Making your home a “smart” home may seem a bit overwhelming. With all the products out there–not to mention that they all seem to work on different protocols–it’s enough to make your head spin. Or at least make you want to just stick with the regular old stuff. But if you still want to dip your toes in the water of home automation, here are a few items that are pretty simple to start with and allow you to grow your smart home over time:

  1. Hubs: Home automation hubs like Samsung SmartThings Hub (which we have at home) allow you to virtually “hook up” a bunch of different devices to one thing (the hub) which you can then use to control all that stuff with one app.

    Samsung’s SmartThings Home Monitoring Kit with Hub

    But before buying, be sure to consider which protocols the hub supports (ZigBee, Zwave, WiFi, Bluetooth, etc.) Changes are happening all the time, but you don’t want a gadget that doesn’t work with your hub right now! (That said, there are sometimes workarounds using IFTT–if this, then that–recipe.)

2. Lighting: Now that you have your hub all set, it’s time to add some lights.

Philips Hue Starter Kit

Philips Hue Starter Kit

(You can have the lights set up without a hub.
It’s definitely not required. But if you have any desire to add more than just lighting, start with the hub.) There are several brands of smart lights out there, ranging from around $15 per bulb (shades of white, no color) to Philips Hue bulbs, which come in a range of colors and styles, including the starter kit.

ecobee3 thermostat

3. Thermostats: A great way to save some $$ on your utility bills is adding a smart thermostat.
The Nest Learning Thermostat and ecobee3 Smarter Wi-Fi Thermostat are two of the most popular, but there are quite a few options to choose from. Setup is simple, but if you aren’t comfortable touching the wires, you can always hire an electrician or HVAC specialist to help.

Nest Cam

4. Security Camera(s): When shopping for a “smart” security camera, it’s important to consider your wants/needs when it comes to how the camera is activated (or if it’s always on), what happens to the images (are they stored, where, and is there a fee), how many you’ll need, and your budget. Some cameras are standalone, some pair with a subscription service like ADT.
Some only go inside the home, some go outside. But the best feature of smart security cameras (of course) is that you can see what’s going on at home from wherever you (and your phone) are in the world, as long as there’s an Internet connection.

Ring Video Doorbell

5. Doorbell Cameras: As opposed to a security camera that’s mounted somewhere inside or out, a doorbell camera like the Ring Wi-Fi Enabled Video Doorbell enables you to a) see who’s at your door and b) talk with them whether you are home or not.
And the person at the door will have no idea whether you’re just upstairs or on vacation. (Check YouTube for some fun–and disturbing–videos of these handy gadgets in action.) Honeywell and SkyBell are some other popular options in this category.

Looking for more smart home gadgets?
Check out Amazon’s Smart Home store. We’re not getting rich off any purchases you make, but it will help us at Home Automation Nation buy more gadgets to review. 🙂

And of course, shoot me a note if you have more questions about making your home a little smarter!

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