Smart-home technology can make your life easier and a lot more entertaining. Unfortunately, convenience doesn't always come cheap.
It would be easy to blow your weekly grocery budget on smart home upgrades. But you don't have to siphon your bank account to teach your old home a few new tricks. There are plenty of simple, easy-to-install devices that are perfect for the budding smart home on a budget.
I've been reviewing electronics for over 15 years, and I've learned that some of the best gear is sometimes the cheapest. Here are 15 of my favorite products that can kick off your smart-home system for under $100.
1. Amazon Echo Dot - $49.99 on Amazon
After years of barking at electronics, you can now have them respond by adding in Amazon Alexa. This voice assistant is available on a few Amazon-branded devices, but I like the Dot because it's the cheapest, making on-demand news, music, alarms, movie times, restaurant recommendations, and more readily available. It can also be integrated into other smart-home devices (including ones on this list), so you can trigger lights, appliances, and other products with the sound of your voice.
To find out what other products work with Alexa, check out our comprehensive list.
2. Philips Hue Starter Kit - $59.99 on Amazon
One of the most popular ways to get smart lighting into your home is also extremely affordable. This starter kit features two smart light bulbs that fit into any existing light socket. Screw in the bulbs, hook the included Hue Bridge to your Wi-Fi network, and enjoy the light show. It allows for remote control, timers, and alarms, as well as support for voice control with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Google Home.
3. Nest Protect Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarm - $99 on Amazon
You shouldn't have to deal with a piercing alarm every time you make bacon. This smart solution provides a friendly warning in a human voice, giving you the chance to silence that smoke detector with a smartphone. If it goes on or the smoke levels are too high, the system will trigger a voice alarm with location information, an 85dB horn, and a red pulsing LED. Other conveniences include the ability to test itself automatically, a built-in nightlight, and the promise of up to 10 years of use.
4. Chamberlain MyQ-Garage Controller - $99 on Amazon
People often forget that the garage is another entry point into the home—one that typically gets left open. That makes it a prime spot for smart features. MyQ is the easiest way to add those to almost any existing garage door opener and will alert you when it's been opened, closed, or left opened after you leave. It even provides remote control through iOS and Android smartphones from almost anywhere.
5. TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi Plug - $25.99 on Amazon
Looking to make one of your everyday devices a little smarter? This is the cheapest way to do it. Just plug TP-Link's smart outlet into any socket, connect it to your Wi-Fi network, and whatever you plug into that can be controlled remotely using a smartphone, tablet, and even Amazon Alexa devices. It also features energy monitoring so you know which electronics are the biggest hogs, as well as scheduling options to trigger devices on and off at certain times of day.
6. iDevices Switch - $49 on Amazon
If you want something that's less of an outlet hog, the iDevices Switch is compact enough so you always have access to that second receptacle. It's almost twice the price of the TP-Link, but adds in a built-in nightlight and Apple HomeKit so you can call out commands to Siri and have the plug respond accordingly. It also has one of the best-looking apps I've seen on a smart plug, with graphical options that make navigation a snap.
7. Belkin WeMo Light Switch - $49.99 on Amazon
Belkin makes a bunch of easy products for the smart home. This one is slightly more complicated because it requires installation, but we think the WeMo Light Switch is worth the extra effort. It looks like a normal switch, but connects to your home's Wi-Fi network so it can be combined with other smart devices or controlled remotely. And it works with Alexa, so can simply command the lights to turn on at the sound of your voice. You'll never have to enter a dark house again!
8. D-Link DCH-S160 Wi-Fi Water Sensor - $73 on Amazon
No one thinks about water detection until the basement is flooded and all of the family photos are waterlogged. D-Link's water sensor can alert you to danger via audible and visual alerts, as well as smartphone notifications. I've had a lot of success using it around the toilet and under the sink, but it's also perfect for laundry areas, basements, and next to the refrigerator. Then if disaster strikes while you're out, that notice can give you ample time to alert emergency services or helpful neighbors.
Check out our complete guide to the best smart leak detectors for your home
9. Roku Express Streaming Stick - $29 on Amazon
Roku's latest product is also its cheapest. The 1.3-ounce media streamer can deliver instant access to over 350,000 movies and TV shows to any TV with an available HDMI port. (If you don't have that, the Express+ supports a composite connection.) Once plugged in, hook it up to your home's Wi-Fi and start enjoying all of that entertainment in full 1080p HD with Dolby audio. It even comes with an easy remote to navigate through everything on-screen.
10. Blink Home Security Camera - $99 on Amazon
This security camera isn't just one of the most affordable indoor options out there, but it's also compact and insanely easy to use. It works with your existing Wi-Fi network to deliver clear, live 720p video to iOS and Android devices. However, the real hook is that it runs on two non-rechargeable AA batteries, making it easy to place anywhere and promising up to two years of peeping.
11. Fisher-Price Newborn Rock 'n Play Sleeper with SmartConnect - $99.99 on Amazon
Being a new parent can be stressful. Fisher-Price wants to help by putting soothing powers into the palm of your hand. Besides giving you a comfy plush spot to prop up your newborn, this highly acclaimed rocker is pretty connected via SmartConnect features. That high-tech perk allows flustered parents to make changes in motion, music, sounds, and vibrations from any iOS or Android device.
12. TP-Link LB100 Smart LED Light Bulb - $19.99 on Amazon
The most affordable smart bulb on the market is also one of the easiest ways to start dabbling in smart-home technology. Just screw the TP-Link LB100 into any existing light socket, download the app, connect the bulb to your Wi-Fi, and start dimming, scheduling lights, or making other lighting tweaks remotely with your smartphone. It even works with Amazon Alexa so you can trigger lighting scenes by calling out commands.
13. Crock-Pot Slow Cooker with WeMo - $91 on Amazon
This 6-quart Crock-Pot has a delicious surprise inside: Belkin's WeMo technology. That means you can adjust cooking times or temperatures on the fly from the free WeMo app for iOS and Android devices. And if you're just running late, you can shift it to warm so dinner won't be a disaster. I use this device at least once a week. It's not just cool, but cooks well, too.
14. Roost 9V Smart Battery - $30 on Amazon
Installing smart smoke detectors seems like a great idea, but may be an expensive and daunting task. Next time you change the batteries in your existing detectors, pop in the Roost Smart Battery. That easy swap can turn any smoke or CO2 detector into a smart device that can notify you of danger or be silenced with any smartphone.
15. Samsung SmartThings Hub - $99 on Amazon
One of my favorite smart-home devices isn't much to look at on its own. That's because the SmartThings Hub is really made to work with other devices—pretty much every one you can imagine. It serves as the center of your entire smart home and is the perfect starter device. That's because once you have this in place, you can start connecting lighting, security, audio, video, comfort, and many other home systems under one app, whether you have two devices or 200.