The best part about a smart home isn’t that you can just control your lights or your thermostat with your phone or from your couch by yelling commands at Alexa from across the room. (Although that is empowering.)
It’s that you can link these devices to work together, so that they do what you want them to, without you having to tell them to do anything.
This is known as automating, and is the best way to set up your smart home. An automation is typically set up just once, and will then continue to operate until you disable it.
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Automations consist of two parts; some sort of triggering event, and the action that event triggers. This can be anything from activating a motion sensor, to using the GPS in your phone to tell HomeKit that you’ve arrived at a destination.
In this article, we’ll go over the Top 5 automations you can do with the Aqara Starter Kit, with screenshots of how to set them up yourselves in the Home app.
As I mentioned in the Aqara Smart Home Starter Kit review, you get 5 devices in the kit.
Included is a motion sensor, a contact sensor, smart plug, smart button, and Hub that has an LED ring around it that serves as a smart light.
I also mentioned that with these 5 devices you can get started with automations, and can cover a decent amount of situations.
So here are my Top 5 automations to do with just the devices that are in the starter kit. Some of these might not be feasible at the same time, but are still doable depending on your needs or setup.
Aqara Motion Sensor Turns on the Hub Light
The most obvious automation is with the motion sensor. Because the hub has the built in light, you can have the motion sensor turn on the light to a certain brightness and color whenever it is triggered.
Additionally you can add in some variables like time of day, and duration. So if its daytime, maybe it doesn’t need to go off, but when it’s dark out, it will go trigger the automation.
Of course you can add extra automations or stipulations based on the time of day, which will then change what color or brightness the light turns as a result.
As an example, you can have it so that between the hours of 7-9 it turns green at 50% brightness, but then at 9pm – 7am it will turn purple at 75% brightness.
The sky is the limit in terms of combinations, and these are all just within the Starter kit device limit. Once you expand to all sorts of smart home devices, you can have multiple devices trigger all sorts of things, though the general logic behind the automations still apply.
Aqara Motion Sensor Turns on the Smart Plug At A Certain Time
The other simple automation you can do with the motion sensor is to link it to the smart plug. It’s very typical to plug something like a lamp into the smart plug, essentially giving yourself some smart lighting.
As an example, you can now have it set up so that whenever you activate the motion sensor, it turns on the plug, which in turn turns on your lights.
Now you can conversely make it so that when it doesn’t detect motion, it will turn the plug off, essentially turning off your lights. I would just warn you ahead of time that this takes a lot of tinkering to get it right, so that you lights don’t just randomly turn off on you in the middle of dinner.
I would advise to keep this kind of on / off motion based automation to a particular light that only maybe gets used for certain periods of time.
You can set up more complex shortcut based automations in the home app that will have the motion detector wait a certain period of time before triggering the action.
For example the motion sensor turns the light on, but then when it stops detecting motion, it can wait 3 minutes, and then turn the light back off. It’s a bit finicky to get to work, but it is neat when it does work.
Aqara Contact Sensor For Leaving / Coming Home Automations
The contact sensor will be implemented in a similar way to the motion sensor, though perhaps it can work better as a coming / leaving home light.
If you don’t want to use location services to automate those kinds of scenes, then it’s perfectly viable to have it so that when the door is opens in the morning, it turns your lights on (aka when leaving). And then when the door opens in the evening (when you arrive home), it turns your lights on.
Your lights in this scenario are either a lamp plugged into the smart plug, or even just the Hub light.
As an example, lets say your daily routine is to leave for work around 8am each morning, and you typically arrive home between 5:30-6:30pm.
With this, we can set up two automations, one for the time period between 7:30-8:30 (giving yourself some flexibility) which will turn off your smart plug, and hub light when the contact sensor shows “open”, signaling that you’re leaving for work.
And then the second will be for between 5-6:30, again allowing for some wiggle room, which will turn your smart plug and hub light on, as it is being told that you’re home.
This is obviously easier if there is only one person coming or going and you’re on a routine, but can be manipulated to a certain extent for multiple household members.
Turn Lights On / Off Based On Location
Now for those that are ok with using location based automations, the easiest thing is to just have the lights (plug + Hub) turn off when you leave home, and turn on when you arrive home.
But of course you’ll want to modify this to your preferences. For example you probably don’t need your lights turning on if you come home while it’s still light out.
So you can easily add the time stipulation that your lights will only turn on when you arrive home and it’s only an hour before sunset.
You can take this a step further for example, and add the twist of if someone is already home, then maybe just turn a light a certain color, to let the other person know you’ve arrived home.
Unfortunately you can’t use someone’s location as an input in HomeKit shortcuts, but you can use the state of a device.
So a makeshift way of doing this is to have HomeKit check if your lights are already on, and if they are, then do a different automation, as it is an indicator that someone else is home.
Due to how the HomeKit automations are designed, this will have to be two separate automations, which isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it does mean extra work.
Good Morning / Good Night Scenes
Lastly there’s the trusty goodnight and good morning scene, which will turn off all your lights at night, and also turn them on in the morning.
But like all the other automations so far, that’s boring and we want to make them more customized to our liking.
At the moment there is no way of directly connecting the default alarm in iOS to Home automations, but if you have a schedule for waking up, it shouldn’t be much of an issue.
Let’s say you get up at 8am, each morning, now instead of having just your alarm go off, you can set it up so that at 7:50 the hub light turns on to 50%, then to 75% at 7:55, and finally at 8am, it’s at 100% AND the smart plug turns on the lamp lights that are plugged into it.
While it’s rather frustrating that you’d have to make 3 separate automations to make this happen, because Home doesn’t have the functionality to gradually increase brightness over a period of time, you’ll only have to do it once and then it’ll be done.
The goodnight scene will work in the opposite way. You could perhaps have your lamp light (smart plug) turn off 30 minutes before bedtime, alerting you that it is time to get ready for bed.
Then the hub light will turn to a certain color and brightness in your room, with it getting dimmer and dimmer in 5-10 minute increments before it just turns off altogether and it is time to go to sleep.
Again this is great if you live alone or you’re on the same schedule as your significant other, allowing you to turn off any lights at night straight from bed, and allow for a morning light to help you wake up on a groggy Monday.
Aqara Smart Button Toggles the Smart Plug
This extra one is cheating a little since it isn’t a pure automation, as it does require you to physically press a button, but you can add some variables in there to make it smarter than a regular old toggle.
The smart button allows for three different types of actions;
Single press, double press, and press + hold.
It makes sense to have single press be the toggle for on and off of the smart switch, especially if it’s plugged into a lamp or another type of light. However you can then also have something like double press turn the hub light on to a certain color, and press + hold turn all your devices off.
This can also be a useful thing to implement if you don’t have a set schedule, so these time based automations aren’t as convenient, so instead you can map a few key scenes to the button, and then activate them whenever you want.
So there you have it, 5 (ish) easy automations that you can do just with the Aqara Smart Home Starter Kit. Obviously as you get more devices you can add more complexity and more automations, to really fill out your whole home.
What are some of your favorite automations? Is there anything that you just can’t live without, or maybe something you want to make happen that you can’t get to work reliably or figure out how to do?
Drop a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts!