Home automation has moved from being super hard to now being an almost plug-and-play exercise. But there is no so much gear around that it can be challenging to work out what you need. To help you get started, I've put together a starter kit so you have an idea of what you can do.
One quick thing - there are three main competing standards when it comes to smart home and home automation.
Apple's HomeKit is great if you work and live within that ecosystem. But, generally speaking, devices cost more and the platform isn't as widely supported as the others. That means there are fewer options to choose from in most product categories.
Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are by far the most prolific standards on the market. And because many devices support both platforms, you can start with one and then try the other to see which you prefer. While there are some devices that support HomeKit as well as Google and Amazon, that's a smaller pool to choose from.
Perhaps the most popular smart lighting on the market comes from Philips. The Philips Hue range of lights work with Google Assistant, HomeKit and Alexa making them a good option if you're after something multi-platform. That's handy if your home uses a variety of devices.
The Philips Hue White Bayonet Cap (B22) Dimmable LED Smart Bulb ($18.70) is a good place to start if you just want to try one bulb out. But you'll also need a Philips Hue Smart Bridge as the bulbs and other Hue accessories are controlled through a hub.
If you're ready to go all in, there's a Philips Hue White and Colour Ambiance Smart Bulb Starter Kit that includes a Hue Bridge that can support up to 50 lights, and three globes for $256.49.
Remember, when buying smart lighting make sure you buy the correct type of glover depending on whether you need screw-in or bayonet fittings.
I use smart plugs for my home office and with the lounge-room entertainment kit so things are completely powered off when not in use so they don't consume power while on stand-by.
The TP-Link Smart Plug with Energy Monitoring at $45.89 is a great buy. As well as letting you control power to your devices, you can schedule it to turn things on and off at specific times or when you're away - I have one on my fish tank to turn the lights on and off on a schedule. As a bonus, this one will tell you how much juice your devices are consuming. It works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
At just $10.00, this two pack of WiFi Smart Plugs is a steal. They work with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant so you can easily control home appliances and other devices.
While there are lots of different smart home products out there, the last group I wanted to look at was entertainment.
Google, Apple and Amazon have all released their own smart speakers that can send and receive inform motion from smart devices. Amazon has a bunch of different Echo Devices that can send and receive voice commands and let you remotely control.
Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Generation) ($79): Ask Alexa to play music, answer questions, find recipes, read the news, check the weather, set alarms and control compatible smart home devices. Or stream songs from Amazon Music, Spotify, TuneIn and others through the built-in speaker.
Amazon Amazon Echo (2nd generation) ($149): Amazon Echo connects to Alexa, a cloud-based voice service, to play music, make calls, set alarms and timers, ask questions, check your calendar, weather, traffic and sports scores, manage to-do and shopping lists, control compatible smart home devices, and more.
Amazon Echo Plus (2nd generation) ($229): Functionally similar to the Echo Dot but with premium speakers powered by Dolby play 360° audio.
Google's response, the Google Home Smart Speaker ($199) lets you control devices that work with Google Assistant and delivers great sound. If you're leaning towards Google Assistant as your preferred smart home platform, it's worth a look.
Apple's Home Pod has proven to be a lees that successful product for the famous fruit company from Cupertino. At $499 it does deliver great sound and gives you an easy in to the world of controlling HomeKit devices as it has Siri integration.
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