• Stephen & David

Turn on “Daddy Long Legs” - a guide to our Smart Home

Here is a comprehensive list of our smart home devices and little tidbits about why we made the choices we did.


Skip all the text and go right to the Quick Guide List


The Brain


While we are deep in the Apple ecosystem, when it comes to our smart home, we leave our cozy walled garden for Amazon Alexa. We made this decision back in 2017 for one simple reason - music (more on this later).


Please know this 1999 reference.


Favorite Products:

- When we also want to use it for music: Amazon Echo 4th Generation

- When we only want it to control stuff: Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Generation


If we could choose - we would likely use Apple’s Homepod purely for privacy reasons. However, the reasons we chose Alexa over 5 years ago still hold true today (again - more on this later). With Amazon Alexa we run on the assumption that we are being listened to and our data is being sold, this is a legitimate concern and everyone should consider their own level of comfort.


How it's all Controlled


The Alexa App controls everything. How this works depends on the specific device - some, like Lutron, require their own app be installed first before appearing in the Alexa App. At the end of the day, every device is named, organized, and grouped in the Alexa App.

We are heavy users of “Routines” which is Alexa speak for grouping devices together. Here are some of our everyday routines: Alexa…

  • "I'm Home": Turns on all the lights to our preferred brightness and tone

  • "Movie Time": Turns off all the living room lights and dims lights in other rooms

  • "Bed Time": Turns off all the first floor lights, and dims our bedroom for bed

  • "Goodnight": Turns off all the lights and dims the foyer lights, Front door is locked


Lights


Lights are the easiest way to start, with a huge impact. There are essentially four ways to turn a lightbulb on (there is a joke here somewhere).

  1. Flip the switch ON

  2. Use a smart bulb

  3. Use a smart switch

  4. Use a smart plug / outlet


Smart Bulbs


We primarily utilize smart bulbs for lamps or “single lights” that use a standard bulb.


Pros: Easiest to set up and make turning your favorite lamp on and off a breeze.

Cons: We have so many smart bulbs we are forgetting what they are called.


Examples in our home: Living Room light over couch, Bedroom Lamps, Parlor Lamps


Our Parlor Lamp that we affectionately call “Daddy Long Legs”. Why have a Smart House when you can have a Fun House?


Favorite Products:

When adding to a lamp or sconce: Philips Hue White A19

When adding to a light that we want to be particularly warm: Philips Hue White Ambiance A19


Smart Switches


We use smart switches when we have multiple lights to control - like the recessed lights in the kitchen. We also use them when we need to use specific bulbs. The best example would be the Dining Room Chandelier that uses like 40 different bulbs.


Pros: Control many lights with only one smart device!

Cons: You have to rewire the light switch, and they cost a bit more than a bulb.


Examples in our Home: Kitchen Recessed Lights, Entry Sconces, Parlor Built-ins, Dining Room Chandelier, Living Room Lanterns, Pantry Light (although we could have used a bulb here)


Could you imagine each of these bulbs being smart? I think we need a switch here.


She is GORGEOUS


Favorite Products:

By far, hands down: Leviton Decora Smart Wi-Fi Switch (2nd Gen) Special Note: This switch requires a neutral wire (the white one) to be hub free. If you don’t have a neutral wire then you need this switch and hub.


Smart Outlets


We are so excited about this. We are leaning towards using more outlets so we can think less about the specific bulb. Or even turn on every Christmas light at once 😱🎄


Pros: You don’t have to worry about the bulb or adding a smart plug

Cons: You have to rewire the switch


This little guy will be getting a Smart Outlet upgrade soon!


Favorite Products: Leviton Decora Smart Wi-Fi 15A Outlet (2nd Gen)


Smart Plugs


This is a device you plug into a "dumb" outlet, effectively making it smart. We use these today for one offs and hope to replace them with Smart Outlets in the future.


Pros: Super cheap and kinda easy

Cons: Meh, setup can be weird


Examples in our home: Piano Light, Suite Picture Light, Pump in the basement


Running on the cutest little Smart Plug


Product: Mini Smart Plug


Locks


We have owned a single lock for five years and it has never failed us (unless we forget to change out the 4 AA batteries). We wanted a lock that allowed us to use our original door handle and we chose the August Smart Lock and never looked back. Looks like the new generation takes CR32 batteries, sounds fun.


The old generation (still going strong) was thicc


Not until recently did we add on the companion keypad. This changed our life, recommend 10/10, do not skip, do not pass go.


Doorbell


We use a Ring for our Doorbells / Cameras. The Ring system has given us a lot of comfort when away from home or if we are woken up at night. This is something we installed immediately and very happy that we did. We also upgraded for more video storage.


Make sure you have the correct equipment to make this work. Traditional doorbells have “trickle power” which is enough to charge the internal battery. If you don’t have that then go battery only / solar.


