I'm such a nerd when it comes to technology...
I'm one of those people who likes to install the "beta" version of everything to be able to test out the new software before anyone else can. Yep.... nerd. So when I found out that you can sync your thermostat up to your lights and use the location services on your cell phone to determine what temperature your house should be set at, I was all over figuring out how to make my home have those features!
As I test out new products and continue to update my home, I'll review this article to make sure it stays current! Right now I'm going to list my favorite products and how I use them. I'm always open to switching it up so leave comments with your own experiences using smart home technology because I'd love to hear your feedback as well.
All of these products are also great for those who travel often! Automating your lights when you're away, watching over your house on the camera, or even only heating/cooling your home to the bare minimum since nobody is there.
The Nest Thermostat is my favorite out of all. It's super easy to set up, and you can do so much to customize your heating and cooling! To get the most use out of it, you're going to want to have a couple other products such as the Amazon Alexa and the Philips Hue Lights, which I'll touch on later- but if you're just starting your Smart Home setup, this is a great place to start!
Installation: Nest makes setting this bad boy up fairly easy. You'll want to make sure your system is compatible before purchasing, which I think most are. We have a heat pump since our entire house is all electric, no gas. & our system is approaching 10 years old now and it works perfectly!
We did manage to somehow cross the heat and the A/C when we first set it up, but it was an easy fix when we realized the A/C was blowing hot! (lol.)
Using the Device: Once you've got it all installed, and you've followed the directions for setting up the app and Wi-Fi, you're ready to start using your thermostat! All you have to do for the next week is make sure to set the temperature on your device to whatever you'd like it to be at during that time each day. The thermostat then will remember, and start to learn your temperature habits!
For example, I like my house kept on 68 degrees when I'm sleeping, and we usually keep it a little warmer during the day, like 73 or 74- sometimes even warmer in the summer. That's a pretty big difference, so instead of our system working at 150% to try and cool our home down to 68 degrees right at 8pm, it will slowly begin cooling a few hours ahead of time to save energy and still be at our desired temperature when we want it to be.
The thermostat also knows when my boyfriend and I are home or not, so when we aren't here, our system will go into "Eco mode" and sometimes even just turn off! It's awesome to be saving energy/money and not even have to think about it.
But I think my favorite thing about the Nest, is being able to check the temperature when I'm not home! I can literally be on the other side of the world (which I have been) and adjust the temperature in my house through their app!
So far I've never had any connectivity issues or problems with it not working like it should, probably one of the most reliable smart home products I've used so far and we've had the system for a little over a year now.
Price: Amazon has this baby on sale for $224 right now! Nest came out with a cheaper model as well since we purchased ours, it has different features though. You can learn about the difference between the two of them here.
This one is super fun! The lighting kit includes light bulbs, and a "bridge" that you use to hook up to your router and it serves as a "hub" for all of your Philips Hue light bulbs. Philips offers colored bulbs that will display any color you can think of, or just plain white/yellow toned bulbs- we have both!
Installation: Setup was very easy just following the directions that came with the box and using the on screen prompts in the Philips Hue App. I was able to sync these lights to my Nest products, as well as my Amazon Echo Dot!
Using the lights: We have two colored bulbs in the basement, one behind the TV and another pictured above in a lamp on the nightstand. These bulbs really set the mood and make it fun to be in the basement! I like to set them on a really warm shade of pink or orange when watching Netflix at night, especially in the Winter, it makes it feel nice and cozy down there!
When going down into the basement, all we have to do is say "Alexa, turn the lights on in the basement" - and she says "Okay." and that's it. I can also tell her to "Dim the lights in the basement to 40%" or "Alexa, can you turn the lights in the basement to green?". Her response is always "Okay."
Same thing goes for a few other lights in our house, except those are just plain white bulbs and you're not able to change the color, but you can dim them right there in the app.
Other features worth mentioning: Setting a schedule! You can have your lights come on at certain times of the day or you can even sync this bad boy up to your Nest Thermostat (which knows your phone's location) and have your lights come on when you pull into the driveway! Seriously, the possibilities are endless.
I've tried a couple third party apps that allow you to sync your lights up with a movie that you're watching on TV, or even music that is playing. I haven't really found one I loved that was super reliable/accurate for this purpose BUT I do love using the app IFTTT to program my Hue lights- you can even set your lights to flash when your Uber arrives!
Price: This one can add up quickly if you're not careful! To start, you need a bridge. You can't set up the light bulbs without one. The easiest way to get set up is to purchase a starter kit. These can run from $69 to $175 depending on which route you take (all white and no color bulbs, or both white and color bulbs).
You'll have to have the bridge that allows colored bulbs if you want to include them in your setup. After you have a bridge kit (you usually get a couple of bulbs to start with) each additional color bulb is around $15, and the colored bulbs are $50. That's just for your standard 60watt bulb. If you want to add flood light bulbs, or candle shaped bulbs, that's a different story. I haven't added those to my collection.
Of course everyone has to have Alexa to talk to every now and then. When you sync your smart devices up to the Amazon Echo Dot, you have so much more capability!
Installation: This thing literally just plugs into the wall. You do need an amazon account, and you'll have to download the app to get all set up, but overall it's super easy to use and get set up!
Using the Device: I use Alexa the most to turn the lights on and off. It's easy to just shout her name out when walking into the room to ask her to turn the lights on. I can also adjust the temperature on my Nest Thermostat, or check the status of my package from my Amazon order.
The Echo Dot has games (like jeopardy!) and will even play any music that you ask. Once, I ordered a 6 pack of black men's socks on accident though... but all I had to do was ask Alexa to cancel my last Amazon order and she says "Are you sure you want to cancel your order of the 6 Pack of men's black socks size large...." Yep.
