Tasker tips

Software can be improved, hardware cannot

If you insist on being an early adopter, at least make sure the device has solid hardware. Software updates can be added over time, but hardware limitations will stick with a product for as long as you use it (usually).

Mesh networks get stronger with more nodes

Mesh networks like Zigbee and Z Wave get more robust with more devices. Point to point networks like WiFi get more congested. If you plan on having many devices in your smart home, a mesh network protocol will scale much better than WiFi.

Smart isn’t always smarter

There’s lots of totally unnecessary and downright ridiculous smart products that have hit the shelves over the past couple years. A couple of my favorites have been the Quirky Egg Minder smart egg tray and the HapiFork smart fork (no longer available…hmm, I wonder why?). Here’s a list of a few more crazy smart products I’ve found.

Don’t compromise on smart speaker sound quality

Cam Secore at powermoves.blog values sound quality over all else in his smart speakers.

“When buying a smart speaker, don’t compromise on sound quality. Sound quality is the only thing that matters. Studies are showing that smart speakers are primarily being used for music, with easy tasks like reminders or timers being at the top of the list too. That’s terrible news when you consider Echo Dot and Google Home Mini are the two highest selling smart speakers and have tin can audio quality. You may think you’re in the minority and NEED the best personal assistant to perform nerdy tasks, but you’re probably not. When you need to do a task that’s more advanced, why not use the devices that are already in your pocket or on your wrist? A screen interface from your phone or watch is more helpful anyway.”Cam Secore, allpowermoves.com

Choose a hub based on your skill level

Amazon’s Alexa platform is easy to learn and easy to use. However, you’ll quickly find it’s limited to fairly simple automation. On the other hand, something like Home Assistant has a much steeper learning curve, but allows for complex custom programming. Typically finding the right hub is finding a balance between ease of use and ability to create complex automations. Something like the Samsung SmartThings hub is good mix of both. It has an easy to use If/Then style app. Plus, if you want to get more geeky, there’s addons that allow you to create custom code.

Keep firmware updated

When you open the app and that nagging message to update keeps popping up, its tempting to just skip it. Don’t. Firmware updates are important for security, bug fixes, and new features. At the very least, make a note to yourself to update at a more convenient time.

Don’t overcomplicate

Remember, the end goal is to make things easier. Complicated automations leave more room for something to go wrong. For example, when I first started building my smart home, I thought it would be cool to have a motion sensor in a closet trigger the closet light. That’s totally unnecessary and complicated. The simple solution is to just buy a motion activated bulb. The bulbs are cheaper than a typical motion sensor and the only setup required is to screw it in.

Consider a second router to secure your home network

“Make sure you have your smart home network secured, preferably on a second router and wireless network if at all possible. Early on my smart home network got hacked and I actually had my TV turn on and thermostat crank up to 85 degrees while we were having a party. That’s one way to make sure your smart home party gets wrecked fast!”Kevin Noyes, diysmarthomeguide.com

For even more smart home tips, check out Kevin’s list of home automation tips.

Ceiling fans require special smart switches

It could be tempting to install a standard dimmer switch to control your ceiling fan speed, but it’s not a good idea. There are specially made fan speed controllers that will get the job done right.

Learn to use IFTTT, Stringify, and Tasker

You’ve probably heard of IFTTT, but what about the other two? The world of smart home devices is still young, and interoperability is still a challenge. Learn to use these third party scripting apps to make more complex automations and connect devices that are otherwise incompatible.