Picking the right smart home devices can be overwhelming—let this guide to a smart home starter kit make it easy.

By Lauren Phillips
Updated August 15, 2018
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Smart home devices are everywhere, from security systems to kitchen assistants. (The Echo Dot will even read your kid's bedtime book to him). In fact, a quick search for smart home devices on Amazon turns up 20,000 results—which is a dizzying array of options, particularly if you've never purchased one before.

To make setting up your smart home a little more manageable, we've selected three basic yet essential smart home devices. If you love having these high-tech devices, you can upgrade them, get more, and delve into more complicated smart home products, like an intelligent oven or a wi-fi sprinkler.

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An Assistant

Most smart homes are built around a smart home assistant: Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home are very popular, though the Apple HomePod is also an option. A smart home assistant allows you to control your other devices verbally, simply by asking your assistant to turn on the lights or lock the front door. Even if you don’t have other devices, smart home assistants can read you the day’s headlines, tell you the weather, order pizza, and more.

Each smart home assistant has its own pros and cons, volume capabilities, and price points; you can do exhaustive research online on which one is the best, or just ask trusted friends and family what they use, and why they like it.

One great option is the Amazon Echo Plus, which has a built-in hub. Some smart home devices, like lightbulbs, smart plugs, and more, require a hub to work; the Echo Plus can serve as that hub with certain devices, eliminating the need to purchase separate hubs for your various smart home devices (an expense that can quickly add up).

To buy: $150; amazon.com.

Other options:

Amazon Echo Dot, $50; amazon.com.

Google Home, $129; store.google.com.

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A Plug

Setting up a smart home doesn’t necessarily require a total revamp of all your appliances. Your beloved antique floor lamp may not fit a smart bulb; your trusty desk fan may not be intelligent. Fortunately, the simple addition of a wi-fi plug can make anything smart.

These plugs fit over existing outlets and connect to your wi-fi and an app on your phone. You can set timers or control the outlet remotely through the app, or connect most of these smart home devices to your smart home assistant. (Always check that a product works with your smart home assistant before purchasing.)

You can turn lights, fans, irons, coffee makers, decorative lights, and more on and off with these simple add-ons. Best of all, some are available for as low as $10, allowing you to build a smart home on a budget while better managing your energy use. Try the Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini by TP-Link, or one of the top-rated options below.

To buy: $27; amazon.com.

Other options:

Etekcity Voltson Wi-Fi Smart Plug, $20 for two; amazon.com.

Gosund Mini Smart Plug, $13; amazon.com.

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Lightbulbs

Never fumble with a light switch in the dark again! Smart bulbs can replace the standard lightbulbs in your home, so you can turn the lights on and off, set them to fade slowly when it’s time for bed, automate them to be on when you arrive home at night, and more, all through an app or using a smart assistant. Bulbs are available in various sizes, as are bulbs with color-changing capabilities and other flashy options.

Many smart bulbs—including the Philips Hue line—require a hub to connect the lights to each other, to the wi-fi, and to your smart assistant. (As explained above, the Amazon Echo Plus can eliminate the need for a hub.) Once they’re connected, though, you can have complete control over the lights in your home—and even turn off the living room light from the comfort of your bed.

To buy: $93; amazon.com.

Other options:

Philips Hue White (with no hub), $30 for two bulbs; amazon.com.

Kasa Smart Wi-Fi LED Light Bulb by TP-Link, $25; amazon.com.