Smart Home on a Budget: 10 Cheap Alternatives to Popular Devices
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If you’re new to the world of smart homes, it’s easy to be fooled into thinking they cost a small fortune to set up and maintain. In truth, a lot of manufacturers are promoting over-priced products that are woefully short on functionality.

Sure, the best devices from the premium brands are expensive. But here’s a dirty little secret: you probably don’t need them. If you’re a smart shopper Shipping Smartly: 5 Frugal Tips to Save Money When Shopping Online Shipping Smartly: 5 Frugal Tips to Save Money When Shopping Online You're shopping around online, you find the perfect item just within your budget, but the shipping is just way too much? Here's how to cut those fees down to size. Read More , it’s easy to get up and running for a fraction of the cost while still enjoying broadly similar features.

If you’re trying to set up a smart home on a budget, keep reading. Here are 10 cheap alternatives to popular smart home brands.

Smart Lighting

The market leader in this sector is unquestionably Philips Hue. But in many ways, it’s very overpriced 5 Reasons Philips Hue Bulbs Are Overpriced and Pointless 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 . In an analysis elsewhere on the site, we established it would probably take you at least a decade to break even if you kitted out your entire home.

Luckily, there are lots of cheaper alternatives Philips Hue Smart Bulb Alternatives to Save Money Philips Hue Smart Bulb Alternatives to Save Money In this article, you’ll learn about some of the less expensive alternatives to Philips Hue and see how they compare. Read More . We’ve covered them in another article, but here’s a quick recap:

1. GE C-Life

C by GE A19 C-Life and C-Sleep Smart LED Light Bulb Combo by GE Lighting, 2-Pack, Works with Alexa C by GE A19 C-Life and C-Sleep Smart LED Light Bulb Combo by GE Lighting, 2-Pack, Works with Alexa Buy Now At Amazon $19.99

General Electric’s C-Life range is woefully under-appreciated. They have many of the same features as Philips Hue. For example, you can put them into groups and control entire rooms at the same time, they dim automatically, and they offer voice control through the C-Reach smart bridge.

Best of all, they’re cheap. A single 9.5-watt bulb only costs about $15, while an equivalent Hue bulb is around $25.

2. Ikea Tradfri

You didn’t even know Ikea made smart lights, did you? It shouldn’t come as any surprise — the Swedish retail giant has its fingers in lots of pies.

The Tradfri series of products is a no-frills approach to smart lights. Sure, all the usual features like offsite control and scheduling are present, but it lacks some advanced features like Alexa and Google Home integration.

cheap alternatives to popular smart home devices

Still, you get what you pay for. And you don’t pay much. You can expect to part with around $70 for a starter pack. It includes a hub, two bulbs, and a remote control. That’s almost $50 cheaper than the Hue starter pack. Each additional bulb is around $10.

Smart Entertainment

When you think of smart in-home entertainment, your mind probably wanders to high-end wireless speaker brands Buying Wireless Speakers? How to Pick the Best System for You Buying Wireless Speakers? How to Pick the Best System for You Don't make an investment in a wireless speaker system without taking these considerations into account. A little bit of thought can save you a world of money, time, and trouble! Read More like Sonos and Bose, or expensive streaming boxes like Apple TV.

There are cheaper models out there.

3. Chromecast Audio

Unless you’re an audiophile Are You an Audiophile? These 10 Questions Reveal the Truth Are You an Audiophile? These 10 Questions Reveal the Truth You might think you are an audiophile, but in reality very few music lovers tick all of the necessary boxes. Are you really an audiophile? Or are you just a great pretender? Read More , a Chromecast Audio is probably suitable for you Sonos vs. Chromecast Audio: Which Is Best For You? Sonos vs. Chromecast Audio: Which Is Best For You? A lot of people seem to think Sonos and Chromecast Audio are the same thing, but they wold be mistaken. While their core purpose might be the same, the differences between them are vast... Read More . In case you’re not aware, it’s a small dongle that plugs into the back of your old dumb Hi-Fi, thus enabling you to stream music to it from anywhere in your home. Most Android apps are compatible with the technology.

cheap alternatives to popular smart home devices

And while a single Sonos Play:1 speaker (the entry-level model) will set you back $199, a Chromecast Audio is only $35. That means you can transform six Hi-Fi units in your home for an equivalent outlay.

