A smart home doesn’t have to be an expensive one. Sure, Iron Man’s man cave may be out of reach for most of us, but you can add a number of automation features to your home for less than $50. Below are a few of our favorite pieces of affordable tech, whether you’re in need of a capable tracking device, an ultra-smart thermometer, or a way to lighten up your living room from afar.
You don’t need to buy a $179 Echo speaker to get access to Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant. The Amazon Fire TV Stick with Voice Control may not have the Echo’s “always listening” technology, but with a press of a button and a simple voice command, you can play movies, listen to music, check the weather, listen to a joke, add an item to your to-do list, or do research via Wikipedia. The Alexa App can also be used to control connected smart devices, allowing the bundled remote to control your television, lights, fans, thermostat, and appliances. Read our full review.
While some of the devices on this list make your gadgets smarter, the second-gen Tile actually does the thinking for you. Misplace your keys? Couch cushions swallow your phone? No problem; this compact Bluetooth tracker has your back. The device is barely bigger than a square inch and can be attached to keys; tucked away in a wallet; or placed in backpacks, purses, or luggage. If you misplace something, you simply use the app on your phone to locate your Tile and whatever it was attached to. The Tile can also be used to send a signal to your phone, causing it to ring, even if it is set to silent.
While you can find smart light bulbs on sale for well under $50, most of these products require more than just a smartphone to operate. GE Link Bulbs, for instance, are controlled through the Link Hub. These products can be purchased separately, yes, but many companies offer “starter packs” that give you everything you need to light up your home.
The A19 light bulb, for instance, provides 800 lumens of dimmable white light. With the Wink app, users can turn on and off lights from another room, adjust the brightness, and set a schedule so that the lights automatically turn on or off at a set time. In addition to the automation controls, GE also claims that its Link Bulbs use 80 percent less energy than traditional bulbs and will last more than 20 years when used an average of 3 hours per day.
How many appliances do you currently have plugged in at your house? With the Wemo Insight, you can add some cool automation features to just about any of those gadgets. The switch plugs into an outlet and can be used with everything from coffee makers and lamps to air conditioners. The Wemo app lets you turn appliances off and on from anywhere, set your coffee on an automatic brew schedule, or use its “Away Mode” to randomly turn your lights off and on while you’re on vacation. In addition to adding some automation to your home, the Insight Switch can also give you, well, insight into how much energy you’re using. The Wemo Insight Switch can even be used with Alexa’s voice control feature, or in conjunction with several IFTTT recipes.
Take the guesswork out of grilling with the iGrill Mini from iDevices. This little Bluetooth gadget truly lets you set it and forget it. With a wide range of preset temperature alarms and a 150-foot range, you don’t have to worry about burning burgers or serving undercooked chicken. The iGrill Mini magnetically mounts to your grill, and the device’s changing LEDs gives you a quick glance at the internal temperature of whatever you’re cooking. The iGrill app also provides real-time readings, so you can pull your meal as soon as it reaches the optimal temperature.
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