Not everyone has the budget for a full smart home environment, or you might just want to try a little smart technology, without the high outlay. Whatever you are interested in, from smart lighting to virtual assistants, thermostats, sensors or health technology, this year is the first one where lower-cost smart home technology is widely available. We take a tour for what you can get without leaving a big hole in your wallet.
Some lower costs products lose a feature or two compared to the more expensive types, but these tend to be the bonus features that you’ll never miss. Note that there are lots of products, especially smart lights, out there on the market with little or no branding direct from Chinese factories. While these might seem a bargain, they will come with little support, poorly translated instructions or applications, so check carefully what you’re getting before you spend any money.
Philips Hue is market leader when it comes to smart lighting and people can spend hundreds of dollars on fitting out there home with themed lighting and stylish set ups. However, if you just want to see how it goes, the Philips Hue Starter Kit is a good option, coming with two bulbs and the bridge needed to control them.
- Enhance your home with soft white lighting, controlled remotely wherever you are. Automate your lighting experience with the Philips Hue App, and ensure you never come home to a dark house.
- Each kit contains 2 Philips Hue White A19 60W Energy Star Certified LED Smart bulbs (able to fit most lamps and overhead lights); Philips Hue Bridge that can reliably control up to 50 Hue lights without slowing your WiFi; three-year warrantee.
- To install, simply screw in the smart bulbs into your desired light location, download the Hue mobile app and pair your Hue bridge. Control smart-bulb-equipped lamps and overhead lights via the Philips Hue App. Ideal for your favorite ceiling fan lights, floor lamps, table lamps, pendant lights, and more throughout your home.
- Easily expand your lighting system with accessories (sold separately), such as a Hue Dimmer Switch, Hue Tap, or Hue Motion Sensor. Pair it with your other Smart Home devices like Nest or SmartThings system.
- Control your Philips Hue lights with your voice using Alexa, Apple HomeKit, or Google Assistant. Pair it for home automation with your existing Nest or Samsung SmartThings system.
This second-generation kit comes with bulbs that can run brighter than the earlier version, solving one of the common complaints about Hue. You control the lights via a smartphone app and can set them to come on at set times, dim or brighten during the evening and so on. Note the option for frustration-free packaging, if you hate having to wrestle your way into technology products.
If you don’t want the hassle of the Hue’s bridge and extra legwork, the Smarson Bluetooth LED App Controlled Smart Light Bulb is a $25 way to try out smart lighting. Assuming it works, via Bluetooth, it has a decent looking app and is easy to control. However, the iOS app store support link takes you to a Chinese linen website (see what we were saying). Still, assuming you get a good unit, you can have fun playing with the light and adjusting the color to suit your mood or using the timer settings to make your day a little easier.
If you want to turn a favorite dumb light smart or any other electrical item around the home, then you don’t even need to worry about the bulb. Products like a TP-LINK Smart Plug can turn any device smart and controllable from your smartphone or through Alexa for just $30. That’s one very clever way to add smartness to a home without going overboard on new products, when the old ones will likely do just as well.
- Control From Anywhere: Turn electronics on or off from anywhere with your smartphone using the Kasa app (Compatible w/ Android & iOS)
- Voice Control works with amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana supported devices for a hands free experience; Operating Temperature: 0 ºC to 40 ºC (32°F to 104°F). Operating Humidity: 5 percent to 90 percent RH, Non condensing
- Flexible Control: UL Certfied to switch upto 15A, for flexible control of a wide range of plug in devices
- Kasa scenes & schedules: Schedule the Smart plug to automatically switch on and off when away or set a scene for controlling many devices with a single button
- Note: Requires a secured 2.4 gigahertz wifi network connection
Rather than blow $130 on the fully-fledged Amazon Echo, or more on Google’s Home, the Amazon Echo Dot is a low-cost way to try living with a smart virtual assistant. The second generation of the talkative little puck can be picked for a low price on Amazon. Available in black or white, it provides hands-free, voice-controlled access to your digital music services like Spotify, you can take control of smart home devices, listen to the latest news, traffic or weather and ask Alexa questions, build up shopping lists and more. Echo products get smarter every month with new features, so this is $50 well spent.
- Echo Dot is a voice-controlled speaker that uses Alexa to play music, control smart home devices, make calls, answer questions, set timers and alarms, and more.
- Play music from Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio.
- Call or message family and friends hands-free, or drop in from the Alexa App to your Echo device.
- Controls lights, locks, thermostats, and more with compatible connected devices.
- Use the built-in speaker, or for bigger sound, connect to speakers through Bluetooth or audio cable.
Smart sensors used to expect a smart home hub to work with, but increasingly products will talk to your smartphone via WiFi reducing a lot of the cost. These examples provide a low-cost way to protect or improve your home, whether you are in or out.
The D-Link Wi-Fi Smart Motion Sensor provides a low-cost way to detect activity around or near your home. For just $30, you can set one up wherever there’s a power point, and monitor up to 26-feet away. You can put one by a window, or facing a front door, even by the mailbox to see if there’s some post.
