You don’t need to be stacked like Bill Gates or have a bank account like Zuckerberg’s to afford a home that bends to your every whim. With Bluetooth-enabled air fresheners, vacuum cleaners with Wi-Fi and countless other connected gadgets flooding what’s been dubbed the “Internet of Things” (IoT), it’s more affordable than ever to integrate smart home technology into your everyday.
If you want to start controlling your surroundings from the palm of your hand, here are 10 smart home products to upgrade your abode without taking your bank account offline.
1. Smarter Coffee ($239)
Why bother waking up to make coffee, when this clever caffeine machine can brew the perfect pot while you spend a few more minutes in slumbertown? Sure, coffee machines have had timers for years, but how many let you use the smartphone on your nightstand to adjust the strength, flavor and amount you’d like made? This beast even cleans itself, so you don’t have to worry about any unsightly stains. At close to $250, this java generator isn’t exactly cheap, but seeing as the average American spends more than $1,000 at coffee shops each year, it’s still more cost-efficient than grabbing some joe to-go.
2. Belkin WeMo ($49)
Crank up your appliances’ IQs with this smart outlet adapter that gives you the power to remotely control which of your plugged-in devices receive electricity. The Wi-Fi-enabled WeMo works with just about any product that plugs into a standard outlet, so you can turn on fans, turn off lights and play master of your domain with just a few taps on your smartphone. The mobile app even lets you see how much juice each appliance is drawing, which could help you lower your electricity bill.
Atmosphere and Ambience
3. Nest Learning Thermostat ($249)
Not only does this game-changing device let owners control their heating and air conditioning from wherever they are, but based on your smartphone’s GPS, it also knows when you’re home and when you’re not, and it learns what temps you like based on your habits. Another big bonus: The thermostat can pay for itself by letting you know when a small temperature adjustment can shave bucks off your electric bill. How long it takes for potential savings to outweigh the cost of the Nest depends on a number of factors, including where users live, how much electricity they consume and how effectively they use of thermostat. Most users, however, can expect to see a return on their investment within 2 years.
4. Philips Hue Lightbulbs ($49)
Take your living room to the next level by installing a set of these futuristic bulbs that emit any color light you like. Make your floor lamps match your mood or your outfit, or sync them up with your TV for more immersive entertainment experience. The bulbs can even flash your favorite team’s color after they score, or imbue your room with opposing shades depending on how the stock market’s performing. And since Hue can be controlled from your smartphone, it’s simple to save money by switching off lights when no one’s home.
Security and Monitoring
5. SmartThings ($99)
After launching as a Kickstarter campaign in 2012, this smart home system was acquired by Samsung in 2014 and continues to exist on the cutting edge of the IoT. At the center of this ecosystem is the SmartThings Hub, a white box slightly larger than a hockey puck. It connects with a variety of sold-separately sensors and other smart-home tech to help you keep tabs on pets, water leaks, and unexpected activity when you’re away.
6. Nest Cam ($199)
The Nest Cam (formerly Dropcam) is among the most feature-rich Wi-Fi enabled home cameras out there. This little guy doesn’t just let you see what’s happening, it understands the difference between a falling branch and a masked intruder, and will only notify you of likely threats to your home. The newly launched outdoor version is equally effective and fully weatherproof.
7. Kevo Smart Lock ($149)
Much like our grandparents did 50 years ago, most of us are still digging around in our purses and pockets for keys that grant us access to our pads. Made by inveterate key-maker Kwikset, the Kevo Smart Lock changes all that by using Bluetooth technology to detect when your smartphone is near. All you have to do is touch the lock, and then it’s open sesame. You can even use the app to grant others one-time access to your home.
8. Ring Doorbell ($199)
Ding dong; the future’s at your door. This ultra-modern doorbell lets you use your smartphone to find out what’s happening just outside your place. The real-time video transmission lets you see whether it’s a delivery guy dropping off your goods, or a criminal casing the joint. You can even talk to whoever’s out there to give them the impression that you’re home, or to tell ’em to bugger off.
9. Amazon Echo ($179)
Commonly called “Alexa,” this cylindrical smart speaker might creep-out some due to its always-on microphone that can hear you from across the room, but it can also save you a ton of time (and provide hours of entertainment) by answering your questions and obeying your commands. Alexa can even save you money by helping you find Amazon’s best deals. Visit Echosim.io to test out Alexa before buying one.
10. Google Home ($TBD)
Debuting later this year, this is Google’s answer to Amazon’s Alexa. We’ll likely have to wait until the holidays to see everything that this device has in store, but if you already use Google products and are on the fence about the Echo, this gadget might be worth the wait.
Along with being able to control them from your phone, many of these ingenious gizmos also play nicely with each other, or can function as part of larger smart home systems including Apple HomeKit. Better yet, nearly every one of these modern marvels integrates with the online service, IFTTT (If This, Then That). Interested in learning more about IFTTT, check out our post on easy ways to automate your life.