The Starter Guide to Assembling Your Smart Home

By Jenny Xie
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Presented by Leviton
Home automation expert and director of marketing at Leviton Greg Rhoades shares what to prepare, what to consider, and what to avoid when connecting your home.

Building a connected home can be a daunting task. From smart lighting products to Wi-Fi enabled kitchen appliances, the sheer quantity of what’s available can be overwhelming—not to mention the quandary of how to make it all work together in a seamless way. Despite these hurdles, exploring the Internet of Things is more accessible than ever thanks to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities and the decreasing costs of installing new products. If ever there has been a time to dive into the possibilities, it’s now. To help you get started in the process, we turned to Greg Rhoades, director of marketing for smart home products at Leviton, for expert advice.

"The ultimate benefit of a smart home is convenience and peace of mind," says Rhoades.

"The ultimate benefit of a smart home is convenience and peace of mind," says Rhoades.

Do Your Homework

If terms like Z-Wave and ZigBee make you sweat, you’re not alone. Getting educated on the basics of home automation can start with a quick jaunt to YouTube or Google. (Z-Wave and Zigbee, by the way, are two technologies that allow you to control multiple devices; think of them as two "languages" your products use to speak to each other. That being said, newer devices connect through Wi-Fi.) "It is a confusing marketplace out there, and there’s not a clear champion," says Rhoades. Understanding the many variables involved in setting up your home will help you determine the best suite of products for your specific lifestyle.

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With 111 years of experience in lighting control manufacturing—starting with the pull-chain lamp holder at the advent of the light bulb—Leviton also combines networking knowledge with high-end automation expertise. Having created complex systems for previous clients, the company is now providing "automation for the people" with an impressive suite of consumer products. 

With 111 years of experience in lighting control manufacturing—starting with the pull-chain lamp holder at the advent of the light bulb—Leviton also combines networking knowledge with high-end automation expertise. Having created complex systems for previous clients, the company is now providing "automation for the people" with an impressive suite of consumer products. 

Set Specific Goals

With the vast selection of gadgets out there, it can be tempting to try to do it all, but just because you can automate something doesn’t mean you should. "The biggest mistake in automating your home is not understanding what you’re trying to accomplish, getting confused, and either over-engineering to the max or abandoning your smart home out of frustration," says Rhoades. Start with one or two objectives, whether it be lowering your energy bill or building out an entertainment system.

Leviton Decora Smart™ replaces old dimmers and switches with a host of functionalities while preserving the classic interface, meaning there's no learning curve for the user. Everything is customizable, from the LED on the dimmer itself, to the speed with which lights grow or lessen in intensity, to maximum and minimum limits to brightness.

Leviton Decora Smart™ replaces old dimmers and switches with a host of functionalities while preserving the classic interface, meaning there's no learning curve for the user. Everything is customizable, from the LED on the dimmer itself, to the speed with which lights grow or lessen in intensity, to maximum and minimum limits to brightness.

Know Your Limits

Fortunately, good design mandates that new products be intuitive to install and use. If you can install a light dimmer or switch, for example, then you can handle a Decora Smart™ product. However, there are some tasks that may require more expertise. "Know when to call a professional, and seek out products that have professionals installing them," advises Rhoades. "They know the best products that give you the most bang for your buck and provide the least amount of headaches during install and real-life usage." Leviton, for example, boasts a network of professional installers who are available to specify, install, or service the equipment, so you can feel supported at any stage.

Because Leviton manufactures hardware and designs apps in-house, the company offers an industry-leading five-year warranty.

Because Leviton manufactures hardware and designs apps in-house, the company offers an industry-leading five-year warranty.

Start Out Slow 

"Today, you can create a comprehensive smart home with a lot of affordable products," says Rhoades. "Understand that these systems are modular, allowing you to add over time." If you have an Amazon Echo, Google Home, or an Apple TV, for example, you already have a foundation for an intelligent environment. Rhoades suggests that you consult friends or neighbors for advice about their chosen solutions, what they would recommend, and what their pain points are. Visit hardware and retail stores to get acquainted with the products in person. If you’re uncertain about where to start, consider the smart lighting category, which is simple to integrate, has an immediate impact on your home, and contributes to several goals—from safety and security, to energy consumption, to mood and ambiance.