The 6 Gadgets You Should Immediately Install in a New Smart Home
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So, you’ve heard about the smart home revolution, but you’re not sure where to begin. It’s understandable — there are hundreds of devices and apps vying for your business.

Starting your smart home setup on the right foot is important, because it can save you heartache further down the line. Perhaps more importantly, it’ll stop you from wasting money on unnecessary and overpriced devices.

If you want to start kitting out your house with smart home technology, keep reading. We’re going to look at the first things you should install or buy. All these devices are readily available and easy to install. You can worry about the more complicated stuff later.

1. Smart Lighting

I’ve been a vocal critic of some smart lighting systems in the past. In particular, I think the Philips Hue system is pointless and overpriced.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not an advocate of smart lighting in general. Used correctly, it can save you money on your electricity bill and improve your home’s security. You just don’t need the Hue system to get started.

tp-link smart lights

Instead, consider some of the cheaper alternatives Here Are the Best Multi-Color Smart Light Bulbs of 2017 Here Are the Best Multi-Color Smart Light Bulbs of 2017 There are so many options for Smart Home lighting that it can be overwhelming! These colorful bulbs offer you the best features available today. Read More . There are lots to choose from. My personal preference is the TP-Link range. The lights are ideal for beginners because they do not need a hub to work. They simply connect to your Wi-Fi network. You can control them using the accompanying smart phone app.

The lights are also compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. More on that later.

TP-Link offers four models to choose from. The cheapest white lights only cost $19.99 per bulb.

TP-Link Smart LED Light Bulb, Wi-Fi, Dimmable White, No Hub Required, 50W Equivalent, Works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant (LB100) TP-Link Smart LED Light Bulb, Wi-Fi, Dimmable White, No Hub Required, 50W Equivalent, Works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant (LB100) No hub required; works with your Wi-Fi router.The LB100 has 600 lumens brightness and dimmable white light Buy Now At Amazon $19.99

2. Smart Thermostat

Sticking with the theme of saving money, installing a smart thermostat is another way you can shave a significant amount of money off your annual electricity bill.

Again, you have lots of different systems to choose from. They all have varying degrees of complexity, so it’s important to make the right choice.

nest smart learning thermostat

For example, systems such as Nest and Netatmo are ideal for smaller homes. They can work with different zones, but they’re primarily designed to replace your central thermostat and adjust the house-wide temperature.

If you live in a larger home, consider something like Honeywell Evohome or Heat Genius. Their systems replace the valves on your radiators, allowing you to control each heating unit individually.

If you’re just starting out, the Nest range is probably the best choice. It’s easy to use and costs less than $250. Like the TP-Link lights, it also works with Amazon Alexa.

Nest Learning Thermostat 3rd Generation, Stainless Steel, Works with Amazon Alexa Nest Learning Thermostat 3rd Generation, Stainless Steel, Works with Amazon Alexa Works with Amazon Alexa for voice control (Alexa device sold separately) Buy Now At Amazon Too low to display

3. Smart Security System

Congratulations, you’ve now installed two of the most common smart home devices. Next up, a smart security system How Smart Home Security Systems Save Money and Keep You Safe How Smart Home Security Systems Save Money and Keep You Safe Customization smart home security systems can protect you and your family and give you control over exactly how you want to secure your home, for a fraction of the price of traditional security systems. Read More .

Smart home security can be divided into three parts: network safety, alarms, and smart locks.

I won’t dwell on network safety — just be aware that with more devices on your network, you’re more at risk from hackers and cyber criminals. Buying a high-quality VPN The Best VPN Services The Best VPN Services We've compiled a list of what we consider to be the best Virtual Private Network (VPN) service providers, grouped by premium, free, and torrent-friendly. Read More and a new smart router 5 Things That Make Smart Wi-Fi Routers Worth Buying 5 Things That Make Smart Wi-Fi Routers Worth Buying Today, you can buy a new class of "smart routers", specifically designed to cope with the demands of running a smart home. Here are five things that make smart Wi-Fi routers worth buying. Read More will allay most of these concerns.

