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Top Smart Home Devices to Upgrade Your Living Space

Top Smart Home Devices to Upgrade Your Living Space February 28, 2024


Upgrading Your Home with Smart Technology Over the past decade, smart home technology has taken off in popularity as the technology has become more advanced and affordable. With so many diverse products now on the market, it's easy for homeowners to gradually upgrade their living spaces with useful smart devices. ...

Upgrading Your Home with Smart Technology

Over the past decade, smart home technology has taken off in popularity as the technology has become more advanced and affordable. With so many diverse products now on the market, it’s easy for homeowners to gradually upgrade their living spaces with useful smart devices. These connected devices can provide added convenience, security, entertainment, and energy savings around the home through everyday voice controls or automated features.  

So what are the key smart home upgrades homeowners and renters should consider as they take their first steps into a connected living space? This guide covers the top categories of smart devices that can boost comfort, security, and connectivity.

Smart Speakers  

Smart speakers allow you to control your home devices by voice command or touch. Leading brands in this space include Amazon Echo and Google Home.

Amazon Echo is one of the most popular smart speakers on the market. Key benefits include:

– Hands free voice control using Alexa

– Ability to link with smart home devices and control them via the speaker 

– Audio streaming from services like Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music 

– News, traffic, and weather updates 

– Smart assistant features like calendar updates, to-do lists, alarm setting

Google Home is another top choice for smart speakers. Key features include:  

– Voice commands powered by Google Assistant

– Ability to control Chromecast devices, Nest products, smart lights etc  

– Streaming music from YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora and more

– Ask questions and get answers in real-time from Google  

– Set reminders, control your calendar, automate home devices and more

When choosing between smart speakers, look at your existing tech ecosystem and voice assistant preference to determine the best fit. Both Amazon and Google offer compelling, versatile products to control your home through voice commands.

Smart Displays 

Smart displays take the functionality of smart speakers a step further by adding a visual interface through an integrated touchscreen. This allows for visual responses to queries, making smart displays optimal for tasks like watching video, viewing photos, making video calls, and more. Some of the most popular smart display options include:

Amazon Echo Show – The Echo Show comes in three different sizes, with 5.5″, 8″, and 10″ displays, providing options for different spaces. The Echo Show allows you to watch videos, make calls, view security cameras, control smart home devices, access Alexa skills, get weather/news/traffic updates, and more all through the screen.

Google Nest Hub – The Nest Hub (formerly the Google Home Hub) features a 7″ touchscreen display. The interface shows visual responses from the Google Assistant, giving you weather, reminders, calendar events, smart home controls, and more at a glance. You can also watch videos, make Duo calls, view photos, and control other smart devices. The Nest Hub is offered at a lower price point than Amazon’s displays.

Facebook Portal – Facebook offers the Portal and Portal+ smart displays, focused heavily on video calling through Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. The displays range from 10-15″ and feature an AI-powered camera that automatically pans and zooms to keep you in frame during video calls. Portal devices provide access to streaming services, web browsing, smart home controls, and other voice-activated features through Amazon Alexa integration.

Smart displays provide convenient visual access to many smart assistant features. With options at different price points and integration with the major voice assistants, smart displays can enhance a range of smart home setups. Touchscreen interaction paired with voice controls makes them intuitive to use for many everyday tasks.

Smart Lighting

The Smart lighting allows you to control the lighting in your home remotely through your smartphone or voice assistants. Smart lightbulbs and switches connect to your Wi-Fi network, allowing you to turn lights on/off, dim, change colors, and create lighting groups and scenes from an app. 

Smart lighting provides many benefits over traditional lighting. You can automate lighting based on schedules and routines. For example, turn on hallway lights at sunset or activate your porch light when you leave work. Geofencing features turn lights on/off as you arrive/leave home. Voice control through assistants like Alexa and Google allows hands-free lighting adjustments.

Some of the most popular smart lighting platforms include:

Philips Hue – The most popular brand of smart bulbs and lighting accessories. Offers a wide variety of white and color A19, BR30, PAR, and candle bulbs. Compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, HomeKit. Can sync with music, games, movies, and TV for an immersive entertainment experience.

