Here's my step-by-step setup experience with some tips I learned along the way to smartening up my apartment.

We write a lot about the benefits of smart technology for homeowners here on the blog, and we’ve even discussed how renters can benefit from Z-Wave as well. As a communications professional who writes about the benefits of smart home every day, I was interested in adding smart technology to my apartment but had minimal experience. I browsed the site and utilized some of the helpful guides and blogs to help me choose a few options that wouldn’t break the bank. With just a few products I changed the way my husband and I live – without spending a fortune or littering our walls with holes. Here’s my step-by-step setup experience with some tips I learned along the way.

The products

Through my research on I knew that grabbing a smart hub was the first step to getting started with my smart apartment. I opted for the Samsung SmartThings Hub because of its reliability, simple installation process, small size and free smartphone app (although plenty of other hubs offer this as well). Then I chose a few products to get started with. I snagged a few GE by Jasco Enbrighten Z-Wave LED Dimmable light bulbs, a GE by Jasco Z-Wave Plug-In Appliance module, a Dome Z-Wave Plus Door/Window Sensor, and an Amazon Echo to control everything by voice.

After all my gear showed up, it was time to get started on installation.

Getting set up

Setting up was a breeze. I consider myself a smart home tech novice – I know my way around computers and smart phones, but know little about setting up other kinds of household tech. The first product I set up was my SmartThings Hub. My router is set up behind my TV so I placed the hub next to it, inserting the power adapter into an outlet, and connecting the Ethernet cable to my router. Next, I headed to the page on my iPhone and followed the on-screen instructions to download the app. From there, I used the app to guide me through the rest of the setup and within 15 minutes my hub was up and running. The next step was to set up my additional smart devices. I grabbed two LED lightbulbs and installed one in my living room and one in our dining room, simply replacing my existing “dumb” lightbulbs with the new smart ones. I installed the plug-in appliance module on a power strip in our bedroom and plugged my bedside lamp into it. We installed the door/window sensor on our bedroom door, and the Amazon Echo was added to a central place in between my kitchen and dining room area. I downloaded the Alexa app and synced my Echo to my phone within 10 minutes with help from the video that walked me through how to set up.

Our SmartThings hub easily recognized all of our Z-Wave enabled smart devices, and in less than an hour I was able to access all of them right from the SmartThings app. With the press of a button I could turn the lights on or off, and access the sensor’s activity all from one central place.

How we use our smart apartment

We live in a renovated mill building apartment, with a loft and high ceilings. Our living room space is upstairs and our Amazon Echo is downstairs.

I tested out Alexa’s voice recognition capabilities by asking her to first turn on the upstairs lamp. You can edit the name of your devices at any time in the SmartThings app to make it easier to remember device names. I called out “Alexa, turn on upstairs lamp!” while standing in the upstairs loft. Alexa heard me immediately, acknowledged my request with an “OK!” and the light turned on.

Next, I wanted to check out scene capabilities. In the SmartThings app, under the Automation tab, I chose a “Goodbye” scene and added my lights to the scene. I set the scene to automatically turn off all of my devices at 8:15 AM – the time I’m usually running out the door to work. The scene worked perfectly – the next day I noticed that as I was leaving, all of my lights were turning off as well. I then set a “Wakeup” scene and a “Welcome Home” scene so that our lighting is always perfectly synced with our lifestyles and schedules. Our bedroom door sensor sends an alert to our phone (I’ve since had to turn off push notifications for this due to our nosy cat) whenever the door is opened and closed, so I always know when my husband arrives home safely.

My formerly uninterested husband now asks me constantly about adding new capabilities to our smart apartment, so next on our list is a smart flood sensor (we have automatic water turn on in our apartment in case of fire) or a smoke sensor. Our apartment is proof that you don’t have to start big to smarten up your space!