There’s never been a better time to upgrade your home into a smart home. As smart devices become more common, affordable, and user-friendly, it becomes easy to recognize the appeal of adding a smart device to your home to simplify your daily living or add a bit of flair to impress your guests.
But what smart device is the best device for entering the world of smart home technology?Should you purchase a smart security device, a multi-use controller, or a smart device that would fit within the most used area of your home? Our guide has everything you’ll need to start, expand, or upgrade your smart home.
Quick Explanation: What are Smart Devices, and What Is A Smart Home?
A smart device, or smart home device, is any electronic device that communicates with other smart devices or a smart controller via a wireless network to report info and complete tasks when certain criteria are met. These include sensors, switches, outlets, locks, or even TVs and refrigerators. Smartphones and tablets are considered smart devices too. A smart home is a home that is filled with smart devices, appliances and accessories that are connected to the internet via a single wireless network such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, or Zigbee. These connected devices can be controlled by an app on your smartphone, tablet, or computer whether you’re at home or out of the house.
What’s The First Smart Home Device I Should Get?
Before you get into smart home accessories and appliances, be aware of three important requirements:
First, you’ll need a reliable internet connection, so a strong router that can cover the entirety of your home is necessary. A few extra long ethernet cables might also help depending on what devices you will be using.
Second, smart home devices operate on a single wireless network; so if you enjoy your first smart device and want to expand, you’ll need to be aware of what wireless network they use. The only exceptions are certain smart home hubs and controllers, which may be able to support and command devices that operate on separate wireless networks.
The final step is identifying what your needs or goals are for a smart home. Are you looking for a device to warn you when something has changed or moved on your property? Do you want to save time doing a certain task or wish to control a device or group of devices from your phone? Focusing on a singular purpose for your first smart device will help you make a selection.
Now to answer the question: the answer depends entirely on what you want! Something like a smart plug-in outlet is a universal and inexpensive option, while a smart doorbell or lock is a solid investment. An all-in-one controller might also be a good option if there’s a particular feature that perfectly meets your needs, as the additional functions will serve as demos for what else you can do with a smart home.
We recommend picking a Wi-Fi connected smart device for your first pick. Wi-Fi connected devices are the most likely to be individually controlled and easily added into most smart home networks. Below are a few of our picks that best serve as introductory smart home devices.
Smart lighting perfectly demonstrates the advantages of a smart home. In addition to using a standard switch or dimmer slider, you can control your lights through a mobile app, scheduling them to turn on and off at a set time or in response to particular events, like when you are entering/exiting the house.
Starting off with the basics, the SATCO Starfish Wi-Fi 10A Mini Square On-Off Outlets allow you to turn On and Off plugged in lights and small kitchen appliances from your smartphone or tablet through the SATCO Starfish mobile app. The SATCO Starfish app also enables you to use voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant to command the Outlets to turn On and Off.
A recent trend in lightning design has been the inclusion of string lights into interior and exterior decor. Unlike the lights you have likely seen in your neighbor’s or family’s yards, the SATCO Starfish 24' RGBW White 10-Light Indoor-Outdoor String Lights come with color changing bulbs and voice control compatibility. They can be placed anywhere around your home and are controlled through the SATCO Starfish app or with voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant.
Dimmer switches are becoming a more common feature within homes, whether they are being added in or are included in new construction properties. What sets the Leviton Decora Smart Wi-Fi Dimmer, 600W (2nd Gen) apart from most others is its Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing the dimmer to be controlled with your smartphone, tablet, or voice commands. If you have more smart devices, like door/window sensors or motion sensors, you can program the dimmer to respond when the sensors detect something.
Getting even more advanced than our previous pick, the Leviton Decora Smart Voice Dimmer with Built-In Amazon Alexa comes pre-equipped with Amazon Alexa, making it a pseudo-smart home controller. Not only can you control connected lights with your voice without needing your smartphone to activate Alexa, this switch can activate other Alexa skills and control other smart voice control compatible devices.
Smart security devices help keep a watchful eye on your home and will alert you if something seems wrong. We have dedicated guides for various home security applications, devices, or whole-home security systems, but the products below are good choices for getting started.
