Thanks to the latest in automation technology and modern home construction, smart houses offer today’s homeowners like you the best of the best on a budget. Based on the Internet of Things (IoT), a variety of devices and appliances, such as your lights, security system, thermostat, and microwave, can be easily connected and more importantly, controlled, even when you’re not at home.
While showing off your smart home is guaranteed to elicit a lot of “Oh’s” and “Ah’s,” there are more practical and money-saving reasons to have a smart home.
Here are a few pluses:
- Convenience – Imagine managing all your devices and appliances at home from your Google Home or Alexa hub (more on this later) when you’re at home or from your smartphone when you’re at the office.
- Security – What if you could get alerts on your phone whenever someone rings your doorbell, or if you could literally peek into any room in your house while on vacation?
- Comfort – Finally, think about how comfortable you would be just saying stuff like, “Vacuum living room,” and VIOLA, your automated vacuum does the job while you relax poolside (again, more on this below).
Well, even if having a smart home sounds exciting so far, the question is—can you even afford it? This article will show you, step-by-step, how to build a smart home on a limited budget from the ground up. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about owning the whole set-up right away.
Step 1: Where to Begin?
Don’t be surprised: you probably already have the key component of a smart home: a fast and solid Wi-Fi connection. It’s what literally connects the various parts of your smart home. This means you need to make sure of the following before you go any further:
- You have a fast internet connection – Check in with your local Internet service provider (ISP) to make sure your current plan will support your smart set-up. You might even find that it’s time for an upgrade or switch in ISP. Don’t worry, many homeowners scoop up a better (and faster) deal, which will save you money in the long-run.
- Your router/modem is set-up for speed – If you have an older model, it might not support fast speeds and different devices tapping into it as the newer ones can. If you are on a budget, the TP-Link AC1200 Dual Band Router is under $50.00 and maintains a high rating (https://www.amazon.com/TP-Link-AC1200-Smart-WiFi-Router/dp/B01IUDUJE0/). It should suit many of your smart home’s requirements.
- Your Wi-Fi area is wide enough – Once you’ve bought your router, you shouldn’t keep it in an enclosed space such as a bookcase or cabinet. To maximize your Wi-Fi coverage so your smart devices and appliances throughout your house can connect, it’s best to keep it in an open, central location. Of course, this isn’t always up to you. Therefore, you might also want to look into a Wi-Fi Range Extender. This is especially the case if you have a large house or multiple floors.
Step 2: Home Hub
Even if you will manage your smart home on your smartphone, you still need a smart home hub (along with your Internet connection) to get all your smart devices to “talk” to one another. Your biggest decision is which smart home system will fit you.
Fortunately, the top three smart home systems below come in affordably priced kits so, for once, the budget isn’t the issue. If you are a die-hard Apple, Amazon, or Android user, this step will be a no-brainer.
- Apple HomeKit – If you use an Apple iOS device like an iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch, this smart home kit is made for you. In fact, the Apple Home app comes standard in your phone or tablet free. However, you might want to add an Apple HomePod to the mix. Priced around $350.00, this smart speaker is your most budget-friendly entry to the HomeKit system, apart from buying an older model iOS device cheap. But, if you don’t already own an Apple gadget, your best bet might be the other two options below.
- Google Assistant – Similarly, if you already have an Android phone, all it takes is a free download of the Google Home app to get going. You can even add two Google Home Mini smart speakers for as low as $40. Not only can you keep one in your bedroom for listening to relaxing music before bedtime, but you’ll also get a spare for the kitchen or home office. The Google Home system is popular with smart home users thanks to its high accuracy and no-fuss flexibility compared to Alexa’s “skills” (see below). Furthermore, many affordable smart products from plugs to bulbs to TVs work well with it.
- Amazon Alexa – Amazon Alexa has been around the longest in this group. You can download the Alexa app for free too on your iOS or Android gadgets. You must purchase an Amazon Echo device (yes, they go by a different device name) if you want it to activate with your voice. The app doesn’t do this on its own. An Amazon Echo Dot is like the Google Home Mini and is good to go at $29.99 on the Amazon website. It is more robust than Google in functionality with its ever-growing set of skills, including from branded third-party providers like Proctor and Gamble and Whirlpool (in case you have a smart washer/dryer).
So, which smart home system is right for you? In keeping with this article’s budget-friendly goal, the system you can start up at no additional cost is the correct answer. In terms of compatibility with the devices covered below, Google Home or Amazon are safe investments. However, Apple aficionados will naturally stick to their favourite brand.
Step 3: Safety First (or Third, in this case)
Once you have your connection and hub sorted in Steps 1 and 2, the next thing to consider is devices that will make your home more secure and your household more comfortable.
The best place to begin is your lights. This category is the most well-stocked in the marketplace, ranging from the fashionable Lifx Mini bulbs for $24.99 each to the practical Sengled E11-G13 Smart LED Soft White (Element Classic) for $9.99 each. If you have multiple lights to replace, $9.99 won’t break the bank. Look out for the “Works with…” label on the packaging to ensure it works with your hub of choice. This applies to all your compatible devices and appliances so watch out.
Next, you might want to monitor your house, inside and outside, by installing wireless security cameras. Putting one in the baby’s room is within your budget. The iBaby Monitor and Amazon Cloud Cam are priced at a little over $100.00 at Amazon. If you can afford its $229.00 price tag, be sure to pick up the Nest Hello. This combination electronic doorbell and security camera will let you see who’s at the door before you invite unwanted guests in.
Finally, for $69, you can control the temperature inside your home with the Honeywell Wi-Fi 7-Day Programmable Thermostat. This is useful for warming up the house before you get out of bed in the morning or cooling it off on a hot day before you get home from work.
Conclusion: Going the Full Monty
Once you’ve tested the waters and are ready to expand your smart home, you can go for the full set-up if it is within your budget.
Your most obvious choice is a smart TV. Thankfully, there is a large selection of brands and models to match most budgets. However, the following considerations will point you in the right direction eventually:
- What can you afford?
- What size are you looking for?
- Is it compatible with your smart home system?
Finally, if you want to wholeheartedly embrace “The Jetsons”-lifestyle, you will want to have a robot maid around as well. The closest you can get is a robot vacuum cleaner. You won’t need to spend over $1000.00 to add it to your smart home. There are many models that can be bought for under $200. You just need to check that they are compatible with your smart home configuration.