Home automation should always make your life measurably better.  You may want to expand your home automation but when you are considering adding a device or tool for your home make sure that you are not being influenced by sales tactics – the device should meet your needs and make sense as part of your bigger system.  Follow the Five Golden Rules listed below to ensure that you are making a smart decision for your smart home.

Rule #1 – Show Me the Money

  • Probably the easiest rule to understand.  Question:  How much does it cost and how much will it save?  Is it worth it?

Pitfalls

  • Calculating the true cost can be trickier than it appears at first.  You need to consider not only the purchase and installation cost but the ongoing operating cost.
  • When you calculate the potential savings of adding the device, think about how long and how often you will use it.  If cost savings are a major selling feature for a device or tool, vendors will often have savings estimations or customizable calculators available online that you can use to forecast the potential cost savings.  Use common sense when relying on these tools provided by vendors – remember that they are a sales tool and may be misleading.

Rule #2 – Save Me Some Time

  • How valuable is your time?  Saving a few minutes each day adds up to increased productivity or more time to relax and do the things you enjoy.  Question: How will this make me more efficient or free up my time to do something else?

Pitfalls

  • Consider the complexity and time costs.  The “it saves me time” rule is the most abused and often over emphasized rationale for bad automation.  It is easy to get caught in the trap of adding five minutes of complexity to save thirty seconds of time.  If adding a device or service takes hours to setup or adds layers of complexity to controlling frequently used items it is a bad idea.

Rule #3 – Increase My Comfort or convenience

  • Having things happen ‘automagically’ can dramatically improve comfort and convenience.  Lights that come on when you pull in your driveway and turn off when you leave the house or coffee that starts brewing as you get out of bed may not change the world but they can certainly reduce stress, free up your energy for other thoughts and activities, and make everyday tasks easier.  Question: Does this make me more comfortable or allow me to get tasks done more easily?

Pitfalls

  • Making one task easier can sometimes disrupt other people’s routines or have the opposite impact by making other tasks more difficult to plan around the automation you have implemented.
  • Smart devices can sometimes be really dumb when the environment or situation changes around them.  How smart is the device?  Will it always make things easier?  Can you control it appropriately through a smart home automation app (like IFTTT)?

Rule #4 – Ensure My Security

  • Having a smart home should mean having a home that looks after itself and will help make sure your family and possessions are safe.  Question:  How does this improve my security?  Does this device have built-in security to protect against hacks?

Pitfalls

  • Security is often a balancing act with convenience and efficiency.  When adding automation that improves security you need to consider if it will add complexity or make routine tasks more difficult and if so, is this a trade-off you are willing to accept?

Rule #5 – Bring the Fun!

  • Not everything is logical or can be proven empirically; sometimes things are just worth doing because they make you laugh, add whimsy to your day, or simply make you happier somehow.  Question: Does this bring me joy?

Pitfalls

  • Adding automation just for fun usually means it doesn’t make sense for other reasons.  Think about the negative impacts and weigh them against the happiness it will bring you.

 

Avoid five common pitfalls by following the rules above and asking yourself if adding a home automation device or service will make your life measurably better before you buy it.  Do you agree with these rules and have you been caught by any of these pitfalls?  Tell us in the comments below.

If you found the 5 Golden Rules of automation listed in The Home Automation Trap useful, you may also want to check out the Synergy – An Essential Component in Your Home Automation Toolbox.  We look at a few common devices and services that offer exponential benefits by solving multiple problems or serving multiple purposes.