Although smart homes might seem like they can cost you a pretty penny initially, there are certain systems and gadgets that are actually worth the money. By upgrading your home (even if little by little) and making it “smarter,” you may find that these seemingly complex technologies will start to pay for themselves over time.
Here are some examples of smart, connected home tech that can increase your quality of life, make your home safer, and save you money on your bills.
Smart thermostats add remote control functionality to your home’s HVAC system, and can learn your habits, allowing them to adjust heating and cooling levels automatically when you come and go, making them one of the best home automation devices available for both comfort and saving money. Most models allow you to set a custom schedule, or will “learn” your schedule if you adjust them periodically over a period of a few days.
Obviously not running the heat or AC when you aren’t home can save a lot of energy, and a smart thermostat will help you do this without having to think about it.
Smart thermostat systems start at around $200 and generally don’t need an internet connection at all, or may only use one for software updates or remote access when you’re away. When you consider the features and energy savings it’s likely very worth the cost.
Smart Security Cameras
A smart camera is simply a security camera designed to enable you to monitor your home remotely by connecting to your home’s WiFi network. Smart security cameras offer features like motion detection, so they only begin recording when they sense movement, and automatic notifications that go to your PC or smartphone. Since smart cameras are connected to your home network at all times, they offer you the ability to check your video feed from anywhere, including your smartphone. Many cameras offer solar charging, and record video in up to 720p.
The only time smart cameras will only use your internet connection is if you’re accessing your camera’s feed from outside your home or using cloud recording. If accessing the camera from within your home, you’ll only use your home wireless connection, whose bandwidth is not restricted by your ISP and costs you nothing. For 720p video, expect a 200 Kbps upload speed use, which is about 10% of the average upload speed in rural areas.
A mid-range smart camera can run less than $100, and since many models are solar powered and don’t use electricity, they can be an inexpensive option to secure your home.
Smart bulbs, like the Philips Hue, are becoming a popular way to remotely control and program your lights. Additionally, these high-quality bulbs can last decades . There’s also the feature of being able to set the color of the light. This can be greatly beneficial at night for instance to turn down the blue light emitted by the bulb, which can improve your sleep quality.
Smart bulbs are controlled by your home WiFi network and do not cut into your internet bandwidth at all, which is great for those with limited connections.
Prices can run between $50-$70 for singles and about $200 for starter kits with multiple bulbs, but if you compare that with cost of buying 10 or 20 years worth of standard light bulbs, plus the electricity you’ll save with smart bulbs more efficient power use, they more than pay for themselves quickly.
Smart outlets basically give you direct control over the behavior of your electrical outlets. These outlets can be easily installed (often simply plugged into existing outlets), and have a wireless “switch” on them that can then be activated by an app or a remote to remotely power any device that’s plugged into them on or off.
Smart outlets sometimes also have a remote access capability to toggle them over the internet, but even then it only uses a minuscule amount of data. This can lead to significant energy savings, because you can simply turn off your outlets when you’re away from home, and any devices that are connected to them won’t continue to draw power.
Smart outlets typically run around $30 per unit, making them a very affordable way to make your devices smarter. You can also cheat by plugging a power strip into one smart outlet containing devices you want to toggle on and off together.
Accessible For All
If you have limited internet connectivity or are unable to spend a fortune, don’t see this as a barrier to enjoying the latest and greatest in smart home tech and automation. If you’re on the fence about whether it’s worth it to invest in these devices, keep in mind that the long term savings in energy bills make most smart devices more than worth the investment – and in the case of a smart camera, can even provide priceless peace of mind.
Kate Voss is a writer and blogger based in the Windy City of Chicago. Fueled by coffee and chocolate, she’s an MSU alum with a passion for recycling and refurbishing old furniture. Her favorite Girl Scout Cookie is the trefoil.