Now's the Best Time to Start a Smart Home—Here's How

Smart home controls on a tablet, with the living room interior in the backgroundStanisic Vladimir /

Smart home technology has been booming for years now. Smart home makers have had ample time to establish entire product ecosystems and perfect each one. And best of all? The prices of smart home gadgets have come down, making them more affordable than ever. So now is the best time to start building your smart home.

Which smart home ecosystem should you choose?

First things first: your smart home needs a foundation, which means you’ll need to choose an ecosystem of products. The three dominant ecosystems are Apple, Google and Amazon. Chances are, you already own a gadget from one of them and say “Hey Siri / Google / Alexa” regularly, so you already have one foot in the door of your future smart home.

Of course, you’re free to work with any company you want, but it makes sense to pick the ecosystem you’re probably already in. For example, if you own a Google Pixel smartphone, you’ll get the most out of going with Google and its Nest line of products. However, if you’re not already in an ecosystem, or if you don’t really care about being a part of it, consider using Amazon as it’s not tied to smartphones or any other device.

That said, if you’re interested in deep integrations for your smart home, you should consider using Amazon or Google rather than Apple. Unfortunately, Apple’s HomeKit doesn’t support nearly as many devices as the other two, and its products tend to be much more expensive than the others as well.

Once you’ve decided on an ecosystem, there are a few things to keep in mind, like cameras and doorbells. Nest cameras and Nest Hello will integrate seamlessly with products such as Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max. The Ring cameras and the Ring Doorbell will work best with the Amazon Echo as they are both Amazon products. If you mix cameras and doorbells, you might lose important integration with smart displays.

Fortunately, this is the exception to the rule. There are a decent handful of platform-independent smart home gadgets that work perfectly with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant / Nest, although Apple HomeKit support is hit or miss between manufacturers. It’s still the weirdest duck of the bunch, so you’ll have to be extra careful with compatibility if you decide to invest in a HomeKit setup.

Are smart home products worth the extra cost?

Voice activated smart speaker on table in comfortable bedroomr.classen /

Of course, smart home gadgets cost more than their “dumb” counterparts, and their increased price tag might be hard to justify for some. However, smart gadgets give you more convenience, options for customization, increased security, and even the ability to save energy and money in exchange for their higher price tag.

Smart home products can be connected to your favorite voice assistant, allowing you to turn on your lights or change your thermostat temperature with a simple voice command. This convenience is worth it when your hands are full of groceries or in a mess because you’re making a tasty dessert.

The best smart home devices also let you set them up on a schedule, so they automatically turn on or off at a set time, even when you’re away from home or on vacation. It’s a great way to boost your home’s security with minimal investment and effort on your part, especially if you pair it with a video doorbell or smart outdoor camera. These allow you to keep tabs on your property or even speak with visitors through the camera without opening your door (or when you’re not home).

Smart devices are also designed to save energy, which means you save money on your monthly electric bill. For example, a smart thermostat can automatically stop heating your home while you’re away, so you don’t have to pay to heat empty rooms. So with all of these benefits, are they worth the extra cost? We think so.

How to start building your smart home

Now that you’ve figured out which ecosystem you like, it’s time to choose some products. As we mentioned above, smart speakers and / or smart displays are the logical starting point for your smart home because they can connect and control your smart devices. Typically, most people put their first speaker or smart display in the kitchen or living room, as these are central areas of the house and rooms that see the most traffic, but ultimately you will probably want one or the other in almost any room. from your home.

After that, it makes more sense to branch out into smart lamps and sockets as they are the perfect second step. We also recommend that you add a smart display at some point, especially if you plan to add cameras or a video doorbell to your smart home. Smart screens are more versatile than speakers because you can see what’s going on on the screen, see security cameras, receive doorbell alerts, and more.

Cameras, thermostats, and other more advanced smart home items are the final piece of the puzzle. And from there you will have all the basics and it will be time to move on to smart home gadgets that are not needed.

Smart speakers

Smart speakers are the heart of every smart home. Once you’ve selected the ecosystem you want, choose a compatible smart speaker. Each of the three ecosystems offers several speaker options for all budgets, and all offer similar functionality. We’ve picked the smallest budget option for each one, so the costs don’t pile up too quickly, especially since you’ll almost certainly need more than one.

For Google enthusiasts: Google Nest Mini smart speakers (2nd generation)

Google Nest Mini Smart Speaker in Sky BlueGoogle

the Google Nest Mini is a smart little speaker that’s also incredibly powerful (and cute). Thanks to it, Google’s voice assistant can handle all kinds of tasks, like controlling your connected smart devices, informing you of upcoming events in your calendar, setting a timer, informing you of news, etc. He is even able to tell jokes and play various games with you.

The real strength of the Nest Mini, however, is its ability to stream music that sounds great. Despite its small size, the Mini emits massive sound with powerful bass. The speaker also works with popular music services like Spotify and YouTube Music, which is great for when you need a dance session or get caught up in a podcast while you work. We recommend the speaker to everyone, but especially those with Android or Google devices, like the Pixel 4a.

