Smart Home

6 Types of Home Automation You Can Actually Afford

Joel Lee 13-05-2015

Are you ready to join the smart home revolution What Is A Smart Home? We recently launched a Smart Home category at MakeUseOf, but what is a smart home? Read More but worried that it’s beyond your budget? Have no fear! As it turns out, smart homes aren’t that expensive 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 , and there are plenty of components that the average homeowner or rental tenant can afford.


Money is only an obstacle if you want the absolute cutting edge in home automation. On the other hand, if you’re willing to wait until the early adoption phase 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 passes over, these components will drop even cheaper.

Waiting is probably the most frugal option, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan ahead and start eye-shopping today. Here are several components that are obtainable right now for less than $100.

Smart Outlets

The most basic smart home component is the smart outlet or smart plug, which are both the same thing: an extension to your wall outlets that provide better control over the appliances and devices plugged into said outlets.

The Belkin WeMo Switch is the most popular one by a long shot, not because it’s the cheapest (it costs $45) but because it has the best marketing and promotion surrounding it, plus it’s easy to use and has a great name.

WeMo Switch Smart Plug, Works with Alexa WeMo Switch Smart Plug, Works with Alexa Buy Now On Amazon $12.25

Does that make it the best choice? Not really, but if you run into any issues, it’s comforting to know that there are so many other users of the same product out there. Still, there are several creative ways to use the WeMo Switch 3 Ways The Belkin WeMo Can "Smarten" Your Regular Household Lamps We took the time to look at the possibilities for turning your regular household lamps into smart lamps. Read More that are worth trying.

Ankuoo SW5101 Wifi Outlet Socket Works With Alexa, Google Home Wireless Remote Control and Timer, White Ankuoo SW5101 Wifi Outlet Socket Works With Alexa, Google Home Wireless Remote Control and Timer, White Buy Now On Amazon $9.99 Samsung SmartThings Outlet, Works with Amazon Alexa Samsung SmartThings Outlet, Works with Amazon Alexa Buy Now On Amazon

Fortunately, there are plenty of WeMo Switch alternatives 6 Smart Plugs That Aren't Belkin WeMo Read More that are slightly less versatile but much cheaper as well. For example, the Ankuoo NEO is only $31. But if you want a brand with a better reputation than Belkin, consider the SmartThings SmartPower Outlet for $55.

Smart Lighting

The above-mentioned smart outlets are great for controlling your “dumb” lamps and lightstands, but smart home automation has progressed beyond that. Now you can buy specific lighting systems that incorporate the best elements of smart technology for maximum convenience.

The most-recommended solution is the Philips Hue Lightbulb, which is an LED bulb designed to use up to 80% less energy than a traditional bulb. What’s smart about it? Using the smartphone app, you can control it remotely or set it to trigger according to a timer. One bulb is currently priced at $20.

Philips Hue Lux A19 60W Equivalent Dimmable LED Smart Light Bulb (Older Model, Works with Alexa, Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant) Philips Hue Lux A19 60W Equivalent Dimmable LED Smart Light Bulb (Older Model, Works with Alexa, Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant) Buy Now On Amazon

Check out our introduction to the Philips Hue system Light Your Home the Smart Way With Philips Hue If you can afford the initial expenditure, you won't find a better-supported and more user-friendly smart lighting system on the market. Read More if you need some help getting started with it. Of course if you look around you can find “better” alternatives, such as the LIFX Dimmable Smart Bulb available for $99. Are they worth the price bump? In my opinion, no.

Smart Sensors

Another key component of smart home automation is the sensor. There are a plethora of available sensor types depending on the smart home hub 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 that you choose, ranging from motion sensors to temperature sensors, from humidity sensors to weight sensors.

Aeon Labs Aeotec Z-Wave Multi-Sensor Aeon Labs Aeotec Z-Wave Multi-Sensor Buy Now On Amazon

If you don’t know where to begin, the Aeon Labs Multi-Sensor could be a good entry point. It’s a four-in-one solution that can detect motion, temperature, lighting, and humidity, and it communicates using Z-Wave protocol, which is well-known and well-supported. It can be yours for $49.

