The Beginner's Guide To Home Automation & Smart Tech

Smart tech for your kitchen, living room, and front door

The beginners guide to the big five in smart tech hero

Getting started with smart technology can be a daunting process. There are so many options for so many different products and features that your brain may shut down from information overload. Never fear. To help get you started off on the right foot, here's our beginner's guide to the big five in smart home technology. Feel free to focus on these any way you want. The numerical ordering is just a suggestion for those who like to go step-by-step.

1. Smart Thermostat

The beginners guide to the big five in smart tech smart thermo

Optimizing your central HVAC system is one of the easiest ways to see an immediate positive impact from smart home technology.

Typical unit price for a smart thermostat is somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 – $300. This may seem like a steep price, until you consider that the device pays for itself over time.

The most immediate advantage of owning a smart thermostat is its ability to adapt to your habits of coming and going. The popular Nest thermostat uses an adaptive learning algorithm to learn your living habits. The competing Honeywell Lyric1 uses geofencing technology to turn the system on or off, depending on how far away you are from your home. The Ecobee Smart 3 includes miniature, battery operated remote sensors which you can place in different rooms based on need.

2. Smart Locks

The beginners guide to the big five in smart tech smart lock

The Internet of Things has given the smart home owner an almost omniscient ability to know everything that is happening in their home at any given time, from anywhere in the world.

Pretty amazing when you consider that deadbolts have evolved into bluetooth enabled smart locks and closed circuit TV systems have morphed into one-way, app-enabled wireless cameras. Home security has gone ultra high-tech.

Finding the right smart lock can be an involved process. Some have simple installation instructions and others are a bit more intense when it comes to an install. Bottom line, any proper install is going to be a relatively easy project, but when in doubt, hire a professional. Once you're all set with a smart lock, everyday annoyances like losing your keys become less of a problem.

The Sesame smart lock2 from Candy House allows you to open your door using your smartphone as the key. It has a dashboard on the app that shows the lock's status in case you're the forgetful type. The Lockitron3 is able to understand your proximity to your door via your phone. Certain smart locks even have WiFi pairings that can allow you to lock and unlock your door from just about anywhere. This last integration could be useful if you need to let someone into your house while you're out and about.

3. Smart Cooking

The beginners guide to the big five in smart tech cooking

If your household is anything like ours, then your kitchen is much more than just a place where you store your food.

Your kitchen is a place where you make miracles happen. A place where you synthesize artwork from fresh ingredients. Where guests of your home congregate over a bottle of pinot noir and cheese board full of peppercorn gouda to watch you work the magic show.

You'll be happy to know that smart home technologists have not neglected the kitchen in their crusade to make your home more connected. The kitchen category of smart home tech runs deep. But rather than go down an admittedly very cool rabbit hole of kitchen gizmos, we'll start with the basics.

For those of you who love a perfectly cooked steak, yet can't find the time to pan fry one, a smart sous vide cooker might be right up your alley. Sous vide is a cooking method where you seal your food and seasonings in a plastic bag, then use hot water to reach a perfect internal temperature. The Mellow4 bills itself as the "smart sous vide machine for the busy chef," and it looks to be the perfect starter gadget for any smart kitchen.

The Wemo smart slow cooker5 is the perfect intersection of the old "set it and forget it" cooking methods with new smart technology. It hooks up to your home's WiFi network and then you can control it on your smartphone or tablet. Bon appetit!

4. Smart Plugs

The beginners guide to the big five in smart tech plugs

And what good are all these intelligent devices without a smart way to bring them power?

Smart plugs are a terrific way to power your smart devices and ensure that they are energy efficient. You can program them to communicate with other devices around the home, or turn them on & off from anywhere using your smartphone or tablet.

The WeMo insight switch has a pretty slick integration with the Amazon Echo. It also includes several IFTTT recipes for the smart home which can help to further automate your life. Everything from "turning on a space heater when you wake up" to "turning on your holiday lights when the sun goes down".

5. Smart power

The beginners guide to the big five in smart tech 930 x 320

The smart home revolution also includes the option to use renewable and sustainable energy to power your home.

There are a lot of options, all are great, some might be better for you than others. Rooftop solar is an exceptional choice, but it can include an upfront installation investment. Community solar is also a great option but is not widely available yet. Switching to wind energy is easy, affordable and you can do it no matter where you live. Though it currently is easier to do in states that have a deregulated energy market. Do some research, and find the right clean power solution that fits your needs. You'll feel much better about your entrance into smart home technology if you connect your home with a wind power subscription. You make a difference every time you flip a switch.

For more information on switching to wind power, contact our member support team today.


  1. cnet.com/products/honeywell-lyric-thermostat-second-generation/ 

  2. pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2482278,00.asp 

  3. cnet.com/news/so-long-lockitron-version-1-0-hello-lockitron-bolt/ 

  4. techcrunch.com/2014/05/06/mellow-is-a-foolproof-sous-vide-machine-for-the-busy-chef/ 

  5. cnet.com/products/crock-pot-wemo-smart-slow-cooker/ 

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