How to build a smart apartment

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Assembling a smart home is not easy – and building a smart home apartment is even more difficult. Not only will you have to browse through dozens of great products, but you’ll also have to find ones that don’t require any major wiring or reconfiguration of your apartment’s existing hardware.

Luckily, there are innovative smart home gadgets that make it easy to build a versatile smart apartment. From smart speakers and light bulbs to robot vacuums and more, you’ll have plenty of ways to customize your home. Before you begin your smart home journey, however, there are a few things to keep in mind. Here’s everything you need to know about building a smart apartment.

What can you change in your apartment?

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While the most exciting part of building a smart home is researching products, there’s something you’ll need to do before hitting the local hardware store: talk with your landlord. What you can and cannot change in your home varies by landlord. If you’re renting a traditional apartment from a large corporation, your contract probably has strict rules about what you’re allowed to touch.

If you rent from an individual owner, you may have a little more freedom. Some might be willing to help you install a new doorbell or security camera, while others won’t want you to meddle in anything. Others might even let you install a smart lock (provided they have a copy of the keys). Either way, be sure to read your contract carefully and understand what improvements you can make.

Which smart home platform is right for you?

homepod mini comparison homepod google home amazon dot 2
John Velasco/Digital Trends

Google, Amazon, Apple, and Samsung all offer their own ecosystems for smart home devices. These individual ecosystems allow you to link all compatible products, giving you control of smart bulbs, vacuum cleaners, locks and more in one central location. Figuring out which one is right for you is not an easy choice, but it’s hard to go wrong. Not only do all ecosystems offer in-depth catalogs filled with useful smart gadgets, but it’s never a dealbreaker if something isn’t working with your current setup. Most products offer their own standalone application. So even if your new smart bulb can’t connect to the rest of your system, you’ll still be able to make full use of its functionality.

The best way to determine the “right” smart home platform is to first choose a few products that you like. Then see which platform is compatible with all devices. If they don’t all work on the same platform, replace your least favorite choice with another choice or choose the platform that has the most products in common.

While that may sound intimidating, it’s not a dealbreaker if you choose a system you don’t like. In fact, a new software (Matter) is expected to launch soon which will offer a unified system for most of your smart home gadgets. This means that no matter what products you buy, you will be able to use them all on the platform of your choice.

Find smart home products suitable for apartments

Even if your apartment has an ironclad contract, there are still plenty of apartment-friendly smart home products that will meet your needs. Here are some categories to consider, along with some suggestions for getting your smart apartment plans started. Remember: Be sure to double-check your contract before you begin your upgrades.

smart speaker

Smart speakers often act as a central hub for all your other smart home devices. They also pack a slew of features in a pint-sized package, like listening to music, checking your schedule, or getting weather updates. Simply plug them into an electrical outlet, connect them to your Wi-Fi network, and you’re good to go.

Our list of the best smart speakers might help you narrow down the options, but it’s hard to go wrong with the Sonos One. It’s a bit pricey, but you’ll get a product that sounds great, offers an easy setup process, and is compatible with a variety of today’s most popular smart home ecosystems.

Smart bulbs

Multiple colored tint lights inside a living room

Give your whole apartment a cool new look by replacing your old bulbs with smart bulbs. These allow you to easily adjust their brightness, turn them on and off remotely and improve your energy consumption. Some even give you access to millions of colors beyond white and yellow, giving your home a soothing blue glow or a warm red hue.

The Philips Hue White Ambiance smart bulb starter kit makes it easy for apartment dwellers to get started, though our best smart bulb roundup has plenty of other options to consider.

Smart Plugs

Echo Dot (3rd Gen) Bundle with Amazon Smart Plug 03.

They might not be as exciting as a smart speaker, but smart plugs are a great addition to any smart home – apartment or otherwise. After plugging them into your current outlets, you’ll be able to turn devices on or off remotely, set daily routines, and get tips on how to improve your energy usage.

If you don’t mind the lack of Apple HomeKit or Google Assistant support, the Amazon smart plug is a great option. Not only is it affordable, but it packs all the features you’ll need in a smart plug. Not convinced this is for you? Check out our other favorite smart plugs.

Robot vacuum cleaners

The iRobot Roomba S9 Plus robot cleans the floor near the wall.

Vacuuming is arguably the worst household chore. Robot vacuums are here to save the day, and they’re much better than the smart vacuums of just a few years ago. With customizable suction levels for different surfaces, programmable schedules, and the ability to set “restricted” zones, no smart home is complete without a robot vacuum. You’ll still have to empty them from time to time, but it’s a small price to pay to get drudgery off your “to-do list”.

The iRobot Roomba s9+ presents itself as one of the best choices on the market – although its price is a bit high. If you’re looking for something more affordable, consider the Eufy RoboVac 11S Slim – or any of the other products in our best robot vacuums roundup.

Smart locks

Wyze smart home lock on a door.
wyze

Most smart locks are probably off limits to tenants because they require you to replace the existing deadbolt. This is not the case for the Wyze Lock, which fits perfectly with your existing equipment and brings a bit of intelligence to operations. Be sure to check with your landlord before starting this installation, as it may push the limits of your lease. But if you’re approved, it could be one of the coolest ways to upgrade your smart apartment.

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