Belinda and Garith recently swapped their 80 square meter apartment for a 1080 square meter free standing home. The smart couple shares their thoughts on doing it yourself and saving time and money by using readily available apps.
As enthusiastic DIY’s they took a hands-on approach from fixing up, to building furniture and especially making life easier with smart technology when they moved into their first house. “Although the house was 80 per cent fine, we still needed to do a few things to make it ours,” says Belinda. According to her, one of the most satisfying things about DIY is seeing the progress and feel of the home changing room by room. Her best advice on doing it yourself is to gauge your skill level with the task at hand, sometimes it is more affordable to save and buy than DIY. She adds with a giggle “Those how-to videos sometimes really make it look easier than it is!”.
Garith’s again could not wait to turn everyday tedious chores like watering the garden into an automated process. “We put a lot of energy into our house and I believe the house needs to give back, and with automation, we get to see that” remarks Garith.
Garith, an ardent IOT fan, thinks home automation is a real fun thing to do and that your imagination is the only limit to how far you’re willing to take it. He explains; “I simply started because I wanted to automate watering my garden rather than spending time in the evenings with a hose pipe. Now instead of spending an hour or so in the garden, the garden is watered automatically and only when needed”.
Irrigation on low garden moisture levels was only the first step and since their automation project has grown to include notifications on external gates or garage doors being open at night, switching on lights based on internal security sensors, regulating a room’s temperature and turning the geyser on only twice a day.
Garith’s DIY Home Automation Tips
Home Assistant to control smart devices. “There are others, but Home Assistant is what we use. To get started, search on Youtube for Home Assistant, there are a ton of beginner Video’s, “The Hookup” and “Drzzs” are my go-to’s”.
There are various brands for smart switches to control your lights, lamps, garage door, gate motor, heaters and pool pumps. Garith’s choice was Sonoff devices as he found them to be popular, affordable and easy to use with plenty of local suppliers. There are also plenty of Youtubers to get tips from. “There is another smart switch brand also worth checking out called Shelly, they’re a little more expensive but also have a great range”.
For irrigation automation, his choice fell on Smartkit which uses OpenSprinkler to control the taps (or solenoids) for his zones.
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SmartKit was established in 2017 to provide quality home automation at affordable prices. We represent brands such as SONOFF, and our own OpenIrrigation; in addition to selling EZVIZ, LifeSmart and Amazon Echo. We spoke to Tim Gaul from SmartKit and discovered some pretty neat facts about smart homes.
A Beginner’s Guide
According to Tim, the quickest way to get involved in home automation is by using their “plugin devices”. The SONOFF Micro, SONOFF Slampher and SONOFF S26 smart plug will allow you to begin benefiting from the eWelink ecosystem within minutes. SONOFF products do not require any additional bridges or hubs, only a WiFi connection. You can plug the device in, pair it with your smartphone and be up and running with your first smart home installation.
Affordable and Achievable
“Gone are the days of costly, hard-wired smart home solutions – you already have all the infrastructure required to begin your smart home journey”, says Tim. As mentioned above, you can begin with “plugin devices”, move onto lighting with LED, light switch and dimmer controls, add power monitoring and react to environmental changes, such as temperature.
Tim continues “for the braver DIYer, you can control your pond, pool, garage, irrigation and gates – all from your smartphone or voice-enabled device. SONOFF now offers a home security solution with motion detection, door sensors and cameras. All devices are available for only a few hundred Rand or less”.
Use Technology Optimally
“With regards to our products, the most important thing about home automation is good WiFi. A second key factor would be to familiarise yourself with the integration of products such as Smart Scenes, IFTTT, Google Home and Amazon Alexa to extend the capabilities of your solution beyond simple on and off. Should you have this basic foundation for your ecosystem, you could greatly extend the capabilities of your smart home without much investment in more expensive solutions”.
Tim says his customers tend to be 30-somethings and upwards. “I believe this technology may be more affordable for older millennials (who are now homeowners) but it is by no means restricted to their age group”.
We asked Tim what he thinks a home cannot do without and he said every home needs a voice-controlled assistant. Alexa, for example, has a screen in the kitchen, presence all over the house and she even sits on the car dashboard!
2020 in a Nutshell
Currently, we only do deliveries and collections and purchases at our head office have been halted. Additionally, we have moved to a more chat-based system as the phone system has not been permanently manned since the beginning of the pandemic.
Our presence is now almost exclusively online, which allows us to continue trading – provided we are legally allowed to do so.
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