How to create a smart living room for under $250

Smart home technology is more than just a buzzword these days. With our lives increasingly transformed by the internet of things (IoT), it seems everything from our light bulbs to our thermostat is becoming connected. For consumers, this means that almost every new product boasts some kind of smart technology that promises to make our lives faster, simpler, and better with home automation.

As anyone who’s recently thought about renovating their home knows, the costs of implementing smart home technology can quickly add up. However, by being shrewd about which brands and products you invest in, you can quickly and easily make your home “smart,” even if you’re starting from scratch.

Getting started with smart home automation

Are you thinking about bringing your home out of the dark ages with smart home devices? Trying to get things started with home automation can be intimidating, but a smart home doesn’t have to be filled with crazy gadgets and robot devices. It’s as simple as swapping out everyday products with devices that fulfill the same role, but are connected to each other in order to improve home automation. By setting up a system of triggers and responses that accomplish smalls tasks, you can save yourself time, energy, effort, and even increase home security.

Choosing a Voice Assistant

The first step when automating your home is to choose your smart home hub and platform. The most popular ones include Amazon Alexa, Google Home Assistant, and Apple HomeKit. When deciding which one to use as the base for your smart home, consider things like whether you prefer one system over the others, what technology you already own, and what activities you want to automate. For instance, if you’re an Amazon Prime member and listen to Amazon Music regularly, you may find more value with Alexa. Or, if you want to sync your Google activity including Gmail and Chrome, then Google Assistant may be the right ecosystem for you.

All three are compatible with a huge host of devices, so you won’t be starved of good options. For this roundup, we’ve decided to focus on Alexa-enabled devices, as they’re relatively inexpensive and there are a multitude of options for each product category.

The Beginner’s Kit

Ready to dip your toe into the world of smart home automation? Below are the essential Alexa-enabled smart home products that will help you take your home from a sorry state to state-of-the-art.

+ Customize Your Bundle
Echo Dot
$39.99
Mini Smart Plug (2-Pack)
$18.88
Fire TV Stick
$39.99
Smart Bulb Starter Kit
$73.09
Smart Security Camera
$23.99
$195.94
Total:

Echo Dot smart speaker (2nd-gen) – $39

smart home automation for beginners echo dot

A wireless smart speaker is the absolute first investment you should make when transforming your digs into a smart dwelling. A speaker is the hub through which you can play music, ask questions, set alarms, and control all your other compatible smart home devices. One of the most popular voice-controlled speakers around is the Echo Dot, created by Amazon for use with virtual assistant Alexa. It’s compatible with over 10,000 smart home devices, including smart lighting, door locks, doorbell, smart thermostat, garage door, home entertainment systems, and even your home security cameras. Blending decent sound quality with minimalist design, the Echo Dot is available in black or white.

While the full lineup of Amazon Echo products is vast, the Dot is by far the most affordable option and can accomplish everything you need for basic home automation. Plus, it’s currently on sale for $39, regular $49.

Buy Separately

TECKIN Smart Plugs – $19

smart home automation for beginners teckin

This is an easy upgrade for someone who doesn’t want to overhaul their home’s hardware, but still wants to add smart wireless functionality. Simply insert the TECKIN Smart Plug in a wall outlet and plug in your devices. Just like that, you’ll be able to control your electronics remotely by asking Alexa to turn the plug on or off. Similar to the Wemo Light Switch, you can even schedule the plugs to activate at certain times of the day, for example to start any appliance in the morning. An inexpensive (if somewhat simplistic) automation solution, the two-pack is available on Amazon for just $19.

It should also be noted that these third-party smart plugs will work without a hub, assuming you have a smart mobile device, so they can be sold as a stand-alone option if you don’t want to buy an Echo.

Buy Separately

Philips Hue Smart Bulbs – $89

smart home automation for beginners phil

When you begin investing in your smart home, it’s the little things that make all the difference. Take the Philips Hue Smart Bulbs, for example. This product enables you to control the amount of light in your home automation directly at the source. Dim the bulbs with a word for a beautiful soft white lighting experience or program them to brighten as you wake up in the morning. These bulbs are compatible with Amazon Alexa for voice control, though they can be controlled remotely using the Philips Hue App on your smartphone as well, making it an ideal way of adding extra security to your smart home while you’re away. 

Philips claims that its bulbs will last up to 15 years or 15,000 hours, whichever comes first, so there’s no need to worry about replacing them in the near future. If you like the Philips line of products, you can also expand your home lighting system with accessories like the Hue Dimmer Switch, Hue Tap, or Hue Motion Sensor. A 4-pack of Philips Hue Smart Bulbs will cost you $89 on Amazon, and are regularly $99.

