How to Create a Smart Home on a Budget

by Michael Franco
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A smart home can be within your budget if you’re smart about it. In case you don’t know, a smart home utilizes Bluetooth or Wi-Fi-connected devices to allow for the remote monitoring and management of various components of daily living for things like lighting, climate control and security.

These devices are often interconnected through a central platform, such as a smartphone app or a voice-controlled smart speaker. This technology allows users to control functions such as home temperature, lighting and even locks from afar. Automation can be set up for certain tasks to occur at specific times or under certain conditions, enhancing convenience and energy efficiency.

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While you can set up a smart home by starting with a central hub, you can also move into a smart home with little more than a Wi-Fi router and a smart speaker like an Amazon Echo or Google Nest. Here’s the 411 on what you need to know to make your home smarter — on a budget.

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How to Convert Your Home into a Smart Home Affordably

Start Small

Begin with basic devices, like smart bulbs and smart plugs, which are relatively inexpensive and offer immediate functionality improvements. These devices usually don't require a special hub, so you'll save on that cost.

Check With Your Local Utility Company

Many utility companies will sell you smart home devices like lightbulbs and thermostats at a reduced price. Some even offer these items for free.

DIY Installation

Opt for devices that don’t require professional installation. Many sensors, cameras and smart locks are designed for easy, DIY setup. When choosing a smart home device, consider the installation procedure and decide if you can tackle it. Some smart doorbells need to be wired into your home's electrical system, which might be beyond your skill set. Instead of calling an electrician, you can simply opt for a battery-powered or rechargeable solution.

Prioritize Needs

Invest in smart devices that will provide the most value for your lifestyle. For example, a smart thermostat might be more beneficial than a smart fridge depending on your daily habits.

Smart Home Devices Offering the Best Bang For Your Buck

Smart Thermostats

Save money by optimizing your heating and cooling based on your schedule and weather conditions. You can find smart thermostats for under $100. By programming them to heat and cool only when you are home, you can slash your utility bills significantly. In fact, EnergyStar says smart thermostats can save you about 8% on your heating and cooling costs.

Smart Lighting

Reduce electricity bills with LED smart bulbs that adjust based on time of day or occupancy.

Smart Plugs and Switches

Convert any appliance into a smart device with smart plugs or switches, which offer remote control and scheduling capabilities.

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Integrating Smart Devices from Various Brands

Many smart home platforms like Google Home, Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit offer cross-brand compatibility. Using open standards like Zigbee or Z-Wave, or platforms like IFTTT (If This Then That), helps bridge devices from different manufacturers. This flexibility allows you to select the best device in each category, often reducing costs without sacrificing functionality.

That being said, it can be a lot simpler to stay in one tech ecosystem as long as you find you can do so affordably. Taking this route ensures that all your smart home devices function well together, and you can likely control everything from one simple app, rather than having a different one for each smart device.

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Building a Budget-Friendly Smart Home Security System

Creating a smart home security system doesn't have to be expensive. The key is to strategically select devices that offer essential features without breaking the bank, and install them yourself to save on costs. Begin with a smart security camera, which is the cornerstone of home security. Choose a camera that provides clear video quality, night vision and motion detection alerts to your smartphone. This way, you can monitor your home in real-time, no matter where you are.

Next, consider adding smart door locks. These locks allow you to control access to your home remotely and can send alerts if someone attempts to tamper with them. They are particularly useful for managing entry without needing physical keys.

Window and door sensors form another critical layer of security. These sensors alert you when doors or windows are opened unexpectedly. Installing these sensors on all ground-floor entry points increases your home's security perimeter, ensuring you're notified at the first sign of an intrusion.

Integration of these devices can often be achieved through a central hub or smartphone app, even if they are from different brands. Platforms like Google Home or Amazon Alexa can serve as a central point of control and automation, streamlining the security process and making it easy to check on your home’s status in one place.

Lastly, avoid ongoing subscription fees by selecting devices that offer basic monitoring services without monthly charges. This can involve a higher upfront cost but results in significant savings over time.

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