Set Up Your Smart Home on a Budget
Smart home technology makes life easier by allowing you to control appliances, lights, and other features via your smartphone. It can also save you money by lowering energy bills and allowing you to use more efficient appliances.
There are a number of devices that you can get started with on a budget and then expand upon as time goes on. Depending on your needs, you could even start with a smart thermostat and a smart security system for just a few hundred dollars.
1. Get a Smart Thermostat
Smart home technology is a great way to save money and reduce energy costs without doing any major renovations. And with heating and cooling accounting for almost half of the nation’s total residential energy use, a smart thermostat can make a huge difference in how much you spend on your utility bill each month.
Many smart thermostats also allow you to set schedules that automatically turn on or off your HVAC system, based on your preferences and the temperature of different rooms in your house. This helps to save energy by using less heating or cooling when you’re asleep or away, and more when you’re home.
Some models even use geofencing, which means they adjust the temperature of your home to your current location when you leave or arrive. That can save you a significant amount of energy, since your heat pump or air conditioner won’t run when you aren’t at home.
The best smart thermostats come with an intuitive app that lets you easily set schedules and control your home’s temperature from anywhere. They also have voice-enabled capabilities through Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri so you can talk to your smart device instead of typing out a bunch of commands on a touchscreen.
Getting a smart thermostat is a relatively straightforward process. Just make sure you get one that’s compatible with your current system, and double-check that the wires plugged into it match up to their corresponding letters on the thermostat base. You can find this information on the manufacturer’s website or by calling a help line.
Once you’ve got a thermostat that’s compatible with your home, you can start tinkering with its settings to see how it works for you. We recommend testing out its learning capabilities to ensure it’s able to learn your schedule and preferences quickly.
Another good thing to test out is how well the thermostat’s app works with your phone’s operating system. Generally, most smart thermostat apps are compatible with iOS and Android phones, but check with the manufacturer to make sure yours is.
Some models will also let you check your energy usage over time, and some can even give you a breakdown of your heating and cooling spending for days, weeks or months. With all that data, you can make the most of your smart thermostat to cut down on energy usage and save money on your power bills.
2. Get Smart Plugs
If you’re looking for a cheap and simple way to get your smart home up and running, then a smart plug is a great place to start. These small, Wi-Fi-enabled power adapters can be used to turn on or off various devices and appliances from the comfort of your smartphone or tablet. They can also be controlled with voice commands from a smart speaker or device like Amazon Alexa or Google Home.
There are several different types of smart plugs available on the market, so it’s important to choose one that is compatible with your smart home platform of choice. Some of these smart plugs are also capable of monitoring your energy consumption, so you can use them to reduce your power bill by switching off your devices when they’re not in use.
A good smart plug is easy to set up and install and has many useful features, including a thermal sensor that automatically shuts off overheating devices. You can also set schedules to automate the plug when you’re away from home.
Another feature that makes these plugs so popular is their ability to monitor your energy consumption and help you save money on your electricity bill by turning your devices off at specific times during the day. Some smart plugs even allow you to add more than one appliance to them, so that you can track how much each consumes and decide which ones are consuming the most power.
TP-Link’s Tapo range of smart plugs and strips are easy to set up and are Google Assistant and Alexa-compatible. They don’t need a hub to work, so you can add more of them as needed, and they have plenty of features, including scheduling and power monitoring.
You can also use these smart plugs to control other smart home appliances, such as lights or thermostats. These can be controlled with a companion app on your phone or tablet, or with voice commands from your smart home speaker or device.
If you’re on a budget and don’t want to pay for an expensive hub, the Energenie Wi-Fi Smart Plug is a good option. Its mobile app is free and easy to use, and it connects quickly and easily. It’s a bit more difficult to install than the Humax smart plug, but it can be done with a little bit of patience.
3. Get a Smart Lighting System
Smart lighting systems are a great way to add smart functionality to your home without breaking the bank. They can help you save energy, improve security, and make it easier to customize your lighting scheme for a softer, more romantic mood.
One of the most popular smart light options is a smart bulb that connects to your Wi-Fi network and can be controlled with a smart device like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple HomePod. Companies like Philips Hue, Sengled, and Wiz Connected all offer a variety of bulb styles and features to meet your needs.
Another popular option is a smart switch or plug that controls your lights directly instead of using a smart bulb. These switches require a bit more work, but they allow you to use your existing lights while also having the added benefits of smart controls.
Some smart switches, such as the Phillips Hue Motion Sensor, are designed to trigger on and off when someone steps into your home or comes close to the fixture. This helps protect against intrusions, which is important to many homeowners.
Finally, if you are interested in a more complex setup, consider a smart lighting system that can control your whole house from a single hub. These systems tend to cost more than individual bulbs, but they can be a worthwhile investment for anyone looking to build a full smart home automation system.
GE Lighting, for example, has recently rebranded their smart bulbs as Cync and has expanded the line of accessories to include smart switches that dim, brighten, and switch between preset lighting scenes, and smart plugs that let you control your home’s electrical devices from your phone or tablet.
Several other companies are making their own lines of smart bulbs. Some, such as LIFX Color and Yeelight LED Bulb 1S, connect to your Wi-Fi network and offer a plethora of lighting colors that can be controlled with a smart device. Other smart bulbs, such as Wyze Bulb, offer a no-frills solution for under $10 that is voice-activated, dimmable, and works with apps.
4. Get a Smart Security System
Homeowners and renters alike have a lot of choices when it comes to home security systems. They can choose from DIY options from brands like Ring and SimpliSafe or opt for professional monitoring services. They can also choose from a wide range of products, including indoor and outdoor cameras, motion detectors, video doorbells, smart locks and more.
Many of these devices connect wirelessly, allowing homeowners to control and monitor their homes through an app on their smartphones. They’re easy to set up, usually don’t require professional installation or contracts, and can be customized to meet individual needs.
In addition to detecting break-ins, these systems can send real-time alerts and notifications to smartphone users and police officials, leading to lower incidences of burglaries, fires and carbon monoxide leaks. They also allow users to control a variety of devices in the home, such as lights and heating, from one central system.
Some smart home systems can even be used to monitor other areas of your home, such as your garden or garage. They can be paired with a variety of other smart devices, such as doorbells, thermostats and lighting, so you can control them from your phone or another device.
These systems are also a great way to keep an eye on your kids when they get home from school or their part-time jobs. They can be programmed to send you a notification when they arrive, and you can see them in HD from your smartphone or smart display.
Most smart home systems can be plugged into your home’s electricity, and some have built-in battery backups to keep them working if the power goes out. Others use a cellular connection as a backup, so they can still notify you and the authorities of an emergency.
You can also add a number of other devices to your system, such as smart alarms and sensors that monitor water levels in the basement or the garage. Some can also be controlled by a voice assistant such as Alexa or Google Home.
The most important thing to remember when buying a smart security system is to make sure that it fits your needs and budget. This is especially true if you’re on a tight budget, since many of these systems are aimed at people who want to get the most out of their money.