By Maria Kanevsky
Smart home devices can add comfort and convenience to your life, but the price tag for some of these devices can be another story. Since many smart home technologies are new and cutting-edge, the cost of owning these devices can sometimes be a major barrier. Luckily, there are several inexpensive options for smart home devices that won’t break the bank while still offering nearly all the same benefits.
Smart home speakers. Smart home speakers provide a wide range of features, such as playing music, calling friends or family, or even locating a misplaced smartphone. One of the most useful aspects of smart home speakers is that they act as a smart home hub for your other smart devices. Each smart speaker comes with a voice assistant, like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, which can be used to control additional smart devices in your home.
When choosing a smart home speaker, make sure your other smart devices are compatible with the system. For example, Google Assistant works best with other Google products, rather than Amazon or Apple products. Several smart home speakers, especially smaller, entry-level types like the Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home Mini, can cost as little as $30 or less. This makes them more affordable than the larger versions, like Amazon Echo and Google Home, while still offering nearly all the same features.
Smart plugs. This technology works by directly inserting the smart plug into an outlet, then plugging your device into the smart plug. This can make any device “smart” by connecting it to your Wi-Fi through the smart plug. They can also be used with smart home speakers. One of the best features of a smart plug is that it can help you reduce your monthly energy use. This can be done by programming automatic shut-off times to prevent devices from drawing energy when they’re not in use. There are plenty of inexpensive and well-performing smart plugs available under $20.
Smart light bulbs. Smart light bulbs can be controlled through your phone or by voice if connected to your smart home speaker. Some features include the ability to choose different lighting colors and shades, dimness levels and the ability to turn them on or off entirely. There is an extensive market for smart LED bulbs, but some of the less expensive options are the Wyze Bulb, the Lifx Mini and the Ikea Tradfri, with prices ranging from about $8 to $20 per bulb. For multi-bulb fixtures, an alternative to buying several smart bulbs is to buy a smart light switch to control the entire fixture.
If you’re looking to buy more than one smart home device, make sure the devices are compatible with your smart home hub (Google Home Mini with Google products, or Amazon Echo Dot with Amazon products) to ensure the best performance of all devices. As with any smart home device, access to a secure and stable Wi-Fi connection will be crucial to properly use the technology.
Maria Kanevsky writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.