The Best Smart Home Deals for 2021: A Complete Guide

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In recent years, the smart home market has exploded, with just about every home gadget and appliance offering such connectivity. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to separate the best smart home deals from the junk with so many choices these days. That’s why I started this site.

My name is Ed Oswald, and I’ve been a tech journalist for nearly two decades. In recent years, I’ve taken a particular interest in the smart home. Why? It’s the future. In many ways, smart home technology makes sense. With an ever-increasing number of gadgets in our homes, it makes sense that they should talk with one another. Home automation is finally here.

For example, your weather station can help you save money on your water bill by turning off your sprinklers when it rains. At the same time, you might want your inside lights to turn on when motion is detected outside when you’re not home, scaring away potential intruders.

These are only two scenarios of hundreds, if not thousands, of possibilities. But where do you start? How much will you have to spend? That’s what my writers here at Top Smart Home Deals hope to answer for you. Smart home technologies can be difficult to understand.

What is a Smart Home?

A smart home is a connected home where the appliances and devices are controlled wirelessly through an internet connection. For example, you can manage your lights via a smart home app on your smartphone or tablet, or be notified when motion is detected outside the home. This technology also allows for home automation: as soon as someone enters your driveway, your smart devices know somebody’s arrived and turn on the lights to welcome them home.

Smart Home Benefits

Amazon 2021 Smart Device Announcements

There are many different benefits of having a smart home. Some of these include:

  • You can control your appliances from anywhere in the world with an app on your smartphone or tablet.
  • Appliances will automatically turn off when they’re done being used – this means that you won’t have to worry about leaving the oven on.
  • You can reduce energy consumption and save money by scheduling your lights to turn off when you’re not at home. We’ve found we save energy by letting the smart home control itself: our energy costs are down as a result.

Types of Smart Home Devices

There are many different types of smart devices that work together to create the ultimate automated home There’s a lot to cover in this area, but here are some of the most common types:

  • Lights: When someone enters your driveway or home, they can trigger all of your lights at once. You can control these from anywhere in the world with an app on your mobile device.
  • Smart Appliances: Smart refrigerators and smart ovens are great additions to a modern kitchen. You’ll never have to worry about forgetting to turn off your oven, or if the wash is done. You control appliances with an app.
  • Garage Door Openers: Even your garage doors can be smart. This means that you’ll never have to worry about getting up early (or staying out late) to open or close it.
  • Smart Locks: You can unlock your front door wirelessly with an app on your phone.
  • Smart Plugs and Smart Light Switches: These smart devices allow you to make “dumb” devices and lights smart. The plug turns the electricity on and off via commands in an app or a virtual assistant like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

And this isn’t even a complete list of devices: there are smart thermostats, smart cameras, and more.

Do I need a smart hub?

The smart home hub used to be an essential part of any smart home system in order for everything to talk to one another. That’s no longer necessary if you use a smart speaker to control your devices.

The best smart home deals for beginners

Are you just starting? It can be pretty overwhelming and can get pretty expensive. But you don’t necessarily need to spend hundreds of dollars for an excellent basic smart home setup. For us, the basic necessities are:

Yes, there are tons of other smart devices out there, but starting with the ones above offers the best “bang for your buck” if you’re looking to keep your costs down.

best smart home deals

Smart home networking tips

Most beginners forget about the most critical part of the equation when setting up their smart home: the wireless network, or Wi-Fi. Most of the best smart home devices connect via Wi-Fi, and as I’ve personally found out the hard way, this can quickly bring your whole network to its knees if you don’t have the necessary bandwidth.

In all likelihood, your pre-existing networking setup will only be able to handle a basic smart home setup. Most of us opt for the cheapest routers — and most routers you’ll find at places like Walmart, Target, or other department stores are basic models.

Our recommendation is to purchase the best router you can afford, preferably one that supports mesh networking. Mesh networking is excellent for two reasons: first, it helps ensure a device has the best available wireless connection thanks to separate access points, called “nodes.” Second, and potentially more critical, these router systems often have the bandwidth of a single router.

If you’re looking to optimize your Wi-Fi network for smart home devices, there are a few things that you can try out.

  • Wi-Fi Mesh Networking Systems typically include one main router with multiple satellites, called nodes, throughout the house. Data travels from the node back to the main router. Mesh networking is typically faster than a traditional router, and can cover a larger area.
  • Wi-Fi Extenders: work by receiving data from one device (like your laptop) and then sending it on to the router. Basically, they’re like extra antennas for your home’s wireless internet which help cover dead spots.
  • Wi-Fi Range Boosters work a little bit differently than the other two. They take existing wifi signals and rebroadcast them, which means that you can get better coverage in your home without having to actually update the router itself.

Here are the best smart home deals in routers ready for the smart home.

Prices current as of October 18, 2021. Top Smart Home Deals may receive a commission as a result of purchases using the above links.

Smart lighting

When somebody asks where they should start in the smart home, my recommendation is always smart lights. These are the easiest to set up, and all you need to replace is the light bulb to make any light “smart.” They also require little bandwidth to work and can be triggered by your other smart home devices, making your home more secure.

