The Beginner’s Guide to Setting Up a Smart Home

You love your humble abode — but some 21st-century upgrades would be nice, right? Imagine turning lights on and off, answering your door, or even brewing a pot of coffee with just a few taps on your smartphone. Not only would you impress your neighbors and friends, you could improve your home security and shave money off of your energy bills and insurance premiums. And while installation sounds complicated, it doesn’t have to be! Here’s a look at some great options for those just getting started with smart home technology.

Smart Doorbells

For many, the biggest benefit of home automation is increased safety. If that’s a top priority for you, a smart doorbell is a great place to start. Such devices include motion sensors and the ability to stream live video, so you can see who is at your door before you open it.

Our advice? Try the Ring video doorbell and we'll even give you a $30 discount off your purchase if you're an American Family home, condo or renters insurance customer.

Smart doorbell installation isn't super complicated, but it will require mounting the doorbell to a frame and connecting it to existing wiring. If you have a newer home or plan to build, talk with your electrician about how you can optimize your wiring for smart home technology. Older homes may be more challenging to rewire, so consulting a professional is crucial before you attempt to install this technology.

Smart Home Security Systems

For an even fuller sense of security, consider installing an Internet-based home security system. Such systems usually run a few hundred dollars and may include monthly monitoring fees. We’ve partnered with Frontpoint to help bring industry-leading security to American Family Insurance customers — and give you a discount on your homeowners insurance, too!

In many cases, you can set up the system yourself, which is a nice advantage compared to traditional "wired" security systems that require professional installation that costs extra. Setup often requires plugging in the base station and turning on various connected sensors. And if you encounter any setup issues, there are many online tutorials available that provide additional information on installation.

Consider purchasing a system that’s sold as a kit to keep things really simple. Many of these systems are "portable," so you can take the system with you if you move to a different house. Nice!

Smart Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Unlike traditional monitors, these Internet-connected smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can send notifications to your phone with details about what was detected if they’re set off or if their batteries are low. Some can even contact a neighbor or emergency contact when you’re out of town.

Combined with your smart security system and doorbell, these easy-to-install smart devices give you smartphone access to your home at any time — and peace of mind in the process.

Smart Thermostats

Another advantage to a smart home setup is that it can save you money on electric and heating bills. A connected thermostat that automatically adjusts to your schedule can save you around $150 a year. And your savings go hand-in-hand with another unbeatable feature — a home that’s always the perfect temperature.

Like smart doorbells, the installation requires some basic electrical work. But with the advice of a professional electrician, you can gear your grid to handle an entire suite of smart home accessories.

Smart Lighting Systems

Smart lighting is another great way to reduce your energy bill. When it comes to lighting, you can choose between bulbs that connect to Wi-Fi, or switches.

Installing a Wi-Fi bulb is as simple as screwing it in and connecting it to the Internet or Bluetooth, while connecting bulbs to switches requires more intensive electrical work.

Smart Home Virtual Personal Assistants

A smart home isn’t just about safety or saving money. It’s also convenient — and fun! Voice-controlled smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home can tell jokes, play music, provide you with real-time weather and traffic information, make lists and more.

What's more, they're equipped with customizable virtual personal assistant technology that can allow you to control other smart devices, like your smart thermostat or lighting system. Feeling chilly? Just ask your Echo or Home to boost the heat, and you'll be feeling comfy in no time. The setup for this life-enhancing technology is relatively minimal, involving downloading apps to your smartphone and following a few simple steps.

Finding The Best Location for Your Smart Devices

While some of your smart home devices can’t be moved without significant electrical work, consider putting your more-mobile smart devices near your Wi-Fi router to keep them connected at all times.

You can also position your router in a central location to give its signal easy access to your devices. And if you have multiple active Ethernet ports in other parts of your home, setting up another router can boost the connectivity of devices far away from your main router.

Get Help Installing Your Smart Devices

If all of the installation talk has you flustered, don’t worry — American Family and HelloTech have partnered to make installation, connection and troubleshooting as easy as possible. HelloTech can help you get your smart home up and running in no time, providing top-of-the-line support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!

But before you start buying cool new gadgets to make your home smarter, you might consider doing a little research first to determine device compatibility, so everything can be more conveniently controlled from the same system. For instance, if you're contemplating getting a smart home security system as well as smart smoke/carbon monoxide detector, make sure they integrate with each other so you don't have to use two separate apps and systems to control them. Or, if you've got Google Home and you want to get a new smart thermostat, make sure the thermostat is compatible with Google Home. That way, you can use Google Home to control your thermostat.

Bottom line, you don't have to be a tech genius to enjoy the benefits of smart home technology. Whether you’re interested in improving your home security, saving some money, or just making your day-to-day a little easier, there are options available that any average smartphone user can enjoy.

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Related Topics: Smart Home