So while it might be okay for us to have the occasional drunk Alexa purchase of cheese-its or a sweet new Yeti Rambler (yes, it happened and I use it allll the time)- although if you have children you might want to disable this feature to prevent a large credit card bill and a doorstep full of toys.
Price: This one rings in between $24 and $50 now! With so many new Amazon devices coming out, they may be leaving the Echo Dot in the dust soon. I still think it is a great way to get started, especially for as inexpensive as it is.
4. Nest Protect
Yep, another Nest product made the list. The Nest Protect is mostly offers peace of mind. It is a Smoke and Carbon Monoxide detector.
Installation: Same thing goes for this Nest Device. Very easy to set up, this one just screws on the wall and is set up using the Nest App.
Using the Protect: My favorite thing about this is that all the devices work together! One cool feature about these two Nest products, is that if my Protect detects carbon monoxide in the home and the heat is on, the Protect will tell the Thermostat to turn off the heat because having the heat on can increase the spread of Carbon Monoxide!
Besides just being a Smoke Detector, the Protect has a couple other features that are pretty awesome- for example, if smoke IS detected in my house I will get a notification sent to my phone. So if every my house is on fire (let's hope not) the protect will notify me but I also have the option to notify an emergency contact, or even 911!
But you don't have to worry about 911 being called for a little smoke in the kitchen after you fry something because the Protect will softly notify you that there's a little bit of smoke detected before full on blaring the alarm. That way you can just silence it on your phone, and go on about burning dinner a little :)
Price: The protect runs for $119 on the Nest website. You can save a little money by purchasing more than one, or by bundling it with your thermostat. We just have one centrally located and it works great! We have regular smoke detectors everywhere else.
The Momentum Camera is my placeholder until I can get myself the Nest camera system. This camera allows us to spy on the dogs when we're not home and also gives another layer of security. It's not the BEST quality, but it serves its purpose, especially if you're looking for a low budget option!
Installation: The camera does need to be plugged into the wall, and only used indoors. The instructions are pretty straight forward, but logging into the app with two users isn't easy to do. Sometimes we do experience connection issues from time to time, but overall it hasn't affected how we use it!
Using the Camera: The camera does come with an app, and a free trial of the cloud storage that allows you to go back and view your footage. (Without paying $5/mo. after the trial, you'll only be allowed to watch the live feed and it will not save. So that's a bummer, but we do pay the additional fee.)
The image quality is decent for the price, and there's even an audio feature. For example, when I saw my dog Jax eating the couch I could hit the mic button and yell at him to stop!.. Unfortunately, it only made me more angry because he refused to listen to me and there was nothing I could do about it because I wasn't there. More on the story of my escaping dog can be found here.
Price: Want to take a guess? You probably think the camera costs a lot more than it does for the amount of features you get! Amazon has a two pack for only $50!
Please excuse the fact that the previous owner of our home thought it was a great idea to paint over all of the light switches as displayed in the above photo.
This is an Incipio CommandKit Smart Wi-fi switch. You can plug anything in to it and control it on your phone. I use this for a floor lamp that has three light bulbs (because it was less expensive than buying 4 Hue bulbs for the lamp).
Installation: Pretty simple, just have to download the app, sync the device, connect it to your Wi-Fi network, and plug it in! The cool thing about this device is that there is a button on the side so that you can use the light manually also!
That way if you have friends over, or someone in your house who doesn't have the app, they're not stuck and unable to tun on or off the lights in the house.
Using the Device: Like I said, we usually just use this for more lights, but there are other possibilities! You could plug your coffee pot into something like this and set it to come on at a certain time each morning! One of my favorites is plugging an Essential Oil Diffuser into it to schedule lavender to automatically diffuse at bedtime, or citrus in the morning!
One downside about this product is that it can't be used with Alexa. If you want to control this light with your voice, you can use Siri, but I plan to
Price: This device is pretty inexpensive as well, $39 on Amazon. It's a great start if you aren't ready to fork over the money for the Philips Hue system, or have a different device you want to connect. If you want to use Alexa though, you might want to look into a different device.
SAVE $10 ON ANY RING PRODUCT BY DOWNLOADING THE RING NEIGHBORS APP!
The Ring doorbell is such a great addition to any smart home. It really provides an extra layer of security that will help ease your mind when you're away from your home! It's a doorbell camera that you can set up outside of your front door. The camera will record motion, or whenever anyone rings your doorbell and send the live video feed straight to your phone!
Installation: To use the Ring doorbell, you must have a Wi-Fi connection to receive the audio and video recording from the doorbell. You can set it up using a wired or a wireless connection (for most devices) for power. The device comes with all the mounting equipment (screws, etc.) you need and you can find detailed installation instructions on their website.
Using the device: You have to download the ring app onto your smartphone to view the video recording from the device. When someone rings your doorbell, you'll be able to speak through your phone to them and see a live video of who is standing there on your porch! Your camera will also record motion.. so if your UPS guy likes to fling your fragile packages onto your front porch, you'll have it all on video!
Ring also has a Neighbors App that allows those with the device to share videos with those nearby. It's set up like a newsfeed, and users can post about crime or suspicious people in their neighborhood. You don't have to have your own Ring doorbell to use the app, and you can even save $10 towards any product just for downloading it!
Price: The least expensive Ring Doorbell is $99. It ranges on price based on camera quality and the type of connection you plan to use.
Do you use any of these Smart Home devices? What are your experiences? Leave a comment, I'd love to hear!
Meet the Author
My fiance and I are slowly redoing our 1980's split level home and creating a new space we love! I love sweet tea, hand lettering, a good DIY project and a long vacation.
My Post Topics
Top Desired Destinations