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The Complete Smart Home Automation Guide

Home Security Tips Mar 1, 2024 1:51:00 PM General Security 13 min read


Transforming your house into a full-scale smart home with all the associated comforts and conveniences is easier than ever before. With a vast array of equipment options available for any home or residence, one of the biggest obstacles to getting started is knowledge.

Whether you’re a young family with school-age children, a retired senior, or aging in place, automation greatly enhances your home safety and overall well-being.

Plus, smart home technology provides other benefits, such as helping you save money on utility bills, increasing control of household functions from anywhere, and even unlocking eligibility for discounts on homeowner’s insurance. 

This smart home guide covers some of the most popular and practical ways homeowners are using standard automation features to bring their lifestyles into the 2020s and beyond. 


Smart Home Automation Basics

Stepping into the world of smart home automation is like having your own personal composer, where a simple command can orchestrate your home's devices like a well-conducted symphony.

Enhanced Conveniences

Imagine the luxury of instructing your lights to dim or your music to play without lifting a finger, bringing a touch of magic to everyday life.

This isn't just about the convenience of commands; it's about transforming your living space into a responsive, adaptive environment where gadgets like thermostats anticipate your comfort needs, and lighting adjusts to your schedule, sparing you the mundane task of manual adjustments.

Comprehensive Security

On the security front, smart home technology creates an invisible shield around your home.

Whether it's ensuring doors are locked or keeping an eye on your home through smart cameras, this tech turns your smartphone into a remote control for peace of mind. It's for those moments when you're halfway to work and the nagging question of whether you secured the back door pops up. A quick check on your phone, and the anxiety dissipates, letting you monitor and manage your home's safety from anywhere.

Energy Bill Savings

And when it comes to being eco-friendly, smart homes are a solid step in the right direction.

They're not just about obeying your every whim; they're also about intelligently managing energy usage. Thermostats that learn your schedule to optimize heating and cooling, and lights that turn off when you leave the room, are more than conveniences—they're steps toward a greener lifestyle.

These smart devices ensure that you're not only saving on utility bills but also contributing to a healthier planet by minimizing energy waste. Smart home automation, therefore, isn't just about adding a layer of intelligence to your living space; it's about crafting a home that's secure, efficient, and a bit magical, all at the same time.

The concepts outlined below can be adapted for nearly any automation system, helping you unlock the full benefits of smart home technology.


Smart Lighting Automation for Your Home

Connecting via bulbs, switches, or outlets, automated lights unlock a bevy of possibilities for homeowners, but you’ll need smart lighting to achieve it. 

Fall asleep faster at bedtime. Digital screens that inundate our lives and bright lights keep our bodies in “awake mode.” However, you can set your lights to incrementally dim in the lead-up to your bedtime, setting the right slumber atmosphere. You’ll soon find you’re much closer to falling asleep by the time you end up in bed.

To achieve this, most smart bulbs include an app that enables users to schedule lighting with gradual dimming. If not, you can control this using a smart hub with time triggers, as long as the light fixture supports dimming and not just on-and-off functionality.

Take it a step further and replace daylight or bright light bulbs with those featuring a warm light, instead. The calming color will invite you deeper into a cozy and relaxed state of mind.

Turn off all the lights. Retracing your steps at night before bed to ensure every single light has been turned off is one more thing in the way of you and your comfortable bed. Plus, lights left on drive up your energy use.

With a single command, you can turn off all lights in your house. Simply connect all the lights in your home to a smart home hub, and assign a command via the main app or a voice-controlled assistant, such as Alexa.

Try a more gentle way of waking up. To avoid being jolted awake by a noisy alarm clock, consider setting your smart lighting to simulate the sunrise by gradually bringing the lights up in the morning.

Again, some smart bulbs include an accompanying app with scheduling and dimming capabilities, but if unavailable, your smart home can control dimmable switches or bulbs.

And if you’re a heavier sleeper or worried about sleeping through such a calming wake-up call, you can set a rambunctious alarm to stir you awake if a gentle sunrise approach doesn’t work for you.

Light your path home. Instead of stumbling along a dark walkway, have the entryway, exterior, or pathway lights turn on right before you pull into your driveway,

Using geofencing—a location-based trigger powered by your phone—the lights will turn on once you reach a pre-designated distance from home, be it a few hundred feet or even a mile. 

You’ll need a geofencing-compatible app, such as one by Alarm.com, to do this.

Set lights to bedtime mode. For those occasions when you wake up in the middle of the night, be it indigestion or an unsettling dream. You can set all the lights in your hallway, kitchen, and bathroom to turn on to a comfortable dim when you get up at night.

This is triggered by a motion detector in one of these rooms connected to a smart hub. You’ll also need smart lighting for this, of course.

