The below post contains affiliate links.
As you can imagine I’m all about having a smart home! When we moved in I knew that I wanted certain things to work with the touch of a button or the sound of my voice. Over the past few months, and beyond I have accumulated a nice collection of smart home devices that work together to make our home a bit smarter. Some of these I been gifted for review, others I have purchased myself. One can argue that there is no need for a smart home, and if that is you, reading this post may just change your mind. It’s easy to add a little smarts to your home, or give the gift of a smart home!
There could be many, many reasons that you want to make your home, or the home of someone you love… smarter! If you travel a lot, a smart home just might be more secure. Camera
Here are several items that I use in my home and why I love each.
An Amazon Echo Device
Amazon has been busy. In the past few months they have added a few more devices to their already popular line of Amazon Echo devices. I’m a fan. Over time I have purchased 3 different Amazon Devices for my household. I love them! And as Amazon adds more skills to Ms. Alexa, you can do more and more.
The original Amazon Echo just got a refresh. The attractive device allows you to use voice control to turn your lights off and on, play music, listen to the news, hear the weather report, and much more. Right now the Amazon Echo 2nd Generation is on sale for only $79.99.
Amazon Echo Dot
If you already have an Echo and want to expand the functionality to more rooms, you can get an Echo Dot. It’s the same functionality minus the big speaker. And right now it’s only $29.99 on Amazon!
Amazon Echo Show
The Amazon Echo Show is The Amazon Echo on steroids because it has a screen! I was not sure that I needed this, but I bought one anyway, and put it on my kitchen counter. And let me tell you.. I love it! We use it to listen to Pandora, read news stories, and even view security cameras. Normally 229.99, the Echo Show is now on sale for $179.99.
Even though I do love my Echo Home and Alexa, I also love my Google Home. Not too long ago I wrote about Creating a Whole House Audio System with Chromecast Audio. One of the coolest things about my Google Home is that I can simply say “Hey Google, play Pandora on The Mac House” and it will blast through all of the speakers connected to Chromecast units around the house, including itself! Consider picking up a couple of Chromecast units too. They are currently on sale for only $19.99 at Best Buy!
Of Course Google Home also allows me to control my various smart home products with just the sound of my voice.
Google Home Mini
Like Amazon, Google realized that some users don’t need the Google Home with the full range speaker. Or, they just want to expand their system and add Google to more rooms.. Enter Google Home Mini. And right now you can get one for only $29.99 from Best Buy.
Samsung SmartThings Hub
Each one of the smart home products that you purchase may come with it’s own hub and app. This includes Philips Hue items, Wemo items, and other products. It can be daunting to have to open up 5 different apps to do things around the house. This is where a Samsung SmartThings Hub can help. I actually purchased mine last year on Black Friday. SmartThings allows you to merge and control your various smart home products from one app. This allows for a world of different configurations, scenes, and functions. Just imagine saying something as simple as “Alexa, turn Movie Mood on”, to which SmartThings will turn off the family room lights in front of you, turn on the kitchen lights behind you and set them to red (or your color of choice), and at the same time lock all of the doors, set the alarm, and lower the thermostat! You can see the full range of compatible SmartThings products on the Works with SmartThings website. The SmartThings hub is a great deal at only $49.00.
If you want to make the thermostat in your home smart, you may want to look into a Nest Thermostat. I purchased and used one for a few months before switching over to my Aprilaire Thermostat. The Nest is an awesome thermostat to control your temperature, turn your system off or on while away, and to monitor outdoor temp, humidity, and more. The Nest can be picked up for $199.00.
Netgear Arlo Wireless Cameras
I wrote a review for these a while ago and they constantly remain on my gift guide. There are many versions, including wireless that can be mounted just about anywhere. They interface with SmartThings, so you can do a lot with them. Put one on the porch so you know when you get packages, pointed at the back door, inside the house to watch your kids, or just about anywhere! They camera attaches to the mount magnetically, so they are easy to move if needed. The newer versions include rechargeable batteries which is an improvement over the version that I originally tested. Netgear has many configurations that include one camera up to 5 depending on what you are looking for. The full range is available on Amazon starting at $129.99.
