Smart Home

Building a Smart Home? Avoid These 5 Popular Gadgets

Dan Price 19-01-2018

Welcome to 2018. Perhaps you’ve decided this is the year where you’re going to turn your boring old dumb house into the envy of your neighborhood. Yes, 2018 is the year in which you will finally get your dream smart home.


But before hitting the shops and spending all your money on every smart gadget under the sun, you first need to spend a bit of time doing some research. Not all smart home gadgets are worthwhile. Some are overpriced, some are unnecessary, and some are a security nightmare.

In this article, we’re going to look at five popular gadgets you shouldn’t invest in. For each one, we’ll explain why you should give it a wide berth.

1. Philips Hue

Why should you avoid it? It’s overpriced.

The Philips Hue brand was responsible for bringing the world of smart lights into the public conscience.

The company’s vast marketing budget, along with its long-standing history in the lightbulb sector, allowed Hue bulbs to gain a level of recognition that would have been unreachable for start-ups.


building smart home avoid popular gadgets

However, times have changed. Today, there are lots of smaller smart light manufacturers in the market, many of whom offer excellent products at significantly lower prices Philips Hue Alternatives That Are Actually Worth It The Philips Hue system is leading the charge when it comes to smart lighting, but there are some worthy alternatives. We've picked three that all offer the same basic feature set and hackability. Read More . We’ve looked at several of them in detail in an article elsewhere on the site.

We also worked out it would take you nearly a decade to break even 5 Reasons Philips Hue Bulbs Are Overpriced and Pointless Thinking about purchasing a Philips Hue Smart Lighting system to save money and create cool lighting effects? Read this article first, because the realities of Philips Hue don't always live up to the hype. Read More if you used Hue. If you buy a product with less upfront cost, the period will be much shorter.

2. Fibaro Flood Sensor

Why should you avoid it? It’s useless in a flood.


Water sensors do have their place in the smart home world. They can alert you to a slowly leaking tap in the basement or an overflowing bath upstairs.

But the Fibaro product ambitiously calls itself a “flood sensor.” Firstly, we’re not sure we need a piece of tech to tell us that our house is under three feet of water.

building smart home avoid popular gadgets

Secondly, what happens if you lose power during a severe storm? It’s the time you most need the sensor to work, but unless you’ve had the foresight to charge the emergency battery, it’ll be out-of-action.


Away from the practicalities of using a flood sensor, many users have also complained about a poor experience while setting the device up.

Keep your wallet in your pocket.

3. Smart Home Hub

Why should you avoid it? Hubs are reaching the end of their lifespan.

Admit it, you thought a hub was an essential part of any smart home set up, didn’t you? To fully understand why smart home hubs could be reaching their natural end-of-life, we need to look back in history.


In 2012, just as home automation was becoming a widespread consumer “thing,” a small Kickstarter campaign launched. Twelve months later, it had raised over $1 million and SmartThings was born. It solved the Achilles tendon of smart homes: power.

By allowing devices to communicate using low-energy protocols like Z-Wave and ZigBee What's the Difference Between Zigbee and Z-Wave? Here's Everything You Need to Know To ensure your smart home devices communicate well with each other, it's important to know what wireless language they speak! Here's everything you need to know about Zigbee and Z-wave. Read More , batteries on standalone smart devices were able to last for years rather than days.

Soon, several competitors were springing up. But as the market started to gain traction in the foreground, in the background, a threat was lurking.

building smart home avoid popular gadgets

Bluetooth LE launched in 2011. By 2015, it was common in smart home devices. Simultaneously, Wi-Fi devices were improving. Improved energy efficiency meant devices could connect directly to a phone over a Wi-Fi network. Hubs were becoming unnecessary.

Today, the final death knell for smart home hubs has been the massive success of voice-controlled smart speakers Amazon Echo vs. Google Home vs. Apple HomePod In this article, you'll learn the differences between the Amazon Echo and Google Home. We'll also take a look at what features an Apple speaker may include. Read More like Amazon Echo and Google Home. They are now the heart of the typical smart home.

