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How to build a smart home for between $1,000 and $2,000

We think this is the real sweet-spot for building yourself a great smart home from scratch

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As we recently featured on GearBrain, it is possible to start building your smart home from as little as $100. We then looked at a budget of $400 and explained how much smarter your home can be at this price range.

Now, we are going to up the budget to between $1,000 and $2,000. At this level, you can buy a wide range of devices to make most areas of your home smarter - from the bedrooms and living room, to the kitchen and even the garden.

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Here, you can start looking into smart locks, doorbells and security cameras to make your home a safe one as well as a smart one.

We have opted to cover budgets of $1,000 to $2,000 in this article instead of sticking to one price, because at this level it is all about expansion. Do you want just a couple of smart lights for $100, or do you want voice-controlled bulbs in every room, potentially costing thousands?

As such, you could spread your budget thin and far, or invest heavily in your most-used rooms. Hence the thousand-dollar range here.

How to build a smart home for between $1,000 and $2,000

Smart home hub or smart speaker


Amazon/Google

The foundations of any smart home are built on the hub or smart speaker. You could opt for a Google Home or Amazon Echo costing $129 and $90 respectively, or pick the cheaper $50 alternatives of the Home Mini and Echo Dot.

Or, if you don't want the always-on microphones of Alexa and Google Assistant constantly listening out for their name, you can buy a smart home hub like the Wink 2 for $100.

This device can be controlled with Alexa if you like - letting you switch lights on with your voice, for example - but it isn't a requirement as you can use your smartphone instead, or automate how your devices work using IFTTT (If This, Then That).

  • Total spent: $100

A second smart speaker

Because two Echos are better than one GeaerBrain

If you have opted for an Echo or Home adding a small smart speaker like the Echo Dot or Google Home Mini (both $50) can open up many new features.

For example, a second smart speaker can bring voice-controlled music to another room in your home. It also means that Alexa or the Google Assistant can hear you from a second location, so you don't need to return to the one smart speaker every time you want to ask something. This setup also means you can play two different music tracks, albums or playlists in different rooms at the same time, and broadcast house-wide announcements with Alexa. If that's your thing...

You'll want to connect the Echo Dot or Home Mini to a speaker you already own, as their audio performance isn't great. Alternatively you could spend more of your budget on a regular Home or Echo, or event splash out on the $399 Google Home Max for room-filling sound.

  • Total spent: $150



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Smart lights


Philips

In our $100 and $400 smart home guides, we only really got chance to scratch the surface of smart lighting. At $200 for a four-bulb starter kit, Philips Hue is an expensive system to build, and while alternatives from LIFX and Wiz can be a little cheaper, installing any kind of smart lighting on a whole-room basis is going to put a dent in anyone's budget.

At this point, even if you have $2,000 to spend, you need to ask yourself what you want from smart lighting. Do you want a few lamps scattered across the home? Maybe some lights in the garden and one behind the television, or a light strip under the kitchen counter? Or, do you want to replace every bulb with a smart equivalent? Naturally, the latter will cost a lot of money.

For this article - and with a $2,000 upper limit in mind - we have opted for the $200 Philips Hue color starter kit, which comes with four color bulbs and a hub for connecting them to your Wi-Fi network - a requirement of Hue, but something LIFX and Wiz do not need.

We have then spent an additional $275 on a motion sensor ($40), a dimmer switch ($25), an LED light strip ($90) and three additional color bulbs ($120). The motion sensors can be configured to switch a certain light on when movement is detected - handy when walking to the bathroom at night - and the dimmer switch has four buttons for turning a whole room on or off, dimmer or brightening, and cycling through a range of pre-sets.

Although expensive, the 80-inch LED light strip can be a great addition for lighting under your kitchen counter, above cupboards, or behind the television.

Although the prices and features are similar, you may want to consider LIFX as an alternative to Philips Hue. Getting started with your system will be a little cheaper as there is no hub required, and LIFX bulbs can be set to emit infrared light at night, illuminating the scene for any security cameras you have with night vision - more on these further down.

  • Total spent: $625

Smart thermostat

Nest

In our $400 smart home article we recommended the Nest E, but given we have more money to spend here we can stretch to the $200 Nest Learning Thermostat. Its ability to learn your heating and cooling habits and run autonomous is the same, but this model has a touch screen display which the E misses out on.

