It’s 2019, but a lot of our houses are still as dumb as the bricks they are made of. Fortunately, using today’s off-the-shelf technology, anybody can build an affordable and powerful home automation system.

In my opinion, there are five fundamentals for the ideal home automation system.

Devices should be locally-controlled, not just through the cloud

It is a damn shame that the majority of today’s connected devices rely on cloud services. Even if two devices are connected to the same local network, a lot of manufacturers have opted to route all communications through their third-party servers. Not only does this introduce security venerabilities, but it cripples your house in the event of an internet outage. It’s hot garbage. Essential home automation devices must be locally-controllable.

Expensive != better

I’m aware that not every person wants the cheapest smart home options. I certainly fall into that category. In most cases, I’m happy to shell out more coin for devices that have an advantage over cheaper substitutes. However, be wary of companies leveraging the “Apple effect” and selling basic products for a premium price. In almost every case, the most expensive devices usually aren’t the “best.”

Devices should be easily removable

Some may disagree, but I feel strongly that Home Automation systems should be reasonably easy to remove (e.g., not require significant structural/electrical changes). Smart home technology evolves quickly, and the last thing you want is to have an unsellable house full of poorly aging electronics. The easier your devices are to remove/replace/upgrade, the better.

Your system should be flexible

Home automation systems continuously evolve, and I’ve never met anyone who didn’t want to “add-to” their system once installed. It’s essential to choose a platform that is flexible, upgradable, and expandable. This is especially important when choosing a hub (the device/software that connects all other devices). Some hubs, like Apple’s Home app, are severely limited when integrating 3rd party components. Others, like Home Assistant, support an incredible number of devices natively and provide the framework to implement just about anything else. The more flexible your hub is, the easier your home will be to automate.

Smart homes should be transferable to the next home owner

It’s uncommon for a homeowner to keep the same home for the entirety of his or her life. So while your super-tricked-out custom smart home is hella cool, it will ultimately degrade the value of your house if the next buyer can’t figure out what you did! As you build out your system, don’t forget that it should be “transferable” to the next owner. Being organized, keeping robust documentation, using labels, and keeping things as simple as possible is essential.