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What is a smart home, and why should you want one?

If you want to turn your home into a smart one, start here.
By
December 18, 2021
Google Nest Audio in black on nightstand next to bed
Adam Molina / Android Authority

What is a smart home? That seemingly simple question has many answers, depending on who you ask. In short, though, a “smart home” is a residence equipped with devices that automate tasks normally handled by humans. These can be built into the structure itself or added later. Homeowners operate them using apps, voice commands, remotes and switches, or artificial intelligence.

For some people, turning a house into a smart home can be as simple as buying a connected speaker. For others, it can involve linking many categories of products, including speakers, cameras, computers, smartphones, tablets, televisions, security systems, appliances, and more.

Check this out: The best smart home gadgets you can buy

What is a smart home and why have one?


Why should I have a smart home?

Now that we’ve explained what a smart home is, why should you set up your house with connected devices and accessories?

1. Saving energy (and money)

Google Nest Learning Thermostat

For many, the driving force behind creating a smart home is the potential to save energy (and hence money) with automated heating and air conditioning systems. Smart thermostats, such as those made by Google Nest, can quickly and precisely control heating and cooling schedules. This reduces electric bills by improving efficiency. Other products, such as connected lights, plugs, and appliances, may consume less energy by powering down when not in use. These sorts of products should be high up on anyone’s smart home checklist.

More: The best smart plugs you can buy

2. Making life simpler

LIFX smart LED light bulb stock photo 5
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Comfort is key. We all want as much of it as possible, and nothing says comfort like have things turn on exactly when and where you need them. You can start with accessories as simple as smart lights. These can trigger via voice commands, location rules, sensor detection, or hand-picked schedules.

Next: These are the best smart light bulbs for smart home buyers

3. Security and safety

Honeywell security camera
Dgit

While you can use conventional alarm systems to protect your home, smart homes may offer extra security by way of connected lights, sensors, cameras, and even doorbells. If you’re home alone and someone is checking out your house to see if they can break in, some of these devices might scare them off.

More: The best smart security cameras you can buy

4. Handling regular household tasks

Roborock S5 Max robot vacuum sweeping under christmas tree 4

If you want to remove some of the more tedious home care tasks from your life, automated devices have you covered there too. Robot vacuum cleaners like iRobot’s Roomba have become almost commonplace. Even stationary appliances are increasingly getting smart home functions. Picture an oven that only starts cooking ahead of dinner time, or a fridge that orders milk online when it senses you’re low.

Here: Robot vacuum cleaners you should buy

5. Making the home more entertaining

Netflix on an Amazon Echo Show 10
Adamya Sharma / Android Authority

What is a smart home if not also a place to hang out and relax? Modern tech offers plenty of ways to have fun. Smart speakers can play music and podcasts, get the latest news, and control devices like TVs and game consoles. Smart displays do this and more, for instance streaming video services like Netflix and YouTube. An Echo Show or Nest Hub can be fantastic in the kitchen or on your nightstand.

Read next: The best smart speakers|Best smart displays


Buy your first smart home products

Philips Hue light bulb for smart homes
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

There are tons of products out there that promise to make your home smarter. To help you get started, we’ve created a list of just five products we feel would be perfect for starting your journey.

1. Get yourself a smart speaker

Echo Dot 2020 fourth generation ring of light from the front
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

You can find plenty of smart speakers out there, but the most popular feature Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa as their voice assistants. Some models can get pretty complex or expensive as well, so we believe your best bet is to go with an entry-level option. Just by gravity, that steers you towards either the Amazon Echo Dot or the Google Nest Mini.

2. Light the way with smart bulbs

Philips Hue light bulb for smart home
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Light bulbs are among the first buys for many smart home shoppers. We recommend Philips Hue bulbs because they’re extremely dependable, and aren’t too expensive. There are many different formats, from basic white A19 bulbs to full-color outdoor lights, so be sure to do your homework before checkout.

3. Control the weather with a Nest Learning Thermostat

google nest thermostat review software version
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

Google Nest’s signature thermostat looks good, is simple to control, and supports both scheduling and learned temperature adjustments. Despite the Google branding, it can respond to commands from both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so long as you have a compatible speaker or display.

4. See who’s knocking with a smart doorbell

ring video doorbel 4
Amazon

 

On a feature level, all of Ring’s video doorbells are solid entries in the market, and its flagship is the Video Doorbell 4. This offers Full HD resolution, a quick-release rechargeable battery, and four-second color pre-roll footage for capturing moments before the button was actually pressed. You can also buy the less expensive Video Doorbell Wired, although this requires some wiring work and replacing your analog doorbell. Other options might be better for Google-based homes, or people worried about Ring sharing data with law enforcement. You’ll need a Ring Protect subscription to access features like recording and person detection. 

5. Centralize your smart home

Samsung SmartThings for smart home
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

If you want a central router that connects all of your smart devices together, there’s the Samsung SmartThings Hub. It supports nearly all wireless protocols, along with Alexa and Google Assistant voice commands. You can potentially skip buying a dedicated hub with many smart speakers and displays, though, since they increasingly have hub technology built in. In the near future, industry standards like Matter and Thread may make hubs redundant.