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Smart Homes For Beginners

Smart Homes For Beginners


A smart home is a series of interconnected devices and systems automating tasks to improve your home experience. These devices, ranging from thermostats and lightbulbs to washing machines and refrigerators, provide remote control through a home network, typically Wi-Fi. 

Some devices are user-friendly, while others require a professional setup. Smart homes can lead to cost savings through energy efficiency but will require initial investments and potentially ongoing maintenance, such as subscription fees for advanced features. 

Smart home pros include increased convenience, energy efficiency, and security. Cons include high initial costs and potential issues from hacking and scams.

Transitioning to a smart home doesn't require replacing everything at once. Instead, you can do this piece-by-piece over time, allowing you to find what works best for you and the kind of home you’re looking to build. 


Perhaps you’ve heard the term “smart home” before and aren’t sure what it means. Or maybe you are familiar with it but would like to learn more or refresh your knowledge. 

Whatever your reason is, smart homes are well worth learning about. Below, we’ve covered everything from pros and cons to costs. We recommend taking it at your own pace instead of trying to take it all in at once. 

With that said, let’s start with some basic information about smart homes.

Smart Homes For Beginners

What Is A Smart Home?

A smart home is a home equipped with devices and systems to automate tasks typically handled by you. They make life more convenient, comfortable, energy-efficient, and secure. With this technology, you can control many things, such as lighting, heating, air conditioning, TVs, computers, security cams, and even sprinklers.

How Does A Smart Home Work? 

In a smart home, devices are interconnected through a home network, usually Wi-Fi. Devices communicate with each other, and you control them from a central device, like a smartphone or a centralized home hub.

Many devices use sensors to detect various elements, such as temperature or lighting. This allows them to effectively monitor the tasks they’re responsible for and make adjustments as needed.

What Devices Are Typically In A Smart Home? 

Common smart items include but are not limited to the following:

  • Thermostats
  • Lightbulbs
  • Cameras
  • Doorbells
  • Locks
  • Alarms
  • Speakers

Common smart appliances include but are not limited to the following:

  • Washing machines
  • Refrigerators
  • Ovens

You can control all of the above remotely. They can also give you reports and even suggest ways to improve efficiency based on your routines.

Is It Hard To Install Smart Home Devices? 

You can set up many smart home devices yourself. Often, it’s as simple as installing an app on your phone or plugging something in. However, even with the easier setups, we recommend following all instructions.

Also, some devices will require professional help. 

For example, while a smart thermostat is more advanced than a regular thermostat, it still needs to integrate with HVAC systems and require the correct wiring setup. It’s better to let a professional handle tasks like these.

Can A Smart Home Save Me Money?

Yes, smart homes can save you money. For example, going back to the smart thermostat, it can learn your routine and adjust heating and cooling to save energy. Over time, this translates to lower electric bills.

For more information on smart home expenses, see the costs section below.

Is A Smart Home Safe? 

While no system is completely safe from potential hackers, using strong, unique passwords, staying current on the latest security information, and updating devices significantly reduces this risk.

VPNs (virtual private networks) are also excellent for protecting your smart home technology.

Will I Need To Replace All My Appliances To Create A Smart Home? 

No, you don’t have to replace all your appliances. Many options exist for adding devices to your installed appliances, turning them into smart ones.

Another factor to consider is that you don’t have to upgrade every element of your home all at once. In fact, it would be better to do it slowly and over time. This allows you to experiment more and see what works best for your needs.

Pros Of A Smart Home

Increased Convenience

With home automation, you can control your home from wherever you are with the touch of a button or your voice.

This includes actions such as the following:

  • Dimming the lights for a movie
  • Turning your sprinklers on
  • Turning on some music to listen to while you cook

You can also set your home to take care of these tasks for you. For example, you could set a schedule for your sprinklers. 

Some devices will even take care of tasks with little to no setup. One example is a smart refrigerator telling you when food has expired.

All of this allows you to spend more time doing the things you love and less time doing the things you don’t.

Improved Energy Efficiency And Reduced Bills

As good as modern homes are at conserving energy, they’re still not perfect. Even if you’re careful, it’s hard to get it right. 

Examples include the following:

  • Forgetting to turn the lights off
  • Setting the heat too high
  • Leaving the hot water on too long

Smart homes help you optimize these elements, reducing energy waste and your bill.

One example is a sprinkler system. Of course, not everyone has one, but if you do, you know how much it can add to your water bill. 

A smart sprinkler system can detect when it rained recently and skip watering that day. If it’s a hotter day, the system can add more water. Even better, aside from some initial setup, it can do all of these things without your involvement.

Better Safety And Security For You And Your Loved Ones

Smart home technology goes a long way to improving your home’s security. 