For Alexa Fans: Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon Echo DotAmazon

For those who prefer Amazon’s Alexa to other smart assistant options, the new Echo point is a great option for a smart speaker. The compact speaker delivers exceptional music and spoken words with crisp vocals and balanced bass. You can use simple voice commands to play music, podcasts, and radio stations from your favorite services, like Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music, SiriusXM, and more, even on multiple devices in your home.

You can ask Alexa to read the news, set an alarm, give the weather forecast, and even control any connected devices you own – all hands-free so you can stay focused on whatever else you want. work or enjoy.

For Apple users: Apple HomePod mini

Apple HomePod mini white with black mini behindApple

Even though the new Apple HomePod mini is more expensive than the other two speaker options, it is the best option for those who already have multiple Apple devices and like to use Siri. However, it costs more than others, so if you’re not already in the Apple ecosystem and looking to pick a smart speaker (or ecosystem), keep that in mind.

The HomePod mini has rich 360-degree sound, so whatever you play on it will sound great no matter where in a room you place it. Of course, you can use voice commands to make it play music, control supported smart devices, ask questions, play videos on your Apple TV and pretty much anything other speakers can. make. The mini can also seamlessly audio transition to your iPhone, if you want to continue listening to it when you leave the house.

Smart screens

Similar to smart speakers, smart displays are a great choice for the heart of your smart home. They cost a bit more than speakers, but adding a large color screen increases their usefulness and is well worth the increased cost. You can use one screen to display recipes or video tutorials, view your digital photos, or view the live feed of all the smart cameras you have built into your smart home setup.

Some also have built-in cameras that can be used for video chat or activated remotely for an additional security camera. You can also use a smart display in the same way as a smart speaker, with simple voice commands.

Best for those who choose Google: Nest Hub

Google Nest HubGoogle

For only $ 89.99, Google Nest Hub is a remarkable smart display. You can tell it to play music, play a video on Netflix, turn on the lights, and more. The clean and intuitive interface gives you a centralized place to view your connected devices, such as cameras, thermostats and lights. It also makes it easy to display the time and weather at a glance, and displays your digital photo collection when not in use. The wonderful device has earned us Product of the year price when it was released in 2018.

If you like the idea of ​​the Nest Hub but want it to have a bigger screen, better sound, and a camera, consider Nest Hub Max. the Hub Max offers nice physical upgrades as well as a much needed camera, but offers all the same great software and tools as the smaller Hub.

Fantastic for those who choose Amazon: Echo Show 8

Amazon Echo Show 8 smart display on a modern counterAmazon

From Amazon Echo Show 8 is slightly cheaper than the Nest Hub and it comes equipped with a camera, so if you haven’t chosen an ecosystem (or you’re not already in one) the Echo Show 8 is a solid argument. to choose Amazon. It supports video calling and messaging, lets you control smart home connected gadgets, and lets you do things like watch videos, listen to podcasts, and view a live feed from your home cameras. It is an extremely useful and entertaining device.

Amazon also publishes the Echo Show 10 soon, which will be an expensive upgrade to the Show 8. The 10 will feature a larger screen with higher resolution, better speakers, and a 13MP camera – a huge upgrade from the Show 8.

Fantastic for those who choose Amazon

Smart lights and smart plugs

Smart bulbs and sockets are the next step on your smart home journey. Smart bulbs allow you to turn on, dim, change colors, and even create an execution schedule. They can also be controlled by your voice or with an app, even when you are not at home. Smart plugs allow you to plug in “dumb” electronic devices like lamps or fans, and turn them on or off with your voice. Both can save you money.

For adjustable white lighting: Wyze bulbs

Four white tunable Wyze bulbsWyze

Wyze bulbs These are great white color temperature adjustable smart bulbs and your cheapest option if you don’t care about having access to other colors. They are compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant and are easy to set up on a schedule. They connect over Wi-Fi and don’t need a hub or anything to function, and you can control them through the companion ios or Android app.

For adjustable white lighting

For colorful lighting: Kasa multi-color LED smart bulb

Multicolor smart Kasa LED bulb next to its packagingKasa

If you’re looking for a smart bulb that can handle a bit of color besides the tunable whites, a Kasa Multi-Color LED Smart Bulb is a great choice. The bulb puts 16 million colors at your fingertips and can be dimmed or programmed. The Wi-Fi smart bulb works with both Google Assistant and Alexa and can be controlled via voice or sound commands ios or Android app.

A smart socket: Wyze sockets

Two Wyze caps stacked on top of each otherWyze

Okay, smart plugs might not sound exciting, but they’re really super cool (and affordable). Wyze Sheets lets you plug in a “dumb” gadget like a lamp and control it using voice commands through Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. This is also another way to set a device on a calendar. This type of feature is useful if you’re the type who forgot to turn off the lights or if you’re always away and want to look like you’re always at home.