Echo (2nd Generation) - Smart speaker with Alexa and Dolby processing - Heather Gray Fabric Echo (2nd Generation) - Smart speaker with Alexa and Dolby processing - Heather Gray Fabric Buy Now On Amazon $34.08

Sure, they don’t communicate using low-energy protocols, but accessible APIs mean companies’ new products can immediately plug into the ecosystem.

Bottom line? Save your money and buy a voice-controlled speaker rather than a hub.

4. Smart Security System

Why should you avoid it? A traditional alarm is safer.

Look, we’re not turning our nose up at home security. A reliable alarm system is a crucial part of any residence. And therein lies the problem with smart security systems — reliance.

Reliance can be broken down into two aspects: physical security and virtual security. Smart alarms are not as efficient as traditional alarms on either point.

From a physical security viewpoint, smart alarms depend on a Wi-Fi connection to get security alerts to their owners. So, what happens if your Wi-Fi is offline? When it comes to staying abreast of security issues in your home when you’re away, you’re putting your trust in your ISP. It’s probably not wise.

building smart home avoid popular gadgets

On the other hand, traditional alarms are hooked up to the phone line. If you pay for a monitoring service, the alarm company can notify the police and yourself as soon as there’s an incident.

And from a virtual security viewpoint, you’re vulnerable to hackers. Think how many smart devices have been hacked in recent years 5 Security Concerns to Consider When Creating Your Smart Home Many people attempt to connect as many aspects of their lives to the web as possible, but many people have expressed genuine concerns over how secure these automated living spaces actually are. Read More : smart TVs, baby monitors, even children’s toys. In a famous case in 2014, a man started screaming at a sleeping child after hacking the monitoring system.

It’s not long until a smart alarm system gets hacked. And when it happens, you don’t want to be the unlucky recipient.

Stay safe and install a traditional alarm with a private monitoring service. You’ll never miss a notification, and it cannot be hacked.

5. Griffin Smart Toaster

Why should you avoid it? Because it’s a smart toaster.

It’s always fun to end these lists with something a bit daft, and the smart home has an almost limitless supply of contenders. We’ve covered many smart home products you don’t need 14 Ridiculous Smart Home Products You Don't Need Many "smart" products are a waste of money, cause privacy and security issues, and make you look foolish. Maybe think twice before trying any of these products! Read More elsewhere on the site.

Today’s entrant is the Griffin Smart Toaster. Its main feature is that it can send you a notification when your bread is burned to the exact level of crispiness you desire.

building smart home avoid popular gadgets

Look, we can see why it’s attractive. In a twisted way, it sounds almost cool. But the price tag is $100. My toaster cost less than $10, and it makes bread exactly the way I like it.

CASDON Morphy Richards Toaster Playset, Red/Grey/Black CASDON Morphy Richards Toaster Playset, Red/Grey/Black Buy Now On Amazon $15.69

A smart toaster, like so many other “smart appliances,” is pointless. It’s not going to improve your life. Don’t bother.

Which Gadgets Will You Avoid?

We’ve introduced you to five gadgets that you don’t need to include in a smart home for it work efficiently. Either the tech is out of date, there are cheaper alternatives available, or it could be a security risk. Trust us, there are tons of gadgets out there that are a much better chocie for building your smart home How to Build an Effective and Affordable Smart Home From the Ground Up Heard about smart homes but have no idea what they are? Interested in smart gadgets but don't know where to start? This article has everything you need to start building your own smart home. Read More .

If your friend was building a smart home tomorrow, which devices would you tell them to avoid? Which gadgets have you owned which proved to be a disappointment?

Related topics: Home Automation, Philips Hue, Smart Hubs.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Dave
    March 7, 2019 at 10:25 am

    I absolutely will not have a smart home without zwave support. I don't like voice "hubs" because flatly they suck. And they don't suck just a little. I bought one...I stress one. And I will never buy another. That one device has caused so many issues I can't count. Not to mention it doubles every device in my Alexa list of devices (which I can't delete). I purposely look for the same voice devices without a hub now.

  2. Peter
    January 23, 2018 at 1:21 am

    I'do think that voice control is part of the future and there might be Echo or Google home then that can control all this devices but for now a hub is a must for a moderate home automation. At least the new Amazon Echo Plus with Zigbee support.
    When it comes to lights as Philips Hue, yes they are overpriced, but for that money you do get broadly accepted product with higher lumens (I have not found a smart light bulb with more lumens).

