Review: Our Smart Home

This past Black Friday I finally spent the Christmas money I had been saving for nearly a year.  There were some incredible tech deals too good to pass up so I finally made the jump to start turning our house into a “smart home”.

I picked up two Google Home Minis, a Phillips Hue Starter Kit, and two TP-Link Smart Plugs.  All totaled… it added up to around $150, more than half off the original pricing.

Needless to say, I was really excited to get it all home and set up.  I was hoping the rest of my family would share my excitement.

Setting up the Google Minis was easy.  If you have a Google account and can and follow directions I’m confident you could easily set one up too. I chose to put one on our main floor near the dining room and kitchen.  The second found a place downstairs in our living room.

The Phillips Hue bridge and bulbs were also easy to set up.  I put smart bulbs in two of our basement lamps and two in our ceiling fan light in our dining room.  I spent an extra $15 to get another smart bulb to go over our kitchen sink.

One of the smart plugs got used for the lamp next to my wife’s side of the bed while the other initially went to control our Christmas tree.  It’s since been moved to control the lamp next to my side of the bed.

That’s the current set-up in our home.  So how has it worked out?  I’d say 90% success and 10% frustration.

It’s been awesome to be able to be able to ask our Google Home Minis random questions that come up in everyday life that we’d normally just search out online.  “Hey Google, how long will it take me to drive to Oskaloosa High School” not only got me the answer but also sent driving directions to my phone. That’s not only cool… but also convenient.

Having total control over our lights via my smartphone and Chromebook has been cool too.  No more getting in bed, realizing I forgot to shut out the kitchen light, and having to get up to go shut it off. Now, I can turn it off with my phone from bed.

It was great for the holidays to be baking goodies with the family and have Christmas music playing throughout the house on the Google Home Minis.

My youngest daughter spent a couple hours dipping pretzels.  If a song came on she didn’t like she’d just say, “OK, Google… I don’t like this song” and the song would stop and another would start.

Having a Google Home Mini next to the kitchen has been great too.  “Hey, Google… set a timer for _______ minutes” is something I use all the time.

That’s some of what I love about having a smart home… but what are some of the things that I haven’t liked? What’s led to the 10% frustration?

Since everything is controlled via wifi if your internet goes down things don’t work as they’re supposed to… which can be annoying.

My family can tend to be fast-talkers so sometimes Google doesn’t “hear” us and we’ll have to slow down and make our request again.  This can be frustrating when you’re asking it to turn on a light and you’re already in the room wanting light.

I’ll be honest, there have been other times where I just don’t feel like talking… even to an inanimate object and wished I could just use a light switch to turn on the lights.  With our current set-up, it’s all voice.  I’d need to spend some more money on connected light switches.

Speaking of spending more money… I do plan on getting 1 more Google Home Mini to put in our bathroom.  It would be really useful to be able to listen to the news, weather, and music while I get ready in the morning.

I wouldn’t mind getting a smart thermostat too… but I’m holding off until the prices really come down.

The only other annoying thing is I wish there was a way to get the Google Home Mini to not respond after every request but just do what I ask.  For example, if I tell it to turn off the basement lights it will respond with, “OK, turning off the basement lights.”

Don’t tell me, Google! Just do it.  It’s a minor thing but it can be annoying.  I’m hoping this is something that can be controlled via a software update.  I submitted some feedback to Google, so we’ll see.

Oh, and I didn’t need to worry about my family sharing my excitement for having a smart home.  They’re liking it just as much as I do.

Do you have a smart home? What are your favorite things about it and what are your frustrations?

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