Buy Separately

Fire TV Stick for media streaming – $39

smart home automation for beginners fire tv stick

Movie buffs, this one’s for you. Access over 500,000 movies and TV episodes at the click of a USB drive with the top-rated Amazon Fire TV Stick. Though the picture quality isn’t as advanced as that of the Fire TV, the Stick is a more affordable option that provides all the substance (with a little less style). Though this streaming smart device does not connect directly to your smart home hub, it’s still an essential part of any connected home.

Use the compatible wireless Alexa Voice Remote to search for and find content, play music — even order a pizza. The Fire TV Stick is also portable, meaning you can keep bingeing on your favorite shows when you travel.

Buy Separately

Wyze Cam 1080p – $26

smart home automation for beginners wyze

One of the things that draws us to the idea of smart home automation is the desire to keep tabs on things while we’re away. However, security ecosystems like Blink or Ring Video doorbell camera can cost upwards of $400 to set up. For the beginner smart home investor, a product like the Wyze Cam 1080p, priced at just $26, will suit you just fine. Controlled by Alexa, this Wi-Fi security camera shows you real-time video of what’s happening at your home via the Wyze app. If the dogwalker or delivery man knocks on your door while you’re out, you can still communicate with them remotely using the built-in speaker and mic designed for two-way communication. The app also sends push notifications to your phone when the camera senses motion, ensuring you’re always in the know about the security of your home.

Buy Separately

Looking for more great device deals? Find Amazon coupons, Roomba Deals, and more from our curated deals page, or follow us on our Deals Twitter for daily savings.

We strive to help our readers find the best deals on quality products and services, and choose what we cover carefully and independently. If you find a better price for a product listed here, or want to suggest one of your own, email us at dealsteam@digitaltrends.com.

Digital Trends may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers.
Gaming

‘Kingdom Hearts – The Story So Far’ bundles 9 titles together for $40

'Kingdom Hearts - The Story So Far' is a new bundle that compiles nine different Kingdom Hearts titles together for $40. The bundle is intended to get players caught up on the story ahead of Kingdom Hearts III.
Deals

These 30 Amazon Coupons can help you save on the things you need

Did you know there are thousands of Amazon Coupons and promo codes that you can take advantage of? We found coupons for everything from tech to everyday products. Find out what savings you've been missing out on.
Deals

The best sound machines to help you fall (and stay) asleep

Whether you find that sleep better with white noise, rain sounds, or deep sleep music, there’s a sound machine on the market that will be able to help you catch more z’s in no time at all.
Deals

18 portable tech gadgets you’ll want to use every day

If you're looking for portable tech to keep you charged up and plugged in while on the go, we've rounded up our favorite must-have gadgets currently available. You'll find everything from mini arcade machines to a folding Bluetooth…
Gaming

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Deals

Save up to $1,000 with the best smartphone deals for October 2018

Need a better phone but don't want to spend a fortune? It's never a bad time to score a new smartphone and save some cash. We rounded up the best smartphone deals available that can save you as much as $1,000.
Deals

Here are the 5 best VoIP phone services for small businesses

VoIP telephone systems run over the internet rather than traditional phone lines, and are often the most suitable and cost-effective solution for small businesses. Here's our rundown of the five best available VoIP options.
Deals

Here are the 10 best laptop deals for October 2018

Whether you've started a new school year, are shopping for a student, or you just need a new computer, we've got you covered: These are the 10 best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.
Deals

CLEAR vs. TSA PreCheck: How to reduce time spent in airport security

Several security programs have emerged to help fliers enjoy more relaxed and reliable travel: CLEAR, TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. We’ve broken down everything you need to know about the three services.
Deals

The best Black Friday stores compared: Amazon, Walmart, and more

We've rounded up details about the best sales from today's top retailers, with information about when to shop and what to look for at each. Whether you're browsing in-store or online, we've got you covered.
Deals

The best Apple Watch deals for October 2018

The Apple Watch has surged to prominence in recent years. If you're in the market for an iOS wearable, we've sniffed out the best Apple Watch deals available right now for all three models of this great smartwatch.
Deals

The best iPad deals for October 2018

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for September 2018.
Deals

The best iPhone deals for October 2018

Apple devices can get expensive, but if you just can't live without iOS, don't despair: We've curated an up-to-date list of all of the absolute best iPhone deals available for September 2018.
Deals

Score a free Google Home Mini when you buy an Nvidia Shield TV from Walmart

There are a lot of great streaming devices available today, but one really shines when it comes to gaming. The Nvidia Shield TV is our favorite all-in-one streaming and gaming device, and you can now score one from Walmart and get a free…