Voice Activated Smart Home? Start for less than £200…


I want a Smart Home… but isn’t that just too expensive?

Well, the short answer is that it doesn’t have to be. I mean, if you have looked into this technology then you will know that professional installations will cost anything between £500 & £1500 per average sized room; which is expensive. Yes it depends on what make you buy and what you want to control; however, most people just want to ability to tell Alexa to switch the lights on/off, or to make sure something is switched off at the mains, more advanced funtions like controling your boilers temperature might need proffesional assistance.

In part 1 of this guide, I will explain how to do create the basic foundations of a smart home set up without a carpernter, focusing on making ‘dumb’ devices appear ‘smart’ through the use of an IR transmitter which can learn and be programmed to control older devices via Infrared (IR).

Part 2 will focus on expanding this set up into other rooms - also to include proper smart devices and other WiFi devices.

The 3rd and final part will focus on security, and how to set yourself up a high-tech solution so you can protect your home, and make it seem like someone is in even though you might be on holiday.


First thing first - what do I need?

Everything you require is below - at the current pricing, this equates to £174.94 - keeping below the £200 budget.



Great - now what?

Firstly, lets set up the controller the Amazon Echo Dot:

1. Echo Dot Set up

  1. Download the Alexa app and sign in.
    With the free Alexa app, you can set up your device, manage your alarms, music, shopping lists, and more. The Alexa app is available on phones and tablets with:

    • Fire OS 3.0 or higher
    • Android 4.4 or higher
    • iOS 8.0 or higher

    To download the Alexa app, go to the app store on your mobile device and search for “Alexa app.” Then select and download the app.

    You can also go to https://alexa.amazon.com from Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, or Internet Explorer (10 or higher) on your Wi-Fi enabled computer.

  2. Turn on Echo Dot.
    Place your Echo Dot in a central location (at least eight inches (20 centimetres) from any walls and windows). Then, plug the included power adapter into Echo Dot and then into a power outlet. The light ring on Echo Dot turns blue, and then orange. When the light turns orange, Alexa greets you.Note: Other USB power adapters, like phone chargers, may not provide enough power to Echo Dot.
  3. Connect Echo Dot to a Wi-Fi network.
    In the Alexa app, follow the instructions to connect Echo Dot to a Wi-Fi network. 

    • If the setup process does not automatically start, press and hold the Action button on Echo Dot until the light ring turns orange. Then, open the Alexa app, and go to Settings > Set up a new device.
    • If Echo Dot doesn’t connect to your Wi-Fi network, restart Echo Dot by unplugging and plugging the device in again. If you still have trouble, reset your Echo Dot to its factory settings and set it up again.
  4. Talk to Alexa.
    You can now use your Echo device. To get started, say the “wake word” and then speak naturally to Alexa. Your Echo device is set to respond to the wake word “Alexa” by default, but you can change it at any time. To change the wake word by voice, you can say, “Change the wake word.” You canalso make this change in the Alexa app, by going to Settings, selecting your Echo device, and then selecting Wake word.


2. Logitech Harmony Hub Set Up


  1. Visit the iTunes App Store or Google Play and search for the Harmony app.
  2. Launch the app and select Set Up New Hub.
    Have an older iPhone?iPhone 4, iPad 2 or iPod Touch 5 and earlier require that you first set up your Harmony hub using a computer. Download the Harmony desktop software, create an account, connect your hub and proceed with Wi‑Fi setup. Once complete, setup will continue using your phone or tablet.
  3. Continue through the various screens following the instructions:
    • Ensure Bluetooth is enabled on your iPhone.
    • Ensure your phone is connected to your home’s Wi‑Fi network.
    • Ensure Harmony Hub is powered on.
    • The Harmony app should find your hub after several seconds.
    Having trouble?Try disabling and re-enabling Bluetooth on your phone.
  4. Once your phone and hub have paired over Bluetooth you will be asked to enter your Wi‑Fi credentials.


3. Connect Harmony and Alexa together

  1. Using the Amazon Alexa app, navigate to Menu > Skills and search for Harmony.
  2. Tap the search result for the blue Harmony skill, and then ENABLE.
  3. When prompted to log into your Harmony account be sure to select the same method used when first setting up your remote. If you created a username or password then select that option. If you selected Facebook or Google logins when setting up your remote, then select the same here.

  1. You’re able to set friendly names for each of your Activities. For example, if your Harmony Activity name is “Play a Game”, you might set your friendly names to “Xbox” or “PS4” so you can say, “Alexa, turn on the Xbox.”
    • Select the “Add Friendly Name” button beside your Activity to set up one or more names.
    • Uncheck the box if you don’t want Alexa to control a particular Activity.
    • For your security, Activities containing door locks cannot be controlled by voice and have been removed.

Setting friendly names in Harmony skill

 4. Adding more devices - like the bulbs and the sockets

Please do the below for the bulbs, sockets - and any other IR devices you wish to pair!
From the Harmony App-
  1. Select the MENU icon from within the Harmony app.
  3. Press ADD DEVICE.

  1. Select the type of device you are adding or press SCAN FOR WI‑FI DEVICES to auto-detect any devices.
  2. Enter the manufacturer and model number of your device.
    (not working? Please see steps after step 7)
  3. Harmony may present you with an additional notification based on the device being entered, or it may add the device without any prompt if everything is okay.
  4. Once added, the Harmony app will guide you through checking this device to ensure it can be properly controlled.

Adding a deviceAlthough the device is now added to your Harmony account, it is not yet associated with a Harmony Activity. The Harmony app will guide you through creating an Activity.

 If this failed at step 5 - please follow these instructions:
  2. After checking to make sure all information has been entered correctly, press CONTINUE.
  3. Select the category and characteristics that best describe this devices capabilities so Harmony understands how to best control this device, then press > to continue.
  4. Select the features that apply to the device you are adding, then press > to continue.
  5. For Harmony to learn the IR commands for this device, you must use the original remote that came with this device or another remote that is able to control it. Select YES to continue.
  6. Point the tip of your device’s original remote control at the front (top area of the Harmony Hub) as instructed by the screen. The remote should be approximately 3 inches (8 cm) away from the Hub.
  7. You will be prompted to teach several commands from your original remote control. Hold the button for 1 to 2 seconds.
Note:The below steps are for guidance purposes. The questions you see on the Harmony app may differ slightly depending on the device you are adding.

Adding a private device
Adding a private device
As you are teaching the Harmony database about your device, it’s important to answer the questions carefully to ensure it will be properly controlled once complete.

  1. Adding a private device
  2. Select the best description for how your device changes between its inputs.
  3. You may be asked to learn additional commands necessary to change your devices inputs.
  4. Once the workflow is complete, your device will be added to your account, but will not yet be associated with an Activity. Click YES when prompted to create an Activity.

Congratulation - you now have a smart home set up for under £200!

Well, sort of - you most likely have a smart ‘room’ which is probably your living room; where now you can control your TV, Soundbar, playstation, ceiling lights - as well as the power for the aforementioned devices.

Enjoy never having to find the remote control ever again!!


What will Part 2 include?

Part 2 will focus on expanding this set up to different rooms, and will focus on adding existing smart devices to this same setup.

Thank you for reading, if you got this far, please remember to like and share!



References for Part 1: