Imagine controlling your clocks, lights, thermostat, door locks, speakers, and more through the internet. Smart devices like these can automate your home for comfort and convenience. But it also brings up a lot of questions.

What items do you want to control through automation? Which brand should you purchase? Are different brands compatible with each other? Do you need a smart home hub to control multiple devices?

Automating your home with smart devices can qualify you for a discount on homeowners insurance. Not every insurance company offers a smart-device discount. A quick search with Insurify can unlock new ways to save on home insurance.

Smart Home Devices You Didn’t Know You Needed

Home automation with smart devices can streamline your space. You don’t need fancy gadgets to set up your smart home. Start with a few basic items before investing a significant amount of time and money in smart devices.

Speakers

Smart speakers are an excellent pick for your first smart device purchase. You might already have an Amazon Echo or an Apple HomePod. If you don’t, deciding between Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri isn’t easy. Each has advanced features, including Bluetooth connections and integrating with other smart home devices.

Connect the speaker to your Wi-Fi to play your favorite music. Most smart speakers are compatible with Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, and Amazon Music.

Got a question? Your smart speaker can also provide answers and a variety of information. It can serve as a central information source for weather, recipes, directions, and more.

Lighting

Smart lighting can be a fun addition to your home. Philips Hue offers color-changing smart bulbs to bring some color into your home. 

Adding smart lights to your home is also a fantastic security feature. Next time you’re on vacation, set an automated schedule to turn your lights on and make it look like you’re home when you’re not.

You could also program an entryway light to turn on automatically when you arrive home. That way, you’re not stumbling around in the dark looking for a light switch.

Thermostats

Programmable thermostats have been around for a while. Smart thermostats are an entirely different device altogether. Connect a smart thermostat, like an Ecobee, Honeywell, or Nest learning thermostat, to your Wi-Fi and you can control the temperature in your home from anywhere in the world.

If you go out of town for the weekend and forget to turn the heat down, log in on your smartphone to adjust your thermostat and tap into energy savings.

Speaking of savings, Energy Star reports smart thermostats can lower your heating and cooling costs by 8 percent each year.

Locks

Since every home has a front door, smart locks are one of the best options to get started in home automation. Smart garage door locks can also add remote access and voice control when you connect them to Wi-Fi.

Some smart locks are large enough to include a keypad for coded entry. However, most aren’t big and clunky. Several, like the Kwikset Kevo, look like a regular lock, even up close. But when you approach it? Your door can unlock using an app or with the touch of a finger.

Home Security Cameras

Over 18 percent of property crimes are burglaries, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. For the ultimate peace of mind about your home, consider installing a smart home security camera. Security cameras can record video when they detect motion and send a message to your mobile device to alert you that someone is on your property.

Keep in mind that more features usually equal higher prices. SimpliSafe home security system includes several monitoring packages such as motion sensors, door and window entry sensors, and water sensors. But these come with a higher price tag.

However, plenty of affordable options exist. For example, Arlo has wire-free video monitoring and floodlights to brighten even the darkest night. Ring makes a video doorbell that’s easy to install on your own and allows you to control other smart locks and switches.

Despite the cost, a smart home security camera might be worth the investment because it can lower your homeowners insurance premium. You might save anywhere from two percent to 10 percent off your annual bill.

Multi-Room Audio Systems

Smart speakers are one thing, but multi-room audio systems take it to a new level. You install speakers in two or more rooms and control them from a central source. You can play the same music in all rooms or set up each room to play different music.

Smart multi-room audio systems can connect in several ways. Your home’s Wi-Fi network can distribute music to smart speakers from your phone or a computer. Wired systems are another option, though they require you to run wires between speaker locations throughout your home.

Smart Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can be life-saving devices in your home. In 2018, the National Fire Protection Association reported that fire departments throughout the U.S. responded to a fire every 24 seconds. 

Instead of just sounding the alarm, smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can alert your smartphone and other smart devices. It’s one thing to be alerted to danger nearby. But what’s even better is a smart alarm that tells you there’s a fire or carbon monoxide threat no matter where you are.

Irrigation Systems

Traditional sprinkler and irrigation systems operate on a pre-programmed schedule. It’s a fantastic option to keep your lawn and gardens looking fresh and healthy. With smart technology, your yard can be the envy of the neighborhood.

These systems can streamline home lawn and garden care even further. They monitor the weather, soil conditions, and plant water use to adjust the watering schedule.

Smart Appliances

Smart home devices extend beyond basic home comfort and security. Home automation and convenience have brought “smart” capabilities to traditional appliances found in most homes.

