The $400 Smart Home Starter Kit for the Budget-Conscious Beginner
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Smart homes 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 have been around for a while. But the technology used to cost thousands of dollars, making it completely out of reach for anyone on a budget. Unfortunately, that old perception keeps many people from embracing smart home products when, in reality, the smart home market is almost unrecognizable from several years ago.

As the market has diversified and competition has increased, there are more choices than ever when it comes to smart gadgets and gizmos. And, even better, while technology has advanced, prices have fallen far, far below their previous amounts.

Seriously, for a grand total of $400, beginners can put together a fully functional smart home that can completely revolutionize how you live your day to day life.

Here’s how seven essential products can showcase the true potential of smart home technology — without breaking the bank!

1. Amazon Echo Dot

amazon echo dot

A great example of an inexpensive smart home device that offers tons of features is the Amazon Echo Dot. The smallest member of Amazon’s awesome line of connected speakers, it can be used alone or in tandem with a larger and better sounding speaker.

Echo Dot (2nd Generation) - Black Echo Dot (2nd Generation) - Black Echo Dot (2nd Generation) is a hands-free, voice-controlled device that uses Alexa to play music, control smart home devices, make calls, send and receive messages, provide information, read the news, set alarms, read audiobooks from Audible, control Amazon Video on Fire TV, and more Buy Now At Amazon $29.99

While the number of competitors keeps growing, the Echo ecosystem How to Pick the Best Amazon Echo Speaker for You How to Pick the Best Amazon Echo Speaker for You Not sure which Amazon Echo device is right for you? Find out if Alexa will work best for you on the Echo, Dot, Tap, Look, or Show. Read More still sports a huge lead in virtually every way possible. With just a simple voice command, you can control a huge amount of smart home devices in every category imaginable. Instead of having to fumble with an app or another controller, the Echo Dot’s voice control is quick and easy.

Sporting seven microphones and special far-field technology, the device can understand and decipher your query from across the room or even while rocking out with loud music.

And the Echo Dot can do a whole lot more than just control a smart home. Its ever-growing list of skills now sits at more than 12,000. Some of its more interesting 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  include voice calling and messaging, ordering Domino’s Pizza, and even playing a game of Jeopardy.

The Echo Dot is affordable, easy to use, and provides a cornucopia of features. That combination is hard to pass up and makes the device an essential component of any budget smart home.

2. Sensi Smart Thermostat

sensi smart thermostat

Using a smart thermostat is, well, just plain smart. Pretty much any model can help you save energy, lower your electricity bill, and maybe even improve your health 4 Health Benefits of Monitoring Temp & Humidity at Home 4 Health Benefits of Monitoring Temp & Humidity at Home Did you know that there are health benefits of using smart home products? That's right. One or two smart purchases could drastically improve your quality of life at home. Read More . A great affordable choice is the Sensi.

Fully compatible with any Echo device — including the Dot — the $99 thermostat is designed to work with HVAC systems in most homes. There is a bit of installation involved to remove your old, dumb thermostat. But pretty much anyone handy with a screwdriver and wiring should be able to take care of that with no issues. As a nice plus, the Sensi app (iOS and Android) includes a step-by-step installation guide and video tutorial to help that process.

Once the Wi-Fi thermostat is ready to go, the app offers a number of ways to help remain comfortable at home without using more energy. Thanks to geofencing, the thermostat can use your smartphone’s location to make sure it’s not cooling or heating while you are away from home. Geofencing will also make sure your home is comfortable the second you step in the front door.

A flexible, seven-day schedule option also allows homeowners to customize the HVAC system to fit their daily routine. And along with being able to control your system with a simple Alexa command at home, the app allows you to control the thermostat from anywhere in the world.

Sensi Smart Thermostat, Wi-Fi, UP500W, Works with Amazon Alexa Sensi Smart Thermostat, Wi-Fi, UP500W, Works with Amazon Alexa Connect Sensi thermostat to your home Wi-Fi network and control from anywhere via free mobile app (compatible with Android and iOS). Buy Now At Amazon $92.99

3. Lockitron Bolt ($100)

lockitron

Another way to add an affordable dose of technology to any home is with a smart lock 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 . Instead of having to depend on keys, you can lock and unlock your door with an iOS or Android device. The Lockitron Bolt is a nice way to get started.

Retailing for $100, the Bolt uses Bluetooth to connect with a smartphone or tablet to activate. Using the app you can easily share access with select family and friends and receive notifications whenever the door is locked or unlocked.

The Lockitron Sense feature makes it a breeze when you return home. You can customize the Bolt to automatically unlock when you’ve returned home and are located a set distance way from the lock. Alternatively, the Tap to Unlock feature will buzz your phone when returning home. Just tap the screen three times and the door will unlock.

If you’d like to eventually take the Bolt to the next step, a $79 Bridge can bring Wi-Fi compatibility for control anywhere with a wireless signal.

4. TP-Link Smart LED Light Bulb, 3-Pack

tplink smart led bulbs

The smart lighting arena is full of different options, which is great for anyone on a strict budget. Each smart LED bulb in this three-pack from TP-Link averages out to just under $20 per bulb, which is just a bit more than you’d spend on a regular LED option.

Each bulb lasts almost 14 years with normal use and provides a soft white light at 600 lumens. You can interact with each bulb using Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant.

With the iOS or Android app, you can dim each bulb — even without a hardware dimmer. It is also easy to set a schedule for each bulb, including an “on at sunset and off at sunrise” option that will automatically adjust throughout the year. You can even monitor how much energy each bulb uses!

