Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
As the smart home market continues to grow, there are more and more devices that are affordable and easy to use. We’re highlighting five of our favorites, all of which are available for purchase for less than $100.
While building a smart home can make daily living easier, being a newcomer to the market is often an overwhelming experience. As the number of different devices and systems continues to skyrocket, making that first purchase is often the most difficult.
And one of the biggest barriers to smart home adoption, for many users, is cost. But thankfully there are actually affordable and easy-to-use devices on the market. Here are five great options you should check out. While each one is great on its own, they can also easily be used as part of a larger smart home setup if you choose.
1. iHome iSP8 Wi-Fi Smart Plug ($49)
Using an app-enabled switch is a great way to try out smart home technology and see what it can do for you on a day-to-day basis.
The premise is a simple one: operate any switch in your house using a companion smartphone app.
Even though there are a number of inexpensive smart switch choices on the market, iHome’s iSP8 stands out for a few reasons.
For one, if you can plug an appliance into a normal outlet, and it draws less than 1,800 watts of power, it’s compatible with this smart outlet. The possibilities are endless, including: lamps, fans, holiday decorations, and many other household appliances.
As well, you can set and customize detailed schedules for the plug using the companion iHome Control app. While the plug works by itself quite nicely, it can easily tie into to any smart home system you can think of including big names like Apple’s HomeKit and Amazon Alexa along with the lesser-known Samsung SmartThings and Wink. Using the app, you can even monitor power consumption stats of the plugged-in device.
On the hardware side, the plug only takes up one outlet space. That means you’ll have room to put two switches onto a standard outlet plate or use the other plug for something else. And if other members of your household haven’t jumped on the smart home train, iHome even includes a handheld remote that can turn the switch on or off from up to 35 feet away. Users can purchase additional remotes separately. The switch can even be controlled away from home.
2. Philips Hue White A19 Starter Kit [no longer available]
Connected lighting is another big part of any smart home, and can bring many fun and creative options into play.
One of the top systems is the Philips Hue line, and for good reason. Along with the top-of-the-line color changing bulbs, there is also a more affordable version that shows only white light. The A19 starter kit offers both a home hub and two white bulbs.
Even if the lights aren’t connected to a dimmer switch, you can change the intensity of the light using the well-designed Hue app.
The light gives off a maximum of 800 lumens, which should brighten up any area. While you do need to attach the Hue bridge to your wireless router, the process takes just a few minutes and the app walks you through all of the steps. One bridge can power up to 50 bulbs.
After installing the lights in sockets, the fun can begin. Philips is one of the only smart lighting systems compatible with both HomeKit and Alexa, which definitely makes it useful. Control is also a cinch even away from a home network.
If you’re interested in adding on other bulbs, there are a number of different sizes available, and you can even purchase physical switches and a motion sensor for additional automation.
While there are a few smart smoke/CO detectors on the market, installing a full house of the connected devices could easily be cost prohibitive. But Leeo is both an affordable and easy-to-use way to add an extra layer of protection to your home.
As you could probably tell from the image above, Leeo is obviously a color-changing nightlight. But it can do much more than that.
Plug Leeo into a normal outlet, then connect to Wi-Fi and set it up using its companion app. Leeo works by monitoring regular smoke/carbon monoxide detectors and will alert you via the app when you’re away from home if any of the alarms sound. If there is no response to the notification, it will then actually place a call to your phone. If you are unavailable, the device can even call specific friends and family to inform them of a potential emergency.
During an emergency, Leeo will play a short audio clip so you can confirm that an alarm is actually going off, and then you can call emergency services directly from the app.
And as an extra added bonus, Leeo will also monitor both temperature and humidity. It will then notify you if either value strays out of a customized range.
During a smoke or carbon monoxide event, every second counts. And Leeo adds a simple dose of smart security to your home.
4. Blink Home Security Camera System ($99/£130)
Security cameras can be great additions to a smart home setup.
And while many of them can connect to the cloud via Wi-Fi technology, there’s one other big issue many users experience. That’s due to the fact that most cameras need power from a wall outlet to operate. You may not have an outlet near where the camera needs to be placed, and most renters or apartment dwellers can’t exactly snake wires through their walls.
But that’s no worry with the Blink Home Security Camera system. Completely wireless, each camera runs on two AA batteries that can last for up to a staggering two years. This means that users can place the cameras virtually anywhere.
That flexibility does come with a few compromises. The camera isn’t recording 24/7 and will only start recording when it senses motion. It will record up to a 60-second clip in HD video. Users will then receive a notification to view the clip. Up to two hours of video resides in the cloud for free. That is a big plus when compared to other systems that usually have some type of monthly subscription fee to store and access footage.
You can also check in on each camera live.
There are a number of different systems available to purchase. But you can easily start with a one-camera system and purchase additional units when needed, including an outdoor version that’s waterproof and features night vision.
I’ve been using the system for more than a year, and it’s truly set-it-and-forget-it technology.
If you’re looking for a smart home device that can grow with you and provide a huge number of other features, it’s hard to go wrong with Amazon’s Echo line of connected speakers.
While the voice-controlled Echo was the first in the series, the almost $200 price tag would make it difficult to fill an entire house with the speakers. But the e-commerce giant recently tackled that issue with the svelte and more affordable Echo Dot.
Think of the Dot as the Echo’s younger and smaller brother, that still offers all of its features. Even though it can operate as a standalone speaker, the best way to use the Echo Dot is to attach it to any other speaker you have around the house using Bluetooth or a normal 3.5mm cable.
Along with being able to control a growing number of smart home devices, users can use the Echo Dot to order from Amazon, play music, and even take advantage of more than 10,000 “skills”. Skills (actions that the Dot can perform for you) include everything from ordering a pizza from Domino’s to requesting an Uber.
And since the Echo Dot is fully voice-controlled, every family member can be using the speaker in no time. In my house, the Echo Dot is easily the most popular piece of technology. Even technology neophytes can be playing music and controlling a smart home in no time.
As the old saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. And that definitely applies when building a smart home. Selecting an easy-to-use and affordable smart home device is a great way to get a taste of the technology and see first-hand how it can integrate into your daily routine.
What affordable and easy-to-use smart home devices are you using? Let us know in the comments.
Image Credit: Stanisic Vladimir via Shutterstock.com