As the Internet of Things and related technologies becomes mainstream, more Americans are engaging on a new type of project – starting a smart home. Central to this project is the search for new intelligent home gadgets. In this article, we highlight the 12 best home connections devices and smart gadgets available for American homeowners in 2018.
We focused on devices that are within affordable reach for most American homeowners. All smart home devices included in our list are valued between $50 and $250.
1. Smart Home Hub – Amazon Echo [$99]
A hub is essentially the a device that serves as a communication platform to link to all your smart home accessories. This is the first gadget you should get as you work to make your home intelligent. Going for just $99, Amazon Echo is arguably the best smart hub you’ll ever find for your new smart home. The new Echo looks better than the minimal original version, and is a lot cheaper. This device allows you to control your smart accessories by simply using your voice to issue commands.
The new Echo allows you to change the outer shell to match the look and feel of your home. You can choose a design/shell (fabrics, woods, veneers, etc.) that’s to your liking as you purchase the Echo on Amazon.com. This device also comes with ports for connecting to external speakers. Other than that, everything else is pretty much the way it was with the primary model. Although Google is working hard with their Home, and Apple now has HomePod, Amazon Echo is still the industry champion.
Speak out to ask Echo to play music, make calls, set alarms, and control home devices. You can also ask questions (instead of typing them out on Google.com), check weather and traffic alerts, manage shopping lists, and more. There’s simply no end to the possibilities that this device offers to you. The rich and robust sound quality makes it fun to use this device, whether your sending text messages or enquiring for sports updates.
2. Smart Plugs -TP-Link HS105 [$24]
Not ready to replace all the bulbs and thermostats in your home yet? You might be able to make your traditional ‘dumb’ devices a little smarter using smart plugs. A smart plug serves as an interface between your power outlet and the device. This way, you can use Amazon Echo or the specific smart plug app to turn your lights on and off. Think about your bedtime routine. You have to turn on the security lights, switch off the TV and other appliances. Wouldn’t it be better if you can achieve that without raising a finger? Smart plugs are just that good. You could even turn on the coffee maker immediately you wake up so you have your steaming morning cup ready by the time you are done with the shower.
Smart plugs are the cheapest intelligent home devices available in the market right now. If you do not have the budget for a full-scale upgrade, this is the way to go.
The TP-Link HS105 is no doubt the best plug device available. It looks elegant and is feature packed. You’ll be able to monitor the energy usage of all your devices. You can use this smart plug via Amazon Echo integration, or download it’s standalone Android/iOS app.
Other mentionable smart plugs that you may want to consider include the ConnectSense Smart Outlet, the Belkin Wemo Insight, and the iDevices Switch.
3. Smart Light Bulbs – Philips Hue [$160]
Smart lights are the most popular of all smart home accessories. It’s the first thing people think of when considering starting a smart home. With a smart light bulb, you’ll be able to turn your lights on and off using a voice command. So you don’t have to fumble with the hallway light switch in the middle of the night when you’re half-asleep but still need to use the bathroom.
Although a little bit more expensive than alternative devices, Philips Hue provides the best smart light bulbs available. The starter kit comes with two bulbs and a hub to interconnect them with other home devices. You’ll be able to change the lighting colors and adjust the brightness. Philips Hue is compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple’s HomeKit, and many other smart hubs.
Cheaper alternatives to Philips Hue include the C by GE Starter Pack, the Cree Connected LED Bulb, and the GE Link Connected LED.
4. Smart Light Strip – Philips Hue [$84]
Smart LED light strips are a must have if you’re looking to make your doorway, bathroom wall, or any other space in your room more exciting. Think about the music-synched lights under a disco ball. If you decided to purchase the Philips Hue smart light bulbs, it makes sense that you should get the Philips Hue Lightstrip as well. You’ll be able to change the color and create some ambience with this smart light strip.
Qube, a San Francisco-based Startup, also launched their Wi-Fi Smart LightStrip on IndieGogo last year. Although still in the production stages, this lightstrip might also be a great idea to give your home some extra aesthetic appeal.
5. Outdoor Security Camera – Netgear Arlo Pro [$180]
The Arlo Pro outdoor security camera offers outstanding video quality day and night. You get motion detection, a week’s worth of video storage for free, and a flexible scheduling feature. Although this camera seems to be a little bit more expensive than other alternatives (such as the Nest Outdoor Cam) there are no subscription hidden costs. You can pay $170 to add one more Netgear Arlo security camera to your security setup.
Compared to other smart security cameras, the Netgear comes with a base station that connects directly to your router and facilitates a very decent connection. A very loud siren will work to scare off any intruder when you are away.
If you’d like to get a little better video quality, a scrollable timeline, and are willing to pay up to $300 more in annual subscription costs, the Nest Camera may be the best alternative.
6. Best Smart Thermostat – Ecobee4 [$235]
Smart Thermostats let you control the cooling and heating of your home using a voice command, or a smartphone app. You can change the temperature in your home depending on the time of day, and optimize energy usage.
There are many reasons why the Ecobee 4 is the best smart thermostat for your intelligent home. It has a touchscreen interface, and comes with a remote sensor to make sure all your rooms have the right temperature. Since Ecobee 4 has Alexa built-in, you won’t even need to buy/use Echo to control your other smart home appliances. You’ll be able to ask questions, check out weather and traffic updates, and do anything else you could do with Amazon voice assistant right here. The motion and proximity sensors will tell Ecobee 4 whether you are home or not, and it’ll adjust the temperature setting accordingly.
If you’re not keen on the best smart thermostat in the market and are instead looking for a cheaper alternative, 3rd generation Nest Learning Thermostat will suffice.
