Smart Home

What are the must-have accessories for anyone looking to make their home a bit smarter? Let's take a look!

Smart home accessories are all the rage these days, and there is a good reason behind it. Beyond just being able to do simple tasks with some of the equipment, these gadgets can actually help you save money and pay for themselves over time. Everything is getting smarter, from thermostats to sprinklers, wall plugs to crockpots, but which accessories are best for starting out?

Let's take a look at 5 must-have accessories for every smart home.

WeMo Smart Plugs

WeMo

Smart plugs are the best way to get your feet wet in the whole home automation / smart home space. When people think about smart plugs, they often think that they won't have a purpose and that they can just control the outlets by getting up. That may be true in many cases, but there are more uses than you may realize. Imagine being able to turn on an extra air conditioner before you leave work so that your house is nice and cool when you get home or being able to control lights in different rooms from your phone, even when you aren't home.

There are a ton of uses for smart plugs, and the WeMo Mini Smart Plug is one of the best out there. It is one of the smallest on the market, which means it only takes up one plug, unlike some of the others which end up blocking parts of both. You can set a schedule for the outlet, control it on your own, or even have it randomize with an "away" mode to make it look like someone is home. You can usually find these for around $30 per smart plug.

See at Amazon

LIFX Smart Lights

LIFX

Here's another category that seems crazy, until you try it. It wasn't until very recently that I got myself some smart bulbs, and my life is forever changed. Being able to change the colors of the bulbs in your room, the brightness, set scenes, and more from a light bulb is crazy, but so awesome. As old lights die out we generally replace them with LED bulbs, but why not add a smart one instead of a regular one? There are a bunch of options out there, some of which require a hub in order to use, and others which don't.

One of the bulbs that don't require a hub and has a ton of great features and functionality is the LIFX multicolor Smart LED. This dimmable bulb offers 16 million different colors, and you can pick between warmer and cooler white tons. It is nice and bright ( the equivalent of a 75W bulb), and you can control it right from your phone through the easy to use LIFX app. If you are invested in a smart assistant ecosystem, like Google Home or Amazon's Echo line, you can also use these to control the bulbs. They are a bit pricey at around $45 each but well worth it.

See at Amazon

Sensi Smart Thermostat

Sensi Smart Thermostat

When you hear "smart thermostat" the two brands that likely come to mind are Nest and ecobee, and that is for good reason. These are the most popular units, and the ones people are most familiar with, but there are tons of other options out there worth considering as well. Emerson, a company that was founded nearly 130 years ago, makes a great smart thermostat called the Sensi. You'll get many of the same features and functionality on it that you would on the Nest and ecobee options, but at a fraction of the price.

It may not offer the neat "learning" features, but it does allow you to set a schedule from your phone or voice assistant like Amazon Alexa, and installation is super simple. Smart thermostats can help you reduce your heating and cooling costs by up to 30%, meaning that over time it actually pays for itself, and then some. You can usually pick one of these up for between $100 and $125.

See at Amazon

Ring Video Doorbell

Ring Video Doorbell

If the other items didn't already have you questioning "why would I need that," this one might, but hear us out. Sure, you could get off the couch and answer the door, but that means you have to be at home when someone is ringing the doorbell. We all live very busy lives these days, so being at home for each delivery driver that rings the doorbell, or every random visitor that shows up at your door. With the Ring Video Doorbell, all of these problems become much easier to deal with.

Ring offers a few different version of its video doorbell, but the best (and most popular) is definitely the Video Doorbell Pro. It offers 2-way audio communication with noise cancellation, crystal clear 1080p HD video through its wide-angle lens. You'll get alerts as people walk up to your door, and if you are away from your house (or don't want to get out of bed), you can talk to the people using your phone from anywhere. You can catch it drop down to around $200 from time to time, but normally it sits right around $250.

See at Amazon

Nest Outdoor Security Camera

Nest Outdoor Camera

Things would be awesome if we could have eyes everywhere. No one would be able to break into cars, no one could vandalize your property, you'd see when animals were in your yard, and much more. But the reality of the situation here is that you can't have eyes everywhere, but that doesn't mean you can't protect yourself and add more security to your home or apartment. Nest's outdoor camera can put a set of eyes where you can't, and that's a great feeling.

Installation is dead simple, and the camera is weatherproof so you don't have to worry too much about where you position it in the elements. The camera has a 130-degree wide view and it captures a crisp 1080p video, both during the day and at night. You can set it up to send you a notification (or even a phone call) when it detects motion, and with the built-in speaker and mic you can even talk through the camera, or just listen to what people are saying. Right now you can pick one up for just under $175.

See at Amazon

Your must-haves?

Is there a smart home accessory that you think that everyone needs to have? If so, be sure to drop a comment below with a brief description of the product, why you love it, and a link so that others can grab one as well!