We recommend purchasing a starter kit of smart bulbs to start. There is a bit of a discount in buying your lights this way, and in some smart lighting setups, you’ll need a “base station” that serves as the communication hub for your lights. We also recommend purchasing regular white lights instead of the color ones.

We’ve found that in many rooms, we’ve rarely changed the colors. Although not a hard and fast rule, color lights will cost about twice that of the white lights, and many white lights offer different “temperatures” of white: a “cool” bright white light during the day and a “warm” yellower white light to help you relax at night.

Here are the best smart home deals in smart lights.

Prices current as of October 18, 2021. Top Smart Home Deals may receive a commission as a result of purchases using the above links.

Video doorbells

The video doorbell is one of my favorite smart home devices. The doorbell is the entry point of your home, so it’s a perfect place for a security camera. Video doorbells have also become so ubiquitous that they also act as a deterrent. The whole point of crime is to do it undetected: that’s kind of hard when a camera is watching your every move.

Another great feature is remote real-time monitoring. If your doorbell rings, you’ll get a notification and be able to use an app to see and communicate with whoever’s at the door. Some video doorbells can also be connected with other smart home devices, like your smart lighting, to make it appear as if somebody’s home or your smart lock to leave someone inside who doesn’t have a key.

While an excellent addition to the smart home, be forewarned that they require a good deal of bandwidth to work correctly. You’ll begin to run into bandwidth issues if your Wi-Fi network isn’t good enough, especially if you add more smart cameras to your setup.

Here are the best smart home deals on video doorbells.

Prices current as of October 18, 2021. Top Smart Home Deals may receive a commission as a result of purchases using the above links.

Smart locks

If your front door can support it, we suggest adding a smart lock to your setup. These door locks either replace or retrofit your current deadbolt, and they’re best used in concert with a video doorbell, in our opinion. Amazon has a system that allows its drivers to temporarily unlock your home to place your packages inside to prevent theft or offer temporary or permanent access codes to friends and family as needed.

Depending on the manufacturer, it also might be possible to control your smart lock via the same app you use for your video doorbell. But, as you’ll find out with time unless you’re using a virtual assistant, you’ll constantly be switching between apps to control everything — and that can get annoying.

The only issue with these locks is that you can’t install a smart lock easily if you don’t have a pre-existing deadbolt. While newer homes have separate deadbolts, older homes generally do not, as the locking mechanism is part of the door handle. So while it’s a nifty smart home device to have, it’s not a necessity. But if you have the deadbolt for it, we highly recommend you get one.

Here are the best smart home deals in smart locks.

Prices current as of October 18, 2021. Top Smart Home Deals may receive a commission as a result of purchases using the above links.

Virtual assistants and smart speakers

In the early days of the smart home, a device called a “hub” controlled all of your devices. This is no longer the case, as most of the best smart home devices now use Wi-Fi instead because it’s more reliable.

Virtual assistants made smart home devices more straightforward than ever to use, as you can use your voice. Right now, there are three primary options: Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri. We recommend you choose based on your current devices.

While Amazon’s Alexa is one of the most commonly used platforms, Apple users might find Siri and HomePod a better option, and heavy Android users Google Assistant-enabled smart speakers. However, from the standpoint of the best performing, I’ve found that Google does the best with natural language queries, while Amazon’s extensive skill library is its most attractive feature.

This is not to say Siri and HomePod are not worthy options, and if you are invested heavily into the Apple ecosystem, we recommend you give the HomePod a look. Later on in this guide, we talk about the advantages of two of the most popular options, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Here are the best smart home deals on smart speakers.

Prices current as of October 18, 2021. Top Smart Home Deals may receive a commission as a result of purchases using the above links.

Other smart devices to consider

While we’ve given you a good overview of what we think you should start out with, here’s a few more suggestions on smart devices to consider.

  • Consider a smart home security system. Some traditional security companies like ADT offer smart home security systems these days. Ring Alarm is also another popular option.
  • Smart thermostats are a great buy as long as you have a modern HVAC system. Older systems may be incompatible.
  • Many smart TVs now allow you to control devices from your television screen.
  • When replacing older appliances, replace them with smart home appliances — even if you’re not ready to take the plunge.
  • Smart switches and plugs are a great way to make any electrical device “smart.”

Need some help in choosing the right smart device? Keep reading.

Choosing the best smart home devices

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When you’re building out the perfect smart home, there are some things that you need. For example, lighting is one of the most important areas for this type of technology, so you’ll want to ensure that your lights are a good fit. You can also add in other appliances and devices as well! The great thing about smart home technology is how it’s constantly evolving – this means there will always be new things available for you to take advantage of.

As far as where to start with building your smart home, the best idea is to start with your lighting. You can pick out individual lights that will be ideal for you in different rooms of your house (you’ll need both bulbs and light fixtures). Afterward, take a look at what other appliances may work well for automation – like refrigerators or ovens.