Modern systems include devices such as the following:

  • Smart locks
  • Security cameras
  • Motion detectors
  • Alarms

All of the above are accessible from your phone, tablet, or computer. You can even monitor your home and get alerts while you’re out.

In short, while deadbolts and window locks are still excellent security options, smart homes add even more layers of security and peace of mind.


One of the most important features of a smart home is the interconnectivity between its devices. In other words, they have to be able to “communicate” with one another to provide you with a seamless experience. Many companies take this into account, while others create products that provide this interconnectivity.

Cons Of A Smart Home

High Initial Costs 

The initial setup of a smart home system can be quite expensive, and it may be tough to afford if you have a tight budget.

This is part of the reason we suggest only getting one or two smart home elements at a time. Research what you think will add the most value to your life, find a brand and cost that works for you, and move forward.

Hacking And Scams

Smart homes are always connected to the internet. They have to be. So, it’s natural to worry about the hacking risk.

Earlier, we mentioned taking precautions such as setting strong passwords, reading the latest research on scams, and keeping your devices up to date. We mention them again now because they are that important.

As an example, someone may try to trick you into giving them sensitive information, such as passwords or personal info. It sounds easy not to give such information away. Unfortunately, many scam artists are good at what they do. The best way to avoid falling victim to a scam is to know what they are and what you can do to avoid them, such as learning their tricks and never giving away the above information.

Should You Get A Smart Home?

Ultimately, this decision is up to you. Many people can and do live wonderful lives without smart home elements, and many prefer that way. 

What matters is what you want for your life. Smart homes add tremendous convenience and accessibility, but they also have costs and risks. 

We’ve said this a few times, but if you’re considering a smart home, try one or two devices and see if you like what they bring to your home and life. If you do, try a few more. If not, you gave it a shot, and you’ve still got a perfectly good home without them.

Best Smart Home Brands

Many brands exist for smart home technology. That gives you plenty of options, but it also makes it difficult to determine which ones are the best. 

To help, you’ll find those brands below in no particular order, starting with Amazon.


Here are all the reasons Amazon is one of the best brands for smart homes:

  • They offer a multitude of devices
  • Alexa provides you with voice control and an ever-growing list of functions it can help you with
  • Many of Amazon’s devices are compatible with third-party smart home tech, so you can mix and match as necessary
  • Amazon is continually updating its products and technologies
  • Amazon offers many price points for its smart home technology, appealing to a wide range of budgets
  • They have a long history with quality products, which extend to their smart home tech

Here are all the reasons Google is also one of the best brands for smart homes:

  • Like Amazon, Google offers a wide array of devices
  • Also, like Amazon, Google consistently updates the hardware and software in its smart home tech line
  • For many, Google Assistant is an invaluable voice assistant, which is also true for Google’s smart home tech
  • New products integrate seamlessly with the old
  • Google builds their products with you in mind, meaning they’re all easy to use
  • Google invests heavily in machine learning, which improves everything at a better quality and faster pace
  • Google’s products also work with a variety of third-party tech
  • Similar to Amazon, Google has been creating high-quality products for decades

Apple also has many reasons they’re one of the best smart home brands. Here’s what they are:

  • All HomeKit’s data is encrypted, and no user data is sold for advertising purposes
  • HomeKit allows you to automate your devices based on various factors such as time of day
  • Apple prioritizes the user experience, meaning consistent ease of use
  • Apple is often at the forefront of tech innovations, including smart home tech
  • Similar to Google and Amazon, Apple has a long history of creating high-quality products
  • Apple has many compatible devices, such as tablets, watches, smartphones, and more
  • Voice control with Siri

Other great brands exist as well, including but not limited to:

  • Samsung
  • Philips
  • TP-Link
  • Ring
  • Ecobee
  • Wyze

It can be overwhelming at times, but you also have many options to choose from. In many cases, you can even mix and match. In short, whatever your needs or situation, there’s a smart home brand for you.

How Much Does A Smart Home Cost?

Initial Investment: The Startup Costs

Depending on the brands and the extent of your setup, startup costs can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

Here are some examples:

  • Smart Hub/Controller: $100-$300
  • Smart Thermostat: $100-$250
  • Smart Lighting Starter Kit: $50-$200
  • Smart Security Cameras: $100-$400 each
  • Smart Locks: $100-$300 each

These prices are just starting points. Premium models or additional features can increase costs.

Also, keep in mind that a lower price doesn’t mean a cheaper product. What’s most important is finding devices that work for your price range and still provide a quality experience.

Ongoing Expenses

Many smart devices require no additional costs after purchase. However, some can have monthly subscription fees for advanced features such as cloud storage or video footage.

