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Cheapest Way To Make Your Apartment, A Smart Apartment

5 minutes to read.

Why am I making this specific to apartments?

Well..

One, because houses are larger and if owned there is a whole world of things you can do. Way too much to cover in an article that I’m trying to keep short.

So this is going to be for smaller spaces like a loft or one bedroom since that’s the kind place I live in, and the size this is optimized for. But of course you can take these suggestions and adapt them however you’d like.

And two, because apartments are typically rented. So all of these suggestions won’t require anything that might make you give up your deposit.

 

What Can A Smart Apartment Do?

This guide is going to walk through my setup exactly.

Smart home’s can do a lot more than I’ll list here, but I’m going to show you what I think will get you the most useful features the cheapest.

Things included are:

  • Quick updates like weather or news
  • Hands free timers for cooking
  • Voice control Spotify
  • Voice Order Ubers
  • Add items to reminders app for offline shopping list
    • My grocery store has terrible service, so it’s great to have a list saved locally on my phone but still be able to ad things to it with my Echo.
  • Voice Control Lights
  • Turn on lights at sunset
  • Turn off lights when you leave home

Setup

The most important* part of this whole set up to me is the Amazon Echo. ($179.99 or 5 monthly payments of $36)

*If the echo is too expensive to start with, there is a lot you can do with just the lights that I’ll explain later in the article. The lights have a much lower entry cost.

All of the smart home features interact with the Echo in some way, but to take them a step further I use IFTTT and Echo “Skills”, so I’ll be explaining how to set that up as well.

Most useful Echo commands out of the box

Spotify

“Play [song name] from Spotify”

“Play songs by [artist name] from Spotify”

“Play [name of playlist] from Spotify”

“Play [Discover Weekly] playlist from Spotify”

“Play [genre] from Spotify”

Weather

“What is the weather today”

Timers (+ multiple timers)

“Set a timer for x minutes”

“How much time is left on my timer?”

Uber (need to download the über skill)

“Order me an Uber”

“How far away is my Uber?”

Shopping list + IFTTT

The Echo has shopping list support built in but it has a couple problems.

One, it only lives in the amazon echo app. So you have to navigate through busy app to get there.

Two, the list is online only. So if your grocery store has bad reception (like mine does) then you won’t be able to pull your shopping list up when you need it.

The solution to this is an app called, If This Then That

If you haven’t used IFTTT before now, I highly recommend checking it out. It can do a lot of really awesome things in which I’ll only scratch the surface of in this post.

But basically it does what it says. It’s an app that services connect to to run automated scripts.

If X happens, do Y.

In this case we want: If I add something to my Echo shopping list, copy it to my reminders app list called “shopping list”

The recipe I use for this is here.

Now when you want to see your shopping list it will always be saved locally in your reminders app, and you never have to open the Echo app again to see it.

And finally, my favorite part… Lights!

Like I listed above, I have 3 suggestions for lights: Voice control, auto off when you leave, and auto on at sunset.

But first you need smart lights…

This is the setup I have.

First you’ll need the starter kit which includes two bulbs and a hub for $50.

Then you need to get any additional bulbs for other lights you want to control.

This is the cheapest setup I’ve found with good reviews and this all works great and are plenty bright.

I use the philips app to control mine though, no reason in particular, but I’m just letting you know because any setup from here on out will be explained in the context of IFTTT and the Philips Hue app.

Voice Control

Once you have all of the bulbs in your apartment replaced you should group them by room within Echo app > Settings > Connected Home

I have the following groups set up:

  • Bedroom
  • Living room
  • Office
  • All lights

The group “all lights” is assigned to every bulb in the house.

So now I have say “Turn my bedroom light on” to turn on just the bedroom.

Then before bed I can say “Turn all lights off” so I know all the lights in the apartment are out.

Turn all of the lights off when I leave home

Next I want all of the lights to turn off when I leave the house so I don’t have to worry about wasting energy.

To do that I use this IFTTT recipe.

There are also recipes to turn the lights on when you get home, but I don’t have that set up because I don’t want the lights on during the day.

So until IFTTT supports multi-conditional recipes (like, “turn on the lights when I get home if it’s after sunset”) then I won’t have that on.

Turn all of the lights on at sunset

Finally, I want all of the lights to turn on when the sun sets using this recipe.

I live in a loft so it’s just one big open space. But you might only want to set this to the living room.

 

You’ll be surprised how invisible this set up becomes when you never have to touch a light switch again. And the whole thing is pretty inexpensive to get started. You can just get the starter kit then slowly add bulbs every month or so.

That’s all I have set up as of now, but things like the Echo are adding features all the time. The Uber and Spotify features were just added within a week of posting this article. So things are only getting more useful.

And then tools like IFTTT are really only limited by your imagination. One thing I didn’t mention is, in the Phillips app I have it set to turn my bedroom lights on at 6am on Monday Wednesday and Friday because those are the days I go to the Gym and my alarm goes off at 6:15. Having the lights already on for a while before my alarm go off make waking up a lot easier.

If you have any suggestions for any home automation tips though I would love to hear them in the comments!

 

Thank you for reading!

Gil

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