The 7 Best Smart Home Hacks of 2019

Don't buy expensive gadgets when you can build them yourself

skynesher / Getty

Making your home smart isn’t cheap; each piece of gear adds to the total cost, and it all adds up quickly. And sometimes, no matter how much money you have to spend, what you want to do isn’t available without a little DIY hack.

Below are some of the cheapest, funnest, and most creative ways to hack your smart home to make it do what you want to do.

Build a Remote Cat Feeder for Your Smart Home

This hack is a little more important than others because it potentially involves an animal life. It also doesn’t help that this fun project to feed your cat remotely when you’re away is light on instructions, but for the few who have the skills, it should be well worth the time.

https://hackaday.io/project/160028/instructions 

You’ll need a servo motor which connects to an Obniz controller board to perform the tasks. The most difficult part of this project may be the 3D printed corkscrew which is used to turn the correct amount of food out of the container into the pet’s bowl.

Create an Automated Photo Frame for iOS and Android Photos

Despite being a great idea, digital photo frames have just not caught on the way most people thought they would. The cheap ones look bad and are cumbersome to use while the larger, nicer ones are quite expensive.

A homemade digital photo frame.

This hack capitalizes on a cheap Rasberry Pi, SD card, and small LCD monitor. The benefit of creating your own frame is the flexibility of photo sources: your email inbox, iOS photos, Google Photos, and more. Of course, Google’s Home Hub is regularly on sale for $100 and can adapt smart albums based on different criteria to digital slideshows.

This frame hack uses the Kiosk app on the Prota OS app libraries which can be obtained by all users.

A Sign to Show The Bathroom Is Occupied

Do you have a communal bathroom that’s constantly being used? What about an extra iPad? This is a neat smart home hack which will likely delight guests who can easily view whether your restroom is occupied or not.

https://youtu.be/W78GLS1e1Rs

If you want to give it a go (pun intended) you’ll need a EKMC1601111 motion sensor, an Obinz to control it, and an iPad to be the sign outside the bathroom. On the surface this smart home addition is pretty straight forward as described, but it’s not very attractive to have the circuitboard sitting out on the bathroom sink. It would be advised to create a decorative cover for the parts inside the bathroom.

Create a Home Jukebox With Songs at the Push of a Button

Streaming music services are great, but sometimes you want that tactile feeling of a jukebox where you hit a button and the song plays — every time.

https://hackaday.io/project/25130/instructions

This hack is less about the look and style of the jukebox and more about the internal part of mapping songs to physical buttons and how that happens to get that to work. The instructions claim this is a smart home hack that shouldn't take too long and can be done for around $40 if you have common components like a USB flash drive available already.

You'll want to have a Raspberry Pi, bread board, and some GPIO buttons to make this all happen.

Punch the Smart Clock in Your Smart Home or Office

This is more of a smart office hack, but it can be adapted for your home as well; and it's super nifty.

 https://hackaday.io/project/19901/instructions

Here's the series of events for how it works: A sensor detects motion, a webcam snaps a photo, the picture is sent to Slack and then documented in a spreadsheet, along with how many total employees have arrived.

Again, this can be adapted for your house if you'd like to log the number of times your dog enters a room or every time someone raids the refrigerator. It can also help you rest easy knowing what room your kids are in when you're not home.

Keep the Songs Spinning With Rotating Speaker Stands

Some home hacks are just too awesome not to do. Having your speaker stands rotate is one of those hacks.

https://hackaday.io/project/11765-rotating-speaker-stands

This is a project which is light on the details and exact instructions. If this sounds at all interesting there are components listed, however, so you should be able to figured it out.

The idea came from having the same speakers used for a TV and computer, but not wanting to rotate them every time one or the other was being used. It takes a lot of work to be this lazy sometimes (and it an be a lot of fun!). There's plenty of reasons you way want your speaker stands to rotate, however, even if your situation doesn't match exactly.

Check the Garage Door Status From Anywhere

Ever have that sinking feeling that you left the garage door open? Here's a way to make your home smart enough to let you know if you did or not.

https://hackaday.io/project/25090-garage-door-sensor 

This project connects to a garage door opener and then relays its status back so you can check whenever you want. Before you think this is too hard to manage, essentially what this is doing is just looking to see if it sees the garage door directly beneath it or not. If it doesn't see the door up close to it, then the status is that the door is closed.

This is also one of those hacks that could be used in a multitude of other ways if you want to get really creative.