What features should I look for?
First, everything must be compatible. If not, your devices won’t work in harmony. The good news is that many popular devices sync with multiple ecosystems, such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Samsung SmartThings. When you’re buying new smart home gear, check the product’s website or look for the “Works with…” sticker on the box.
As far as what particular devices to buy, look for something that solves a clear need, makes your day easier, and integrates seamlessly with your lifestyle. Pick something you’ll regularly use.
For example, if you are hoping to reduce your energy use, smart thermostats or automated lighting systems can learn your schedule and activate when they sense that you’re at home, which can help you cut down on energy bills. Shade controls, which allow you to lower or raise shades with the simple click of an app, are also popular for cutting down on the cost of cooling and heating homes—plus, they can be set to a particular schedule so that when you’re away on vacation it looks like someone is home.
If you have children, look into systems that offer family accounts. In that case, you can assign specific passcodes and security levels to family members, friends, or hired help, which allow or limit access to certain devices or parts of the home. Another benefit to families: Smart homes can help you keep track of your family members. For example, smart systems might alert you when your child uses their smartphone or their special code to open the front door or are detected on a security camera, so you know that they’ve safely arrived home from school.
Professionally installed devices can also add value to your home if you plan on selling it within the next few years, and some companies sell smart-device kits at discounted prices to realtors.