The Vera VistaCam 700 Wireless Indoor Surveillance Camera can act as a standalone video camera or be included into an Ezlo or Vera smart security system. It captures and records footage in 720p at 30fps, and even works in near total darkness. If the camera is used as a standalone device, you’d have to review recorded footage and adjust settings through the online web portal. If you add the camera to an Ezlo or Vera security system, you’d be able to control it from the Vera mobile app.
Replacing your standard turnkey deadbolt with a smart lock adds style, security, and accessibility to your home. The August Wi-Fi Smart Lock provides access to your home in 4 different ways: remote control from your smartphone, an Apple Watch, inputting a keycode into an August Keypad (sold separately), or with a normal turnkey. The wireless remote door lock fits onto the inside of your door and works with existing deadbolts and turnkeys.
Smart Home Controllers
If you’re looking to jump right into the smart home world, an all-in-one smart controller packed with features can be a smart investment and a handy sampling of everything a smart home system can potentially do.
The Ezlo PlugHub Energy Smart Plug and Z-Wave Automation Controller (2nd Gen) is an inexpensive smart home controller for smaller setups and first time smart home adopters. This unassuming plug-in module includes an energy monitoring sensor and a smart home hub capable of supporting 30 devices. It can do everything a “full-sized” automation controller can do at a fraction of the cost.
The Qolsys IQ Panel 4, PowerG + 319.5 MHz (Verizon) includes a video/voice intercom, four 4W speakers, an alarm siren, and a glass break sound detector. What sets the IQ Panel 4 apart from most other smart home controllers is its built-in Verizon SIM card that connects to Verizon’s LTE network, with which it uses to switch between Wi-Fi and LTE networks for optimal and reliable wireless connectivity; if one network is running slowly or is temporarily offline, the Panel automatically switches to using the other network to maintain a remote wireless connection. Plus if you purchase the IQ 4 Base, you can turn the IQ Panel 4 into a powerful Bluetooth-connected speaker.
The Zipato ZipaTile2 Z-Wave Home Automation Controller is an all-in-one smart home hub and system controller with nearly every facet of smart home automation built-in. It includes 5 sensors, a camera and microphone, alarm siren, and a thermostat to offer complete smart home and security coverage of a single room, leaving room in your system, and your wallet, to cover other rooms or devices in your home.
They might not be smart home controllers, but smart thermostats are still in charge of one the most important (and expensive) parts of your home, your HVAC system. The Aprilaire Wi-Fi Touchscreen Thermostat with IAQ, Amazon Alexa & Google Assistant Control is our recommended pick for its wide compatibility with most HVAC, humidifier, and heat pump systems, and its voice control compatibility with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Its touchscreen menu is easy to understand and navigate, plus its mobile app allows you to adjust settings while you are away so you can make your pets more comfortable or prepare your home for your return.
Smart Home Audio
Smart audio systems generally include some integration into your automation system via voice commands. If your audio systems contain or are connected with an intercom system, that setup adds another location for you to issue voice commands from if your phone or smart assistant device are in another room. Plus, adding the function of automatically playing audio when you or someone else enters your home is an incredibly cool idea.
The VSSL A.1X Native Audio Streaming System, 1 Zone, 2 Channel (2nd Gen) simplifies the process of wirelessly connecting your phone or tablet to your home audio system as well as keeping control of your audio choices, volume level, and output location within your selected app. That means no switching between multiple apps to adjust volume, desired outputs, and playlists. You can also use the VSSL to send voice memos to connected audio zones like a voice pager. If your VSSL is connected to home automation system that is voice control compatible, such as and Ezlo, Aeotec/SmartThings, or Zipato system controller, you can add the VSSL to your home automation schedules.
While all of these recommended devices are great picks for starting your smart home, they barely scratch the surface of what smart home automation and smart home security can offer you. There are plenty of devices and systems we haven’t mentioned in this blog, like Z-Wave or Zigbee devices, or home intercom systems, but you can find out more by reading our other blog entries, or visiting our webstore to discover what may work best for your smart home ideas.