Smart Home Solutions for Every Budget

December 2019
Chris W. | Author
Google Home

It’s always great to have the latest tech, especially when you watch all the adverts and see the amazing new features that modern gadgets and systems can offer. The problem is that some new tech comes with the kind of price tags that many of us just can’t afford at the moment. But that doesn’t mean you should miss out, especially when it comes to the latest smart home systems and devices.

Smart home systems have changed the way in which we interact with our devices both at home, and while we’re out and about. It used to be that we controlled whole systems with one switch, such as the lighting in the living room, and that you only found out you left the bedroom light on that morning when you arrive home from work (often resulting in a hefty electric bill at the end of the month). Smart home devices have changed all of that. And now you can control individual light bulbs, adjust the temperature, see who’s at the door and even switch systems off on your phone without being home!

This all sounds incredibly futuristic, and it is, but it also sounds quite expensive to anyone who isn’t completely at home with smart systems. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be. And everyone can benefit from home automation and smart home devices whatever your need and whatever your budget.

If you want just one smart home device, like a smart speaker, then you can have just one smart home device. If you want to make sure that your heating is already on when you arrive home in the winter, you can do that by installing a smart thermostat. You can even sit back on the beach and enjoy your holiday knowing that the smart security system you installed will alert you if anything problematic is going on while you’re away.

To help you find the ideal smart home solution for you – and your budget – we’ve taken a look at some of the most popular smart systems and devices available today. We’ll explain just what they are, how they work and the different price points to help you get the best deal for your money.

Take control with smart plugs and power

If you’re looking for a new way to bring your energy bills down, smart plugs might be what you’re looking for. Smart Plugs help you to control each individual plug socket. By inserting a smart plug like the Hive Plug or TP-Link HS110 smart plug you can have ordinary or smart devices plugged in, but turned on or off until you tell the plug otherwise using the app on your phone, or even your voice if you have a compatible smart speaker at home.

With the associated apps on your phone you can check to see which plugs are on while you’re out at work, shopping or doing the school run; and you can then switch them on or off to make sure that you’re not wasting power. Even at home, smart plugs can be used to help save power by switching devices and systems on or off. For instance, if you have cupboards that are backlit you could programme the system to go on or off at the touch of a button, or by saying “cupboard lights off”.

Some people use smart plugs to help with the cooking. You can switch the plugs on at a certain time of day to start a slow cooker and come home to the smell of pre-prepared food that’s almost ready to be served. Rather than getting in from work and trying to feed the family before finally getting five minutes to yourself.

Popular Smart Plugs

Set the mood with smart lights

The lights are either on or they’re off – simple as that. Well, that’s the case in most homes that still use traditional lighting. But in a smart home you can install individually controlled smart light bulbs that let you to control them as a group, or on their own – even changing the colour and adjusting the brightness one bulb at a time.

Smart lighting gives you the freedom to style your home your way. From one or two light bulbs in a room to overhauling the whole house, smart lights bulbs offer a wealth of possibilities and the ability to adapt the colour of a room for a theme. Or even to dim just a few of the bulbs for the perfect atmosphere for a film night, romantic evening or night watching sport on the telly. Each set of smart lights works with an associated hub which receives the message from the app on your phone, or an associated smart speaker, and delivers that message to the smart bulbs.

Philips Hue lights are perhaps the most common and popular smart light bulbs at the moment. They give homeowners the opportunity to buy a starter pack consisting of one or two smart light bulbs so they can learn how to use them, the benefits and think about what they could do with the wider home. When you’ve installed a couple of Hue lights in your home you can start to play with them and adjust the colours your way – even saving specific programmes that you like so you can change them up and come back to them for a party, meal or…just because! You can adjust your Philips Hue lights to whatever colour or combination you like, and all from a handy app on your phone rather than trying to fiddle with multiple switches on the wall!

Of course, you don’t have to have bright, bold colours – you can still have them on or off with traditional white lights.

A great alternative to the Philips Hue range comes from LIFX, another collection of colour-changing and white LED smart light bulbs available individually or as a pack of four – or even as an LED light strip that you can run around the room for a real party feel.

Hive and TP-Link also have their own ranges of smart lights that work individually, as a group and right across your smart home, while Lightwave offer a range of dimmer switches so you can adjust each bulb on its own. Just like other smart home systems, smart lights can be turned off from anywhere provided that you have an Internet connection. You can turn them off from work if you’ve gone out in a rush and left the bedroom lights on, or you can switch them on in the hall at a certain time of day to deter intruders and make sure you arrive home to a lit house.

Popular Smart Lighting

Get your own virtual assistant with a smart speaker

Amazon Echo

You might have heard a lot about ‘Alexa’ in recent years. And that’s because she is your own virtual assistant when you buy yourself an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot smart speaker. These clever devices, like the Google Home and Apple HomePod, are web-enabled speakers that can help you with everything from making a shopping list to finding out the weather forecast and even playing music like a traditional radio.