TP-Link Smart LED Light Bulb, Wi-Fi, Dimmable White, 50W Equivalent, Works w/ Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, 3-Pack (LB100 TKIT) TP-Link Smart LED Light Bulb, Wi-Fi, Dimmable White, 50W Equivalent, Works w/ Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, 3-Pack (LB100 TKIT) Works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for voice control. Works with any Wi-Fi Router Buy Now At Amazon $54.87

5. Etekcity Mini Smart Plug Outlet, 2-Pack

etekcity plug smart outlet

Another Alexa-compatible device, the Etekcity plug turns any electrical outlet into a potential smart device. Even better, this two-pack brings twice the bang for your buck.

Using simply a voice command to Alexa or the VeSync app ( iOS and Android), you can control the outlet (and therefore whatever is plugged into it). This gadget is perfect for outlets and appliances that are just out of reach.

You can also create a customized schedule that will automatically turn the outlet on and off whenever you’d like. It’s perfect for an extra sense of security while out of the house. The app will even track how much power is used and how often the plug operates, giving you a better idea of your electric use.

In the event of a power outage, each plug will retain its most recently used settings, saving you a lot of time and trouble.

Etekcity 2 Pack WiFi Smart Plug Mini Outlet with Energy Monitoring, Works with Amazon Alexa Echo, No Hub Required, 1 Minute to Set Up, White Etekcity 2 Pack WiFi Smart Plug Mini Outlet with Energy Monitoring, Works with Amazon Alexa Echo, No Hub Required, 1 Minute to Set Up, White WORK WITH ALEXA: Fully integrated with Amazon Alexa Echo/ Dot. Does not currently support Google Home, Smart thing, Home kit, or IFTTT. Buy Now At Amazon $26.99

6. Wansview Home Camera

wansview camera smart

Speaking of protection, a smart surveillance camera is a great way to look at what’s happening at your house from anywhere in the world. The Wansview Home Camera can stream 720p video to your Android or iOS device and compatible Web browsers.

With 24 IR LEDs, the camera can even see in the dark up to 20 feet away. Along with the 120-degree viewing angle, a microphone and speaker will allow users to talk to anyone in the house. You can also capture video and images.

While the camera doesn’t have all of the fancy bells and whistles like other (more expensive) options, it’s definitely a great way to start with home surveillance. It can always be repurposed later as a baby monitor or for other tasks thanks to the included mounting hardware.

7. Blumoo Smart Remote Control

blumoo controller

If you’re like me, you probably have a whole host of remote controls for each piece of your home entertainment system. But the $29 Blumoo is a great way to turn an iPhone, iPad, or other device into the ultimate controller.

Just place this small device in the same room as your home entertainment equipment, plug in the power and audio cable, and you’re ready to go. Using the iOS or Android app, you’ll first set up control of all the equipment in the room. The database contains more than 250,000 different brands and models of equipment, including: TVs, soundbars, and more.

Along with complete control through the app, you can view an interactive TV guide. As a nice touch, Blumoo is also Bluetooth music receiver. That means you can stream music from your device to most any audio system from up to 150 feet away.

Blumoo Smart Remote Control Blumoo Smart Remote Control Replaces your pile of remotes with your iOS device Buy Now At Amazon $16.99

Final Thoughts

Even a few years ago, getting a fully functional smart home for $400 would have been unthinkable. Now, it’s entirely possible.

And depending on your household’s needs, you may even be able to outfit your home for far less! Hopefully the next few years will continue to bring down the price of innovative products so that they are available to everyone.

Are there any products perfect for a smart home beginner on a budget that we missed? Let us know in the comments.

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  1. Steve Gossett
    July 25, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    I think for elderly or for people who have assistive needs these things are great but otherwise I feel they really promote laziness. A mechanical thermostat will far outlive any sophisticated ones that necessitate batteries. I have a basic thermostat that takes 2 AAA batteries but its in now way IoT, wifi or anything else.

    An electronic lock for the door? I understand most are a combo of electronic as well as key in the event of electrical failure but still I cant get on that concept. Keys always work and don't require batteries. Door locks are less expensive still than electric ones.

    I have an Echo dot and use it for a variety of things such as to play music, set timers, alarms, verbal searches and such. I get my value out of that.

    For security, sure, I can see the value in having a couple of cameras and a way to access them when remote. I do not have any at this time being I have a condo but if a home I would certainly have a few cameras covering the doors and yard.

    I have not found a need to have a camera enabled fridge, a toaster or oven that tweets me when its done or any other IoT type device or appliance.

    Tech has its place in good time but in the end, all of this, no matter how sophisticated, is only one power failure, EMP or network failure away from failure. Then all those fancy smart home devices are not worth jack.

    I have been in IT and around computer systems since 8088's were king and my first system was actually an old CP/M and then an Osborn portable. I also had a TRS-80. I dont hate tech and would like to actually see this field to grow and integrate. I just dont feel we should loose ourselves in it.

  2. Eddie G.
    June 28, 2017 at 6:49 am

    How about we STOP trying to integrate the internet into every facet of our lives?...I mean really?...a "smart home"?.....smh! Eventually either this kind of thinking will STOP or else it will continue to propagate until it becomes "law" and every home will be REQUIRED to have therse kinds fo things in the home. No thanks. my laptop and my flat screen TV is all I need. along with the DUMBEST appliances on the PLANET!....the only one who should be reminding me to eat.....stay fit.....change my socks....or clean up after myself is my wife!....LoL!