9 DIY Smart Home Automation Projects for a Shoestring Budget

DIY smart home automation projects are more popular than ever. With the Internet of Things (IoT) unifying in-home devices from lighting to entire security systems, you can now control many smart home products from something as simple as a smartphone or an Arduino. This compatibility opens up massive options for DIY automation.

That said, some elements of home automation do not come cheap. But, with a DIY attitude and some inexpensive components, you can build your own smart home on a shoestring budget. Here are a few great examples to get you started.

1. Set Up Blynk to Control Your IoT Devices From Your Phone

Many smart home devices come with an app for control via smartphone or tablet. Unfortunately, these individual apps can clutter a mobile device, and keeping track of them is often tricky.

Blynk solves this problem by allowing control of all of your IoT devices within a single app. The service will enable users to take advantage of common DIY single-board microcontrollers, like the Raspberry Pi or Arduino, to push IoT data to the Blynk smartphone app.

In our introduction to the Blynk service, we show several methods for using Blynk. Its easy-to-use service is perfect for monitoring and controlling DIY smart home setups. In addition to the online service, it is also possible to install Blynk on a local server.

Blynk gives you quick and easy control of any Wi-Fi-enabled microcontroller and is a robust tool in the arsenal of many home automation hobbyists.

Download: Blynk IoT for iOS | Android (Free)

2. Make Your Home Smarter With OpenHAB

OpenHAB DIY smart home software

While similar to Blynk, OpenHAB is specifically designed to be a DIY smart home hub. Users can install OpenHAB locally, or there is a cloud service option as well. OpenHAB also supports over 1000 device types and offers integration with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and IFTTT.

Though free and open-source, the sandbox nature of OpenHAB does have a complex setup process. Luckily, we have a detailed guide on setting up OpenHAB which takes you through all of the steps required to get started.

Download: OpenHab for iOS | Android | Windows (Free)

3. Automate Entry With an Arduino RFID Door Lock

If you've ever wanted to control your door locks effortlessly, then why not consider an Arduino-based RFID door lock project? We've put together the above video which covers the basics of setting up and using an RFID entry system and configuring a solenoid to work with an Arduino.

You might have seen similar RFID-controlled locks at your workplace, but this DIY IoT project allows you to bring that technology home.

Related: How RFID Can Be Hacked and What You Can Do to Stay Safe

4. Build a DIY Raspberry Pi Controlled Smart Speaker

Using a Raspberry Pi and Moodeaudio is an inexpensive way to build a high-quality,  internet-enabled smart speaker for your home. With just the Pi, a few commonly available, low-cost hardware modules, and some used eBay speakers, you can create a smart speaker setup that will rival some of the best commercial units on the market.

Unlike those units, however, you can customize this speaker setup to work best for you. The speakers also support streaming services like Spotify and can be integrated with Home Assistant for additional functionality.

Download: Moodeaudio for Raspberry Pi (Free)

5. Install Google Assistant on a Raspberry Pi with Gassist Pi

The above video highlights the features of GassistPi. This Raspberry Pi-driven custom Google Assistant is the work of GitHub user shivasiddharth. The Gassist Pi setup has all of the same features as a regular Google Home—along with an ever-increasing array of other integrations.

By modifying the Google Assistant SDK, shivasiddharth has added support for Kodi and other streaming platforms. In addition, GPIO pins can now be voice-activated, and users can customize wake words. Gassist Pi is the most ambitious implementation of Google Assistant on Raspberry Pi we have seen so far.

6. Play Your Own Theme Music When You Enter a Room

This MUO project uses a magnetic sensor to detect when a door opens and uses that information to start a custom song. Setting up this automation allows users to play their own theme music when entering a room.

Magnetic door and window sensors are reliable enough to include in any home security system. They are also cheap enough that configuring several around the house will only set you back a few bucks.

Using this project as a template, you can make these magnetic sensors trigger different types of events. Of course, the obvious applications would be to set off an alarm or log entry and exit times for suspicious behavior. But, to take the concept one step further, use Blynk or OpenHAB to monitor every entry and exit from your smartphone.

7. Build a Panning and Tilting DIY Security Camera

Sticking with the security theme, why not set up a DIY security camera in your home? The complete project featured in the above video teaches you how to set up a fully controllable USB servo camera with a Raspberry Pi or an Arduino.

You can use several inexpensive USB cameras for this project, and eLinux.org maintains an astonishing list if you're not sure where to start. Setting your camera up in conjunction with a cloud service also allows you to monitor your home in real-time from anywhere!

Related: How to Stay Safe and Private When Using Smart Home Gadgets

8. Install a Mechanical Smart Light Switch

This is a three-panel image of a DIY light switch

Image Credit: Max Glenister

While many smart switches can be had for less than $50, adding a hardwired smart switch to control lighting isn't always an option. But if you still want to automate your light switches without digging around in your walls, there is a solution!

Max Glenister solves the problem of a hard-to-reach light switch in his Foray Into Home Automation blog post. Using a Wi-Fi-enabled NodeMCU board alongside a servo motor, Max physically moves the switch via the cloud. By creating a 3D printed case to house the switch, the original fitting is unaffected.

Related: How to Install a Hardwired Smart Light Switch

9. Build Your Own Smart Thermostat for Less Than $40

Carefully automating your home heating system can save you a lot of money. While many modern heating systems offer built-in control, there is still no substitute for a fully automated experience.

The project in the video from Ecobots is a perfect budget example of a DIY HVAC thermostat controller. In this case, the Adafruit IO service provides cloud integration, though Blynk or OpenHAB could fulfill the same task.

With a few cheap relays and a NodeMCU board, you could take complete control of your home's heating system.

Building a DIY Smart Home, One Step at a Time

These projects constitute only a small cross-section of what is possible for adventurous smart home DIYers. Once you get started you'll find that there are almost no limits to what you can automate using barebones components.

Every one of these budget DIY smart home automation projects is inexpensive and each can help kick-start your imagination. We encourage you to try one or more the next time you're feeling inspired.

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