The 12 Biggest Mistakes You Could Make with a Smart Home

It’s official: The future is now. The everyday tasks of life—locking the door, adjusting the thermostat, dimming the lights, and capturing porch thieves—can all be done with a quick swipe of a smartphone, putting us more in control of our households than ever before. Smart home devices like Alexa, smart thermostats, and digital security cameras are changing the way we think about and live in our homes, and making our lives more automated and convenient. But are some of the things you're doing with your smart home system actually making your life more difficult and less convenient? Here are the 12 biggest mistakes you can make with your smart home—and how to avoid them.

  1. Not Changing the Usernames and Passwords on Your Devices

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    Change the username and password on devices

    Hackers aren’t just targeting smartphones and computers these days—they can also break into your smart home devices. The best way to protect yourself is by taking the time to change the default usernames and passwords your products came with to something strong and secure.

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  2. Choosing Products That Aren’t Compatible

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    Compatible smart home devices

    You may have a wish list of smart home products—maybe you want a device that turns on the lights when you’re on vacation and a smart garage door that you can open or shut from anywhere in the world—but when you’re shopping it’s important to know if these products are compatible with each other. Before you buy, research whether or not a product will work seamlessly with the devices you already have to avoid the headache of trying to rig something up to get them to function together.

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  3. Not Completing Security Updates on Apps

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    Security updates on smart home devices

    Notifications that an app needs updating are always annoying, but because these updates can include important security improvements you ignore them at your peril. Failing to complete updates can leave your devices vulnerable to hackers who can gain access to them and wreak havoc on your accounts. To avoid getting hacked, manually check your apps for updates once a month to make sure you haven't missed any, then update accordingly.

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  4. Buying Too Much at Once

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    Shopping for smart home devices

    If you’re going to have a smart home, you might as well go all in—or so you thought. Trying too many smart home products at once is a good way to get overwhelmed, and you may not have time to learn the full functionality of each device. It’s best to take it slow and add devices gradually as needed.

    Related: 10 Types of Tech You and Your Home Can Do Without

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  5. Not Thinking About How Your Smart Home Will Affect Wi-Fi

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    Smart home devices for wifi

    Most smart home devices will operate on your home’s Wi-Fi connection, but many purchasers don’t think about the fact that this can potentially slow things down—sometimes way down. If the internet speed has decreased in your home, talk to your provider about upgrading to more bandwidth so your Netflix shows will no longer buffer endlessly.

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  6. Purchasing Devices That You Can't Install in a Rental Home

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    Smart home devices for rental homes

    Just because you’re a renter doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the fun of having a more automated home. But before you buy a cartload of devices on Amazon, be sure that none of them require any drilling or wiring that would violate the terms of your lease. Focus instead on portable devices that you can take with you when your lease ends.

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  7. Forgetting to Remove Personal Information Before You Move

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    Clearing personal information from smart home devices

    When you sell your home, typically anything that’s attached becomes part of the sale—and that includes devices like smart thermostats or lighting. In the chaos of moving, don’t forget to remove your personal login information from any devices that will be left behind, and be sure to give the new owner instructions on how to add theirs. This will both protect you and make the transition easier for the new owner.

    Related: 50 Great Gadgets for a Smarter Home

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  8. Not Asking for Help

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    Help setting up smart home devices

    Even if you’re not that tech savvy, setting up smart home devices is fairly simple and can be done in just a few steps. If, however, your devices aren’t working together as well as you would like, or if they work only in certain rooms, don’t hesitate to call a professional who can help you tackle the problem.

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  9. Using Public Wi-Fi on a Phone Connected to Smart Home Apps

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    Public wifi security risks

    Your phone is the command center for all the smart activity in your home, but if you're not careful you could put the whole system at risk. Because your phone is so connected to your devices, it’s best not to go on any public Wi-Fi networks that could make you vulnerable to hacking. Instead, use your phone's wireless hotspot for connecting to the internet when you’re on the go.

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  10. Choosing a Less Reputable Brand

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    Buy reputable brands for smart home devices

    We all love a good deal, but choosing a lesser-known brand over a reputable one might not be such a good idea. A reputable company typically has more resources for security, offers more updates, and sells products that generally run better. In other words, the old adage is true: You get what you pay for.

    Related: 10 Pricey Gadgets That Are Worth Every Penny

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  11. Failing to Do Research

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    Researching smart home devices

    It’s easy to get swept up in a Black Friday or Prime Day sale and let a deep discount lure you into purchasing a smart home device. A little research, however, goes a long way when you’re trying to set up your ideal smart home. Have a plan for what you want out of your devices, and don’t just leap at what seems like a good deal.

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  12. Overcomplicating Your Smart House System

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    Simplify smart home system

    A smart home is supposed to make your life more convenient, not more complicated. If you're overwhelmed by a home that suddenly seems too smart for you, try paring down your devices and use only those that truly make your life easier.

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  13. See the House of the Week

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    Discover and admire beautiful and innovative home architecture, from grand Victorians to quaint cabins and all the styles in between. Take a look at the latest images and inspiration!