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Is smart home automation What Is A Smart Home? What Is A Smart Home? We recently launched a Smart Home category at MakeUseOf, but what is a smart home? Read More worth it? That’s the real battle right now. While there are plenty of enthusiastic early adopters 5 Reasons Why Being An Early Adopter Is A Bad Idea 5 Reasons Why Being An Early Adopter Is A Bad Idea Are you the type of person who pre-orders the newest tech gadgets as soon as they’re available? Then you’re an early adopter. Is there a downside? Let's find out. Read More out there, most people think smart home devices are little more than gimmicks. Maybe you think the same.

I’ll admit that gimmicky smart home devices do exist. It’s a new market and producers are experimenting to see what works 5 Smart Home Gadgets You Probably Haven’t Heard Of 5 Smart Home Gadgets You Probably Haven’t Heard Of Read More and what doesn’t – and, inevitably, some of those ideas fail hard. Then again, some of those ideas end up being near revolutionary.

So, which smart home features are worth it? Which ones can be safely tossed aside and ignored? Let’s take a look at a few that are actually worth the money.

Energy-Saving Thermostat

Energy efficiency is one of the most desired features sought after by modern homeowners. On the one hand, it reduces your impact on the global environment. But if you don’t care about being green, the other benefit is that it’ll shave dollars off your monthly energy bill 5 Smart Hacks To Save Electricity In Your Smart Home 5 Smart Hacks To Save Electricity In Your Smart Home he trick to saving electricity is in knowing where most of your energy is consumed. Read More .

Meaning, everyone should look into an energy-saving thermostat (assuming you live in a thermostat-compatible home, of course). You really can’t go wrong here.

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Our foremost recommendation is the Nest Thermostat which is available for $249. This popular device not only learns your preferred temperature ranges, but when you prefer certain temperatures. It will also turn down when you’re away from home and allow you to control it remotely through your smartphone.

And that’s just the beginning. Here are several Nest features you didn’t know about 13 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do With a Nest Thermostat 13 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do With a Nest Thermostat You may be surprised just how many little tricks you can accomplish with your new Nest thermostat! Read More that will instantly change your impression of the device.

If you don’t like the Nest for some reason, the Honeywell Lyric for $215 is a valid alternative with similar features. But don’t stop there. There are plenty of other smart devices that help save energy Save Energy and Money With These Smart Home Devices Save Energy and Money With These Smart Home Devices One of the biggest benefits of a smart home is the energy saving technologies available. As well as saving money, you’ll also be pushing toward a more sustainable, convenient living situation. Read More and most of them are quite affordable.

Proximity-Based Security Locks

Security is another big concern when owning a home. Everyone deserves to feel safe within their own walls, and while that can be achieved without any smart home automation, there are a few devices that can make it much more convenient for you.

My personal favorite is the August Smart Lock, which is available for $249. This device replaces your traditional entry door locks and allows you to lock/unlock using your smartphone’s proximity. No more fumbling for keys, no more accidentally locking yourself out.

August Smart Lock - Keyless Home Entry with Your Smartphone, Silver August Smart Lock - Keyless Home Entry with Your Smartphone, Silver Secure - Safe, keyless access to your home with iOS and Android smartphones Buy Now At Amazon $224.99

Digital keys can be created and assigned to individual smartphones, and those keys can be revoked after a certain time. Fantastic for granting temporary access to guests or servicemen without having to clone physical keys.

But don’t take my word for it. Check out all of these smart lock alternatives Forget Keys: 5 Smart Locks You Can Unlock With Your Phone Forget Keys: 5 Smart Locks You Can Unlock With Your Phone Here are 5 different locks that you can unlock with your phone. Read More to see which one fits best for your needs. All of them are great and quite affordable.

Note: The most common rebuttal is “What if an intruder disconnects the device?” While it’s possible, it’s not easy to do. Plus, anyone who’s willing to do that could just as easily smash a window or bash the door, so I consider it a moot point.

Smart Surveillance Systems

While we’re on the subject of security, what about surveillance?

If you don’t already have some kind of surveillance system installed for your home, you should look into that ASAP. It can be as simple as using a webcam as a security camera Use Your Webcam For Home Surveillance With These Tools Use Your Webcam For Home Surveillance With These Tools I live in England, the country with the highest number of CCTVs than anywhere else in the world - about 1 camera to every 30 people, it’s estimated. Obviously, that’s not enough (yes, that is... Read More or setting up a security network out of old smartphones How to Build a Security Camera Network Out Of Old Smartphones How to Build a Security Camera Network Out Of Old Smartphones These days, building a home surveillance system isn't a huge deal, especially with the right equipment. Wireless IP webcams are ideal of course, but what if you don't want to spend $50 to $200 for... Read More . For something cheap and effective, those solutions can work.

But if you want to kick it up to the next level, consider investing in a smart surveillance system like the all-in-one Canary Home Security Device for around $249. This thing packs a lot of punch for its modest price.