7. Video doorbell – August Doorbell Cam Pro [$200]
Video owners can finally turn to smart video doorbells to find out who’s at the door before opening. There already are various video doorbell models out there and things are just getting better. If you’d like to feel a little more secure before letting people into your home, smart video doorbell is the way to go.
While there are at least 5 popular video doorbell brands out there, the August Doorbell Cam Pro is a game-changer. You get to know who’s at your door, and you can see and speak to them via full color HD. There are 3 brightness levels so you can adjust appropriately, and you’ll be able to get decent-quality footage regardless the time of day. There’s a motion detection feature in case you’d like to know whenever there’s a weirdo lurking around in the street. And that’s not all…The hindsight feature on this smart doorbell will capture footage even if the visitor doesn’t press the doorbell. August Video Doorbell Cam Pro integrates with Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and Google Assistant among many other system to give you added flexibility. If you have kids, a spouse or elderly parent who’s always forgetting the keys, consider using this with the August Smart lock so you can remotely let them in.
If you’re not in the ‘August’ mood and would like to purchase a smart video doorbell that’s a little bit cheaper, the Ring Video Doorbell 2 is the go-to option. This doorbell lets you see, hear and speak to anyone who’s on your front door. You get instant notifications on your smartphone whenever someone physically presses on the doorbell. This device is battery powered (which means no messy wiring work) and a single full charge can last up to 3 months!
8. Best Smart Smoke/CO Detector – Nest Protect [$100]
Old fashioned smoke detectors have always served as a useful fire warning system, but they can get a little annoying – thanks to that persistent low battery chirping and countless false alarms. Smart home detectors can add a layer of safety to your home, albeit with increased reliability.
The Nest Protect smart home device detects smoke and carbon monoxide as well. It is equipped with precision sensors that pick both slow and fast burning fires. This smart smoke detector will tell you where the fire is suspected to be, and can be interlinked with other smart devices. Because you can learn about a fire breakout via your smartphone whether you’re at work, at the community shopping mall and elsewhere, you can take immediate action (call the fire department). The Nest Protect will also blare a loud silence to alert anyone within the premises.
And in the case you’re cooking are embroiled in a steak-cooking competition with other family members on a lazy Saturday afternoon, use your smartphone to temporarily silence the Nest Protect.
If you already have multiple traditional smoke alarms and would like to make smart, the Roost Battery 2.0 is the way to go. The battery sets alerts to your smartphone whenever the sirens go off. Their app allows you silence alarms for up to 2 minutes, and can be programmed (let’s say to turn the lights on whenever the fire alarm goes off) through IFTTT.
9. Best Smart Lock – August Smart Lock Pro [$150]
The August Smart Lock Pro is easy to install, connectible with other smart home devices, and will even let you know when your door is ajar. You don’t need to replace your entire lock – just the inside part of your deadbolt – with this accessory. This way, you can keep using the same key. Use the automatic lock/unlock feature to get in whenever your hands are full of groceries or shopping. Perhaps the only downside to this smart lock is that it doesn’t have an in-built alarm, and only integrates with the HomeKit, Xfinity and Nest smart home hubs.
The Schlage Connect Touchscreen Deadbolt offers a more affordable alternative to August Smart Lock Pro. It is compatible with Amazon Alexa, and comes with an alarm that sounds a piercing siren whenever to send away intruders. The lock has a very high security rating. It comes with a touchscreen that’s fingerprint resistant. On the flip side this, smart home lock doesn’t have its own app. You can still connect to via your smart home hub.
10. Best Smart Garage Door Opener – Chamberlain MYQ Garage [$80]
The Chamberlain MYQ Garage is a must-have if you’d like to make your garage door smart. You are able to set custom alerts, check whether your door is open or closed. An internet connection is all you need to issue commands to open or close the door. Simply tap a button on your smartphone and the door will open when you’re headed home. Geofencing capabilities means that it can sense when you’re close to the driveway and automatically opener. This smart garage door opener is widely compatible with existing garage door hardware (it can control most – if not all – garage door openers from major brands manufactured after 1993). It works with Google Assistant, IFTTT, HomeKit, and more. Another pro for this smart garage door opener ease of installation.
11. Indoor Home Security Camera – Amazon Cloud Cam [$120]
Amazon’s Cloud Cam gives you a Full HD (1080p) live feed, motion notifications, and a 24-hour clip storage. With its ease of use and reliable performance, this is arguably the best indoor home security camera available in the market. Configuring this smart security device takes less than 5 minutes. You’ll need to download the respective app for Android and iPhone, and login with existing Amazon details (you could create a new account as well). You can set custom alerts (for instance, you may get a motion alert every time a person-sized object is detected). You can automatically turn the camera off when you’re at home and then have it switch on whenever you are away.
You may purchase an Amazon Key enabled power cable so that this camera works with the Amazon Key-in-home delivery to allow couriers to deliver your amazon packages in your home.
If you’re looking for a domestic security camera that just keeps things simple, the Amazon Cloud Cam will suffice.
12. Best Smart Flood Sensor – Roost Smart Detector [$50]
The Roost Smart Water Leak and Freeze Detector has emerged as the top accessory in a market that’s flooded with devices. Not only does it have an intriguing design, it also works great than most other leak detectors available in the market. It users two parallel probes to detect water in case there’s flooding or a leak in your home. What more…it also tracks humidity and the temperature in your home. Unlike some of its more expensive competitors (D-Link and Honeywell), Roost smart flood sensor doesn’t integrate with any smart hub. This means you’ll need to install their app on your smartphone in order to monitor.
How is your smart home project going? Are you using any of the devices above? Let us know what you like (or dislike) about them in the comments section below.