The Start Of Smart

Before the house was built, Jon knew he wanted to make it a smart home. Which, to me, was basically just a thermostat I could control with my phone. But he had bigger plans. With Amazon Echo/Dot, Google Home, and a plethora of internet-connected devices on the market, he dreamt of TVs, fireplace, lights, garage doors and more all controlled by a central hub.

To start, Jon received a free Dot at a conference and he purchased a two-pack on cyber Monday. We already installed Ecobee thermostats on both floors and the Dots were an easy connection. Now we could change the temperature of a floor just by commanding Alexa.

Next, we added the lights. The first thing we wanted to tackle was to add a dimmer switch to the livingroom so we could set the lights to suit the mood.

Jon ordered a Lutron – Caseta Wireless Smart Bridge Kit which included the switch, a remote, and the hub that any future smart switches can connect to.

Lutron Caseta Series

To install, make sure you’ve cut the power at the breaker. Because I was replacing a 3 way switch, I had to identify which wire was connecting to the black screw of the existing switch.

Marked the wire identified in the instructions

I disconnected the existing switch and followed the directions on how to connect to the new switch, which were extremely easy to follow. I essentially just had to connect the green ground wire to the copper, black to black, and then the remaining black and red wire to a single black.

The back of the Caseta switch

 

I didn’t even need to wrap the wire around a screw, just had to cap them off.

 

Screw the switch to the wall

 

And snap on the cover. Smart dimmer switch pictured with our Ecobee3

This is the extent of my knowledge, so Jon will be guest posting to fill in how we went from a simple to a connected switch!

JM: As Kelly mentioned above, I’ve had big dreams of making our house a smart home. The centerpieces of my master plan to control our house by voice , apps and eventually in an automated fashion is Amazon Echo Dots + Raspberry pi3.

Why did I choose Amazon echo dots (Aka Alexa) over Google Home and other products over there? Well, there are a few reasons:

1. Amazon’s Alexa technology is ahead of its competitors in many facets, supported by more vendors / developers , and I specifically like how the dots themselves are little mini Amazon Echoes and pretty cheap. Because of the low cost point we have Amazon Dots in our living room, bedroom, and my office.

2. Amazon has a huge SKILLS store (pretty much an app store for Alexa.) and more and more interesting skills are coming out each week.

3. I wanted to learn to code more and the Alexa technology supports many programming languages and allows hackers like myself to play around and write skills / apps for Alexa.

Rapsberry pi 3

I still have a little bit of research to do with my Rapsberry Pi 3 before I set it up, but what I intend to use it for is to further automate our house and tie everything together beyond Alexa Skills. For those of you that don’t know what a Rapsberry Pi is, think of it as a tiny computer that can run some lower end software and programs. 

With the above technology I want to be able to control the lights in the home inside and out, heat + cooling , fireplace, TVs, and various other things! So how do you do set all of  this up you ask? Well, let’s just say it’s not too hard but you do have to be a tiny bit technical!

For these switches in particular, it was as easy as plugging in the hub, connecting it to the home network, and downloading the Lutron app that guided me through the final steps. Once that was set up, I enabled the Lutron Caseta Skill in our Alexa account.

I plan on writing a longer article in a couple weeks or so with more detail once I finish some more home automation + Alexa integrations. Until then…ciao.

And with that, we officially have the start of our smart home!

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