Tuesday, July 18, 2023

A Smattering of Things as I Learn More about Smart Homes

 I have been dabbling in updating parts of my home to use "Smart Home" Technologies. Somethings have been straightforward and others have been more difficult.  Some basics first:

  1. Since I worked for Google, I am using Google Home and its ecosystem when it works well enough that my wife does not get frustrated using it.
  2. For things that don't directly work in the Google ecosystem, I will investigate things to see if there are ways to link them up that work reliably (It needs to avoid frustrating my wife).
  3. I am not trying to do everything at once, but I will try to replace subsystems with the same solution.
Using these rules, I first started with deploying Google Nest speakers in most rooms so I would be able to engage the Google Assistant without using my phone. I put Nest Hub Max displays in the kitchen. the owner's (my wife and my) bedroom, and in my wife's sewing room. I use Nest Hub displays in the two guest bedrooms and the dining room. I use some Nest Audio speakers in the Den and Library and a Nest Mini in the Powder Room. I am using a paired set of Google Home Max Speakers in my office.  I also putting a Nest Mini in the owner's bathroom. That should provide good coverage for the assistant to work throughout my home.

The Chromecast with Google TV devices were just coming out when I started this work, so I have added them to the TVs that don't have Google TV built into them (which is only the TV in the Den at this point). I have configured them to work as the display in the Den (where there is only a Nest Audio speaker) and as the TV in the other rooms (where there is also a Nest display device). This allows the TV to be controlled by the Google Assistant using your voice. I am careful to call the TV a TV and the display a display so you can distinguish between the two when using them to do things like show a YouTube video. My wife likes the Google TV's white remote as it allows here to turn the TV off and on as well as control the volume. I just need to remember to leave the TV setup so she can control it. I sometimes forget ;-). For those of you that are wanting to work with Google Assistant, the Chromecast with Google TV devices work pretty well, but it has gotten a lot easier to integrate a lot of boxes with TVs. I have had good experiences with Roku and Apple TV devices as well. I can't say that about Fire TV even though they run the same basic OS as Google TV. I have not dug into that deeply. 

I also replaced all the thermostats with the Google Nest Learning Thermostat (version 3). The only concern I have had there was dealing with some issues related to four wire controls (versus five wire). I have generally been happy with these thermostats. 

I replaced all the smoke detectors with Google Protect smoke detectors. I do like them, but I am concerned that the roadmap for these devices is not very clear at this point. I am hopeful that there will be some news as the work with ADT (the alarm monitoring provider) matures. 

I also use the Nest x Yale door locks on the external doors to my home. They work great. But, I do have some of the same concerns I have with the Nest Protects I described in the previous paragraph.

I also replaced all the bulbs in my home with LED bulbs and use that opportunity to replace all the wall switches with smart switches from Leviton. I looked at several different offering here and when with Leviton because they work with the Google Assistant. I have switches, dimmers and ceiling fans all under control now. I can use Google Assistant to turn them on and off and even group them togethers by room (e.g. "Turn all the den lights on"). I can do the same thing with the ceiling fans. It is pretty cool.

I also have several Nest Cameras to keep an eye on the garage, the backyard, the front and one side of the house where there is a door into my backyard (there is no windows on the other side and the only access there is into my neighbor's backyard)  I also installed a Nest Doorbell that when a visitor uses it, will chime throughout the house. It is also pretty cool.

I think I will stop at this point, but there is more I will add in a future posting as I have more I have done.

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