The doorbell, paired with the August Lock Keypad


Favorite Products:

What we have now and what we would recommend to our parents: Ring Doorbell

What we should upgrade to: Ring Doorbell Pro 2


Cameras


We use a Ring Spotlight Camera which we hardwired above our back door. We should add a couple more of the smaller cameras to the sides of our houses - but haven't gotten around to it.


Thermostat


Despite having a new furnace we do not have a dedicated power wire. This means that we only get “trickle power” running through our thermostat wires. This means that we are required to use the Nest Thermostat over something like the Ecobee. The Nest has a battery and stores enough power to operate. Generally speaking I set the thermostat schedule and turn off the smart features - I don’t know why but I don’t like the assumption of when I need to be warm.


Hot Tip: If you live in MA you can get these for basically free through MassSave.


Internet


Before we dive into all of the fun devices, PSA on the internet… You need a good modem to handle a lot of devices. If you are like my parents and renting yours from your ISP (Comcast, Verizon) then congratulations - you are partaking in the biggest scam ever. We recommend returning your modem, saving the monthly subscription, and purchasing your own.


We use Eero which we purchased long before Amazon purchased the company. This is the easiest and most convenient internet experience we have ever had. The setup app makes setup, troubleshooting, and monitoring flawless. Plus, when we purchased our home we ran Cat 5 (6?, 7?, 12?) to each floor where we connected an Eero - the level of internet in our home is unreal.


Favorite Products:

What we would recommend our parents to buy: Amazon Eero 6+ dual-band mesh Wi-Fi

What we use: Amazon eero Pro 6 tri-band mesh Wi-Fi 6


Multi-Room Audio

& Why we chose Alexa over Homepod


This can get quite complicated but we chose Alexa over Apple’s Homepod due to the better integration with Spotify and the ability to group Alexa’s together for multi-room Audio.


When we purchased our home we ran speaker wire to almost every room for in-ceiling audio. The price of products like Sonos made me want to puke and I just couldn’t be involved - and the price of a decent amp + speaker wire + speakers was much easier to swallow.


Multi-Room Audio Solution:


If I didn’t have the luxury of running speaker wire I would just purchase an Amazon Echo for every room.


Now the cool part! All of our Alexas are grouped into different configurations based on what we want to do.

  • “Play music Downstairs” - Plays music on first floor Amp via Echo Dot

  • “Play music Upstairs” - Plays music on second floor Amp via Echo Dot + Echo in the spare bedrooms.

  • “Play music Outside” - Plays music on the Echo Dot Outside

  • “Play music Everywhere” - 🎉 Mode

The in-ceiling speakers were conveniently edited out of this photo for ~aesthetics~


 

Quick Guide

(our Favorites)


Brains (Hub)


- When we also want to use it for music: Amazon Echo 4th Generation

- When we only want it to control stuff: Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Generation


Smart Light Bulbs


- When adding to a lamp or sconce: Philips Hue White A19

- When adding to a light that we want to be particularly warm: Philips Hue White Ambiance A19


Smart Light Switches


- Our favorite by far: Leviton Decora Smart Wi-Fi Switch (2nd Gen)*

  • This switch does not require a hub but does require a neutral wire (the white one). If you don’t have a neutral wire then you need this switch and hub

  • We have also have / used Lutron Caseta but it's more expensive, requires a hub, and has less finite control. Plus, the switch has way too many things going on visually

Smart Outlets


- The new product we are most excited about: Leviton Decora Smart Wi-Fi 15A Outlet (2nd Gen)*


Smart Plugs


- We are phasing these out for Smart Outlets but we have used something like this: Mini Smart Plug


Locks


- We love this and would buy again: August Smart Lock

- Adding the Keypad CHANGE OUR LIFE: August Smart Lock + Keypad


Doorbells

- What we have now and what we would recommend to our parents: Ring Doorbell

- What we should upgrade to: Ring Doorbell Pro 2


Cameras


- We have this on our back door and love it: Ring Floodlight


Smart Thermostats


- What we use because we only have trickle power and it looks the best: Nest Thermostat

- If we had a dedicated power wire we might have use the: Ecobee


Irrigation


- What we wish we used: Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller

- What we actually have: This Hunter Unit - The App is hard to use

  • The important part here is that the App adjusts for weather conditions. Ours skips days when rain is in the forecast and cuts watering time on cooler days

Internet Modem


- What we would recommend our parents to buy: Amazon Eero 6+ dual-band mesh Wi-Fi

- What we use: Amazon eero Pro 6 tri-band mesh Wi-Fi 6


Multi-Room Audio


- If you don't have any music solution then group together a bunch of Amazon Echo 4th Generation. If you have oldschool speakers or an amp then pair with: Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Generation


*We recently promoted Leviton during an Instagram Campaign. We were not paid or directed to include them in this blog post. Our feelings on these products are our own.


Privacy & Security


With the number of smart devices privacy & security are a real concern. Each person needs to decide how comfortable they are with swapping their privacy & security with convenience. You make this decision with every Google Search, Email Send, or App Download.