So what’s the easiest way to get into home automation?
I say it’s with a few connected lightbulbs.
The first piece of hardware you’ll want is a hub.
There are lightbulbs out there that will work directly through your phone, but if you are serious about home automation, pick a hub ecosystem like Samsung’s SmartThings or Wink’s Hub 2, and set it up on your home’s network.
Then you can pick a bulb.
At my house, I’m running a Wink Hub 2 ($99) with a few Cree Connected bulbs and a few GE Link bulbs. Both cost around $15 each, and they pair easily to the hub.
So what can you do with a few bulbs?
I have a schedule set so my front porch light automatically turns on at sunset and turns off at midnight.
You can also turn the lights on and off from your phone.
If you want to get fancier, try adding an Amazon Echo Dot ($50) to the mix. You can pair the Dot to the Wink Hub and control the lights with your voice.
This is handy when you’re walking in the door with an armload of grocery bags and need to turn on a light or two. I just ask Alexa to turn on the living room lights.
After bulbs, my next recommendation would be a connected thermostat, like the Nest ($249) or Emerson’s Sensi ($129). I have the Sensi and couldn’t be happier.
The Nest is good at trying to figure out when you’re not home and automatically changing the temperature to save money, but I’d rather just control it myself.
The Sensi is perfect for us. I can set the temperature to change on a schedule for each day or just set it myself from my phone.
The Sensi is powered by two AA batteries, so it works with older systems that don’t have a C wire (for power).
Finally, I’d recommend a Ring video doorbell ($199). I just installed one this weekend, and I really like it.
The Ring replaces your existing doorbell, and it lets you answer the door and speak to visitors through your phone, even if you are not home.
The Ring also records video any time it senses motion.
I’ll have a review of the Ring in the coming weeks.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Jim Rossman writes for The Dallas Morning News. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.