HomeKit Weekly is a series focused on smart home accessories, automation tips and tricks, and everything to do with Apple’s smart home framework.
HomeKit Weekly started earlier this year with an overview of how the Home app works on iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch (and Apple TV with Siri), and the Home app has since found its way to the Mac with macOS Mojave. Along the way we’ve recommended smart locks, shades, fans, garage door openers, security cameras, and more.
This week I want to use my HomeKit experience to create a smart home starter pack. If you’ve never tried HomeKit before or you want new ways to expand your smart home, these picks from each category should be useful.
Lights and Switches
Turning lights on and off with Siri and adjusting brightness with the Home app is one of the easiest and most essential uses for HomeKit.
The Philips Hue White and Color Starter Kit was the very first HomeKit accessory I used back in 2015. The color bulbs can be fun, but I only recommend the white bulbs if you’re getting started today. Hue is very easy to set up, but in practice can be a bit complex. You need to manage accessory rooms and names in both the Hue app and Home app for the best experience, and Hue bulbs need to stay powered on (even with brightness set to 0%) which can make light switches a problem.
If you have the ability to replace the light switches and not just the bulbs, Lutron Caseta is the way to go. Regular bulbs matched with smart light switches remove the need to manage two apps and avoid accidentally turning off a light switch.
Both options use Wi-Fi bridges which can be a burden to some, but in my experience improves reliability. Cheaper solutions without bridges exist but can be more frustrating than they’re worth.
Smart outlets are affordable and easy to deploy. You can even assign attached devices as lights, fans, or generic accessories in the Home app so Siri knows what you mean by lamp and fan. You don’t get granular brightness and fan speed control, but smart outlets easily let you turn devices on and off with HomeKit. Various models of the iHome Smart Plug have served me well over the years, and Belkin recently brought HomeKit to the popular Wemo Mini Smart Plug.
Using Siri and the Home app to control the temperature is as essential for me as controlling lighting. Ecobee 3 Lite is my go-to recommendation. I personally use the Ecobee 4 version with built-in Alexa, but the cheaper version gives you the same HomeKit features.
If you have other HomeKit accessories, having a home security camera that also works with HomeKit can be useful. You can view and hear your camera feed and send audio through from the same app that you control other smart home accessories, and many HomeKit cameras include motion sensors as well. My go-to pick is the Logitech Circle 2 — just be sure to go for the wired version as HomeKit doesn’t support wireless cameras yet.
Speakers in HomeKit aren’t super capable yet, but that could always change in the future. Easily automating audio playback without limitations or complicated configuration would take HomeKit speakers to the next level.
For now, HomePod is the most advanced with Siri built-in and the ability to be a hub to power automations and remote access. HomePod also supports multi-room audio playback with AirPlay 2. Rooms are assigned through the Home app, and Siri can control playback by room.
Sensors aren’t always necessary unless you want to track specific data points or trigger automations. Without a goal in mind, sensors often “do” very little and can cost a bit.
I really like using Eve Degree outside for hyperlocal temperature and humidity data; Philips Hue Motion Sensor reports temperature, presence, and even ambient brightness in lux; Ecobee Room Sensors work with Ecobee thermostats and report presence and temperature by room; and the Onelink Wi-Fi Smoke Alarm can be used to automatically turn on your lights and unlock your doors if smoke is detected.
Fans and A/C
The Hunter Connect ceiling fan remains one of my absolute favorite HomeKit accessories. Even if you only install one of these in your bedroom, voice and remote control plus automation makes this a must-have for advanced HomeKit setups. Want to upgrade a window A/C unit? GE AHP08LX is a super easy-to-use solution that adds Siri and Home app control.
Your needs may vary depending on what hardware you’re working with, but Chamberlain MyQ Home Bridge and MyQ Smart Garage Hub paired with my existing garage door opener has served me well for regularly opening and closing my garage with the Home app and Siri.
If you’re really looking to expand your HomeKit collection with new categories, there are some advanced (and in some cases very expensive) options for smart home enthusiasts.
Serena by Lutron is the go-to solution for window shades, but this can easily be one of the most pricey HomeKit investments — especially if you have several large windows. More options are on the way, but that doesn’t always mean much in terms of HomeKit announcements. We’ll continue to watch this space for updates (and explore DIY solutions in the future).
There are currently two security systems advertised with HomeKit support — one has been out for a while and the other is announced. Honeywell Lyric Controller is available now, and DSC iotega has promised support, but it’s unclear if it works with HomeKit yet.
HomeKit is capable of controlling faucets including showers, but we’re still waiting for the first HomeKit shower controllers to hit the market. Kohler Konnect and U by Moen both have promised HomeKit support when they hit the market, but neither product is ready for HomeKit yet. Stay tuned…
Catch up on earlier HomeKit Weekly entries below:
- Getting started with Apple’s Home app on iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch
- Automating outdoor lights on and off based on sunset/sunrise and time
- Using hardware buttons to make smart lights familiar for guests and family
- Replacing your keys with Siri, Control Center, and automation
- Four ways to control cooling with fans and air conditioners
- Controlling smart shades with Siri, automation, and the Home app
- Comparing security camera options, features, and apps
- If it doesn’t work with Siri, it’s just not a smart home
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