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How to create a smart home: Home automation guide for beginners

Thinking of a smart home? Here's how to get started.

Smart home devices, controlled by smart app. Internet of Things concept.
Create your smart home by controlling multiple appliances via one hub. (Photo: Gettyimages)

Dreaming of a smart home where everything is automated to your convenience? As someone who first vehemently objected to automation when I got my HDB keys, I'm here to tell you that I was wrong, and my husband was right: automating our HDB flat has been a life-changer in our day-to-day.

Let me paint a scenario for you. It's been a long day at work, as if the weather is not enough to drive one crazy. You squeeze onto the MRT on the way home (or drive home, slightly resigned to the languid traffic), and deathscroll on your phone. A few taps on your phone (or even some spoken commands) later, you lower your house blinds, monitor your furbabies (or real ones) through a home security camera, switch on your room's air-conditioning and even play calming music on the living room speakers. Before you even step through the door, your door can be unlocked – one less annoying task of looking for your house keys in the cavern that is your bag.


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If you're that bit more savvy, you might even be able to activate your candler warmer as you walk through the door to a truly relaxing ambiance. Or even hooked it up to a wifi-enabled coffee maker to have your favourite brew ready as you breeze through the door.

Ok, maybe the last paragraph seems almost extravagant, but you'll be surprised to find out how easy it is to start automating the common things, and how many products there are in the market already supporting a smart home.

A little inspired? Here are steps you can take to automate your HDB apartment.

TL;DR? Scroll right to the bottom for an "automate-my-home starter kit"!

1. Identify Your Automation Goals

Determine what aspects of your home you want to automate and why, and then choose smart devices and sensors that align with your automation goals. Some common areas for automation to consider are:

  • Main gate and door – from passwords to fingerprint and even card access, upgrade your door locks to smart locks for keyless entry and remote control.

  • Air-conditioning – A smart thermostat allows you to control your air conditioning and heating remotely and set schedules for energy savings.

  • Lighting – Install smart bulbs or switches that you can control remotely through a smartphone app or voice commands. It's not just about switching on and off the lights, but also introducing mood lighting to prepare the house for special occasions.

  • Household appliances – Yes! Just think about letting your robo vacuum and air purifiers run just before you get home. One less chore!

Related: Combat the haze in Singapore with the best air purifiers you can buy for under S$300

  • Security (cameras, baby monitor) – Keeping our home safe with cheap and effective monitoring tools.

  • Entertainment systems – Play music, movies, TV shows and more without lifting a finger.

  • Curtains/blinds – Control your curtains or blinds from your phone or with your voice.

  • Pet feeders – Yes, even your pets can benefit from routine!

Related: Review: Xiaomi's Pet Fountain and Pet Feeder

2. Set Up a Smart Hub

If you have multiple smart devices from different manufacturers, a smart hub or controller can help you unify your control through a single app or interface. Some hubs include Google Home, Samsung SmartThings and Apple HomeKit.

Consider devices like Amazon Echo or Google Nest for voice-activated control of various smart devices.

Get Google Nest Hub 2nd Gen here

3. Install the Devices

Follow the manufacturer's instructions to install and set up your smart devices. Ensure they have a reliable Wi-Fi connection before you start, and don't rush the process, especially since they may need to go through software updates when first connected.

4. Create Automation Rules

Many smart home apps allow you to create automation rules or routines. For example, you can set your lights to turn on and off at specific times or when motion is detected.

Personally, I set a routine for specific lights to switch off and dim while winding down, and a certain music to play with all lights off when we say Good Night.

asian man sleeping with his cat
You don't have to move your cat to switch on and off the lights anymore. Simply talk to your device! (Photo: Gettyimages)

There's no hard and fast rule with that; find a routine that best matches yours.

5. Voice Control Integration

If you have voice assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, integrate them with your smart devices. This allows you to control your devices through voice commands.

6. Energy Management

Consider installing smart plugs or outlets to monitor and control energy usage. Some can be programmed to turn off devices when not in use, or switch to a energy-saving mode at a time of your choosing.

7. Security and Privacy

Ensure the security of your smart devices by changing default passwords, keeping firmware up to date, and configuring proper access controls. Privacy is also essential, so review your devices and apps' privacy policies and permissions regularly.

8. Regular Maintenance

Regularly check and maintain your smart devices to ensure they are functioning correctly. Update firmware and replace batteries in sensors as needed.

Automate-My-Home-Starter-Pack: Some of the best smart home devices I’ve tried/tested

L to R: Ring Doorbell, Yale Digital Lock, Google Nest, Sensibo (Photo: Stephanie Zheng)
L to R: Ring Doorbell, Yale Digital Lock, Google Nest, Sensibo (Photo: Stephanie Zheng)

From the entrance to the bedroom, these are the devices I use to automate my home.

Ring Doorbell

Price: From $150
Reason: The doorbell comes with a speaker and video capabilities to allow you to let delivery men know where to leave parcels.

Check out Ring doorbells here

Google Nest

Price: From S$109
Reason: You'll need this main hub to control the devices in your home. Fun fact, I say "Hey Google..." more times in a day than my husband's name! That's really how helpful the device is around the house.

Check Google Nest prices here

Philip Hue

Price: From $89 for one bulb
Reason: While I initially struggled with the startup cost, the cost-saving from electricity bills and the ability to control the mood and set the stage for different occasions had me sold! For example, I could turn the entire house green when watching a horror movie with friends, set a warm ambience for Christmas, turn it up to a rainbow colour loop during games night, down to a fun purple-pink mood lighting during drinking nights, and even fully pink on Pinkdot Day! The possibilities are endless.

Check out Philip Hue bulbs here


Price: From $125
Reason: Supports any air conditioner or heat pump with a remote control

Check out Sensibo prices here

Remember that while smart home automation can provide convenience and energy savings, balancing automation with security and privacy considerations is essential. Always use strong passwords and follow best practices for securing your devices and network.

Yahoo Shopping Southeast Asia
Yahoo Shopping Southeast Asia