Sync up lights with your garage door. Similar to lighting your path home, you can pair the garage door with lights, ensuring your home entry is smooth. Plus, you won’t have to worry about forgetting to turn off the garage lights, because you can link them shut off when the garage door closes.

Connect the garage door opener with a smart hub and the appropriate lights, then, use the garage door as a trigger to start the automation. (For more helpful tips, read this guide about garage door security.)

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Home Entertainment Automations

Connecting speakers to your smart home hub is a powerful way to bring top-notch entertainment experiences to your home, without breaking the bank. 

Let there be music everywhere. Whether you’re hosting a party or cleaning room to room, you can set up smart speakers to stream music to every space of your house, controlled from anywhere without running wires.

Simply, put smart speakers in every room where you want music, and connect them to the included app (if applicable) or your smart home hub. In-wall options are also available if you’re willing to spend more.

Recreate the movie theater experience in your home. With one button or voice command, you can darken a room for “movie mode” which also turns lights up to a dim setting when you pause the TV. 

This process is a bit more involved, but typically requires a smart remote with the ability to use “macros”—also called "routines"—to control other devices. The complexity of this automation depends on the remote you choose. And cheaper devices often require more work to set up.

Have TV ready when you get home. Perhaps you don’t want to waste a minute jumping onto your favorite show when you get home. You can program your smart TV to turn on the house lights and living room TV as soon as you get within a short distance from home.

You’ll need geofencing capabilities and a compatible hub to set it up.

Turn all TVs off at a certain time. Whether it’s to conserve electricity or keep kids from sneaking shows outside family-sanctioned “screen time,” then you’ll love this trick. Simply connect all your TVs to a compatible smart hub via smart outlets or built-in connectivity (if applicable), and assign the command with a specific time frame.


Lifestyle & Convenience Automations

Don’t miss another trash day. When you open the garage door in the morning, set smart lights to flash multiple times, reminding you to take the trash cans out to the curb. You’ll need smart lights or switches with a smart hub to do this.

For example, define multiple conditions for the trigger so the garage lights flash when the date is Tuesday and the time is between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m., and the garage door is opened.

Thermostat adjusts to when you’re not home. A smart thermostat can be set to a given temperature when you’re gone or turn back on when you’re within a certain distance from home. 

Smart thermostats typically feature built-in time-based triggers, so you can lower the temperature at night, or from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can take savings to the next level, however, with geofencing. Just program multiple conditions to define your ideal day.

For example, when the time is between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., or 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., and your location is further than one mile from your home, set the thermostat to energy-saving mode.

No longer worry about high energy bills from open windows. Whether one of your children forgets to shut a window or you want to open one for fresh air, a smart thermostat will help you save on energy bills.

If a window is left open for more than 15 minutes, you can set the thermostat to energy-saving mode.

You’ll need window open-close sensors, a smart thermostat, and a compatible hub. Select the window sensor as a trigger, and when it opens, tell the hub to wait 15 minutes. Then, if the window is still open, program the hub to adjust the thermostat to energy-saving mode.

Ventilate your house when a carbon monoxide detector goes off. You can connect your garage door opener with a carbon monoxide detector so the garage automatically opens when the detector goes off. This will help ventilate your home, further enhancing your family’s safety. 

Reduce bathroom humidity after a shower. Rather than wait for your mirrors to stop fogging up following a shower, have your fan automatically turn on when moisture levels reach a certain threshold. This way, it will clear out humidity as quickly as possible, and you won’t need to worry about forgetting the fan all day.

You can choose either a smart ventilation fan that connects to your hub with a separate humidity sensor or link a fan with a sensor already built in. If your model lacks a humidity sensor, install one separately in the bathroom and connect both to your hub. Then, use moisture levels in the air as triggers to turn the fan on and off.

Circulate hot air from your fireplace throughout your house. Whenever a fireplace makes one room too warm, you can set your home ventilation system to turn on, distributing hot air throughout other rooms.

For this, you’ll need a smart hub, indoor and outdoor temperature sensors, and a connected home ventilation system. First, place the temperature sensor in the same room as the fireplace. Then, program the indoor temperature as a trigger, and whenever it exceeds 80 degrees and the outdoor temperature is 50 degrees or less, set the ventilation system to activate for a set amount of time, or until the temperature decreases to a reasonable level.

Wake up to a vacuumed home. Set your automatic robot vacuum to clean during the middle of the night. Naturally, it must be quiet enough when vacuuming for you to sleep peacefully. Connect it to your smart home hub, and program a routine triggered by your ideal sleeping time.

Know when your fridge is open. It’s so frustrating to find your food spoiled because somebody left the fridge open. Receive notifications on your phone whenever your fridge is left open for more than a few minutes, for instance.

