Turn your home smart for less than $100

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Building a smart home from scratch might sound like a daunting and expensive process to undertake, but since smart speakers from Amazon and Google came onto the scene, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Sure, you can still go out and buy a dedicated smart home hub followed by whole room-fulls of smart lights, motorized windows and much, much more.

But you can make your home much smarter even on a budget of just $100. This process mostly involves buying connected accessories that attach to your existing kit – your speakers, TV and air conditioner, for example – and making them smarter.

Here is the GearBrain guide to starting your $100 smart home.

Image Credit: iStock.

Smart Speaker

First up, you are going to need a smart speaker to act as the central control system for all of your smart devices. Expensive hubs use smart home-specific wireless technology like Z-Wave and Zigbee, but at this stage you don’t need to worry about that.

Instead, you’ll just be using the Amazon Alexa or Google Home smartphone app to make the smart speaker communicate with the devices we’ll mention later in this article.

There are two choices of smart speaker in the sub-$100 range: the Amazon Echo Dot and the Google Home Mini. Each costs $50, though Amazon also sells refurbished Echo Dots for $40.

Whichever you choose, you will have a virtual assistant for answering questions, setting timers, reading the news and playing music. Beyond that, of course, these devices are the gateways to your smart home. These assistants can be used to switch on the lights, adjust the heating or air conditioning, and much more besides.

I have both an Echo Dot and a Home Mini for testing purposes and find that their smart home abilities are very similar. They connect to many of the same devices and offer the same functionality at the sub-$100 level. The Home Mini’s speaker is better and good for listening to the radio at a low-to-medium volume, while the Echo Dot’s is only really suitable for hearing Alexa speak.

I also find that the Home Mini is less likely to respond to false negatives – that is, it doesn’t mistakenly hear a command and attempt to reply as often as the Echo Dot does.

However, a refurbished Echo Dot is $10 cheaper than the Home Mini and it has a 3.5 mm auxiliary port, so it can be plugged into your existing speaker or sound system. Alternatively, you can connect it via Bluetooth if you prefer. The Echo’s lower cost and increased flexibility gets it our vote for this article.

  • Spent: $40 (Refurbished Echo Dot)
  • Remaining budget: $60

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Image Credit: GearBrain.

Smart Plug

Once you have picked a smart speaker, you can start buying devices for it to control. The smart plug is a good first step, as it can give you voice control over just about anything. For example, I have a regular lamp attached to a smart plug and positioned behind my television. Thanks to the Alexa app, this plug is programmed to switch on for a few hours each evening.

The smart plug is also connected to both the Echo and Home Mini, so I can ask either Alexa or Google Assistant to switch it on or off.

Alternatively, you can fit a fan, heater or air conditioner to a smart plug and get the same level of control. The only requirement is that the device starts working as you want it to when it is switched on at the wall outlet. The smart plug has no actual control over the device other than cutting and restoring its power.

Smart plugs vary in price but can be picked up from Amazon for as little as $13 each. We even found a twin pack from a company called Hugoai which costs just $17

  • Spent: $53 (Refurbished Echo Dot, 1x Gosund smart plug)
  • Remaining budget: $47

Read More: Smart plugs and switches: What to know and which to buy

Image Credit: Gosund.

Smart Lights

Next is the smart home classic – lights controlled with your voice. The obvious choice for many will be Philips Hue, but on a $100 budget this isn’t really an option. This is because, unlike systems from LIFX and Wiz, Hue lights require a hub that connects to your router – and costs extra money.

On such a tight budget, you are best off looking at the LIFX Mini range, which starts at $25 for a single white bulb, then increases to $30 for a ‘Day & Dusk’ bulb that varies in temperature from cold white to warm orange. Finally, the LIFX Mini Color, which can be made any color and temperature, costs $45. White lights from fellow hub-less smart light company Wiz start at around $30.

These mini bulbs aren’t going to change the color or temperature of an entire room on their own, but they can create some nice mood lighting when fitted to a lamp. Of course, when your budget expands you can add more bulbs to the home, filling every socket of every room if you so choose.

  • Spent: $78 (Refurbished Echo Dot, Gosund smart plug, LIFX Mini White bulb)
  • Remaining budget: $22

Read More: Six of the best smart light systems to transform your home

Image Credit: LIFX.

What’s Next?

With just $22 left in our $100 budget, this is, unfortunately, the end of the road. But, by spending just $78 you can have a smart speaker, a smart light, and a smart plug that can control almost anything.

However, you can also add in an extra smart plug for another device, or buy a $20 three-pack and have $15 left over to spend on your Spotify or Amazon Prime subscription, bringing near-unlimited music to your Echo Dot.

Speaking of music, there is another device we’d like to mention: the Google Chromecast Audio. This $35 dongle connects to your speaker or sound system via the 3.5 mm auxiliary port and gives it a Wi-Fi connection.

This means that you can control the speaker from the Google Home app on your smartphone, or with voice commands if you bought a Home Mini smart speaker instead of the Echo Dot.

That way, you could spend $50 on the Home Mini, $35 on the Chromecast Audio, and still have $15 left for a smart plug.

Similarly, the Fire TV Stick should get an honorable mention for costing just $30 refurbished and letting you control Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and other streaming services on your TV. All you have to do is ask Alexa.

This article originally appeared on GearBrain and was syndicated by Mediafeed.org.

Image Credit: Google.

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