LIFX – Wi-Fi enabled smart LED bulbs with no hub required. Provides millions of colors, whites, and color temperatures. Has Multizone bulbs that allow for multiple colors in one bulb. Integrates with major voice assistants. 

Kasa Smart from TP-Link – Budget-friendly smart bulbs, switches, and plugs. Lacks some advanced features but very easy to set up. Control through Kasa app and Google/Alexa.

C by GE – Affordable smart bulbs with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi options. Syncs with Alexa, Google, etc. Interesting designs like filament bulbs.

Wemo – Smart plugs, switches, and bulbs that work with Apple HomeKit as well as Alexa/Google. Remote scheduling and usage monitoring. Simple to install.

With so many options for smart lighting, you can easily upgrade dated lighting fixtures and enhance your living space with beautiful, customizable, automated illumination.

Smart Thermostats 

Smart thermostats are one of the most popular smart home devices, allowing you to control your home’s temperature settings and HVAC system remotely. Leading options include Nest, Ecobee, and Honeywell, Vivint Home thermostats. These smart thermostats connect via WiFi and can be controlled through an app on your smartphone or through voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant.

Key benefits of smart thermostats include potential energy savings, convenience, and advanced features. By optimizing your heating and cooling schedules, smart thermostats can reduce unnecessary energy usage when you are away from home or asleep. This can lead to tangible cost savings on your energy bills over time. The ability to adjust temperatures remotely via your phone also provides extra convenience if you forget to change it before leaving home. 

Advanced features allow smart thermostats to learn your usage patterns and habits to automatically program appropriate temperatures. Motion sensors let thermostats know when you are home and away as well. Some models work with temperature sensors in different rooms for zonal control of temperatures in specific areas. Overall, smart thermostats make it easier to manage your home’s climate efficiently.

Smart Doorbells

Smart doorbells are one of the top items to add to a smart home. They offer security, convenience, and connectivity to the rest of your smart devices.

Smart doorbells like Ring and Nest Hello let you see and speak to visitors at your door through an app on your phone, even when you’re away from home. This helps deter potential intruders and also allows you to see delivery people or visitors even if you can’t make it to the door. Having a video record is helpful for security purposes as well.

Another key feature of smart doorbells is notifications. You’ll get an instant alert when someone presses the doorbell or triggers the motion sensor. This helps avoid missing visitors or deliveries. Some smart doorbells integrate with smart locks too, so you can remotely unlock the door for expected guests. 

Overall, smart doorbells are an excellent addition for the convenience, security and connectivity they provide. Key brands like Ring and Nest make high-tech options with handy features like mobile alerts, motion sensors, video recording and integrations with other smart devices. A smart doorbell can take your home security to the next level while also making your life a little easier.

Smart Locks

Smart locks allow you to control access to your home right from your phone. With a smart lock, you can let in guests or service providers remotely without needing to leave a key under the mat. Smart locks provide keyless entry via numerical codes, passwords, or even biometrics like fingerprints. Many also enable remote unlocking and monitoring through a mobile app.

Some of the most popular smart lock brands include August, Schlage, and Yale. August smart locks allow you to create virtual keys to give guests access to your home for set time periods. You can see who comes and goes with a record of each time the lock was used. Schlage and Yale smart locks integrate with Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa for voice commands and smart home automation. 

The key benefits of smart locks include:

Keyless entry. No more fumbling for keys! Just tap in a code or use your fingerprint to unlock.

Remote access. Monitor and control your locks from anywhere with a smartphone app. Let in guests or service providers remotely. 

Activity tracking. See who comes and goes with detailed activity logs.

Flexible access. Set up virtual keys or PIN codes for others, with custom access schedules and durations. 

Home automation. Many models work with smart home platforms for voice control, automation rules, and integration with other devices.

If you’re worried about getting locked out, most smart locks have a back-up physical key as a failsafe. Upgrading to a smart lock allows you to conveniently monitor and control access to your home in a keyless, connected manner.

