23 Products That Make Up My Ultimate Smart Home

I’ve been building out my smart home since 2016. I use all three leading smart home platforms: Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa and Google Home and while each one has its advantages, Apple HomeKit is my platform of choice as it does the most. While just about any device can be controlled via an app, what makes a smart home really smart is when you can control multiple devices with a single voice command, scene or automation. With HomeKit I have automations setup like “Going Upstairs” which locks the entry doors, turns off the patio fans, turns off the family room lights and fan, turns on the hallway lights, changes colors of the Hue lights in the bedroom, makes sure the garage doors are closed, arms the alarm “home”, closes the blinds and turns off the TV downstairs. There is no other platform besides HomeKit that would let me do all of those things using devices from so many different manufacturers, with one command. 

I wanted to create this video last year and then the pandemic hit and I decided to postpone it. I finally sat down to create it and here it is:

Although I put the links to everything in the video description, there is a character limit and I couldn’t go into much detail. Therefore I’ve also put the descriptions and links to each product below:

WiFi Router

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3 New Additions to My Smart Home

I recently added three new items to my smart home. The first one is one I’ve been waiting for the longest. When my home was built in 2016 I went with a Ring Pro doorbell. It was a good choice at the time and has worked well for me. However, my smart home platform of choice is Apple’s HomeKit and Ring is not native to HomeKit. While I was able to integrate it through unofficial HomeBridge support, HomeBridge doesn’t give it all the available features of HomeKit and now HomeKit Secure Video. While there have been a couple of entries into the HomeKit video doorbell market, one is extremely expensive and the other one doesn’t yet support HomeKit Secure Video. That all changed last week with the introduction of Logitech’s Circle View Wired Doorbell.

Logitech Circle View Wired Doorbell

Logitech is no stranger to HomeKit. Their Logitech Circle cameras are in use and loved by many, but this is their first entry into the video doorbell market. Sometimes it’s better not to be first. By taking their time they got many things right out of the gate that others still struggle with. First and foremost this doorbell not only supports HomeKit but also supports HomeKit Secure Video which is Apple’s locally encrypted video stored in iCloud. Most others promise this feature in an upcoming software update or not at all. Logitech built it in from the start. They also did a great job including everything you would need including a choice of mounting brackets.

Here’s my video review:

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HomeKit vs. Alexa vs. Google Home – Which smart home platform is best?

My Smart Home in the Apple Home App on iPad
My Smart Home in the Apple Home App on iPad Pro

I’ve been into home automation and smart home gear for years. I really got serious about it when we built a new house in 2016. A new house meant being about to start from scratch with the best solutions for every aspect of home automation that I wanted. When you talk smart home the usual suspects come to people’s minds: lights, cameras, thermostats, locks, security systems, shades/window blinds, garage door openers, etc. Beyond simple control from your smartphone, smart home automation is really about Scenes and Routines. It’s about using one verbal command, or press one button or come home and have a series of things happen.

This is when picking a smart home platform comes into play

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My 5 Favorite Smart Home / HomeKit Gadgets

iPad Pro running Home App Smart Home
Apple Home App running on my iPad Pro.

I’m a huge fan of automation in general especially when it comes to smart home stuff. My new home was built two years ago in May 2016. I got the chance to start with a clean slate and put in all the smart home tech that I wanted pretty much from day one. Sadly the builder wasn’t really into smart homes (aside from running ethernet drops) yet so I had to do it all after the house was completed. When people think smart homes one of the first things that comes to mind is lighting and that is pretty much where I started too, but it didn’t stop there. Since most of the things in a smart home are controlled via your mobile devices I also wanted to make sure that most if not all things I did worked with Apple’s HomeKit since I’m an iOS user.

1. My Lighting

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Chamberlain Smartphone Controlled Wi-Fi Garage Door Opener with Battery Backup Review

chamberlain_wifi_smartphone_garage_door_opener

Continuing my Smart Home Product Review Week it’s time to talk about the smartest garage door opener I’ve ever seen and it’s by Chamberlain. When I moved into my new home one of the things that wasn’t included was the two garage door openers I’d need. I thought this was a weird item not to include, but when I saw the price that the builder wanted to install theirs, I decided to just go get my own. This was another one of those things that I hadn’t had to shop for in over 25 years. I hadn’t realized how far they’ve come. The first option I noticed was a battery backup and I definitely wanted that. There had been times where storms had taken out the power in my studio (10′ door) and that while I could get up on a ladder and use the manual release to raise the door, it just wasn’t worth it. My car remained trapped until the power came back on. Having a battery backup means that the garage door opener will still work even if the house loses power.

Chamberlain Smartphone Controlled Wi-Fi Garage Door Opener offers everything in one box

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Lutron Caséta Wireless Lighting Control Review

lutron-caseta-dimmable-plug-in-kit

It’s Day 3 of my Smart Home product review week and now it’s time to talk about wireless lighting and shade controls. Once again I wanted something that would be Apple HomeKit compatible and my search led me to the Lutron Caséta system. This is not my first wireless lighting system. As a matter of fact I go all the way back to the Radio Shack X10 system (remember those?) Thankfully things have gotten a lot better in the last 25-30 years and now you not only get in-home wireless control but you also get the ability to control your lights and shades from (yep you guessed it) anywhere in the world from your smartphone.

I started with the Lutron Caseta Wireless Smart Lighting Plug-In Lamp Dimmer Kit

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Ring Video Doorbell Pro Review

ring video doorbell pro bronze

Picking up where I left off yesterday with my new smart home gadget reviews, let’s talk about the Ring Video Doorbell Pro. I have always liked having a camera that can show me who is at my front door and if I have any packages sitting there? I checked with my alarm provider and while they do offer outdoor cameras, they actually suggested that I go with a Ring Video Doorbell instead. I had never heard of Ring before and when I went to check them out the reviews on Amazon weren’t great. However, after reading a few of them I realized that most of the criticism was in comparing the newer “Pro” model to the standard model. I ended up going with the Pro model for a couple of reasons. For one and probably the main reason is that the Ring Video Doorbell Pro is simply not as wide as the standard version. The Pro model is a perfect fit for my doorbell area and the standard model would have been too wide. The Pro does 1080p vs. 720p and also can connect to the less crowded 5GHz Wi-Fi spectrum. Those were enough reasons to push me up to the Pro model. While the standard model can work with an existing doorbell (replace yours with this one) or no existing doorbell, the Pro only works where you have a wired doorbell.

See and Talk to Anyone At Your Door from Anywhere in the World

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Ecobee 3 Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat Review

ecobee-3-on-my-wall

I know it’s been a while since I’ve done gadget reviews here. However, I’ve just moved into a new home and for the first time in several years I’ve been looking at and buying smart home gadgets. I must admit that the amount of choices out there now are quite daunting. Even if you find the right gadget based upon the feature set that you’re looking for you also have also decide which platform to go with. Platform?

smart home platforms

Yes, just like you decide to go with iOS or Android, Mac or Windows, etc, your smart home gadgets work together based on alliances and partnerships. For example, I was pretty sure that I would go with a Nest thermostat. I had been looking at them for years. I liked the design. Nest even acquired Dropcam, the company I was using for all my wifi cameras. However, somewhere along the way Nest was acquired by Google. That acquisition put them at odds with Apple. I have nothing against Google or the Android platform, but all of my mobile devices are iOS based. Therefore I wanted to go with devices that work with Apple’s HomeKit platform.

The Ecobee 3 Remote Sensor Advantage

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