How to Design a Smart Home on a Budget

Suchi Rudra
July 31, 2017


How to Design a Smart Home on a Budget

In the not so distant future, your fridge (or more specifically, your smart egg tray) will be chatting with your health monitor and your grocery store about whether or not to replenish your eggs. Meanwhile, your 3D printer and smart watch will be having a conversation about what kind of gift to print for your sister’s birthday party this weekend. Just like an online mortgage process can make your life a lot easier, connected devices for the home are a way to create a hassle-free lifestyle with a “smart home.”

As you get closer to buying, you can already start thinking about a few ways to turn your new home into a smart home with some wireless gadgets that won’t break the budget.

Mind your energy habits with a smart thermostat

If you’re tired of running back and forth to check and adjust the thermostat setting, a smart thermostat might be a good upgrade. This nifty, eco-minded gadget will analyze and learn the temperature settings you prefer for different times of the day and night, and then use motion sensors to detect unoccupied rooms and adjust the temperature accordingly.

You also get a handy monthly report of your heating and cooling habits, with recommendations on how to save more on your energy bills. Yet another added bonus is that a smart thermostat can act as a home automation hub from which to control the settings of other connected devices in your home, like turning off the house lights and locking the doors when you go to bed.

The three most popular products currently on the market are Google Nest, Honeywell Lyric (iOS compatible) and Apple ecobee3, and all come with various incentives and energy rebates, depending on where you live.

In conjunction with a smart thermostat, another way to boost energy savings is to automate your blinds and shades. When the summer sun is strong, your blinds will automatically shut to help keep your indoor environment cool. At the same time, you will effortlessly maintain privacy and control the amount of daylight in your house.

While smart thermostat companies claim that their products cut your energy bills, experts point out that for this to be true, you’ve got to be sure your house is already well insulated and isn’t leaking energy through the doors and windows.

To determine how energy efficient your new house really is, you can get an energy audit and find out your Home Energy Score, a criteria created by the U.S. Department of Energy. If you then decide to invest in optimizing your home’s energy efficiency, you can score federal tax credits and rebates for the purchase of insulation materials, new windows and heating/cooling equipment.

Have some fun with smart appliances

What’s better than a programmable coffee pot scheduled to start a fresh brew every morning? A wireless coffee pot that you can control while you’re still in bed—which means you don’t have to worry about remembering to program it at night, and you can start the java dripping a bit later if you’re sleeping in. And it’ll even send you a nice message when your cup of joe is ready. Among the more affordable models, Behmor Connected or EzPro BrewGenie have gotten rave reviews even from coffee snobs.

If you have quite a bit of cash left over after buying your home, Samsung has a new smart fridge with a touchscreen so each family member can write up his or her own grocery list—and even connect right to your local grocery store to place an order. But if you’d rather do your own shopping, the three cameras inside the fridge will email you photos of whatever’s left so you can stroll list-free through the store. As is always true of technology, prices will come down as the tech gets cheaper and competition grows, so hopefully you won’t have to wait too long for a more affordable smart fridge. We admit that this one isn’t the most budget-friendly, but it’s so cool that we couldn’t leave it out.

While connected ovens, washers and dryers already exist, they’re still quite pricey, and their usefulness is up for debate. Meanwhile, you could go out and get yourself something way more useful, like a wifi-enabled robot vacuum or a digital electric smoker that texts you when your food is cooked to perfection.

Take full control of your lighting

Whether you’re away on vacation or too far from a light switch, having a smart lighting system can be a big help. Aside from the remote access and the extra security that this brings to your new smart home, you can also tweak the intensity of the lights to set the mood in any and all rooms or program lights to turn on and off at a scheduled time—a neat trick to save time and reduce electricity consumption.

Philips Hue is a popular, diverse range of smart bulbs, and newcomer Aurora Nanoleaf injects some serious fun with its modular, LED panels that offer many colors and snap together like Legos.

Boost home security

Just like you might have quit your monthly cable subscription in favor of Netflix, more homeowners are replacing home monitoring from a professional security firm with connected security devices that can directly alert the police if there’s trouble.

Whenever you’re away from home, you can check on your house with indoor and outdoor smart cameras, like Nest Outdoor Cam, that also provide audio and offer cloud storage of your video. You could also install smart locks or connected video doorbells that will send text alerts and set off an alarm in case of an emergency.

Keep it together

Remember that the whole point of adding wireless devices to your home is to keep things simple and make life easier. You might get excited and load up on devices for every part of your house—but how do you consolidate all the variously programmed products from different brands? A smart hub, like Logitech Pop or Wink Hub 2, will make sure that you stay sane as you smoothly control all your smart home gadgets with just a few taps on your phone.


When you’re ready to set up your smart home, you can shop online, but many of these devices are also sold in regular stores, like Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target and Wal-Mart. If you’re interested in more cutting edge devices, Kickstarter has become a popular breeding ground for potential smart home gadgets. Just remember that you don’t have to make a huge investment to have an effective smart home setup—or  to impress your friends! Start simple, make sure you’re comfortable, and have fun exploring the ever-evolving world of IoT.

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