Tech Talk: Start Your Smart Home For Under $200
The idea of a fully automated smart home can be a little overwhelming, both in concept and cost. But you don’t need to go all-in on connected tech to benefit from it. Instead, install a few devices that address specific needs, provide some neat modern conveniences, and cost a lot less.
Hate fumbling for the light switch in the dark? Always leaving the garage door open? Never remember to set the alarm? These are common problems easily solved by smart home devices for under $200. Watch our video to see some of these solutions in action, and read on to learn more about their features and how they can help you in your home.
1. Have The Lights Come On When You Walk In
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Outfit a whole room with smart lighting for less than $200 with Philips Hue white light bulbs and accessories. These can be controlled remotely with your smart phone and also with Hue compatible dimmer switches ($35) and motion sensors ($40). Add in an Echo Dot smart speaker from Amazon ($40-$50), and you have voice control too.
This set up gives you a host of ways to control and enjoy your lighting beyond just flipping a switch:
- Paired with a motion sensor, have the lights turn on when you enter the room, or off when no one is there. Set rules for what time of day they activate, as well as at what brightness and shade of white in the smartphone app.
- Add a wireless dimmer switch to easily dim the lights without using a smartphone. Attach it to a wall like a traditional switch, or leave it on the coffee table and use it like a remote control. You can also program scenes on the switch, such as Relax, Read or Concentrate, depending on how you plan to use the room.
- Turn your smart lights on and off with voice command using Amazon’s Alexa smart voice assistant. The Echo Dot gives you voice control for $40. Just plug it, connect to your WiFi and ask it to "discover devices." Once connected, you can ask Alexa turn the lights on, off or set to a scene.
Total Cost: $185-$195
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2. Secure Your Home With a Smart Security System
Smart security systems from companies like Ring and Nest use wireless technology so you can install them yourself (and take them with you when you leave)—plus, they don't require you to sign up for professional monitoring (although it’s an option).
The "smarts" come from an always-on Internet connection (including built-in cellular backup for if the power goes out) that sends alerts to your phone if there is an emergency at home. You can also arm and disarm the system from a smartphone—helpful if you often forget to do it when rushing out the door—or if you hate that stress-inducing beeping when you come home.
To add a smart security system to your home for under $200, go with Ring Alarm ($199). A wireless, sensor-based system that anyone can install, it comes with a base station, a keypad, two contact sensors, a motion detector and a range extender. Once these are in place around your home (and you can add more), simply monitor your home from your phone, or add a professional monitoring service.
Total Cost: $199 (plus $10 per month for professional monitoring)
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3. Control Your Garage Door With a Smart Garage Door Controller
A simple, smart solution to the common problem of forgetting to shut the garage door is to install a smart garage door controller like the MyQ Smart Garage Hub. This connects wirelessly to your existing garage door opener, and lets you open or close it with your smartphone or Apple Watch.
It works just like the visor clicker in your car, except you don’t have to be close to home to use it, you can control your door from anywhere you have an Internet connecting using the smartphone app.
The app also shows you if the door is open or closed, lets you create an alert to tell you when you forgot to shut it, and set schedules to close the door at certain times of day.
Having remote control over your garage door is also an easy way to give people access to your home when you’re not there. Let the kids in when they forgot their key, connect the dog with the dog walker, and give the UPS guy somewhere safe to leave your package.
For $70 more, add geofencing and other smart home capabilities—including using Siri to control the door with your voice—with a MyQ Home Bridge. This connects your garage door to Apple’s HomeKit system (you'll need a HomeKit hub too), so it can know when you are close to home and offer to open for you, and also shut when you’re gone.
Another option for adding geofencing to close your door when you leave is a service called IFTTT, which costs $10 a year. For voice control, you can connect with Google's Assistant for $10 a year.
Total Cost: $80 to $150
All these connected devices work well on their own, but they can also be part of a larger, smarter system if you do want to go all-in on the smart home.
For example, you can add Ring security cameras to your Ring Alarm system, a wide array of lighting solutions to the Philips Hue hub, and even connect your garage door to a smart thermostat so it turns up the heat when you open the door.
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