Once you’ve connected your chosen device to the Internet, you can do a variety of different things with it and sync up different smart home devices, too. If you’ve already bought smart plugs or smart light bulbs then you can ask your virtual assistant to switch them on or turn them off, letting you adjust the lights with your voice or turn off the plug socket controlling the lamp in the corner of the room. It’s actually a pretty cool way of controlling your indoor or outdoor festive lights, too.

Smart speakers now come in a range of different colours and sizes, with the original Amazon Echo and Google Home coming in larger forms than the smaller Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home Mini devices.

The large and small models of each smart speaker can do the same routine functions. But the larger models pack more power and sophistication into their larger skeletons and come with the higher price tags.

One of the latest generations is the Amazon Echo Dot 3rd generation which, for the first time, incorporates a clock into the side of the speaker. The controls remain on the top and the overall workings of the device remain the same, but the addition of a digital clock face helps to make this the ideal smart speaker for a bedroom.

If the clock is a feature that you do like, the Lenovo Smart Clock is a great alternative. Using the Google Assistant, the Lenovo clock offers all of the same functions of a smart speaker with the added benefit of a touchscreen display. Whether it’s a large digital clock, the weather forecast or a control point for all of your smart home devices from Philips, TP-Link, Nest and more; the Lenovo Smart Clock is a smart and highly practical device that’s great for any room in the house.

Popular Smart Home Speakers

Control the temperature with smart thermostats and heating systems

Forgotten to set the central heating to come on half an hour before you get home so that it’s nice and warm after a day out in the cold? Perhaps it’s the opposite and you forgot to turn the heating off before you left and you’re wasting energy and money heating an empty house. Both are common issues for homeowners with traditional heating systems, but with a smart heating system or smart thermostat installed you can adjust your heating from an app on your phone without even being there.

With smart home systems like Hive Active Heating you can control the temperature throughout your home with an app, turning the temperature up or down without moving a muscle – or being home at all. Controlled by one central hub unit, the Hive Active Heating system connects each of your smart thermostats to your wider smart home systems for complete control, moving away from the heating being on or off and towards the reality of having control over each room individually.

Other smart thermostats offered by brands including tado and Honeywell, allow you to adjust individual radiators to specific temperatures, complete with a digital display, which are compatible with assistants including Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant and are smart enough to know when you’re not around – automatically lowering the temperature and increasing it again when you get near to your home.

If you’ve got people in the house who prefer different temperatures, a smart thermostat is definitely for you! They can relax in one room in perfectly comfortable conditions for them, while you’re in another room in your optimum environment without the other having to wear shorts while you’ve got your big coat on!

Protect your home with smart security systems

Ring Doorbell

Our homes are our castles and we should protect them as such. Okay, we’re not going to build moats around them or sky-high perimeter walls with guards at the door, but we can take steps to secure our homes and deter thieves using the latest smart technology. Smart security systems are great for helping us to prevent break-ins and for our own peace of mind, enabling us to sound alarms and see our properties when we’re out at work or even away on holiday.

Compatible with a range of virtual assistants and smart home systems, smart security represents a wise investment for anyone looking to increase their home security without wanting to put bars on the windows and huge chains on the doors. Instead, you can combine your smartphone or tablet app with your smart security device to see what’s going on and even who is at the door – or approaching the door.

Smart security cameras like the Nest camera and our own BT Smart Cam enable you to install indoor and outdoor security cameras, and view the footage in real-time on your mobile device from anywhere with an Internet connection.

One of the worst things about going away, for any length of time, is that your house is unoccupied and there’s nothing you do to protect it. Sure, you can ask a relative or neighbour to pop round and check on things, but potential burglars can work out when people are away on holiday through a lack of lighting.

You can always turn your smart lights on at certain times to give off the impression that someone is home, but an indoor or outdoor Nest or Hive security camera will enable you to look in personally for complete peace of mind. The smart security cameras look for signs of movement and listen for noises and can alert you with push notifications, images and video for you to see and act on by calling the police if necessary.

Other innovative and helpful forms of smart home security include video doorbells, which look just like traditional doorbells on the face of things but you can interact with the person visiting your home while you’re out, cooking dinner or doing the school run. There’s nothing more frustrating than popping out for two minutes, only to return home to find a “we called, you were out” card from a delivery company.

With a Ring video doorbell you can speak directly to the driver, asking them to leave the package somewhere safe and secure, while you can also ask friends to come back later once you’ve put the kids to bed or even tell unwanted visitors to leave!

For more information on any of our smart home systems and devices, head over to our full range of BT Shop smart home products today.

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