    • Ryan
      October 23, 2018 at 10:23 am

      Agreed, you can't have a good smart home right now without a Zwave/Zigbee hub.

      Bluetooth LE doesn't have a mesh mode, so everything needs to be within it's very short range. Is there even a system that can aggregate and automate a bunch of Bluetooth LE devices?

      WiFi is appropriate for many devices, but I don't know of any WiFi enabled wall switches, tiny motion sensors, door/window sensors, etc. WiFi devices are also at least double the price of their Zwave counterparts, and they can't run on batteries for years in like most Zwave/Zigbee devices. Every WiFi device needs hardwired power or a battery that needs regular recharging.

      Also Smart home hubs provide the best automation tools for power users. Webcore on Smart things V2 beats the pants off every alternative I've seen, and WILL work without wifi or power, since the hub has battery backup(obviously only battery powered Zwave devices will work). Even if someone cuts the power before breaking into my house, my window and door sensors will still trigger my two strobe/siren devices.

      Besides the fact that practically every smart home device that uses Zwave/Zigbee is cheaper and available from more companies, what about the impact on your WiFi system? Between Sonos, harmony, ring, nest, Roku, cameras, phones/tablets/computers, and whatever else I'm forgetting I have 48 devices connected, according to my Google WiFi. If I moved all my Zwave/Zigbee devices to WiFi I would be nearing 100 devices. If I had a normal router, my it'd probably melt down or add massive latency.

  3. R L
    January 21, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    The thing about #4 is that the WiFi part isn't totally true. Vivint, for example: certain things, like cameras, need Wi-Fi to access remotely. But the system in general still functions without it, using cellular technology. (And no, it does not require you to have a cellular plan.) So not only do you still get alerts without Wi-Fi, and the alarm will still go off, security will be notified, etc, you can even control aspects of your smart home, such as door locks, without Wi-Fi. And because of battery backup, it will continue to function for hours even if the power fails. A traditional landline system can be cut, or blocked, or interfered with by other means, so there are actually many safety arguments against landline systems and for wireless systems. Anything can be hacked, wireless or not. But with a reliable company won stays on top of the industry, that actually helps reduce the likelihood it won't happen to you. Plus, if you ever cancel your subscription, even if you don't have active monitoring anymore, the equipment itself still functions and you still have a working smart home with a local alarm and alerts.

    Sorry, as a private user and an independent distributor, I have to disagree on #4... Besides, the equipment itself is z-wave compatible, meaning you can add third party z-wave devices and use on compatible third party systems, so at the end of the day, with or without the security system, you're left with high quality equipment you can cross use even if you decide to go back to a traditional security system. Personally, having used both, I'd never go back!

  4. simon
    January 21, 2018 at 10:46 am


  5. Adrian Van der heijden
    January 21, 2018 at 2:30 am

    Uneducated and Uninformed journalism at its best again.
    Simply write a heading and story that disagrees with the common knowledge of smart homes and get instant readers.
    I simply ask, what products do you have installed in your home? What training and experience do you have with smart homes and these more appropriate technologies than wifi and bluetooth?
    Controlling a light via voice is not smart, it's simply another form of control. A light that turns on when someone enters the room and the room is dark and after midnight only turn the light on to 15%, that's smart.

    • Adam
      January 21, 2018 at 4:39 am

      That is called "Home automation". Maybe you should not be so quick on judging people if you yourself don't have the knowledge, or the right terminology for that matter... Just saying.

      • dragonmouth
        January 21, 2018 at 2:30 pm

        And what is Smart Home if not home automation?! Magic?

  6. Anthony Barnaby
    January 20, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    I strongly disagree with this article.

    First off Phillips Hue lights are a bit more pricecy then their competitors but you get what you pay for in terms of quality, integration and innovation. I love my Hue and was able to transform my standard light arrary in my home effortlessly and I didnt break the bank. Traditional secuirty systems are boring and don't have the lifestyle flexibility that comes with smart home especially when paired with a hub. Things like changing lighting, opening/locking my doors and affecting other smart devices in the event of an alarm are just not possibile with traditional systems. Hubs in particular allow for very specific routine tweaking that standard systems dont address. Most ISP providers offer battery backup on their routers and the hubs themselves have bluethooth protocals built in now a days. So things raerly go down in my home. Lastly from an interior design perspective these products blend well in the modern home and are multifunctional in their application. Hubs transform your secuity system into an entertainment system while still offering protection.