Here are some pricing examples:

  • Cloud Storage For Cameras: $3-$30/month, depending on storage size and features.
  • Professional Monitoring: $10-$50/month, varying by service level and provider.

You may also need to improve your Wi-Fi network to handle all of these devices simultaneously. This may require upgrading your plan or investing in additional hardware.

Hidden Costs

You can set up many smart home devices yourself. However, some will require professional installation, such as a smart thermostat. 

Installation fees can cost anywhere from $100 to $1,000 and up. The cost depends on the type of installation and your home’s existing infrastructure.

The latter also ties into compatibility. In other words, you’ll need to determine if you need upgrades or replacements. 

One example is a smart lock requiring a specific type of deadbolt or lock cutout. So, you (or a professional) may have to make modifications or select a smart lock that fits your existing door.

Long-Term Savings

The above costs can make it seem like smart homes are just a bunch of expenses. However, smart home technology does save you money on your energy bill since it optimizes your overall energy usage. In fact, some insurance policies offer discounts if your home uses smart technology.

Here are some examples of the savings you can expect from both:

  • Energy Savings: variable, but smart thermostats can save up to 10-20% on heating and cooling bills.
  • Insurance Discounts: 5-20% discount on homeowners insurance depending on your smart home tech

How To Turn Your House Into A Smart Home

Let’s say you’ve decided to turn your house into a smart home. That’s great! While this guide won’t cover everything, it’ll get you started.

The steps you’ll need to take are the following:

  1. Identify your needs
  2. Finalize your budget
  3. Choose your ecosystem
  4. Invest in your home network
  5. Select compatible devices
  6. Maintain your smart home

Here’s how to start.

1 - Identify Your Needs

Nothing is more important than determining what you want your smart home to do for you.

Common needs include:

  • Beefing up home security
  • Saving on energy bills
  • Making various household tasks more efficient

We recommend creating a list of these needs and prioritizing the most important ones. From there, you can determine what to do next.

2 - Finalize Your Budget

As you’ve seen above, smart homes have various costs. 

For example, you could opt for a single device. However, if that single device is a smart refrigerator, you’re paying at least a thousand dollars.

Alternatively, you might need lots of smart devices. Many are relatively inexpensive, though. So, getting a bunch of devices for a fraction of the cost of a smart refrigerator is not out of the question.

A lot of smart home technology goes on sale, too, especially around the holidays. So, while you might have a tight budget, you could also wait to maximize what you can get.

Also, make sure your budget includes any installation fees, subscriptions, or additional accessories you might need. Be realistic and always overestimate costs so you’re not surprised later.

3 - Choose Your Platform

Smart home technology is evolving to the point where it’s not as necessary to make sure the devices are all compatible with your chosen platform. Companies and products are emerging to offer greater compatibility between all devices. Matter is one such example.

However, some limitations still exist, and it’s best to err on the side of caution. 

Currently, smart homes have four platform options:

  1. Google Assistant
  2. Amazon Alexa
  3. Apple HomeKit
  4. Samsung SmartThings

Others exist as well. 

Ultimately, all options offer benefits and drawbacks. However, it’s not a bad idea to start with a platform you’re already familiar with and have some products for. For example, if you frequently use an iPhone, you may want to focus your research on Apple HomeKit.

No matter which option you choose, starting with the platform is the best way to successfully set up your smart home.

4 - Invest In Your Home Network

Smart homes require the internet to work. The devices have to communicate with one another in order to make your life easier and more efficient. 

So, if you can, invest in a reliable and secure home network. Make sure your Wi-Fi has the range and capacity to support multiple devices at the same time, especially if you live in a larger home.

This is also an excellent time to talk to your internet provider about upgrading your internet if necessary. Additionally, make sure you’re protected from any cyber threats.

5 - Select And Install Compatible Devices

It’s worth mentioning again that you’ll need to choose products that meet your needs and are compatible with your platform.

It’s tempting to go for the stylish options, but it’s better to focus on the ones that’ll add the most substance and value to your life. Smart thermostats are a great product to start with since they can turn your home’s climate control into something you barely even have to think about.

Remember that some products will require complex installation, so it’s essential to identify this and plan for it ahead of time.

No matter what products you choose, always look for reviews. It’s also a good idea to research their specs. You can find plenty of options for both online.

6 - Maintain Your Smart Home

Smart home maintenance is not necessarily like regular home maintenance, although it can be. You will certainly have to fix devices from time to time or have a technician do it for you.

However, smart home maintenance also means checking for updates, troubleshooting connectivity issues, and considering potential upgrades.

Taking these steps ensures your smart home runs effectively and without interruption.

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