A smart refrigerator includes a touchscreen system and camera feed to view the contents while you’re away from home. If you’re at the grocery store, view your refrigerator’s camera feed to determine if you’re low on milk or other items.

Smart vacuums, like the Roomba, can connect to Wi-Fi, allowing you to control them from anywhere you have an internet connection. With a smart slow cooker, schedule or adjust the cooking time or temperature, and dinner can be ready by the time you get home from work.

A TP-Link smart Wi-Fi plug can turn any appliance into a smart device. The plug lets you turn electronic devices and lights on or off, check their status, and set a schedule for use.

Best Smart Home Hubs to Connect Your Devices

The best smart home hub depends on which devices you own and how much control you want. Your mobile phone can control most smart home products without the need for a hub. For instance, if you only have a few smart lights and an Amazon Echo, you won’t need a hub.

Advanced automation requires a hub. A smart home hub can turn on smart light bulbs when you come home using your garage door opener. You can also create scenes where a single voice command, such as “Ok Google, good night,” can turn off all the lights in your home, shut off the music, lock the door, and make sure your oven or other appliances are off.

The most recognized smart home hubs include Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod, and Google Home. Yet several other options exist, including those from Samsung and Logitech.

Google Smart Home Hub

The Google Nest Hub, or the smaller Google Nest Mini, are excellent choices to set up your smart home system. The built-in Google Voice Assistant lets you control speakers, lights, temperature controls, and more with the sound of your voice.

It can learn to recognize the different voices of family members and use their preferences to customize responses.

Apple Smart Home

Apple HomeKit is a simple way to control your best smart home devices from one place. Connect your Nest thermostat, smart lock, and Wi-Fi-enabled smart plug to automate your home. To get the most out of your Apple HomeKit, you’ll need an Apple HomePod, Apple TV, or iPad for full automation and remote control features. 

Unfortunately, Apple’s Smart Home system isn’t compatible with too many non-Apple devices, but that issue is slowly improving. The Apple HomeKit is a solid option for homeowners.

Samsung Smart Home

The Samsung Connect Home hub is an excellent starter kit to transform your living space into a smart home. One device acts as a base, while the others extend remote connectivity and automation throughout the rest of your house.

The system works with Samsung SmartThings and connects to Phillips Hue lighting, Alexa, Ecobee, Ring, and several other smart device brands.

Amazon Smart Home

Amazon introduced the concept of a smart home long before the idea reached the mainstream. Amazon’s Echo Dot and its Echo Show smart display are ideal for your smart home hub. It lets you mix and match brands and devices while having the convenience of controlling them from a central point.

You can also connect your bank or PayPal account to Amazon Echo. Using your voice, you can send and request money or transfer money between accounts.

Logitech Smart Home

The Logitech Harmony Hub is a one-step solution to turn your smartphone or tablet into a universal remote. It’s compatible with Amazon Alexa, Roku, Lutron, and hundreds of thousands of other entertainment and smart home devices.

You’re also free to explore more than one smart system. With Logitech Harmony Hub, you might say, “Alexa, turn on the TV” one minute and “Ok Google, ask Harmony to turn on sports” the next.

Pros and Cons of Converting Your Home into a Smart Home

There’s a lot to love about smart home technology. Whether you’re home or away, you can control sprinkler systems, manage home security, and turn appliances and lights on or off. But it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of converting your home into a smart home.

Smart Home Advantages

  • Convenience of access to all your gadgets in one place
  • Customize your experience for improved quality of life
  • Save energy with smart thermostats, lighting, and outlets
  • Improve home security and surveillance

Smart Home Disadvantages

  • Complex installation and setup
  • Incompatible technology between smart devices and systems
  • High cost of home hubs and smart products

 

Smart Homes: Save Time and Money with Automation

There are several advantages to installing smart devices in your home. The simplicity of smart home automation can save time, increase comfort and convenience, and bring you peace of mind. Plus, qualifying for a home insurance discount can keep more money in your pocket.

However, the cost of devices can add up, and compatibility between products can be an issue. Before you invest in smart products, consider what you want to control and automate in your home. Smart speakers, thermostats, and doorbells are excellent entry points if you’re new to smart home technology. Add more devices and introduce smart home hubs as your needs grow and as your budget allows.

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Updated August 12, 2020

Amy is a content marketing writer who specializes in personal finance and technology. With a background in the legal field, she has a talent for transforming complex topics into content that’s easy to understand. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading and playing board games with her family. You can learn more at amybeardsley.com.