Smart Alarms

Smart alarms are an emerging category of smart home devices. At the very least, you need a system that can monitor your entry points and detect motion. If the sensors are triggered, your alarm will sound and you’ll get a smartphone alert.

In truth, you should consider spending a bit more and purchasing a system that also has Wi-Fi connected cameras. That way, you can monitor your home remotely, no matter where you are in the world.

ismartalarm

At the upper end of the scale, you’ll find systems that include carbon dioxide detectors, smoke alarms, and water leak sensors. Some of these are provided by third-parties — you’ll need a hub 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 to link them all together.

For a happy medium, check out iSmartAlarm. The company’s $100 Preferred Package comes with two contact sensors, two remote tags, a motion sensor, and window stickers. At a later date, you can buy some of its add-ons. They include cameras, smart switches, and keypads.

Smart Locks

If you want a complete smart security system, you should also think about buying smart locks Everything You Need to Know Before Installing a Smart Lock Everything You Need to Know Before Installing a Smart Lock Smart locks are increasing in popularity, but there are still a lot of valid concerns about their security. These are the facts you need to know before making a purchase! Read More . They might not be absolutely essential for entry-level smart homes, but if security is a priority for you, they are an important component in your system.

august smart lock

Two of the leading brands are August and Kwikset Kevo. Both offer similar functionality: your Bluetooth device will unlock the bolt as you approach, you’ll get alerts if someone gains unauthorized entry, and you can see the lock’s access history through a smartphone app.

The August locks also work with Amazon Alexa. Notice a pattern?

August Smart Lock 2nd Generation – Silver, Works with Amazon Alexa August Smart Lock 2nd Generation – Silver, Works with Amazon Alexa Works with Amazon Alexa for voice control (hub required, Alexa device and hub sold separately). Does not support unlock by voice at this time. Buy Now At Amazon $123.97

4. Smart Speakers

Smart homes don’t only have to be about boring stuff that none of your guests will ever notice. They can also be fun.

The area of entertainment that’s leading this charge is music. You can find lots of smart speaker systems, ranging from the $30 entry-level Chromecast Audio, right through to top-of-the-range speakers like Sonos and Bose SoundTouch.

sonos smart speaker

Again, many of these systems function in a broadly similar way. You can control your music from anywhere in the home using a smartphone app, and they can play content from premium music streaming services Are You Using the Best Music Streaming Service? Are You Using the Best Music Streaming Service? Do you use a music streaming service? If so, how do you know you're using the best one for you personally? Read More like Spotify and Google Play Music (assuming you have an account).

And if you enjoy a bit of tech-based DIY, you can even hack them to play voice notification when certain events occur. We’ve explained how in detail How to Send Voice Notifications to Sonos Speakers How to Send Voice Notifications to Sonos Speakers Today, I'll show you how to set up voice notifications on your Sonos system, using IFTTT recipes, OpenHAB integrations, and more. Read More elsewhere on the site.

5. Smart Garden Automation

If you have a large garden, you need to think about it when setting up your smart home. It makes no sense to have the inside of your home running like clockwork, only for the exterior to look like something out of a horror movie.

If you’ve got green fingers, you have a lot of devices you can deploy to help keep your shrubbery in check.

smart garden edyn

For example, Edyn makes both a smart water valve and a smart garden sensor. The water value performs as you’d expect, watering plants on a user-defined schedule. The sensor device can monitor the soil, light, and moisture conditions, then send information back to your smartphone. It will even recommend which types of plants to grow based on the results.

Edyn (EDYN-001) Wi-Fi Garden Sensor, Yellow/Gold (2.125 x 2.87 x 2.87 Inches) Edyn (EDYN-001) Wi-Fi Garden Sensor, Yellow/Gold (2.125 x 2.87 x 2.87 Inches) Continuous monitoring: Edyn tracks light, humidity, temperature, soil nutrition and moisture Buy Now At Amazon $74.93

6. Amazon Echo

You knew it was coming, didn’t you? Amazon Echo devices are like a lazy boy armchair for the 21st Century.

