The Ultimate Guide to Smart Home Tools
Smart homes will inevitably include some amount of DIY work here and there - especially as it is uneconomical to call a professional every time a small change needs to be made. One thing most smart home owners are not prepared for is the number of tools required to do a good job. There aren't too many, but trying to complete certain projects without them will be challenging to put it lightly. Here is a list of the most important tools when building a smart home!
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Table of Contents
These are things every smart home owner should have, regardless of technical proficiency. Each of these is individually important in at least a couple of situations. You wouldn't want to be unprepared if such a situation ever came up, which is why it is wise to stock up on some basic tools before they are needed. Here we will see some of the "classic" tools that everyone knows as well as some specific to smart home construction.
A good set of screwdrivers is key to any handyman's box. A lot of smart home devices are either mounted directly to the wall or other things using brackets of sorts. As such, a standard set of screwdrivers will be key to installing and maintaining a smart home, especially if you went the DIY route. The biggest difference with smart home stuff is the high amount of electronic devices that often use special screws, such as Torx, which make it hard to work with unless you have the right tools. That's why it's important to have the most common types of screwdrivers.
To have a complete set, you will want:
- Flathead screwdrivers
- Philips screwdrivers
- Torx screwdrivers
- Squarehead screwdrivers
There are also a lot more types, but these are the ones that appear the most. It isn't easy to buy all the right types of screwdrivers, so I recommend getting a set that includes all of the needed parts. They can be obtained rather cheaply and offer a large variety of options which could save you one day when the screw is in a strange shape.
Kaisi 126 in 1 Precision Screwdriver Set
This set includes everything from Flathead to Pentalobe (often used in Apple products) along with everything listed above and much more. This makes a complete set that allows you to effectively always have a screwdriver that works on hand, even when you have never seen a type of screw before. This set even includes a screwdriver for those strange triangle-shaped screws often used in toys, which could be helpful for many reasons. While this set is amazing, it could be useful to have dedicated screwdrivers which don't have changeable tips as they tend to have better handles. Check out this set of dedicated screwdrivers on Amazon if you are interested.
Hammers are an important part of any tool kit, especially one for working on your home. They are mostly used for driving in nails, but can also be used for opening cases and breaking things. There are different types of hammers, but we are mostly interested in the small ones typically used for hanging picture frames. When you are working on your smart home, you always want a hammer nearby as it is a great tool for all sorts of uses. There is always a time when a hammer becomes useful!
This is a general-purpose hammer that can be used for installing or removing all sorts of smart home devices. It's a claw style (meaning it has a nail remover on the other side) and it is pretty light which makes it easier to use. In addition to the physical benefits, this hammer is fairly inexpensive, which makes it an obvious addition to any toolbox. You may not see the need for a hammer now, but considering this is one of the most fundamental tools, a use will certainly pop up eventually.
While a socket set sits on the lower end of the list of commonly used smart home tools, it is still an essential part of any great toolbox. Most commercial products will come with fasteners that are much easier to use (such as screws), making this a non-requirement for those. Where this tool shines is more with the large equipment within your home that might be using a socket head such as a dishwasher or a refrigerator.
DEWALT Socket Set
In any case, you are sure to come across a bolt at some point, and there is nothing better than a socket set with a ratchet for when you do! Tightening or loosening bolts in a tight space is easy when you have a ratchet - simply rotating back and forwards in a limited motion will continue to turn the bolt as if you are going the whole way around. This set includes most standard sizes and is from DEWALT, which is a reputable brand that will certainly serve you well.
A level is critical for ensuring whatever you are building is at the correct angle from the floor. In the context of a smart home, you might need a level for making sure a panel is at the right angle with the wall. You could also need it to check that your TV mount is straight or that a door is levelled on its hinges. They are relatively cheap and can be super useful when you have doubts about the alignment of a project.
This is a small level that is well suited for smaller installations, such as putting up a sensor or a camera. The small size will help mount small devices on a level surface. You can imagine that while mounting a camera on the wall, you will be trying to manage all these tools at the top of a ladder which could be quite challenging. The size is once again a benefit as it could even fit in your pocket if you needed to!