Consider coupling it with a cheap but versatile hub like the Staples Connect Hub, which is available for $49. When combined, you can set the sensor to notify the hub when a particular event is triggered and the hub can forward the alert to your smartphone.

Smart Gardener

Gardening is a wonderful way to blow off some stress and channel your creative energy in a productive direction, but there are some aspects of gardening that are just cumbersome and trivial. For example, remembering to keep everything watered at the right rates.

Well, here’s some good news: we’ve covered smart devices for your garden 5 Smart Devices To Help Manage Your Garden Turns out, a smart garden is completely possible, thanks to the devices we are going to take a look at today. Read More before and many of them are incredible. The downside is that most of the products will set you back over $100.

Parrot Flower Power - Wireless Indoor/Outdoor Bluetooth Smart Plant Sensor with Free dedicated App - Green Parrot Flower Power - Wireless Indoor/Outdoor Bluetooth Smart Plant Sensor with Free dedicated App - Green Buy Now On Amazon

Except for the Parrot Flower Power, which is a self-described “smart plant sensor” that tracks the health of your plants in real time. The information is then transmitted to your smartphone through the accompanying app. It’ll cost you about $60.

Smart Egg Tray

An egg tray is likely the last thing on your mind that needs to be smartened up, but it’s been done. And after reading more about it, you’ll probably arrive at the same conclusion as me: “Dude, this is pretty clever!”

The Egg Minder Smart Egg Tray can hold up to 14 eggs. It has sensors that track how long each egg has been in each slot so you know when eggs are getting stale or going bad.

Quirky Egg Minder Wink App Enabled Smart Egg Tray, PEGGM-WH01 Quirky Egg Minder Wink App Enabled Smart Egg Tray, PEGGM-WH01 Buy Now On Amazon $11.99

It also syncs with your smartphone so you always know how many eggs you have at home. When you’re running low, Egg Minder can send push notifications to keep you informed. For $10 it’s a steal, and only one of many smart gadgets you’ve never heard about 5 Smart Home Gadgets You Probably Haven’t Heard Of Read More .

The only downside is that the Egg Minder doesn’t have the same dimensions as most standard egg trays, so you may or may not have trouble fitting it into your refrigerator.

Smart Surveillance

If your home doesn’t have a surveillance system in place, rest assured that you can build one yourself How to Build a Security Camera Network Out Of Old Smartphones There's no better use of old smartphones than by building your own DIY network security camera system -- we show you everything you need to know! Read More without having to shell out tons of cash. All you need is a few old smartphones that you no longer use.

Set them up with mobile webcam apps like IP Webcam or any other cell phone surveillance app The 5 Most Effective Cell Phone Surveillance Apps to Monitor Your Kids Concerned about your children's safety? Install one of these cell phone surveillance apps on their Android phone. Read More on the market. Once they’re ready, you can use Webcam Watcher as a central monitoring station for the surveillance network.

D-Link Wireless Day/Night Network Surveillance Camera with mydlink-Enabled, DCS-932L (White) D-Link Wireless Day/Night Network Surveillance Camera with mydlink-Enabled, DCS-932L (White) Buy Now On Amazon $39.00

If that’s too basic for you, then you’ll probably want a dedicated smart home security device Safe and Sound: 4 Great Smart Home Security Devices Read More . These typically cost several hundred dollars, but the D-Link Wireless Surveillance Camera is a good budget option at $47. It allows you to view on-the-go with your smartphone.

Smarten Up Your Home Even More

This list doesn’t include the Nest Thermostat or the August Smart Lock, two products that are often recommended as the first smart home device Kickstart Your Smart Home With 4 Easy Projects Creating a smart home might sound like a huge undertaking, and it can be difficult to know where to start. But it's not as hard as you might think! Read More for most people. If you’re willing to expand your budget a little beyond $100, consider starting with those instead.