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It comes with a built-in always-on camera that streams video in 1080p HD using a wide angle lens (147 degrees). It automatically switches to night vision mode when it gets dark, plus the audio quality is great. It knows when you’re home and when you’re away.

But wait, there’s more! Canary has motion-activated recording and an alarm siren that will scare away burglars. At the same time, alerts will be sent to your smartphone (in case you’re away). In addition, Canary has built-in monitors for temperature, humidity, and air quality.

If Canary is too much for you or just isn’t your style, look into these smart home security alternatives Safe and Sound: 4 Great Smart Home Security Devices Safe and Sound: 4 Great Smart Home Security Devices Read More which includes products like Homeboy and Cocoon. Dropcam is another one worth checking out.

Moisture & Humidity Sensors

Moisture and humidity sensors are incredibly important if you own your own home. Unexpected leaks can persist for months without your knowledge, eventually resulting in mold, rot, and big repair bills. Wouldn’t it be better to invest in preventative measures at a fraction of the cost?

The above-mentioned Canary device has this feature built in, but if you don’t get the Canary, there are other options out there for you to explore. In fact, these options might actually be better in the long run.

Samsung SmartThings Water Leak Sensor Samsung SmartThings Water Leak Sensor Get an immediate alert on your smartphone at the first sign of excess water. Buy Now At Amazon $37.99 Insteon Water Leak Sensor Insteon Water Leak Sensor •Just set on the floor - no screws, no tape, no wires! Buy Now At Amazon $15.00

We recommend getting the SmartThings SmartSense Moisture Sensor for $49 or the cheaper Insteon Water Leak Sensor for $35. Install them on the ground near pipes, washing machines, etc. and they’ll trigger on unexpected contact with water.

To make best use of them — e.g. to receive alerts on your smartphone — you’ll need to combine them with a smart hub, such as the SmartThings Hub for $99 or the Insteon Hub for $115, respectively. On the plus side, getting a hub means you can start using several other sensor types as well (depending on which hub you get Which Smart Hub for Home Automation Is Best for You? Which Smart Hub for Home Automation Is Best for You? For a while, people thought of the idea as nothing more than a gimmick, but recent product releases have shown that smart home automation is starting to live up to its promises. Read More ).

You’ll end up spending between $150 to $250 to prevent thousands of dollars in potential water damage. I’d consider that a net-positive investment, wouldn’t you?

Automated Home Cleaner

“Automated home cleaner” is just my fancy term for Roomba. This adorable little mini-robot has come a long way since its debut (did you know it turns 13 years old this year?) and is more effective than ever. If you’re tired of minor home cleaning jobs, Roomba is for you.

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The only downside is that it’s relatively expensive when compared to the other devices we’ve explored. The model I’d go with — the iRobot Roomba 870 — costs about $510. Then again, if you really hate cleaning, that price could very well be worth it.

The Roomba 870 has the newest extractor system that maximizes cleaning performance and minimizes maintenance requirements. It also uses a newer generation of battery that lasts twice as long as previous models. The Roomba itself can be programmed to clean according to a schedule and will automatically return to its dock when finished.

And It Won’t Even Cost You Much

Relative to other home improvement projects you could undertake, smart home products are actually quite cheap How Much Does a Smart Home Really Cost? How Much Does a Smart Home Really Cost? A smart home could change your life – freeing up time in your day and regulating your routine so you don't have to remember what needs to be done. But how expensive is it, really? Read More . A basic renovation could cost as little as a few hundred dollars while a luxury transformation would top out at a few thousand.

For a frame of reference, a typical bathroom renovation in America costs somewhere between $9000 and $14,000. So, yeah. Smart home automation provides a lot of bang-for-your-buck. It ain’t just a gimmick.

What kind of smart home improvements are you looking to pursue? Do you think it’s worth the price or is it just too expensive? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Image Credits: Smart Home Options Via Shutterstock

  1. Shirley Hatch
    June 22, 2016 at 6:53 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this.

    • Joel Lee
      June 24, 2016 at 2:05 am

      You're welcome, Shirley. I hope you found it useful. :)

  2. Katie
    April 25, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    Absolutely agree with this list. I would add that we swapped out our standard irrigation controller with a smart one. It's able to monitor the weather report, and communicates with moisture sensors we installed in the soil. Our old controller had a rain gauge, but often watered when it wasn't needed. In the two weeks since we made the swap to a smart controller we have skipped watering no less than 5 times due to its ability to see it was going to rain! At this rate it will easily pay for itself in less than one watering season!

    • Joel Lee
      June 24, 2016 at 2:04 am

      That's awesome! I've heard a lot of mixed reviews regarding smart irrigation but it's nice to hear that you found one that works well for you. And to hear that it's going to pay for itself in just one watering season? Even better. Thanks a lot for sharing, Katie. :) I hope that smart controller serves you well!

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