When Jill and I first moved in together, she had already bought the Phillips Hue Starter Kit and had everything set up. They were single-handedly the coolest lights I have ever seen. About a month went by and we started to hate them. Mostly because we needed Jail’s phone to turn the lights on and off. Not a big deal breaker but I just needed to do a little more research. It turns out you can automate your home for less than $600.
Before we get too in depth about all of this I do want to disclose some information. Our devices all run on the latest version of Android. Except for our computers. Our computers are Apple MacBook Pros. We chose Google because everything in her house at the time was Google based. Class they offer a great product at a reasonable price.
It turns out with the Philips Hue system you can have multiple logins for the same set of Lights. Meaning gel can have her login and control the lights and I can have mine. This made things a little easier when we were leaving the house and we needed to turn off the lights. A few updates of the app later and we were able to control some default settings such as wake up and go to sleep.
We could tell the app to wake the lights up at a specific time and specify the set of lights that should come on. The same thing with going to sleep. It’s a pretty cool feature except the lights turn on and shut off on the color white. Again it’s not a big deal breaker. It does kind of suck when you have your entire house green and blue and you turn on your lights for the first time and they’re set to White. I know these are first world problems.
A few more updates and we were able to set the Philips Hue to turn on each group of Lights to a specific theme. A huge improvement to say the least. The themes were preset and not our favorite colors but it was better than seeing white.
If this then that is a popular service where you can get two sets of devices to talk to each other without having to write any of your own programming code. It’s probably one of the coolest things on the internet. With the Philips Hue, you can turn the lights on and off based on things such as the weather, the temperature, and the time. Some other cool features are sending a text message to your girlfriend and having the lights turn on.
So I could tell Jill I’m coming home in a text message and those specific words would trigger my Philips Hue to turn the living room lights on. Now we’re starting to cook with gas. We were able to get some things squared away and we had version 1.0 of our home automation.
Chomecast + CEC
Most Smart TVs come with a setting called the consumer electronic control also known as the CEC. This feature on your TV allows the television to turn on whenever the device is turned on. For example, I can share a YouTube video to my Chromecast and that will turn on the TV. Same thing for my PlayStation and Roku. I didn’t know about this feature for the longest time. One day gel said it would be pretty sweet if we could turn the TV on when we shared Spotify to the Chromecast.
A couple Google searches later and we figured out how to do it. I really loved the Google Chromecast simply because we cut the cord a while back. We watch a lot of Netflix and Hulu. From time to time we’ll click on Amazon and check out some TV shows. One of my favorite things to do is watch random videos on YouTube. That’s where the Chromecast really excels. While I’m watching One video I can search for the next thing and it’s all on one device.
Or I can ask Jill to find something and she can share it from her phone or device. It’s a pretty cool thing to have but it gets so much better.
Ok Google. Meet Google Home
Google home is Google’s version of an automated assistant. There are others such as Siri on the Apple devices and Alexa on the Amazon Echo. Since we already have Android devices and Chromecast we figured getting the Google home was going to work with all of our current devices. And boy was that the smartest decision ever.
With Google home I can control all of my wifi devices simply by using my voice. I was able to hook up the Philips Hue Bridge two the Google home app. Now these two technologies are communicating with each other. All I have to do is say “OK Google living room lights on” or “Hey Google living room light purple” and Google home is smart enough to figure out which lights to turn on.
We have every room in our house connected to Philips Hue. We haven’t had to turn a light switch on or off in about a month. You can use IFTTT to customize your own commands also known as recipes. For example I have a setting where anytime I ask Google home to tell me what we say to my friend Miles, Google home will repeat a custom message and it will blink the living room lights.
One of the coolest features to come out of the Google home is the app itself. With a tap of my finger I can connect Google home to Uber, Domino’s, and Netflix.
In one command I can tell Google to play House of Cards on our living room TV. All I have to do is say “Ok Google, play House of cards in the living room”. Google home will take the information and connect to my Netflix account. It will determine where we left off on the show House of Cards. Once the video is ready to play it will share the video to our Chromecast in the living room. Then I can tell Google to dim the living room lights by 50%. Just like that we’re ready to watch our favorite show.
Google WiFi for the win
Google WiFi is Simply the Best. It took about 30 seconds to set up. You download the app and scan the QR code. Google will do the rest. You tell Google WiFi the name of your WiFi and set a password.
Just like that you have WiFi covering your entire home up to 1500 square feet. We have a two-bedroom apartment that is 1420 square feet. So we’re covered with one wifi device. However Google does offer their wifi in a mesh Network. Meaning that I can get another Google wifi router and set it up in my bedroom. The second Google wifi device acts as a range extender. All you have to do is plug it in to an available power port.
I think one of the coolest features about their mesh Network allows me to hard wire a computer in my bed without being next to the modem. If that doesn’t make you appreciate technology then nothing will.
I used the same WiFi name and password when setting up the Google WiFi app. This way all of my devices were already set up and I didn’t have to re-enter the password 100 times. We do use a secure password so it’s not like I’m setting it to something dumb.
With Google WiFi I am able to group my devices. By grouping devices I can turn off their WiFi access point in One Touch on the app. This is awesome during the day while I’m working. I’m not using the Chromecast or any other devices except for my computer.
I can turn off the WiFi access points for all of those devices or I can tell the Google WiFi that my Mac computer is that priority for the next 4 hours. The wifi router is smart enough to send all of the data to that Mac address and any other Mac address requesting data gets whatever is left over.
Bringing this all together
In an earlier post, I told you how we switched from AT&T over to Google Fi. That was one of the best decisions we have ever made. Automating our entire house has to be the next best decision we have made.
Everything is connected to our Google home and is controlled by our voice. Now I can say things like “Ok Google bed time”. In one command I can pause all of the devices were not going to use while we sleep, I can turn all of the lights off in our house, and I can even mute the microphone so it stops listening for our commands.
The price tag.
The Philips Hue starter kit is about $300 bucks unless you can find a deal. It’s important to know we bought the Philips Hue starter kit with the multi changing color bulbs. This way we can set our living room to Green in our bedroom to Blue. Each Philip Hue bulb is about 50 bucks.
Each Google Chromecast cost $35.
The Google Home device you can find on sale for $100.
Google WiFi you can find for $111. You can buy a set of three for $269. When device will get you 1500 square feet easily so I suggest only buying the one unless you definitely need to WiFi space upstairs or downstairs.
It’s a little pricey if you’re just getting started but after a month I think it pays for itself. The coolest part about it all is with the Google home you can have multiple Gmail accounts linked to the device.
Even if I am away I can let Jill control the entire system or I can control it from being connected to WiFi. Automate your home for less than $700 and make life so much easier. I don’t know if you can actually put a price tag on that even though we technically are putting one on this blog post.
Here’s another great blog post about Google Home Automation.