In a world of $1,000 smartphones, $100 might not seem like much money at all, but today it is plenty to make a start on building your smart home.
The foundations can be laid with a budget smart speaker like the Amazon Echo Dot or Nest Mini, or you could even try picking up a refurbished model to lower the price even further.
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With this, you have yourself an internet-connected voice assistant, in the form of Alexa or Google Assistant, and each of these also acts as an ecosystem with which you can communicate with a huge range of smart home products, from plugs, light bulbs and thermostats, to cameras, sound systems, televisions, and even robotic vacuum cleaners.
For now, this article will stick to the very basics. But saying that, after spending just $100 you will be well on your way to building a smart home which can be expanded on easily and almost infinitely.
The first thing your smart home needs is a central command hub - or in other words, a smart speaker. Even five years after we first said hello to Alexa, it's amazing to think how much technology, connectivity and intelligence is packed into a humble smart speaker.
As we enter 2020, there are more options than ever. But because we are on a strict budget for this article we will stick to either the Amazon Echo Dot or Google Nest Mini. Both cost $49, but the Echo Dot is often reduced, and at the time of writing (late-January 2020), costs just $35 when bought directly from Amazon. Alternatively, and if that deal isn't available when you read this, Amazon often sells refurbished Echo Dots for around $40.
Echo Dot (3rd Gen) - Smart speaker with Alexa - Sandstone
The Echo Dot's 3.5mm audio jack will be useful if you plan to connect it to an older but more powerful speaker, This is something the Nest Mini misses out on, although that speaker has improved sound quality over its predecessor, the Google Home Mini, and has twice the bass, too.
Whichever you choose, you will have a small speaker with a virtual assistant for answering questions and helping out with setting timers, reading the news and weather forecast, and playing music. Beyond that, of course, these act as the gateway to your smart home.
- Spent: $35
- Remaining budget: $65
Smart plugs cost as little as $8.99Gosund
A very cheap way to bring some extra smartness into your home is to install a smart plug. These can cost from around $10 to $20 each and are controlled via their own smartphone app, but in most cases can also be operated by speaking to Alexa or Google Assistant.
Smart plugs mean you can ask your voice assistant of choice to switch devices like heaters, fans and lamps on and off.
Amazon is currently selling a twin pack of TanTan smart plugs for $14.43, down from their usual price of $16.99. Alternatively, the retailer also stocks a single smart plug by Gosund which costs just $8.99. Amazon also sells its own-brand smart plug, but that costs $24.99.
Smart Plug Work with Alexa and Google Home, TanTan WiFi Outlet Mini Socket Remote Control Only Supports 2.4GHz Network, ETL and FCC Listed 2 Packs
As well as asking your voice assistant to turn the plug on or off, you can set up a routine for Alexa or Google Assistant to have it activate at certain times of day.
The only limitation here is that the device (like a fan or heater) must start working as you want it to when it is switched on at the wall outlet. The smart plug has no actual control over the device itself, other than cutting and restoring its power.
- Spent: $43.99 (Amazon Echo Dot and one Gosuna smart plug)
- Budget remaining: $56.01
Lifx bulbs cost from around $21Lifx
Smart lights vary in price and functionality, but even with our modest $100 budget we can pick up a single bulb from one of the biggest companies in the sector, Lifx. The Lifx Mini White with an A19 attachment current costs $21.16. This bulb can't change color, but instead you can adjust its white light from an intense bluish hue, right through to a warm orange glow, and set the brightness to between zero and 100 percent.
If you want to spend a little more, the Lifx Mini Color costs $35.99 and can be set to any color, brightness and temperature you like.
Unlike smart bulbs from rival Philips Hue, those made by Lifx connect directly to your Wi-Fi router, instead of to a hub. This lowers the financial barrier to entry, as you can buy a single bulb and be up-and-running, instead of having to buy a more expensive starter kit with bulbs and a hub.
LIFX 1100-Lumen, 11W Dimmable A19 LED Light Bulb (LHA19E26UC10) Multi Colored - 75W - New
Another option here is Wyze, which sells individual smart bulbs for just $7.99 each, or as part of a four-pack for $29.99 (both excluding shipping). These are 'tuneable white', which means their temperature and brightness can be adjusted, but they can't display a range of colors.
These also work with Wi-Fi and require no hub, and are compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant.
- Spent: $73.98 (Echo Dot, smart plugs and four Wyze bulbs)
- Remaining budget: $26.02
With just $26.02 left, there is only one option for a smart home security camera, and that is the Wyze Cam v2, which costs a remarkable $19.99.
The camera is not weather resistant and can only be used indoors but offers 1080p Full HD video recording, a speaker and microphone for two-way audio, 8x digital zoom and night vision. It also has compatibility with Alexa, Google Assistant and IFTTT (If This, Then That).
But, in some cases, you get what you pay for. Wyze recently had to remove AI-powered person detection from the camera, due to the company which provided that technology being bought by Apple. But we reviewed the Cam V2 before the AI tech was added, and still thought it represented excellent value at $20. Plus, Wyze says it is working on its own AI and hopes to add person detection back in later this year, via a free software update.
There's also free, rolling 14-day cloud storage for video recordings (plus you can record to a microSD card, sold separately), and the camera will alert you if it hears a nearby CO2 or smoke alarm.
- Spent: $93.97
- Remaining budget: $6.03
Wyze Cam 1080p HD Indoor Wireless Smart Home Camera with Night Vision, 2-Way Audio, Works with Alexa & the Google Assistant, One Pack, White - WYZEC2
We can't quite stretch the budget to another smart plug or bulb, so this is as far as $100 gets you in 2020.
But it is impressive nonetheless. We last performed this exercise in the summer of 2018 and since then smart home prices have fallen to the extent that our $100 in 2020 went much further, securing four smart bulbs instead of one, and affording us a security camera.
Of course, you can spend the $100 in different ways. Perhaps you want more smart plugs instead of the Wyze camera, or more bulbs in place of lights. Even at this end of the market, the smart home can be configured to however you want.
Either way, it's impressive that $100 gets you a smart speaker with voice assistant, plus a smart plug, four bulbs and a security camera.Check out The GearBrain, our smart home compatibility checker to see the other compatible products that work with Google Home and Home Mini and Amazon Alexa.
Sengled Smart Wi-Fi LED Soft White A19 Light Bulb, No Hub Required, 2700K, 60W Equivalent, Works with Alexa & Google Assistant, 1 Pack