4. Roku

Roku Streaming Stick (3600R) - HD Streaming Player with Quad-Core Processor Roku Streaming Stick (3600R) - HD Streaming Player with Quad-Core Processor Buy Now At Amazon $52.16

Of course, Google also produces a regular Chromecast. It plugs into your TV and lets you watch apps like Netflix and Hulu.

But a better option is a Roku Streaming Stick. The company refreshed the device’s specs in mid-2017 A Brief Guide to the New Roku Hardware for 2017 A Brief Guide to the New Roku Hardware for 2017 Roku has refreshed its entire lineup for 2017. The problem is it's difficult to keep track of so many different devices. Let us help you with this brief guide to Roku's new hardware. Read More . Rokus are easy to set up, offer thousands of free and private channels 20 Private Roku Channels You Should Install Right Now 20 Private Roku Channels You Should Install Right Now In this article we explain how to add private channels to your Roku, and recommend 20 of the best that we think you should install immediately. Read More , and are service/operating system agnostic. A Roku Streaming Stick is only $49.99 on the company’s website. It’s often even cheaper on Amazon.

And the Roku is certainly more cost-effective than spending $179 on the entry-level version of Apple’s new 4K Apple TV device!

Smart Hubs

In this category, the most well-known product is arguably Samsung SmartThings. It works with hundreds of apps and devices to help all the gadgets in your smart home talk to each other.

Its typical retail price is $99.99. It’s not exactly expensive, but it might be more than you’re willing to pay if you’re just starting your smart home journey.

5. Insteon Hub

Insteon Hub, Works with Alexa, the Google Assistant, & More, Create Schedules & Scenes, Uses Superior Dual-Mesh Wireless Technology for Unbeatable Reliability, Better than Wi-Fi, Zigbee & Z-Wave Insteon Hub, Works with Alexa, the Google Assistant, & More, Create Schedules & Scenes, Uses Superior Dual-Mesh Wireless Technology for Unbeatable Reliability, Better than Wi-Fi, Zigbee & Z-Wave Buy Now At Amazon $40.99

Instead, why not try the Insteon Hub? You can often find one for as little as $30 on Amazon, though prices sometimes go as high as $45. Either way, it marks a significant saving.

cheap alternatives to popular smart home devices

It works with switches, lights, thermostats, sensors, security cameras, and more to let you build the perfect schedules for your home.

The hub can be controlled from the accompanying smartphone app or by using the Amazon Alexa integration.

6. Wink Hub

Wink Connected Home Hub Wink Connected Home Hub Buy Now At Amazon $34.90

The Wink Hub can also save you money. It’s more expensive than the Insteon product but cheaper than SmartThings. Amazon often offers excellent deals to lower the cost further.

The Wink covers most connection standards used by smart devices, including Z-Wave, ZigBee, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, Lutron ClearConnect, Kidde, and more. Additionally, it works with a dazzling array of third-party apps and devices, including — ironically — everything else in the Samsung SmartThings range.

Smart Thermostats

The market-leading smart thermostat, Nest, is one of the most well-known smart devices in any category. Since Google bought the parent company in 2014, it has gone from strength-to-strength. Right now, it’s market position looks unassailable.

Unless, of course, you’re trying to save money.

A third-generation Nest Learning Thermostat will cost you an eye-watering $250. Keep your money in your pocket and buy one of these alternatives instead Finding the Best Smart Thermostat for Your Home Finding the Best Smart Thermostat for Your Home Looking for a good smart thermostat for your home? Keep in mind that some are smarter than others! Take a look -- one of these options may be your solution! Read More .

7. Ecobee 3 Lite

ecobee3 lite Smart Thermostat ecobee3 lite Smart Thermostat Buy Now At Amazon $135.00

The Ecobee 3 Lite costs around $170 on the company’s website, though again, you might be able to buy one for less on Amazon.

Clearly, $170 isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s still an $80 saving over the newest Nest device. And don’t forget smart thermostats can also save you more than 25 percent of your annual electric bill, thus further offsetting the upfront cost.

