It's 2016, and simply having a home is no longer good enough. Now it needs to be a smart home and the coolest new gadgets like the Nest smart thermostat or Amazon Echo often come with an out of reach price tag.
What if you want a smart home but don't have the funds to buy the high end stuff? Good news, there are plenty of smart home devices on the market that don't cost an arm and a leg. While they might not have the best features or look the most stylish compared to more expensive kit, they certainly get the job done, and more.
Here's how to turn your home into a smart home on the smallest of budgets.
The smart lights
Incipio Smart Light Bulb Adapter
Smart light bulbs, like the popular, colour-changing Philips Hue, can be pricey. With Incipio's smart (white only) light bulb adapter, you can turn any light in your house into a smart light, while still using the light bulbs that you have stocked up in the cupboard.
The Incipio basically just screws into a light bulb socket, after which you screw the lightbulb into the adapter. It's compatible with Apple HomeKit for Siri voice commands and connects to Wi-Fi, so you can control it with your phone from inside the home or remotely if you have an Apple TV. The adapter also offers light dimming, multiple user and geofencing features. Plus you can buy a bunch of these and connect them all to the Incipio app.
Money saved (vs Hue): $20 per bulb
The smart heating
Honeywell 7 Day Programmable Thermostat
You're probably well aware of devices like Nest, but you might not be aware of the fact that there are plenty of other Wi-Fi connected smart thermostats on the market. Sure, they may not be as pretty, but they're still very functional.
Take this (slightly old now) RTH6580WF smart thermostat from Honeywell, for example. It doesn't quite match all the tricks of the new wave of these devices but it does connect to Wi-Fi, and has an Android and iOS companion app, allowing you to control the device straight from your smartphone, whether or not you're at home. As well as the fact it learns your heating and cooling cycles, this could help you save a lot of money, making it well worth the initial cost.
Money saved (vs Nest): $173
The security cam
EZVIZ Mini HD
Devices like the Canary smart security camera can run into the hundreds of dollars, but what if there was one for under 100? There is: the EZVIZ Mini HD home security camera is small and can easily be hidden, plus it captures video at 720p (which should be all you need).
This affordable camera has night vision, and uses motion detection to work out when it should start recording. It comes with a one month free trial of its cloud storage software, and if you don't want to sign up and pay to use cloud storage afterwards you can put an SD card inside the camera for storage. So you can keep your stuff safe without paying obscene amounts of money.
Money saved (vs Canary): $168
The personal assistant
Amazon Echo Dot
If you're jumping into Apple's HomeKit, stick with Siri for obvious reasons. But the Amazon Echo has made some pretty big waves in the tech world, arguably being the most important home personal assistant to date. The Echo Dot is a bite-sized version of the Echo, still offering the great voice-activated features of the Echo in a package that's half the price.
The Dot doesn't have a full-sized speaker, but it works with your existing speakers (Bluetooth or audio jack), and it supports always-on Alexa, Amazon's personal assistant. So using the Dot you do all sorts of things including ordering pizza, get an Uber, or finding local businesses, simply by asking Alexa. US only for now.
Money saved (vs Echo): $90
$89.99 | Amazon
Wink Connected Hub
Getting a hub means one app to control your home and an easy entry into smart home automation. For example, with a hub you can get one smart home device to signal another to turn on - unlock your smart lock for your front door, and your lights will turn on.
Smart home hubs can cost a fair amount of money, though, and normally don't even support all of the connectivity standards used by the actual home gadgets. The Wink Connected Hub can be found for as little as $68 and supports the majority of device connectivity standards. These include Z-Wave, Zigbee, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and so on. Using the hub, simply open up the Wink app, and you'll have control over all your smart home devices.
Money saved (vs Samsung SmartThings): $31
The smart baby monitor
Snug Baby Monitor
Your baby's health and safety is top priority, but a high end baby monitor might be way down the list of things you need to buy. The Snug Baby Monitor offers a comprehensive monitor for around $70, much cheaper than rivals.
The device includes a camera and microphone that connects to Wi-Fi, after which you can use the app to monitor your baby wherever you are - even if the babysitter is round. The device also offers motion and audio detection, so instead of sitting around and watching your smartphone screen, the app will send you notifications if it detects anything unusual.
Money saved (vs Withings Home): $130
TP-Link Wi-Fi Smart Plug
Want to make something else smart? Then get a few smart wall plugs.
Sure, this will only let you switch a device on or off, but for some things, that's all you need. The plug simply plugs into the wall, after which you can plug your devices into it. It connects to Wi-Fi, and through that to your smartphone for quick and easy controls. Add a bunch of these to the recommendations above and you could make your whole house smart. Also handy for hair straightener panic.
What budget smart home kit have you been using? Let us know below.
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