Giving your home digital smarts isn't too hard, but it can be a little tricky to know exactly where to start. These six items are a great place to start, even if you don't decide to implement all of them at once. They will all set a foundation for future endeavors into even more connected home adventures.
Use a Smart Voice Assistant to Start Your Smart Home
A smart voice assistant is a simple way to instantly add a dash of smarts to a home. Not only can a voice assistant provide answers to life's pressing questions, but it becomes a foundational element as your home gains additional smart devices.
For example, instead of having to use your phone and an app to control everything, you can simply use your voice with one of these assistants.
Siri on HomePod, Alexa on Echo, and Google Assistant on Home devices all provide unique advantages and can have their own drawbacks.FrankRamspott / Getty Images
If music is your main focus, you might want to consider a HomePod. Echo devices come in dozens of variations and price ranges, while Google Home devices provide Google's deep and often better knowledge base.
Brighten Your Home With Lights That Perform On-Demand
Connected lights are the next obvious choice to brighten your smart home.
There are single-room options that can connect without a hub but are more limited in their capacity. There are also more expansive options like Hue lights which can fill an entire house with ease.
For the timid buyer, you can start with an option from Kasa or Eufy, both of which can be set up to connect directly to your home Wi-Fi without a hub.
For the more serious buyers and those looking to add more than just two or three bulbs around the house, you'll want to consider Lifx or Hue.
While Hue is more expensive, it does support Apple's HomeKit, Echo, and Google Assistant to maintain compatibility no matter what voice device you choose now or in the future.
A Video Doorbell Is a Modern Peep Hole
Adding a video doorbell may seem a bit frivolous at first, but once you've experienced its help, it will be hard to go back to a time with just a regular peephole.
There are a few reasons you should strongly consider a video doorbell:Notifications when someone or something comes by the doorRemote voice talkingAbility to turn off the sound during nap time
Ring, Nest, and Skybell all are in the top-rated category. None are bulletproof in regards to security with an unsecured network, however.
There are some advantages to selecting the different brands depending on what other smart devices you have. For example, those with Google Home products will probably want to select a Nest Hello doorbell which will integrate with Home Hub and other Home speakers to announce who is at the door.
Those in the Amazon camp might want to go with Ring for its similar integration with Echo devices.
Leave Keys Behind With a Smart Home Lock
If you've ever had that feeling that you left the door unlocked, but weren't sure, a smart lock might be perfect for you.
Not only can you lock or unlock your door remotely, but you can see when it is unlocked and have a time stamp record of that.
A lot of smart locks also come with a keypad which allows you to ditch your house keys altogether. It's a freeing feeling to be able to not worry about carrying a key. Likewise, it's also handy to be able to give a guest a code that can be revoked later, rather than a physical key they might lose.
Try one from Schlage, Nest, or Kiwi for some of the best results.
You're Getting Warmer With a Connected Thermostat
A smart, connected thermostat might be nice to manage the temperature automatically for you based on if you're home or away, but that's definitely not the only reason you'd want one.
The biggest advantage comes in the form of convenience. A thermostat has a designated place in a house and most times it's never very convenient. Having a smart thermostat allows you to change the temperature from anywhere in (or out of) the house.
Popular thermostats like Nest and Ecobee also connect to voice assistants so you can simply ask for the heat or AC to come on when you want it to. Both options work across various mobile platforms and have extensive ecosystems.
Turn a House Into a Home With Warm and Familiar Music
While a smart, Wi-Fi speaker probably isn't the product most people should start with if they're only interested in music, it can be a great addition.
Smart voice assistants typically double as a smart speaker and can play music. Most do not sound very good. The Echo Dot or Google Home Mini is fine for spoken word, but when it comes to your jams, they fall short.
If the quality sound is key, you'll want to look at Sonos, Apple's HomePod, or Google Home Max. Each of these is Wi-Fi speakers which means they don't need to be connected to your phone like Bluetooth. Bluetooth speakers are fine, but if you tap on a video the music will stop, unlike with a Wi-Fi speaker.