Non-Contact AC Tester
For any project involving AC power at mains voltage, such as installing a smart plug or a smart switch, you will want an AC tester. The basic idea is that touching this device to something that is currently "hot" (that is to say there is voltage flowing through it) will make a sound and light and LED. This helps to identify situations where an area you are working on is still powered, which could be dangerous. Please keep in mind this device is not a substitute for due diligence! You must still turn off the power and be extra cautious when working around high voltage electricity. As always, if you don't feel qualified, call a professional electrician!
With the help of this little device, you could save your self from a shock! Simply tapping the tip near or on a wire will instantly alert you if the wire is still carrying dangerous voltage. For anyone working on electrical wires, such as when changing out a light switch, this could help identify any wires in the box that may still be powered. In theory, this should never happen as a single breaker should turn off the power to the entire wiring box - but mistakes do happen, so it is always smart to be cautious. This device isn't strictly required but is a nice safety feature for any wiring you may have to do.
This section is specifically for tools that are used when building smart devices yourself. As such, it includes the tools for building electronics, design, and construction of these smart devices. If you plan on buying all of your smart devices commercially, you won't need anything from this section. For anyone building their own stuff or wanting to follow along with my one of my DIY posts, this section is for you!
Many hate it, but it is a necessity when dealing with electronics. A soldering station allows you to melt metal called "solder" to create a permanent bond between two other metals. This will usually be used to connect electrical components together, such as wires or LEDs. In fact, a circuit board uses solder to keep all of the components attached. The solder is also electrically conductive, which allows current to flow through the bond and into the components. For the purposes of DIY, nothing too fancy is required - but you will still want something decent. Soldering irons that plug directly into the wall will not work too well, for performance you want a station.
Weller Soldering Station
A station allows you to adjust settings such as the temperature while also (usually) getting much hotter than basic models. The Weller is a classic and trusted soldering station that will serve you well. It's got a digital display that allows you to change the temperature setpoint precisely, along with an iron holder and sponge. It would be best if you kept in mind that soldering iron tips should also be purchased for various types of work, with smaller tips being better for more precision but less heat and larger ones for less precision but loads of heat. If you are new to soldering, don't forget to buy some good lead-free solder (like this on Amazon)!
If you are planning on soldering, you will almost certainly need a helping hand. These are awesome devices that will hold what you are working on in a specific position which allows you to use your free hands to hold the iron and the solder. If you have ever tried to solder something complicated, you will know the pain of holding 4 different things at once while trying to be precise. It doesn't work well at all. Do yourself a favour and get a helping hand, they aren't too expensive and ave a lot of hassle!
QuadHands Helping Hands
This is a pretty fancy model that offers many different points of contact to make your experience better. As pictured, holding a circuit board in a set position is easy with this device which will make soldering a lot easier! The hardest part of soldering is usually getting everything into position, especially when the parts are tiny. You won't regret getting a helping hand if you do any amount of soldering.
Most of my DIY guides on this site include a 3D printed enclosure. This is usually because a 3D print can be of the exact same dimensions as required, whereas trying to find a premade case of the correct size could be difficult. Things weren't always this way, I used to build projects without a printer, and I can say for certain that the quality of the finished product is much higher than it ever was before. The benefits of a 3D printer are numerous, and they are truly amazing for anyone building DIY projects. There are so many available printer models, but I will recommend the Creality Ender 3 Upgraded.
Creality Ender 3 Upgraded
For the price, it is virtually unbeatable as it functions at a level that is perfect for DIY while being really affordable. I would always recommend the use of a glass bed, which is included in this kit, as it makes it a lot easier to keep the print level. It is also a good idea to upgrade both the logic board and the firmware. While the board it comes with works fine, it sadly makes a lot of noise while printing as the motor drivers are a bit cheap. To fix that, I would recommend getting this logic board (on Amazon) to replace the one inside by default. If you get this, you will also want to buy a spool of filament as the tiny amount that is included is not good enough to do anything meaningful.
If you are going to buy a 3D printer, you need to get a good pair of callipers. You could make measurements with a tape measure or a ruler, but you really need the precision offered by a calliper if you want to make the most out of 3D printing. This one is digital, which makes it easier to read the exact value, while still offering an analog reading if desired. If you are going to be designing or editing 3D models for your own projects, this device is perfect.