When it detects motion, via the passive infrared sensor, you get a signal on your phone and can take appropriate action. The D-Link sensor is IFTTT compatible, so it will work with other smart home products if you have them, it could turn a light on for example to make it look like there’s someone home.
- Detect motion up to 26 feet with a sensor angle of: horizontal 100 degree, vertical 80 degree
- Operating temperature: -10 to +40°C (14 to 104°F ) for land use, Temperature: 0 to 40°C (32 to 104°F) for underwater use.Connect with mydlink smart plugs and cameras to turn on/off devices or start video recording
- Receive push notifications via mobile app
- Connects to existing network with 24GHz Wi-Fi
- Mydlink iOS and Android mobile app & one button setup (WPS) for easy setup
Smart cameras have been one of the hottest sellers in home technology since they first arrived on the market. There are dozens of low-cost products on the market, but spending just a little more gets you the Zmodo Pan Tilt 720p HD Smart Home Video Security Camera.
At roughly $60 it does tilt and zoom so you can see what’s going on around the camera, not just where you position it. It comes with night vision to provide 24/7 coverage and easily connects to a smartphone app or through your PC’s browser to provide alerts or monitoring, with no need for expensive cloud subscriptions. Even at 720p, the image is of good quality and this unit is a third the price of its big name rivals. As with many products, the motion detection may take a while to work, providing some false alerts depending on the environment, but otherwise this is a high quality low-cost home monitoring solution.
- See more with 350 degree pan and 85 degree tilt, you can cover an entire room in 361-degree with this Zmodo PT camera.
- Full 720p HD image quality-you can see more clear and detailed image with this high resolution camera.IR Night Vision-See what's happening in the dark with automatic infrared lights.
- Easy and Quick Setup. Turn on the camera and complete the network configuration in just minutes. Connectivity:IP/Network-2.4GHz Wireless(Incompatible with 5GHz).
- No monthly subscription fees and lifetime US tech support.(Android 4.0 and newer and iOS 8 and newer) mobile devices app and web view available.
If your home is prone to flooding, then D-Link also offers a mydlink Wi-Fi Water Sensor for about $39. It comes with a sensor cable so you can leave it in a basement, utility room or other area where there’s a risk of flood or pipes leaking, it will send a message to the mydlink app on your phone and you can leap into action to save the day.
Also in this section come smart thermostats. They don’t have to be super smart and sexy like the Nest, but this Honeywell RTH6580WF Wi-Fi 7-Day Programmable Thermostat does the job just as well. You can program it as usual, or from Honeywell’s cloud service or through your mobile app, wherever you are. These traditional/smart thermostats might not have all the magic features, cool design and clever software of newer models, but if all you ever need to do is turn the heating on early from time to time, it will do the job well.
- ENERGY STAR certified. Help save energy, track your heating and cooling with monthly energy reports and get personalized tips on reducing energy use.
- SAVE ENERGY AND GET REWARDED by checking with your energy provider about available energy savings rebates to save on your purchase (rebate finder link above). Plus, eligible customers can enroll in ongoing energy savings incentives with their energy provider to keep saving all year long.
- C-WIRE POWER ADAPTER REQUIRED: Before purchasing, check to see if this thermostat is compatible with your home and to determine if your home needs a C-wire power adapter.
- SMART HOME INTEGRATION. The Wi-Fi 7-Day is compatible with voice assistant devices like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, and more.
- THERMOSTAT THAT FITS YOUR LIFE. 7-day, 4 periods per day, flexible programming lets you sync your comfort with your schedule.
Smart health started off very expensive with the likes of Apple, Nike and others all selling high-end fitness gadgets to encourage us all to better health. Within a few years, other products have stripped out the cost of brand and marketing, and there are now quite a few sensibly priced products available.
The Otium Fitness Tracker only costs $40 and lasts a week, unlike the Apple Watch’s 24-hour battery life. Despite the low-cost it is waterproof and dust proof, and can monitor your fitness activity, sleep and resting state, all linked to an iOS or Android app.
What it lacks is GPS, but if you take your phone with you, that can monitor where your run, ride or travel. Yes, it might look rather plastic compared to the many high-end watches out there, but this one is unlikely to attract thieves if left lying around and if it goes wrong is cheap to replace.
When it comes to weight gain, there are plenty of smart scales to help fight the flab, but most are over-priced or over-featured. Doing the job it is supposed to comes the Yunmai Wireless Bluetooth Smart Scale.
It sends your weight to a smartphone app via Bluetooth to keep an eye on gain or loss, and can also manage body fat and protein metrics. It works with popular health apps including Apple Health, Fitbit and Google Fit, and supports multiple users. Given there are scales that cost three times the price that do the same thing, this is quite the bargain, and the app provides encouragement to lose weight without being overly sanctimonious or sporty like some pro-athlete apps.