First things first, you'll want to check and see if you already have any Z-Wave devices in your home. Chances are that you might without even knowing it. If, for example, you have a home security system by ADT Pulse, AT&T Digital Life, Vivint, Alarm.com, ASG Security, Honeywell security, or Protection 1, you may have the foundation for a Z-Wave smart home.

In addition to keeping your home safe and secure, many of these alarm systems serve double duty as smart home hubs. You can think of the smart home hub as the conductor that keeps tabs on all of the signals coming from and going to your Z-Wave devices, and the magic box that allows all of those devices to communicate with one another.

Once you have a smart hub and a few devices in place, it's simple to add more over time. You can add new lighting control dimmers to additional rooms of the house, or even expand outdoors with lights and motion sensors and a garage door opener. And unlike some other wireless technologies (we're looking at you, Wi-Fi), adding additional devices to your Z-Wave system doesn't make the signal weaker; in fact, it makes it stronger.

Step 2: Add devices

As for the devices themselves, if you have smart locks from Yale, Kwikset, Schlage, Westinghouse, Danalock or Monoprice; a thermostat from Honeywell, Internatic, GoControl, Radio Thermostat Company or HAI;smart light switches or dimmers made by GE, Jasco, Monster Cable, or FIBARO, again, chances are good that you've already started on the path to building a complete Z-Wave smart home. Your best bet is to check the box (and sometimes the product itself) for the Z-Wave certified logo to see if it will work in the Z-Wave ecosystem.

To get the devices that work best for you, think about what you'd like to be able to do. If you fumble with your keys every time you come home from work with your kids and bags in tow, you might think about adding a smart lock and some connected lights to your hub to make entering your home a snap. If you live in an area where the winter winds keep the temps below freezing, maybe a connected thermostat can help. Before you even get home you can have your house heating up, creating a welcoming environment for the evening ahead.

What if I don't have anything to start with?

If you're starting a new smart home project from scratch, worry not. Taking your first steps to a connected home is easier than ever thanks to the wealth of customizable starter kits available to first-time buyers. Simply visit the Smart Solutions tab on Z-Wave.com, select the type of smart home application you're most interested in, dial in your level of technical expertise, and the site will help you build a complete package with everything you need to get started. You'll be able to select from starter kits ranging from simple solutions including plug in-modules, up to more intermediate kits that might require replacing wall switches and outlets, up to advanced offerings that should only be tackled by the most experienced DIYers.

From there, it's a simple matter of picking the Z-Wave devices that make the most sense for the way you want to interact with your smart home. Connected lighting products like dimmers, outlets and light bulbs are a great way to save energy, enhance security, and take a bit of hassle out of your everyday life. A Z-Wave thermostat is an excellent way to conserve energy and adapt the cooling and heating of your home to your personal schedule, rather than relying on rigid day-and-time programming.

What if I need help?

Of course, you may not want to install anything yourself. That's okay, too. Simply click over to the Do It for Me tab and you'll find links to a number of service providers who can hook you up with your choice of professionally installed security and home control solutions.

Your smart home is yours and yours alone, and the path to upgrading your home with Z-Wave technology is just as uniquely yours. No matter what path you take, Z-Wave is here to help.