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Upgrade to a smart home for under $100 with these 3 essentials

I’ve been covering the smart home arena exclusively for over a year now, and in that time, I’ve realized it doesn’t require a hefty investment to upgrade your existing home to a smart one. In fact, you can create an essential smart home for under $100. The smart home is more accessible than you think — and that’s wonderful news for everyone!

One key component

Before I get into some of the recommendations for the essential smart home, you need to know about the most fundamental thing you’ll need to control it. And it’s something you already own and that’s very likely in your pocket right now.

It’s your smartphone, the one gadget to rule your smart home. That’s because it’s required to set everything up, in addition to controlling it later on. While your smartphone may influence what smart home platform you’ll want to invest in, it doesn’t matter if it’s an iPhone or Android — mainly because companies develop mobile apps for both platforms. You can also access the digital voice assistant on your phone to operate the smart home.

The essentials

While some of us may be seduced by the more exotic gadgets for the smart home, like Kohler’s Alexa-powered showerhead or any one of Samsung’s connected refrigerators, you’ll want to focus on the essentials. There are three main categories to focus on here, which are listed below.

Smart speaker

Without question, the first thing you should look into buying is a smart speaker — preferably the inexpensive variety meant to act as your digital voice assistant in the home. The Google Home Mini and Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen), both coincidentally priced at $30, will get the job done by acting as your butler of sorts while you’re at home. Sure, there’s the convenience of whipping out your smartphone to give commands, but it’s easier just telling your smart speaker.

While there are newer and better smart speakers for other applications, such as the Amazon Echo Studio or Sonos One, you’ll be spending substantially more for achieving the same basic functions as these entry-level smart speakers.

Smart lighting

Next up on the essential list is investing in a smart light bulb. There’s an assortment to choose from, especially if you’re eyeing one of the fancier color-changing bulbs out there. If you’re looking to get the most bang for the buck, look at daylight bulbs because they’re cheaper — plus, you can find bundles that have significant discounts. Take the Wyze Bulb, which can be set to a specific color temperature. Even better, a four-pack of the Wyze Bulb costs $30.!

Now, if you’re intrigued more by a color-changing smart LED light bulb, then check out Xiaomi’s Yeelight Smart LED Bulb. What’s also notable is that it doesn’t require a hub — so it directly connects to your home’s Wi-Fi network. If this color-changing bulb is more suitable to your taste, you’ll have to dish out $30 for it.

Smart security camera

In order to complete the essential smart home, you’ll need something to watch over it. That’s where a smart security camera comes in handy. Through the mobile apps, you’ll be able to receive notifications whenever motion is detected, record video, and have two-way conversations. Even some of today’s inexpensive security cameras offer a ton of features to help protect your home.

WyzeCam hands-on review table
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

The Wyze Cam continues to be an outstanding option, mostly because it’s priced at just $20. For the price, you’re getting a camera that records footage at 1080p, as well as night vision, two-way audio, compatibility with Alexa and Google Assistant, and local storage. Another great option is the Reolink E1 Pro, which has everything the Wyze Cam does, but adds in pan-and-tilt functions for complete 360-degree coverage. You’ll pay more at $50, but it definitely gives you more versatility.

Bundle your way to deals

As I’ve detailed above, you can get started on a smart home for under $100. Expanding it can be done relatively quickly as well. Once you continue to build out your smart home, it’s honestly really tough to stop because of the conveniences that open up. You can reduce the impact to your wallet by frequently scoping out bundle deals.

Amazon is known to constantly do this. The Amazon Echo Show 5 with a smart plug costs $80, and its smart display lets you stream live video from your home security camera to it. With some of these bundle deals, it turns out you get something for free. Ring’s Spotlight Cam is priced at $200 on its own, but Amazon’s bundle deal throws in the Amazon Echo Show 5 for free! Deals like this make it easy for anyone to invest in a comprehensive smart home.

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