Want the Home of the Future, on a Budget? Here’s Where to Start.


You dream of having a smart home the way others dream of having a closet full of designer shoes. The only problem? You’re on a budget, and smart home solutions are way beyond your means…

Or are they?

It’s true that just like designer shoes, many smart home devices and systems come with a high price tag. Truth: High-end connected appliances and kits costing thousands of dollars are nice, but they aren’t essential to creating a smart home experience. In fact, there are plenty of affordable solutions you can use to automate your home and make your life more convenient.

Check out my step-by-step guide to help you go smart without going broke.

Step One: Start with a problem.

Smart home technology can be the remedy to many a home headache, but if you buy devices for your home because you’re wooed by a slick advertisement or a friends tricked-out house, you’re less likely to feel like you got your money’s worth. A better strategy is to start with a problem — say, wanting to lock your front door remotely or keeping an eye on the family dog when you’re away — and use your first device to solve for that problem. Once you’ve learned to use it and have success with it, you can add more to your smart home system. Which brings me to my next point…

Step Two: Build over time.

Envisioning your home with all systems, appliances and devices connected through a single hub — and how much that would cost — can be overwhelming. It’s easier than ever to start with one high-value product and add compatible products over time. For example, if lowering your family’s energy costs is one of your top priorities, starting with a smart thermostat like Nest’s Learning Thermostat allows you to control (and reduce) your home’s heating and cooling systems from anywhere (perfect when we’re traveling or even just away during the day).

From there, you can find other problems to solve, one at a time, and purchase compatible products to solve them. The Works With Nest collection includes everything from locks to light bulbs, and they all work together to make your home smarter over time. Solving small “problems” with smart devices one by one will stop you from spending too much, too quickly.

Some good jumping off points:

Safety and security

Smart door locks, window shades, smoke detectors, alarm systems, internal and external cameras and leak or movement sensors can give you valuable peace of mind when you’re away from home.

Communication

Upgrade your entryway with a smart doorbell in-home intercom system. You’ll get alerts when visitors or packages arrive, as you’ll be able to communicate with anyone, anywhere in the house.

Lighting and switches

Smart light bulbs, switches and outlets provide convenience and safety, allowing you to operate them remotely. No more running around flipping switches when you leave the house— one tap turns them all off.

Energy efficiency

Smart thermostats, window shades and smart fans can help you monitor energy usage and cut down on your energy bills.

Audio and video

Stop fiddling around with multiple remotes and applications and upgrade your TV-watching experience with a smart TV and speakers.

Step Three: Do your research.

Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you should be buying the cheapest devices available — this is your home we’re talking about! Instead, as you’d do with any big purchase, do some research to get a rough idea of the typical costs and determine if there may be comparable products that are more reasonably priced but still high quality. Remember: Any smart home device you purchase should be from a trusted brand — one that’s investing in security and frequently updating their devices — and has the potential to be compatible with future smart home purchases.

Step Four: Bring it all together.

Once you have a few devices up and running, you’ll want to invest in a hub — a singular device that integrates multiple smart devices in your home under a single application. It’s like a central brain for all the smart devices in your house, so they can all work together and provide a more elegant user experience for you. Using a hub means you can now create “scenes” that use multiple devices. Let’s say you aren’t a morning person: You can program your hub to turn on the lights, raise your blinds, turn on NPR, and start the coffee maker — all when your alarm goes off. Pretty cool, right? If you’re looking for a good, reasonably priced hub, check out Wink ($99) or Samsung’s brand new Connect Home ($170) to see if one might work for you.

Step Five: Add the bells and whistles.

It’s cool to have your home systems and appliances connected under a single application. It’s even cooler to be able to use voice commands to do things like preheat the oven or turn off the light when you’re ready to go to sleep. A voice assistant is the icing on the smart home cake, allowing you to talk to your devices when your smartphone is out of reach. Check out Google Home ($109) and Amazon Echo ($179.99), and get ready for Microsoft and Apple to join the party with their lovely assistants before the year is out.

It’s easy to put a smart home together on if you start small and build over time, thanks to lots of affordable pieces that offer great value right out of the box, and allow you to build over time.

Sound like a plan? Let me know in the comments!

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