Get started with smart home technology

Wendy Mundy
Published on August 13, 2021

Get started with smart home technology

Whether it’s trying to remember to turn on the porch light at night or the constant fiddling with the thermostat in your home, the day will come when you’ll decide, once and for all, to look into all the hoopla about smart homes.

You’ll soon learn that not only does a connected home offer convenience, but, if done right, it can save you money too. Want to learn more? Check out our tips for the three must-haves to get your home on the road to becoming smarter.

Start with a hub

A hub is the boss of all the connectivity devices you add to the home, controlling each one according to your parameters. You can choose from a wide range of hubs, from budget to ultra- expensive.

Our go-to review site, TomsGuide.com, chose several hubs that they claim are the best of the best for 2021:

  • Best smart-home hub for those on a budget – Amazon Echo Dot
  • Best overall smart-home hub – Samsung SmartThings Hub (Version 3)
  • Best for the hardcore techie – Hubitat Elevation Home Automation Hub

Now that you have the hub, it’s time to decide what else you’d like to add to your smart-home arsenal.

No more hitting switches

If you’re like a lot of consumers, you bought or were given a smart speaker, such as the Echo, with Alexa built in.

While getting weather and news reports, lullabies for the kids and reminders for you are some of the conveniences Alexa offers, she (and other voice assistants) is capable of so much more.

So, which smart home gadget do most people buy first?

The smart plug. It’s inexpensive and versatile. While the experts at TomsGuide.com recommend the Wemo WiFi Smart Plug, those at PCMag.com suggest the Wyze Plug.

Plug the smart switch into a wall outlet and use Apple, Alexa’s or Google Home Assistant’s app to control whatever you plug into it. For instance, we have a friend who uses hers to turn on and off the grow light over her vegetable seedlings in early spring.

Plug a lamp into it and then tell Alexa to turn it off or on, at a given time each day. “It’ll let you automate anything you plug into it — lamps, desk fans, crock pots, space heaters, you name it,” says CNET.com’s Ry Crist.

Security

Another popular beginner smart home gadget is some sort of security product.

TomsGuide.com highly recommends the Arlo Q security camera, “… which is one of the best smart home devices designed for giving you peace of mind.”

The doorbell cams are big sellers. Connected to the internet, the systems allow the user to monitor their homes from any smart device.

Video doorbells such as Nest Hello get the nod from TomsGuide.com while the folks at CNet.com choose Arlo Essential Video Doorbell.

On a budget? Check out Ring Video Doorbell Wired, “The cheapest Ring video doorbell — with some compromises,” according to the review at TomsGuide.

Smart door locks follow close on the heels of the security cameras in popularity. Lock or unlock doors remotely and you can choose to access your home either keyless or with keys (depending on brand).

Speaking of brands, the August Wi-Fi Smart Lock is hands-down the experts’ favorite.

Set up a “scene,” and your voice assistant can put all of these elements together. For instance, say “Alexa, goodnight” and she’ll dim the lights, ensure the thermostat is where you want it while you sleep, and lock the door.

It doesn’t get more convenient than that.