  7. Daniel
    January 20, 2018 at 9:32 am

    Wow, what a bunch of bullshit.
    Yes, there are cheaper alternatives for Philips Hue, but if you want the full experience you have to buy them. I love my Hues and would never get a cheaper version of smart lights.

    Alexa and Google Home will never be as convenient as a hub. Imho a home is smart when it goes along with your daily routine without making you do anything. If I had to talk to Alexa/Google all the time just to turn on the TV or the light in the kitchen, I would get crazy. That's not smart, that's annoying. Smartthings ftw.

    I also don't get the security part. No security system could beat my smart security system. I get notifications with taken videos/photos on my phone, it also stores them in a cloud. I can lock all my doors when someone broke in and call the police. I get notified if the door or a windows is opened without me being home. I can automatically activate a panic mode so that a loud sound plays and the lights are all going on and off, if someone tries to break in but hasn't already etc etc.

  8. Eyal
    January 20, 2018 at 8:44 am

    You have no idea, and you should not write an article without understanding the industry.
    Smart hub is still required and it's a small investment for what it brings, IT CONSOLIDATES all the devices and provided a central way of controlling your house. How did you come up with Echo/Google Home replacing it?!?! These smart speakers/microphones just replace the interface to communicate with these devices/hub not replace the hubs themselves.
    Silly article, you should remove it. Or ask Alexa to delete it for you....

  9. Milos
    January 20, 2018 at 5:30 am

    Really bad, really. The Fibaro flood sensor, with all the other sensors works even when the hub is off, if you set it with associations to let's say flow stop. This way, if the water is detected, it shuts down the main water valve. Of course, it will not do the trick if the electricity is off, but that's the case for everything! You can use the backup battery for the flow stop module though.
    And saying that Alexa and Google home are taking place instead of smart home hubs is real stupidity. Smart home is not a home where you need to say if you want anything to happen. Smart home is place where it happens based on the sensor status. If I need to tell Alexa to turn on the lights every time I walk in to the room that's really really not smart.
    And saying that WiFi or Bluetooth are good instead of Z-Wave or zigbee? Did you even read about those protocols ever? Do you know what mesh is? Do you know what wake up interval is? Do you know what flirs is? Do you know what network interference can do to your smart home? Jesus, tis shit is the worst thing I read in 2-3 years...

  10. Ethan
    January 19, 2018 at 11:15 pm

    Agree, Google Home and Echo are just not smart enough to use then alone, with smart things there are more actions/automations one can do.

  11. Ian
    January 19, 2018 at 5:19 pm

    I take issue with #3. Hubs are absolutely still valuable, and the notion that you should get a smart speaker instead is confusing. Google Home and Echo integrate fabulously with SmartThings and most other hubs- the speakers are not the brains. If you want to only perform simple "on/off" operations, sure just use a smart speaker. My hub is my homes' brain and does all sorts of logic and automation without my participation - it's wonderful. I have 6 Google Homes' in the house so we can talk to the house and the house can talk back. Hubs and speakers are great together and are in no way mutually exclusive in their use.

    • Doug
      January 19, 2018 at 6:23 pm

      Totally agree. This is an obtuse article that’s clearly written by someone without the pulse of the industry.

    • Paul
      January 19, 2018 at 9:10 pm

      Completely agree. Sure Amazon is now starting to do routines built in, but the intelligence is nothing like a Smartthings Hub. Maybe one day? Not right now.

    • Louis
      January 20, 2018 at 3:34 pm

      The only thing I agree with is the toaster. The rest of the article is just wrong.
      You can’t compare apples and oranges. Yes you can buy cheaper bulb (which I did) but you get what you payed for. Philips are just as expensive as other competitors of the same quality. Yes to a certain extent newer product uses wifi to connect, but a hub still interconnects different brand, products, technology and protocols. IFTTT may help in that regard but you still have too connect the different devices/protocols in your home. Plus Bluetooth doesn’t have good range.
      The other items listed there, well that just a matter of preferences.