Smart cameras

You can buy smart cameras for the interior and exterior of your home. Indoor cameras are a great way to keep an eye on your pets or kids, while outdoor cameras let you see your porch and yard (and Amazon packages) at a glance. You can also go for a video doorbell as a more powerful outdoor camera which has similar functionality as well as you know doorbell functionality.

As we mentioned earlier, if you have a smart home powered by the Google Assistant, you need to stick with the Nest cameras and Nest Hello (the video doorbell), and Alexa powers your smart home, Ring cameras, and Home Camera. doorbell are the solution. That said, these aren’t the most affordable options out there. If you are looking for something that won’t break the bank and is more platform independent, then the following choices are the best right now.

An indoor camera: Wyze Cam Pan

Wyze Cam Pan turned slightly to the rightWyze

With the Wyze Cam Pan, you can easily pan (and tilt and zoom) to see what’s going on in every corner of a room. This makes it easy for you to see what your kids or pets are up to when you are on the other side of the house. An indoor camera is also nice to have in case of a burglary or other remarkable activity. This camera records in 1080p HD and has six IR LED night vision lights that allow you to capture events at any time of the day or night.

An outdoor camera: Wyze Cam Outdoor

Wyze Cam Outdoor and its supportWyze

the Wyze Cam outdoors is a sturdy, inexpensive camera perfect for mounting near your front door, back door, or garage. Its included stand allows it to be placed on any surface and its wireless battery-powered design can last up to 3-6 months on a single charge. The camera’s IP65 weatherproof design will easily withstand blizzards, heat waves and downpours. It captures 1080p HD images and has a night vision mode, so you can keep an eye on things at any time of the day. Alternatively, you can consider the Wyze Cam v3, which is certified for indoor and outdoor use, although it is not as rugged or versatile as the Cam Outdoor.

A Wi-Fi video doorbell: the eufy video doorbell

Eufy video doorbell and interior bell, oriented slightly to the righteufy

Eufy video doorbell is powerful and doesn’t rely on subscription or cloud storage to function. The rechargeable battery lasts 120 days on a single charge, and everything it logs is stored locally and encrypted for added security. Footage is recorded in 1080p HD color with an aspect ratio of 4: 3. It’s easy to install if your existing cabling is working, and it lets you configure detection zones to rule notifications. If you want something even cheaper, we recommend that you pre-order the Wyze doorbell, which will ship in January 2021 and will cost you just $ 29.99.

Smart thermostats

Let us be frank: smart thermostats are the knees of the bees. Not only do they allow you to control the operating temperature of your furnace or air conditioner on your smartphone, but they can also be set on a schedule that keeps you comfortable while saving energy. Some may even send you a notification when it’s time to change your air filter or if issues with your HVAC system are detected.

A Genius thermostat: Google Nest Learning Thermostat

Google Nest Learning ThermostatGoogle

We love the Google Nest Learning Thermostat. While it’s expensive, it’s also the easiest to use, and it uses AI to “learn” your temperature preferences throughout the day. After a week or two of use, the thermostat will then automatically adjust to your preferences. This saves you from having to manually program a schedule. You can track and adjust settings using the Nest mobile app to ios and Android. The Learning Thermostat is also available in a variety of finishes, so you can choose the one that best suits your home. Unlike other Nest products, the Learning Thermostat works with both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, making it a great choice for almost any smart home.

Easy to learn: ecobee SmartThermostat with voice control

An ecobee smart thermostat with temperature

Another fantastic smart home thermostat comes from ecobee. While the Nest Thermostat tries to learn and automatically adapt to your habits, the ecobee Smart Thermostat gives you total control. He will make suggestions, but you must approve them. Unlike the Nest, the ecobee’s thermostat interface mirrors the app interface. So you only have to learn how it works once.

It also comes with a free temperature sensor that you can place in another room like a living room or bedroom. Nest charges additional fees for sensors. And the ecobee can double as another Alexa speaker in your home, thanks to microphones and a small speaker. You won’t be playing music, but it’s another place in your house for voice commands. Do not worry; if you are a google powered house the ecobee still works great and you can ignore the alexa function.

Easy to learn

Voice control ecobee SmartThermostat, black

The ecobee lets you manage your schedule and comes with a temperature sensor to better monitor your home. If you want, it even doubles as an Alexa-enabled smart speaker.

A smart and inexpensive option: the Wyze thermostat

Arm reaching out to a mounted Wyze thermostatWyze

If you want something a little more economical (which is understandable) we recommend that you pre-order the Wyze thermostat, which costs just $ 49.99 and is expected to ship by the end of 2020 (although we’re cutting that window pretty close right now). You can also control this with the physical dial or on the Wyze app to ios and Android. Wyze promises a “learning mode” like the Nest Learning Thermostat, so the thermostat can track your usage and adjust automatically. Out of the box, the Nest Thermostat will only work with Alexa, but Wyze says Google Assistant support “is coming soon.”

So this is it. Smart homes are now mature and more accessible than ever. Assembling your smart home has never been easier and we hope this guide will make it even easier.

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