Budget

I know that we keep harping on budgetary concerns throughout this guide, but we cannot hide that building a smart home can quickly get pretty expensive (that’s why we started this site to highlight the best smart home deals!). However, there are some excellent lower-cost options out there that work just as well as the big guys.

If you have a limited budget early on, the best smart home deals for you will be the ones that have the most immediate usefulness. This is why we recommend either smart lights or a video doorbell early on, as these two devices serve as the basis for your smart home.

Compatibility and Interoperability

Many of the best smart home deals you’ll find on our site are part of a larger ecosystem and feature interoperability between their own devices and other brands, either natively or through a service called IFTTT. We highly recommend you stick to brands that offer interoperability with others.

However, brands like Wyze and Ring offer an ecosystem of products across many different smart home devices. This is the easiest way to go, but even these brands are connectable to IFTTT and, through in-app partnerships, allow you to control devices from other brands.

Your home’s layout

Not many will think of it as something they should consider, but your home’s layout will play a big part in how reliable your smart home devices are. I’ve found that smart home devices work best in small to medium-sized newer homes, as there are fewer Wi-Fi “dead spots.”

This is not to say you can’t make an old home smart (ours is, it was built in 1928!) or a big mansion smart either, but it will take more planning. With mesh networking, you can answer a lot of the problems that you might encounter. For example, older homes have much more inside (metal piping, plaster walls) that block Wi-Fi, while large homes are hard to cover with a single Wi-Fi router.

Available bandwidth on your network and Internet connection

As a general rule, for every 12 smart home devices you have, you should have at least 5Mbps of available internet bandwidth (and at least 10Mbps and likely more if you have video smart home devices). But within your home, you will need far more bandwidth as these devices (and especially video devices) offer much higher quality streams that can easily suck up hundreds of Mbps of your network bandwidth.

We recommend that you buy a router with at least twice the bandwidth you might need today. It might sound like overkill now, but it will prevent the need to spend more money later trying to catch up with your needs. This happened to us early on.

Also, if you can, take anything off the wireless network that you can. If your desktop computer has an ethernet port, use an ethernet cable to plug it in directly to your router. If you’re willing to do a little extra work and purchased a mesh networking system, we recommend running cables from your main node to your accessory nodes will allow them to communicate with each other off the wireless network, opening up bandwidth for Wi-Fi-only devices.

I have a home security system. Do I need smart home technology?

There are many benefits of having a smart home. However, it’s different from other types of homes that aren’t quite so high-tech. For example, you might have an old school alarm system with some connected features – this would still classify as a home without “smart” automation. The appliances and devices you own may still be connected, but they’re not controlled wirelessly – for example, by using an app on your phone or tablet.

Virtual Assistants: The Perfect Companion for Your Smart Devices

Google Mini on table
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While it’s convenient to control your smart home through an app, it’s even more so using a virtual assistant like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. For example, you can create a “good night” scene where everything turns off and locks your doors. This is the perfect way to ensure that all of your devices are shut down for the evening.

Alexa vs Google Assistant: Which Virtual Assistant is Right For You?

Both Amazon Alexa and Google’s virtual assistant, Google Assistant, are excellent companions to your smart home. You can control all of your devices with voice commands, which is an easy way to get things done while you’re busy doing something else. For example, they can assist you while cooking by reading recipes off the internet or giving advice on what spices might go well together in a specific recipe.

Voice assistants are useful in other parts of your home too. You won’t need switches anymore, as you can turn lights on and off with your voice. Some virtual assistants even learn patterns from how you use your devices, making home automation super simple.

One downside of Amazon’s Alexa services is that it doesn’t work very well in the Google ecosystem. If you own an Android device or use a lot of Google apps and services, many don’t work well with Alexa. If you’re planning on having an Android-based smart home, we’d choose Google over Alexa.

Smart Home Disadvantages

With all of these great benefits, it’s easy to think that a smart home has no downsides at all. Unfortunately, there are some minor issues with this type of technology. We’ve already listed some of the issues between Google devices and services and using Alexa.

Another disadvantage of a smart home is that they don’t always tell you what’s going wrong. If your lights suddenly stop working, for example, it can be challenging to figure out why. In general, smart home devices are very good at self-diagnosis and recovery – but if you want a little bit more information about what’s going on with the system as a whole, then you might want to wait a bit for the technology to become more user-friendly.

Are smart homes secure?

We get this question a lot. The answer is yes, but you must take action yourself to stay safe. Choose hard-to-guess passwords for your smart home accounts (use multi-factor authentication if it’s available), and share access with only people you trust. Yes, some smart home devices do track your behavior, but this data is anonymized so it can’t be tracked to you.

The actual number of incidents where smart homes are “hacked” is very small, and many times it has to do with improperly securing your smart home accounts. Connected devices are actually pretty secure, and smart home technology has improved tremendously in this area.

Wrapping up

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Smart homes can be confusing, especially considering there are just so many devices out there to choose from. We hope you find the site helpful in finding the best smart home deals, and if you have any questions, don’t be afraid to comment on our posts or drop us an email. We’ll be happy to help out in any way we can.

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