These days, it’s easy to automate your entire life: You can buy a car that can drive and park itself, a smartwatch that can detect if you’ve fallen and call for help, and a robot vacuum that can map out where your home needs a sweep. And thanks to smart home setups, you can even automate your lights, the temperature, and even how you get your news.
As a tech reporter, I’m a little ashamed to admit I do not have a smart home automation system. If you’re like me — someone who could benefit from the luxuries and ease of a smart home, but isn’t quite sure where to start — I set out to create a guide that can help us all take the plunge into the smart home world.
Also: The best smart home devices (and how they can make your life easier)
At this point, you might be wondering why you should even take that step or why you’d need a smart home setup. To provide an expert answer, I turned to ZDNET’s resident smart home guru, Maria Diaz.
“Setting up a smart home sounds intimidating, but it’s much easier than most think, and the added convenience of using smart devices is enough to make it worth it,” Diaz said.”The great thing about smart home products is that there’s something for everyone, no matter what phone they have or what voice assistant they prefer.”
With that, let’s get into everything you need to build out a smart — or smarter — home, starting with speakers, then getting into doorbells and lighting, and working our way into thermostats and some additional items you may want to consider. (You can also check out everything you need to host a summer party.)
A smart speaker
The best smart speakers are a smart staple, with a ton of abilities like playing music, setting reminders, making phone calls, answering questions, and acting as a control hub for other smart devices via voice command capabilities. Here are a few of our favorites.
A video doorbell
One of the most subtle yet effective smart home measures you can add to your home is a video doorbell, as they provide insight into who — or what — is at the door without you ever leaving your couch. Our top picks for the best video doorbells have HD video and motion detection and connect to a mobile app as well as other smart home devices, so you can ask Alexa, “Who is at the door?”
A smart lock
Another way to protect the entryways of your home is to install a smart lock. Today’s top smart locks use fingerprint technology and customizable key combinations, making it easier to go keyless and say goodbye to the day of forgetting your overcrowded keychain.
Ever dream of having those old clapper lights? Smart lights function in a similar but tech-savvier way. The best smart lights let you set lighting schedules throughout the day based on when you need light the most, as well as create cool and ambient lighting effects to match a room’s vibe and purpose.
A smart thermostat
Another way to add smart home tech into your home is a smart thermostat, a device that can actually save you money on your electric bills — one study showing about $50 per year in savings. By creating automated schedules, the best smart thermostats adjust themselves to your climate schedule and offer voice control with geofencing technology.
You might also need…
Smart speakers, video doorbells, smart lights, and thermostats are some of our favorite smart home staples, but there are other options you and your home could benefit from. Check out our picks for smart plugs, displays, robot vacuums, and more.