This feature is built into many smart refrigerators, but you can recreate it with an open-close sensor connected to a standard appliance. Install the sensor on the doors and connect it to your smart home hub. Then, create a routine triggered by the sensor when the door is open, sending you a notification via your smart hub. With these settings, normal kitchen activities won’t cause alerts, but you’ll know if the appliance is left open unintentionally.

Avoid watering your lawn when it rains. Rather than run your sprinklers at the same time on the same days, use smart sprinklers to remain off during rainy weather. 

Many smart sprinkler controllers, such as the Rachio, can connect to your smart home hub and local weather services to adjust watering schedules, based on climate conditions. Installation can be a bit complicated, however, so professionals are recommended.

You’ll only have to replace the control panel—not the sprinklers—so you may be surprised by the upgrade’s affordability.


Home Security Automations

Automatically lock your doors: You can set your doors to lock behind whenever you leave the house. Using a geofencing-reliant routine, you can program the automation to start when you get further than a mile from your home, locking all the doors connected to your hub.

Keep an extra eye out for leaks. Get notified if you spring a leak from a sink or appliance before meaningful flooding occurs. This is especially useful for vacation homes, or other properties left vacant for extended periods. Purchase several water sensors, connect them to your smart home hub, and place them in potentially problematic areas around your home. Then program the hub to send notifications whenever moisture is detected.

Stop worrying about setting your alarm. You can automatically arm your home security system when everyone is in bed or no one is home.

Similarly, you can create a smart home routine at a specific time each night that checks all your motion sensors. If no interior sensors are triggered for 15 minutes, it sets the home alarm to the “on” position.


Automation Ideas for Pet Owners

Pet-Sensitive Motion Detection: Household pets can trigger motion sensors and other smart home products when you don’t want them to. Fortunately, you can program motion sensors to ignore small and medium-sized animal movements, including those weighing less than 40 pounds. Some models can even be adjusted to account for much larger pets, including those up to 80 pounds, such as German shepherds or Irish wolfhounds. 

Flood Sensors for Detecting Tank Leaks: Similar to other household moisture concerns, you can employ flood sensors to notify you when a fish or amphibian tank is leaking, thus preventing expensive home repairs. 

Keep Your Pets Comfortable on Days with Extreme Temperatures: For safety reasons, you need to keep your pets cool on hot days and warm and freezing ones. Even if you forget to adjust your HVAC system, you can pre-set smart thermostat temperatures for specific times via mobile app. Sensors also detect extreme exterior temperature fluctuations. Lock-out features ensure control via authorized users.


Combine Multiple Smart Home Automations with Alarm.com

While each of these home automation ideas can be useful alone, their utility multiplies exponentially when combined. You can easily create groups of actions with "Scenes,” if you’re using the Alarm.com mobile app.

Group any number of automations together and assign them a master trigger, such as a voice command or your location. With just a few of these, you can automate your household’s entire day.

Morning Scene

Reference Automation Ideas: Sunrise Alarm, Reduce Bathroom Humidity, Trash Reminder

Master Trigger: Time of Day

With this scene, you wake up to a gradual increase in light. After you shower, the bathroom fan stays on long enough to de-fog the room and turns off automatically. As you leave for work, you open the garage door, but the lights in the garage flash, reminding you to take the trash to the curb. You run it out quickly, then head off to work.

Off-to-Work Scene

Reference Automation Ideas: Location-Based Thermostat, Automatically Lock The Doors, Alarm Automations

Master Trigger: Location

As you drive away from home, your location is tracked with geofencing. A mile away, your doors automatically lock, the alarm arms, and your thermostat adjusts the temperature to energy-saving mode.

Home-from-Work Scene

Reference Automation Ideas: Light The Way Home, Garage Lights, Music Everywhere, Welcome Home, Automatically Lock The Doors, Alarm Automations

Master Trigger: Location

The moment you get within a mile from home, your thermostat adjusts to a comfortable level. Then, when you open the garage door, the lights, music, and TV turn on, and your alarm and door locks disarm, so you walk into a warm, welcoming home.


Reference Automation Ideas: Blackout, Night Lights, Bedtime For The TV, Vacuum While You Sleep

Master Trigger: Voice Command

When you’re ready to get some sleep, simply activate one scene via Alexa or an Alarm.com app, and all lights and electronics turn off. Then, the robot vacuum turns on and cleans, while you sleep.

This list only scratches the surface of all the endless home automation routines available with a modern smart hub. If you’d like to learn more or would like help getting your home fully automated with a state-of-the-art Alarm.com system, contact General Security today. Our team is ready to serve all your security and home automation needs.