When investing in smart products, the first two reasons that usually pop-up are security and energy efficiency. Once these two reasons are satisfied, entertainment is the next area to fulfill. The family room is a good room to start with when we think about tying in smart home and entertainment.
The family room is where we kick back and relax with a bowl of popcorn to watch some Netflix. How can we make this room smarter?
What we want to accomplish in our smart family room is automation. Imagine saying “turn on Netflix” and having your TV turn on; your TV input set to your Apple TV; your lights dimmed to your mood color; and your blinds closed. This is all a reality and we’ll show you how.
Step 1: Control Your Existing Entertainment System
One of the benefits of jumping into smart home products is being able to turn something that requires multiple actions into one action.
Most home entertainment systems have a tv, a cable box, a gaming console and a digital media player. If you have surround sound speakers, you will likely have a audio/video receiver too. With all of these devices you probably have a plethora of controllers that you use to manually turn on devices and change inputs.
Enter the Harmony Remote.
Harmony remotes were originally marketed as a universal remote with the benefit of using just one remote to control all of your devices. This is definitely a reason in itself to invest in the remote but the feature that will help us make our room smarter are the ‘activities’.
When you create a ‘Watch Apple TV’ activity, you can design it where your tv turns on and the input on your tv or a/v receiver is set to whatever your Apple TV is plugged in to.
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Step 2: Get Your Mood Lights
When we get ready to watch some Netflix we’ll want to get the lights to the right brightness and the right color.
If you don’t care much for color, just the right dimness, then we suggest just getting a smart light switch with dimming capabilities. LUTRON Caseta Wireless Smart Lighting Starter Kit is what we suggest as it comes with a smart bridge to control the lights via WiFi which you will need in step 3 anyway.
If mood lighting with color is important then you will need smart light bulbs. There are a variety of options out there but we suggest the Lifx brand. The colors that come out of the Lifx bulbs are amazing and they do not require a hub to control.
Both Lifx lights and Lutron light switches are compatible with Logitech Harmony Remotes. Once you choose which one to go with, simply add the preferred dimness and/or color to your Harmony activity.
Step 3: Get Smart Shades
Having smart shades are beneficial on their own as they automate the task of opening and closing shades for your windows.
For the purpose of our smart family room, the smart shades will be required to come down when we start our “turn on Netflix” activity.
We suggest Serena Shades by Lutron. If you opted for the smart light switches by Lutron, these shades will be perfect as they will work seamlessly together.
Step 4: Set your ‘activity’ up and control it with your voice
Once we get the Harmony Remote, the smart lights or smart light switch, and the smart shades, it is time to connect them all together via the Harmony app. Create an activity called ‘Netflix’, where we will set it up to turn on the tv, set the right input for your digital media player (Apple TV, Chromecast or Roku), set your lights to the right dimness and/or color, and to bring down your shades.
At this point, our Harmony remote will be setup to run this activity with one touch of a button. But to take it to the next level of automation, we can link our Harmony hub with our Amazon Alexa (buy it here: Amazon Echo – Black if you don’t already have one).
Now, we can simply say, “Alexa, Turn on Netflix” to run our activity.