The Ecobee 3 Lite works with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, IFTTT, and SmartThings. For added functionality, consider buying some Ecobee room sensors, they’ll report the local conditions back to the thermostat, allowing it to make temperature alterations on-the-fly.

8. Sensi Smart Thermostat

Emerson Thermostats Sensi Smart Thermostat, Wi-Fi, UP500W, Works With Alexa Emerson Thermostats Sensi Smart Thermostat, Wi-Fi, UP500W, Works With Alexa Buy Now At Amazon $102.99

The Sensi Smart Thermostat is possibly the best value-for-money device on the market. You can expect to pay less than $100 if you buy the device through Amazon.

A “four-stage” heating system provides it with more flexibility than both the Nest and the Ecobee, and it’s simple to pre-program temperature settings to align with your daily routine.

It lacks auto-scheduling and motion sensor integration, but you can control it with your voice using an Amazon Echo device.

Smart Plugs

Using lots of smart plugs is the ultimate smart home hack 5 Smart Hacks To Save Electricity In Your Smart Home 5 Smart Hacks To Save Electricity In Your Smart Home he trick to saving electricity is in knowing where most of your energy is consumed. Read More . Sure, it might not be the most elegant solution, but adding a smart plug to every device and appliance you want to control remotely can save you a lot of money.

There are lots of great plugs out there, but remember, we’re looking for value for money.

9. TP-Link Smart Plug

Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug by TP-Link - Control your Devices from Anywhere, No Hub Required, Works with Alexa and Google Assistant (HS100) Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug by TP-Link - Control your Devices from Anywhere, No Hub Required, Works with Alexa and Google Assistant (HS100) Buy Now At Amazon $17.75

For between $20-$25 per plug, the TP-Link Smart Plug is probably your best option. It doesn’t require a hub, it supports both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and it’s fully programmable.

It also boasts an impressive smartphone app. The app’s best feature is its power monitoring: you can see which plugs are consuming the most electric then manage those appliances accordingly.

10. BearDot Mini Wi-Fi Smart Plug

BearDot Mini Wifi Smart Plug, Compatible with Alexa and Google Home, Smart Home Devices that Connect with Alexa and Google Home, no hub required, App and voice control anywhere and anytime (XLC17006) BearDot Mini Wifi Smart Plug, Compatible with Alexa and Google Home, Smart Home Devices that Connect with Alexa and Google Home, no hub required, App and voice control anywhere and anytime (XLC17006) Buy Now At Amazon $13.99

The BearDot Mini Wi-Fi Smart Plug is not as well-known as other brands, but it’s a great entry-level model for beginners who don’t want to spend a lot of money.

Like the TP-Link, it doesn’t require a hub to run, it can connect to your Wi-Fi network, and it plays nicely with both Amazon Alexa and Google Home.

You can generally pick one up for between $14 and $20 on Amazon.

Which Budget Items Have You Bought?

In this article, we’ve looked at five of the most common categories of smart home gadgets and given you two cheaper replacements for the de facto market leaders.

Have you tried any of the devices we recommended? Do you think they are better than their more expensive competitors? As always, you can leave all your thoughts and opinions in the comments below. And remember to share this article with your followers on social media.

Image Credit: Y-Boychenko/Depositphotos

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  1. dragonmouth
    November 9, 2017 at 6:32 pm

    While a Smart Home sounds tres chic and very kewl, IMO it is a dumb idea.
    Number 1: Anything with WiFi connectivity can and will be hacked.
    Number 2: It is expensive, even using the devices mentioned in the article.
    Number 3: You lose your SmartPhone or it breaks, your Smart Home becomes stupid all of a sudden.
    Number 4: It is for poseurs. "Oh, look world. I got me a Smarty House and you don't! Nyah, nyah, nyah!"

  2. Lloyd
    November 8, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    I got the Smartthings hub for my nvidia shield for $10. I use that with my Google Home to control my Sengled smart light ($8-$9) each. I am very happy with the setup so far.

  3. Ag
    November 8, 2017 at 10:52 am

    Etekcity rf controlled plugs and hook hub. A cheaper solution than almost any competitor. Hook and 5 plug pack costs around 80 bucks which is still cheap. And the best part? It just works. Hook also integrates with Google home, smart things, ifttt and Amazon echo.