After beefing up the Wi-Fi network and picking out a smart hub, we're ready to start filling the CNET Smart Home with Web-connected gadgetry. First up: smart lights.
To start things out, we picked up a Philips Hue Starter Kit and a couple of extra bulbs. Pricey, for sure, but we wanted to be able to play around with color-changing bulbs in a real-life setting. Plus, Hue is a very well-developed lighting platform, and one that plays well with the SmartThings Hub, which we've already got installed in the Smart Home.
The first step: change out the old bulbs for our new Hue LEDs.
Next, we plugged the Philips Hue Bridge into our router. The Bridge acts as translator between the bulb, which broadcasts using Zigbee, and the smart home's wireless network. It comes included with Philips Hue starter kits.
With everything plugged in and turned on, just follow the instructions in the Hue app to get started.
Within a few minutes, our color-changing lights were up and running.
We installed this white-light-only Hue bulb in one of the family room fixtures, then used the accompanying remote to control all of the lights in the room.
For those other family room lights, we used Cree Connected LEDs, one of the many third-party Zigbee bulbs you can control using the Hue Bridge.
Up next, something a little more challenging. We're going to smarten up each switch in this four-way plate. Doing so will let us automate our living room lights, as well as two of our outdoor lights.
For this build, we're going to go with Belkin WeMo Light Switches. They'll sync up quite nicely with the rest of our smart-home gear.
Here's the challenge -- they're a lot bigger than standard switches, and we'll have more wires to cram into the box, too.
Still, where there's a will, there's a way. With the power shut off at the breaker, we got to work.
After spending an hour wrangling all of the wires into place, we had our four switches set in place.
We finished things off with a four-way switch plate that we picked up off Amazon. A perfect fit.
Like with Hue, the next step is to open up an app and walk through a pairing process. Each WeMo Switch broadcasts its own Wi-Fi signal. You'll join up with it on your phone, then return to the WeMo app to sync it up with your home's Wi-Fi. From there, you'll be able to give the switch a name and snap a picture of whatever it controls.
To finish our setup off, we installed two Amazon Echo smart speakers in the home -- one in the kitchen and one in the master bedroom. Echo is compatible with SmartThings, Philips Hue, and WeMo, which means we can turn everything we installed on and off using simple voice commands.