Baby watching has gone high tech. Gone are the days of listening over a walkie talkie type device that got interference from the neighbors radio or phones. The Motorola MBP855CONNECT allows you to watch your baby with elsewhere in the home with the portable 5″ screen. Baby big enough to not be watched constantly? Just move it to another part of the home and use it as a security device! In addition to viewing on the included 5″ screen, you can use your smartphone. You can get it for $149.99.
Swann Security Cameras
There are a wide range of Swann Security cameras available that are great options. I recently received the Swann Smart Security Camera. The body style is that that I already love, very similar to the Arlo. The resolution is an awesome 1080p, and it includes True Detect PIR Heat/Motion Sensor, Night Vision & Audio. With a long battery life, awesome image quality and Indoor/ Outdoor IP65 weatherproof rating, it can be used just about anywhere that you need extra security.
Ring Video Doorbell
The Ring Video Doorbell stays on my smart home recommendations list. I am no longer using mine, but that is only because my Vivint alarm system came with it’s own. However, for someone who wants to add a stand alone Video doorbell to their home I highly recommend the Ring Video Doorbell. If you want to see it in action, you can read my previous post, Ring Video Doorbell + Stick Up Camera Review.
Lighting, Switches & Outlets
There are a lot of companies on the market making smart bulbs. Below are the ones that I have in my home that I have personally tried and can endorse. And remember, if you invest in the Samsung SmartThings Hub mentioned above you can seamlessly use a mix of bulbs from different manufacturers without issues.
I have a Wemo® Mini Smart Plug in my home office connected to my lamp. There is also an Amazon Echo in the room. I can walk in and say “Alexa, turn on office light” and she will do it. In cases where you want to turn the light off and on manually there is a button on the front of the unit. Wemo has a wide variety of options available starting at $34.97.
There is SO much that you can do with Philips Hue! This is one of the more expensive options in smart home lighting, but it is so worth it. We recently decked out our kitchen and family room with Philips Hue lighting. I am almost done with that tutorial post! Stay tuned. Philips offers a wide range of bulbs, strips, lamps, switches, and even ceiling lights to deck out your whole home with smart lighting. I would suggest starting with the Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Smart Bulb Starter Kit. This comes with several bulbs, and the hub to get your started for around $145. You can add on from there.
Sengled Element Plus
I was familiar with the Sengled brand after testing out some awesome Sengled Pulse Wireless Speaker LED bulbs that I had in my master bathroom. On a whim, I was watching HSN (because HSN gets you in deep trouble), and they were showcasing the Sengled Element Plus smart bulbs. I ordered the starter kit, and I have been very happy with it. I just moved the bulbs out to the 3 sockets outside my garage so that I can control them using my phone. You can get a starter kit with 2 bulbs for only $45.79.
If you are looking for an inexpensive way to add more bulbs to your home, the Cree Connected LED light bulb is a great option. Since they are very inexpensive, you don’t have to spend a ton to add more lighting. I purchased one to try out several months ago. It is great, so if I need more bulbs I will probably go with this option. At only $14.97 this is a great option to purchase if you are already using a SmartThings hub and want to add some more bulbs without breaking the bank.
Sylvania Tunable White Recessed Light
Sometimes you need more than just a bulb. Our home has 4 lights on the front of the house. These were all on the same switch which I am not happy with. There was not way to only turn on the porch light, or only turn on the garage lights. With one switch, they all come on. I was able to fix this with smart lighting. The 3 by the garage are the typical outdoor wall lights with socket. However, the one at the top of our porch is built-in recessed lighting, meaning just a regular bulb would not do. I just purchased the Sylvania Smart+ RT 5/6 Tunable White LED Recessed Lighting Kit for only $28. We installed it on the porch just a few days ago. So far, so far. Now, I can use my phone, Google Home, or Alexa to turn on only the garage lights, or only the porch light as needed.
Once you have several different smart bulbs around your home, not only can you turn them off and on with your phone, or using your voice, you can use SmartThings to setup vacation mode, away mode, and much more. Just imagine being on vacation and having your lights mimick someone being home. No need to run to the store for those old fashioned plug timers.
Disclosure: I received the Netgear Arlo, Wemo Devices, Ring Doorbell, and Philips Hue items for review. All other mentioned items I purchased myself.