Having a smart home doesn’t have to break your bank account. Sure, you can dip deep into your savings to laden your house with dozens of smart devices, but for most folks who like to DIY, a slow and steady integration of products wins the game. You will feel less strain on your pocketbook and your lifestyle by incorporating a few pieces of technology to start then adding on as you determine your specific needs and budget.
Related: check out a full-blown, professinally installed smart home here
However, there are a few key pieces of smart home technology that almost every homeowner will find essential to a more comfortable, convenient, and secure home environment. We’ve outlined the product categories here, and included specific devices that will fit the bill—altogether sliding in at under $500. Oh, and every product mentioned can be controlled via voice commands through an Amazon Alexa device.
There are so many reasons why you should invest in smart lighting: energy savings, convenience, efficiency, security, comfort. It’s one of the best additions you can make and also one of the easiest and most affordable.
This switch installs in place of an existing switch, and comes with My Leviton app that lets you schedule on and off times for the connected light. You can also program the switch to turn on and off based on sunrise and sunset. Alexa is ideal for control on the go, as you can say “Alexa, turn on the porch lights” and the switch will respond. If you buy more than one of these switches, they can be grouped together to create lighting scenes that can be automated or engaged from the app.
$39.97 per switch
Equally as important as lighting to your overall comfort is a thermostat. When you spring for one that’s smart, you are able to optimize your comfort and run your home’s heating and cooling system more efficiently. It’s a money saver, for sure, and since most smart thermostats come with a mobile app, setting up a schedule for the thermostat to follow is easy and convenient.
There’s a free app that comes with this thermostat, giving you the freedom to adjust the temperature settings from anywhere you happen to be. You can also use the app or the buttons on the thermostat to preset up to four schedules for each day of the week.
Door locks, sensors, cameras, sirens, smoke detectors … they all contribute to complete home security. Recently, manufacturers have developed solutions that bundle all of these elements together in one product, simplifying installation and setup. Of course, a professionally installed security system is never a bad idea, but an integrated DIY system can be a great starting point.
Canary All-in-One Home Security System
Built into this small tabletop device are a high-def surveillance camera and a microphone so you can see and hear what’s happening at home via a companion app. Also integrated is a siren that reacts to unusual movement and noises and a monitor that measures the air quality. The device can send alerts automatically to you when it sees, hears, or smells something out of the ordinary .
Smart Door Lock
One important part of a home protection solution that typically stands on its own in a smart door lock—although some manufacturers offer a door lock and camera as a synched up system. A smart door lock not only limits access into your house, but offers a keyless way to lock and unlock a door. Some do it with a code that’s entered into a keypad; others respond to your smartphone. Many are designed to work with other products so that when the door is unlocked a predetermined light activates, for example.
Kwikset 910 Z-Wave SmartCode Electronic Deadbolt
No matter how smart the technology is, sometimes you feel the need to double check on things. It’s easy to do with the Kwikset 910, which installs in place of an existing dumb deadbolt, you can use a special app on your phone to check the status of the lock. If necessary, you can lock or unlock it remotely. You can assign entry codes to as many as 30 people at a time, change those codes or delete them entirely. When someone uses their code, you receive an email, making it easy to monitor that comings and goings at your home.
Speaking of forgetting, how many times have you raced out of the house and left on the iron, coffee maker, lamp or something else? True, some of these devices have an automatic shut-off feature, but if they don’t you could come home to the smell of burnt coffee. A smart plug can eliminate all worries by letting you turn things on and off remotely via your smartphone.
TP-Link Smart Plug Mini
In addition to allowing you to turn off power to connected devices remotely, the app that comes with the TP-Link Smart Plug Mini lets you set up schedules for the plug to follow. For example, at 9 p.m. each day, the plug could activate a connected lamp ensuring that you never arrive home to a dark house. You can also engage a mode that turns the connected lamp on and off randomly to make your house look as though it’s occupied—an effective security feature.
Smart Voice Assistant
As mentioned earlier, the devices in this roundup can all be controlled via voice commands. To make this happen, you need a smart voice assistant, of which there are many from which to choose. The most prolific currently, however, is Amazon Alexa; hence the recommendation below.
Amazon Echo Dot
As small as the Echo Dot is, it packs in some powerful features. Through it you can summon Alexa to play music, make phone calls, access information, set alarms, read audio books, and control smart light switches, plugs, door locks (but only to lock), and more.
There are many other types and brands of smart home devices; this list is intended merely as suggestions to get you started in your search. And, if you’re uncomfortable buying, configuring, or installing any part of your smart home, there are knowledgeable professionals who you can hire to do the work for you.