Nest Learning Thermostat, 2nd Generation, Works with Amazon Alexa Nest Learning Thermostat, 2nd Generation, Works with Amazon Alexa Buy Now On Amazon $243.99 August Home 1st Generation Smart Lock - Silver August Home 1st Generation Smart Lock - Silver Buy Now On Amazon $120.00 ($7.50 / oz)

Smart TVs What Is a Smart TV? 6 of the Best on the Market Today Most televisions you look at now will be smart TVs, but what is a smart TV and which ones are the best on the market right now? Read More are another oft-recommended first device, but they’re slowly losing value since 3D television is on the decline Smart TV 3D: Is It All It's Cracked Up to Be? If you're unfamiliar with smart TVs, now may be the time to catch up and see what you've been missing. With Smart TV 3D technology, you have even more options to consider. Read More and smart TVs are a security risk Smart TVs Are a Growing Security Risk: How Do You Deal With This? Imagine being hacked through your smart TV. It sounds silly and mundane, but can be quite serious. Here's what you need to know. Read More .

But if you’ve gotten this far and are still looking for more smart home ideas, you may be interested in a smart doorbell What Is A Smart Doorbell, And Which Should You Buy? Doorbells that provide two-way communication, allow for remote monitoring, and send alerts directly to your smartphone? We're not talking about the future – all of this (and more) is already possible using smart doorbells. Read More , a smart home appliance 5 Smart Home Appliances You Should Be Buying The "smart home" concept is taking off and you should be keeping up, otherwise you'll end up missing out on the future. Read More , or even a smart toothbrush 5 Interesting Smart Devices You'll Probably Want In Your Home Here are five smart products that you probably had no idea were out there. Read More . Good luck!

If you were given $100 to spend on a smart home device, which one would you buy? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Image Credits: Smart Home Diagram Via Shutterstock

Explore more about: Smart Appliance, Smart Garden, Smart Lighting, Smart Sensor.

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  1. bben
    May 15, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    @dragonmouth - Very wrong - there are about 6 different smartphone apps for X-10. including iphone, android and even others. Please check Google before making statements like that. I think you are confused because the apps are not marketed by X-10 but are 3rd party - as are a lot of X-10 stuff.

  2. bben
    May 15, 2015 at 1:17 am

    Wrong. There are multiple apps for both iphone & android available.

    Here is an article:

    And some of the apps
    Iphone & Android -
    iPhone -

    There are more. Try google, it is a good source for finding stuff like this.

    There are a lot of 3rd party gadgets for X-10 as well. And even 3rd party Linux support for the real geeks out there. Seek and ye shall find.

  3. bben
    May 14, 2015 at 10:07 am

    X-10 home automation. It's been around since 1979. It has more types of devices and more users than all the rest put together. It has both Euro and US versions. Both plug in and wired in devices, dimming, computerized control, smart phone apps, can be as simple as a single lamp turned on/off with a remote - or a full home automation including multiple settings for lighting, burglar alarms, video, lawn watering and anything else you want to do with it. It is completely modular, It doesn't have the current darling of the home automation set - a true remote controllable thermostat, but it will probably have that soon. It does not require a hub, but it has several different ones available. It doesn't require a computer interface, but it has one. It doesn't require internet connectivity, but it can use it. And it's cheaper than any of the others.

    • dragonmouth
      May 14, 2015 at 11:17 pm

      X-10 cannot be controlled from a smartphone! Major fail as far as the kewl technorati are concerned.

  4. Swanny
    May 14, 2015 at 9:36 am

    Don't you need the Phillips Hue Bridge in order to get the app connectivity? That jacks the price up well over $20. They're still so bloody expensive in Australia as well ($70 for one bulb from Harvey Norman). As much as I would love to try these out, I can't justify the cost at this stage.

  5. likefunbutnot
    May 13, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    Smart TVs are a bad idea since they all have slow hardware, half-baked user interfaces and don't receive the updates they need to be useful for much more than a couple years. Branded set top boxes are a better way to go.

    As far as affordability, an Insteon starter kit might cost a whole $100. It might be tough to get excited about being able to control house lights or power plugs with a smartphone, but it might be worth mention that Insteon is the current standard for home automation tech and that it's probably worthwhile to ensure that your smart home tools interoperate with that standard unless you really want a different software interface for your thermostat vs. your smart lighting vs. your video monitoring system.

  6. FX belloir
    May 13, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    You are just missing Netatmo smart thermostat whic is much better than Nest.
    The only cons is it is made from a European company...