independently of it. New devices also shouldn’t hinder the current system’s operation.

Current operating systems in use

What computers and smart devices do you currently have? Which operating system(s) does your new home automation stuff need to support?

These are definite considerations you need to make, in spite of the fact that most home automation devices today support both the iOS and Android operating systems for smartphones and tablets. You will find the occasional vendor that doesn’t support Android, but you’ll rarely find one that doesn’t support iOS. That is not a slam on Android devices, by the way — it’s just the truth of the matter.

On the flipside, you’ll find few vendors that support native apps for OS X, but several (although still relatively few) do support native applications for their products on Windows. Virtually no vendors support Linux, as shameful as that may be.

If a home automation vendor provides a web interface for you to interact with its devices (which most do), the operating system your computer runs bears little consequence. As long as you can open a web browser on your computer, you should have no problem accessing the web interface for your home automation device.