We know $200 isn't cheap for a thermostat, but Nest claims the device can save you an average of 10-12 percent on your heating bills and 15 percent on the cost of cooling your home. For an extra $39, the Nest Temperature Sensor helps to provide the thermostat with a more accurate reading, as often the thermostat isn't in the room you use the most

Although Nest might be the most recognizable smart thermostat, there are alternatives to consider, and some are cheaper too. Smart thermostats with Alexa support from Honeywell cost from around $160, while the ecobee4 - which comes with a second room sensor as standard - costs between $220 and $250 depending on current discounts.

If you don't require the latest and greatest, the ecobee3 can currently be had with three remote room sensors for $250.

  • Total spent: $875

Smart lock


August

You're unlikely to spend much time talking to Alexa or the Google Assistant about your smart door lock, but devices like the third-generation August Smart Lock Pro are useful all the same. The $279 device comes with a sensor for letting you know when the door is ajar or closed (as well as locked/unlocked), and offers a wealth of features.

With a smart lock fitted to your door, it can be made to automatically unlock when you approach, or be controlled from your smartphone or virtual assistant, like Alexa.

When GearBrain reviewed this lock in late 2017, we were impressed by its integration with third-party alarm companies, Z-Wave compatibility, ease of installation, and how it talks to Alexa and Google Assistant.

Alternatives include the $220 Yale Assure Lock SL and the $229 Schlage Sense, which both include a keypad for entry without your key or smartphone.

  • Total spent: $1,155

Video doorbell

Ring

You will want to budget between $200 and $250 for a video doorbell, like the $199 August Doorbell Cam Pro or the $249 Ring Video Doorbell Pro.

Both of these devices have a camera, microphone and speaker so you can talk with whoever is at the door via your smartphone - whether you are at home or not. They also start recording when movement is detected, such as when someone is loitering on your doorstep, making them a useful security device.

  • Total spent: $1,355

Security cameras

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Generally speaking, there are two types of home security cameras; indoor and outdoor. The former is useful for keeping an eye on pets and children while you're out, and the latter is weather-proof and intended for security surveillance.

Indoor cameras like the Amazon Cloud Cam start from around $120, while the Nest Cam costs $199 and the Nest Cam IQ will set you back $299, or $498 for two. You also need to bear in mind that many camera systems - indoors and out - offer subscription services to unlock extra features like face recognition and video storage.

Outdoor options include the $199 Arlo, which is weatherproof, battery-powered, has infrared night vision, and the most recent seven days of motion-triggered footage is free to view online. Alternatively, the Nest Cam Outdoor also costs $199.

For this article, we have budgeted for one indoor and one outdoor camera, each costing $200.

  • Total spent: $1,755

Smart plugs

TP-Link

Like the superhero utility belt of your smart home, the smart plug is flexible, dependable and simple to use. Just fit one to a wall outlet, connect it to your home Wi-Fi via the companion smartphone app, and fit almost any device to it. Now, that device can be switched on or off using the plug's app, or by speaking to your AI assistant of choice.

Smart plugs are useful for controlling simple devices like fans, heaters and air conditioning units, because they can only control the power outlet and no features of the actual device. Just make sure the device powers up and works as intended when it is switched on at the wall, and a smart plug will work just fine.

Some models of smart plug are very cheap - $10 or $12 each - but if you have a slightly larger budget, then we recommend the TP-Link Kasa, which is currently half price ($20) on Amazon.

As part of the $2,000 budget for this article, we have opted for two of these plugs, adding $40 to our total.

  • Total spent: $1,795


Garden irrigation

Rachio

The smart garden can be a whole separate topic, but given we have some budget left we thought we'd highlight smart irrigation systems like the Rachio 3. This hooks up to your existing system, but gives it real intelligence in the form of hyperlocal weather forecasts and the ability to give your plants and lawn exactly the right amount of water each day.

These systems take a while to set up, so block out an afternoon if possible, but once installed and configured (you need to tell it the plant and soil type, sunlight, shade etc), smart irrigation systems can reduce your water usage and save you money.

The latest Rachio system costs $230, while the previous-generation model is still on sale for $179. Alternatives include the $110 Orbit B-hyve and the $150 Netro.

  • Total spent: $2,025

For a shade over $2,000, we feel this gives your home a huge amount of connected smartness. For those on a budget closer to $1,000, we suggest going easier on the smart lights, as their cost builds up quickly, opting for cheaper smart plugs, and skipping the irrigation system until you have saved up for a little longer.

We think $1,000 to $2,000 is a real sweet-spot for consumers who are new to the smart home but keen to jump in and discover what the industry has to offer.

Don't forget to check The GearBrain, our smart home compatibility checker to see which connected products work with other best of breed smart home devices like Philips Hue, Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Insteon and more.


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