Budget-Friendly Smart Home Products

Jason Hargraves
Written by Jason Hargraves
Updated June 3, 2016
using a smartphone to control a home automation system
You can use your smartphone to control a wide range of home automation products. (Photo courtesy of Elgato)

Affordable home automation systems start around $100. All you need is a smartphone and Wi-Fi.

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Video: Can I Install My Own Home Automation System

Linking your home to your smartphone and controlling everything from the thermostat to your security system is no longer an expensive project.

Home automation has become affordable thanks to dozens of companies offering easy-to-install smart home equipment and user-friendly automation software.

So, why is something that once cost thousands of dollars now as cheap as $100 or less? Thanks to your smartphone and home Wi-Fi, they’ve put the control of your home at your fingertips, literally.

Free app downloads, DIY installation and the fact that you typically don’t have to sign a contract or pay monthly monitoring fees make these products even more affordable.

If you’re looking to turn your home into a “smart home” on the cheap, consider some of these products.

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

To keep home automation costs low, start with a smoke detector (one of the cheapest smart home products) and then add other products as your budget allows.

These smoke and carbon monoxide detectors connect to your home’s Wi-Fi signal and send alerts to your phone after detecting smoke or fire. Some products offer voice alerts that pinpoint the location of the fire, and you can use your phone to silence a false alarm.

Both Nest and Onelink offer Wi-Fi smoke detectors starting around $100.

Smart thermostat

computer screen
A homeowner uses a tablet to control a smart thermostat. (Photo courtesy of member Jerry R. of Bradenton, Florida)

Smart thermostats were among the first smart home products on the market.

They allow you to set and monitor the temperature in your home, even making real-time adjustments remotely. Some thermostats “learn” your habits, meaning they’ll automatically adjust temperature based on your routine.

The Nest Learning Thermostat costs around $250, while other companies, such as Emerson and Wink, offer smart thermostats for $150.

In addition to regulating room temperature, Elgato’s “Eve Room” ($75) monitors indoor air quality, checking for VOCs and humidity.

Smart locks and home security

Kwikset smart lock
No key required: You can control these locks with your smartphone or the included electronic key fob. (Photo courtesy of Kwikset)

If you’re prone to losing your keys, consider investing in a smart lock that allows you to gain access with your smartphone.

Not only do you not need a key, you can unlock your door remotely for friends, family or cleaning crews. You can also lock up when they leave, or double-check they did it for you.

Kwikset and Schlage sell smart locks for around $200.

DIY video surveillance

home camera
Wifi cameras for your home have become smaller and more affordable. (Photo courtesy of Nest)

Video surveillance cameras are relatively new to the affordable home automation field. Once reserved for businesses and government buildings, homeowners now have a wide range of options for installing interior and exterior video surveillance cameras.

Some products require wiring and a data storage device, such as a DVR or external hard drive, wile others, like the Nest Cam, use Wi-Fi and store footage in the cloud.

Just like other smart home products, these cameras send alerts (video or still photo) to your smartphone or email after detecting motion.

Prices start around $70 and go up depending on the type and number of cameras you prefer. Also, expect to pay a monitoring fee if your camera offers cloud storage. The Nest Cam charges around $10 per month for 10 days of continuous monitoring.

Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on December 22, 2015.

Have you installed any of these products in your home? Tell us what you think of them in the comments section below.

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