You’ve probably heard people talking about smart homes, but what exactly makes a home “smart”?
And why might you want one?
The benefits of a smart home include everything from saving energy and money to increasing security and convenience. If your wants and needs are fairly straightforward, just a few relatively inexpensive products will deliver most of the conveniences of a high-end smart home—on a much more modest budget. And if you make sure that those smart home products are compatible with each other, you will be building a solid foundation that you can expand over time.
One of the biggest benefits of a smart home is being able to know what's going on when you're not actually there. To that end, kits from companies such as SimpliSafe can monitor your entire home for break-ins through the use of door sensors, indoor motion sensors, and sirens.
Some systems, such as Abode, even let you self-monitor, dispensing with the link to emergency services so that you can keep tabs on your house without a monthly fee. As for the actual cameras, many of the top-rated home security cameras on the market are roughly in the 200€ range, with some of them requiring an additional fee to store recorded video in the cloud.
Lighting is an easy way to introduce “smart” elements into your home one step at a time. But can you get a smart lighting system without a central hub (see below for more on hubs). Not only is this doable, but it is possible to choose a system that’s capable of interacting with other smart home elements as well.
Bulbs from LIFX and TP-Link, for example, communicate over Wi-Fi, while others communicate via the Bluetooth radio in your smartphone. And check out Noon Home’s system for a super sophisticated—yet relatively expensive—lighting control system.
Today’s smart thermostats go far beyond relying on a simple schedule to regulate the temperature in your home. In fact, they’ll enable you to create sophisticated schedules for every day of the week, as well as giving you complete control over your HVAC system whether you’re at home or away.
What’s more, the best smart thermostats will have an outsize impact not only on your comfort, but also on your wallet. With the Nest and Ecobee thermostats, for instance, you can adjust your A/C and heating based on the time of day or when you get home. Ecobee even lets you use multi-purpose sensors to heat or cool only the rooms that you’re actually using at any given time.
For smart cleaning on a budget, there are several tools that we would recommend.
Bruno Smartcan: This special trash can has sensors so that you can open it without touching the lid. It also has a suction feature near the floor so that you can sweep things right in.
Ecovacs Deebot: This vacuum cleaner is voice-activated through Alexa or Google, and controllable via an app, enabling you to have your house vacuumed before you head home.
LG ThinkQ: LG has several washers and dryers that work with its app in conjunction with Alexa or Google so that you can do your laundry right from your phone.
If you think that you might one day want to invest in a smart home hub that will pull all these components together under a single user interface, just make sure that all the bits and pieces you buy will work with a Samsung SmartThings, a Wink Hub 2, or any other system that can host third-party devices.
Logitech, for example, will incorporate all your smart home devices into a hub system that you can easily control from your phone or tablet. Beware of ultra-cheap, generic smart home gear when shopping, and be sure to check the hub manufacturers’ websites in order to determine which devices each one can support.
We’ve covered the basics here, but if you dig deeper, you'll find plenty of additional elements to explore, such as smart sprinkler systems that water your lawn automatically based on the weather, window shades that close with the touch of a button, kitchen appliances that you can operate remotely, and smart outlets that can control just about anything that plugs into a wall.
So as you can see, a smart home isn’t just one thing—it can be whatever you want it to be. You have the power to choose the systems and features that best fit your particular needs and budget, and to customize everything to make your home safer, easier, and more convenient.