Obviously, you get all the Amazon-based benefits they introduce. That includes having the news read to you every morning, listening to music, ordering groceries, and access to the endless list of skills 18 Awesome New Amazon Alexa Skills You Need to Try 18 Awesome New Amazon Alexa Skills You Need to Try The Amazon Echo's list of skills is growing all the time. Let's take a look at the most useful and silliest skills from the past few months. Read More that can do everything from ordering a pizza to calling an Uber.

More importantly, at least from a smart home perspective, you can use the speaker to control a vast number of smart home devices with your voice. As mentioned, many locks, lighting systems, and thermostats are Alexa-compatible, but so too are ceiling fans, smart TVs, smart switches, and garage door locks 4 Ways a Smart Garage Door Opener Will Simplify Your Life 4 Ways a Smart Garage Door Opener Will Simplify Your Life Garages are great, garage doors are frustrating. Smart garage door openers can help. Read More .

Amazon Echo - Black (1st Generation) Amazon Echo - Black (1st Generation) Plays all your music from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and more using just your voice Buy Now At Amazon

Dig Even Deeper

If you follow all this advice, you’ll have a great smart home foundation in place. But why stop there?

You could try focusing on a particular room. There’s plenty of technology that can help you in the kitchen Create a Futuristic Kitchen With These 7 Smart Devices Create a Futuristic Kitchen With These 7 Smart Devices It's hard to know where to draw the line between useful and gimmick when discussing smart home devices for the kitchen, but these devices are sure to impress! Read More or make your daily bathroom routine go more smoothly Smart Devices in the Washroom? It's Not as Crazy as You Think Smart Devices in the Washroom? It's Not as Crazy as You Think Technology may seem out of place in the washroom, but these smart devices might just change your mind -- and your morning routine! Read More . Or you can keep adding individual devices — why not pick up a Roomba to do your vacuuming?

Which gadgets would you recommend as “must-haves” for beginners? As always, you can leave all your opinions and suggestions in the comments below. And remember to share this article with your friends to see what they think.

Image Credits: dotshock/Shutterstock

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  1. Bradk
    August 7, 2017 at 1:56 am

    For smart lights I have some of the major brands/types. (Switches, bulbs, wall sockets, Phillips, wemo, tp-link, lifx) I initially wasn't a big fan of Phillips with the hub, but it is by far the most reliable solution. All my other brands fall off the network at least once a month, blips in power or internet connectivity throws them for a loop. And the Phillips white lights can be found for about 15 each. I've also found the colored lights novelty wears off quickly and I never use the colors, just dimming.

  2. Big Dave
    August 4, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    The EcoBee thermostat system with remote temperature/occupancy sensors blow the Nest out of the water! The Nest is such old/outdated thinking I'm surprised that Google hasn't divested them yet.

  3. Chris S
    August 4, 2017 at 11:30 am

    Nice write up. I will check out you recommendations for security.
    I would like to recommend people forgo the smart bulb and use smart switches instead. This allows you to turn them on and off manually. TP-link sells both.
    Can you elaborate the need for the hub as these devices are individually programmed and can be group together with Alexa and probably google home as well.

  4. David Vinch
    August 4, 2017 at 9:58 am

    200 for a thermostat, 15 for a bulb, not very smart IMO. And not one mention of LEEO?

  5. Timothy Tirulaga
    August 4, 2017 at 3:34 am

    Smart sockets!!!!!

  6. Kent Seaton
    August 3, 2017 at 10:45 pm

    You need a good hub. The only two I can recommend at this time is SmartThings and Wink Hub 2. Start with the hub and plan around those. Lots of the products which work with SmartThings also works well with Wink. For voice recognition, my family has found Google Home slightly better. To really tie things together, set up Stringify as well as IFTTT.