Most people tend to see dollar signs when they hear the term “smart home,” either because the devices cost a pretty penny or because they’ll need a professional to install them — or both. These easy home hacks prove otherwise. Most are less than $100 each (and many on the list are less than $50!), and these upgrades are easy to install on your own. Even better? It won’t cost a fortune to make your entire space smarter, more efficient and, in some cases, safer.
Here are seven ways you can make your home smart — today.
1. Upgrade to LED bulbs.
If you’re looking to make your home smart, start with the lights: In recent years the price of LEDs has dropped around 90 percent from what it was in 2013, with some 60W equivalent bulbs now selling for as low as $2.50 each. The real payoff here is in the long-term, though. Not only do LEDs last way longer (they have a rated life of around 50,000 hours — about 50 times what you get with an incandescent), but they also cut your energy consumption. In particular, smart LED bulbs with wireless communication capabilities enable you to adjust the brightness of your bulbs as well as turn them on and off right from your smartphone, allowing you to further cut your energy bills.
According to some estimates, if you replace a 60-watt bulb with an LED, you could save over $50 during the lifetime of the bulb (decades), so you can see how the savings can add up if you switch all your bulbs over time.
2. Install motion-sensing light switches.
We’re all guilty of forgetting to turn off the lights. A motion-sensing light switch turns your lights off when no motion is detected. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that using one of these switches could cut wasted electricity by as much as 30 percent. While the energy savings won’t be as significant as switching to LEDs, you’ll certainly have less of those head-smack moments when you realize you left the lights on in an infrequently used room, like the garage or a guest bathroom. For a basic floodlight sensor for a garage, prices typically run from $15 to $70.
3. Invest in an energy monitor.
If you’ve ever wondered how much energy your home uses, an energy monitor can tell you. According to Electronic House magazine, it can also help you receive immediate feedback and save 5 percent to 15 percent on your energy bills. Plug an energy monitor into any electrical outlet, then plug in anything you want to monitor, like a garage refrigerator, an ice maker, or an infrequently-used VCR or DVD player. Many energy monitors are compatible with a smartphone app that helps you track energy consumption — even when your appliances are turned off, since many suck power even when they’re not in use. A more advanced home energy monitor can cost a few hundred dollars, but another option is a smart plug, which costs about $45.
4. Utilize smart outlets.
You don’t need a new lamp to control your lights remotely — just a smart outlet. They work similarly to an energy monitor, except you use the app to remotely turn devices on and off. This is great for small appliances in the kitchen (imagine turning on your coffee maker or toaster from bed!), or a lamp by your front door. Smart outlets range in price from about $20 to $80.
5. Get a smart streaming stick.
Take your TV to the next level with a streaming stick. All you need is a current TV model with HDMI ports in the back to immediately access apps and streaming libraries like Netflix, HBO Go and Hulu. Some even have voice control, so you can manage the volume, change channels and dial up movies or TV shows with your voice. Smart streaming sticks range from $35 to $50.
6. Make your garage door smart.
If kids and guests are constantly coming and going from your home, a smart garage door opener is great. It connects to a smartphone app and lets you control your garage from anywhere. Some require you to replace your entire garage door opener, but some are adapters that may allow you to make the model you have “smart.” Good-quality, smart garage door openers range from $47 to $240.
7. Switch to a video doorbell.
Technically, this isn’t under $100, but if you’re open to a splurge, installing a video doorbell may be a great choice. The built-in camera syncs with an app on your smartphone so no matter where you are you can see who’s at the door — you can even get alerts when there’s motion by the door. At around $200, it’s an easy way to increase home security without having to call a specialist.
Remember: These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. Whether you’re looking for a way to feel safer, save money on your energy bill or entertain your guests, there are so many options!
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