Smart Plugs

Smart plugs allow you to control lamps, fans, and other appliances remotely using your smartphone or voice commands. They provide ultimate convenience by letting you turn devices on and off from anywhere and set schedules to automate them. 

Smart plugs simply plug into your standard electrical outlet and have their own outlet you plug devices into. Leading options like TP-Link Kasa Smart Plugs and Wemo Mini Smart Plugs connect via WiFi without the need for a separate hub. You install a simple app to control and monitor them.

With smart plugs, you can make basic appliances like lamps, fans, coffee makers, etc. smart. Key features include:

Remote Control: Turn devices on or off using the app on your phone from anywhere. Never worry about leaving things on when you’re away from home.

Voice Control: Connect smart plugs to a smart speaker with Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri and control devices with your voice. Say “Alexa, turn on the living room lamp” without lifting a finger.

Scheduling and Timers: Create schedules and set timers to automatically turn devices on or off on routines that match your lifestyle and preferences.

Usage Monitoring: View real-time and historical usage data to see how much energy devices are consuming. Identify energy hogs.

Away Mode Set all your smart plugs to turn off when you leave so you don’t waste energy powering unused devices.

Smart plugs are an easy way to start automating your home and adding voice control. With top smart plugs under $30, they provide tremendous functionality for the price. Every smart home should start with smart plugs for key lights and appliances.

Smart Home Hubs

A smart home hub is the central device that controls and connects all of your smart home products. Smart home hubs allow you to control multiple devices from a single app and enable automation through scheduling, routines, and AI integration. The two most popular smart home hubs on the market are the Amazon Echo and Google Home. 

The Amazon Echo lineup features the Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, and Echo Plus models. The Echo Plus comes with a built-in Zigbee smart home hub that can connect directly with compatible lights, locks, plugs and more. For the other Echo devices, you’ll need to add the Echo Plus or another Zigbee/Z-Wave hub. The Alexa app allows you to control all your smart devices, set schedules, automate routines, and leverage Alexa’s AI capabilities.

Google Home similarly has the Nest Home Hub, Nest Mini, Nest Audio, and Nest Hub Max models. The newest Nest Hub Max comes with Thread smart home connectivity built-in. To connect other devices, you’ll need a hub like the Nest Connect or a third party Zigbee/Z-Wave hub. The Google Home app enables whole home control, scheduling, automations, and Google Assistant AI features. 

Both Amazon Echo and Google Home hubs provide an easy way to control your smart home from anywhere. With a smart home hub at the center of your system, you can create customized experiences like waking up to the lights turning on gradually, having your door lock as you leave, and setting your thermostat back when you’re away – all automatically through your smart home hub’s powerful integrations.

Conclusion

Smart home devices offer many benefits for upgrading and automating your living space. After reviewing some of the most popular options, here are some final recommendations on the top smart devices to consider:

– Start with an affordable smart speaker like the Amazon Echo Dot or Google Nest Mini to enable voice control and expand from there. Smart speakers make an easy entry point into the smart home.

– Upgrade your lighting with smart bulbs and switches for energy savings, scheduling, and ambiance control. Philips Hue and Lutron Caseta are leaders. 

– Add smart plugs to make ‘dumb’ appliances voice controlled. TP-Link Kasa and Belkin WeMo plugs integrate with major voice assistants.

– Enhance security with a video doorbell like Ring or Nest Hello. They enable seeing and speaking with visitors from anywhere.

– Control temperature conveniently with a smart thermostat. Top options are Vivint, Nest, Ecobee, and Honeywell Home. They optimize heating and cooling automatically.

– Consider a smart display like the Amazon Echo Show for a touchscreen assistant. Smart displays work great as digital photo frames and in the kitchen.

– Manage other devices through a smart home hub like Samsung SmartThings, Apple HomeKit, or Alexa Hub. Hubs integrate devices from various brands.

With the right combination of smart devices matched to your needs, you can enjoy enhanced comfort, security, and convenience throughout your living space. Start with the basics for voice control and connectivity, then build out with specialized devices over time for a customized smart home.

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