Best smart home tech list: The best gadgets to make your home smarter | Reviewed by Trevor Long

The term “smart home” is nothing new, but for the last five to 10 years it’s felt a lot like a thing that was either “too hard” or a bit “too techie” for the average Aussie home.

But the good news is it’s never been easier to add smart home devices to your place, and even better there are so many more options out there.

This is not about being lazy, it’s about being efficient and putting ongoing savings into your pocket and time back into your day.

Why you should add smart home gadgets to your home

Leaving aside how cool it is to just speak to your home to get lights turned on or cool down a room – there are some real tangible benefits to having a smart home.

Firstly, power efficiency. In a time of rising power costs, any opportunity to reduce your power bill is a good thing. Smart home devices can ensure that lights aren’t left on all day, rooms are lit only when people are in them, or you run things like an air conditioner on a schedule or based on when you’re coming home to use it.

Additionally, there’s the overwhelming convenience that comes from going hands-free in your home or setting your home to react to your movements or schedule.

This is not about being lazy, it’s about being efficient and putting ongoing savings into your pocket and time back into your day.

What to look for when buying smart home gadgets

The most important thing to know about smart home gadgets is that compatibility is key. For a long time there have been Wi-Fi-controlled or app-controlled devices, and they are great, But the cheapest and simplest devices will probably only work with the app they are controlled by and not with any other devices in your home.

What you need to look out for is a notice of compatibility. Most devices will state if they work with Google, Amazon or HomeKit, which is Apple’s smart home brand.

There is also a new consortium of device technologies called “matter” which will be the true standard going forward. So for the best future-proofing look for Matter compatibility, but most importantly make sure there’s a clear mark of compatibility with your chosen smart home ecosystem.

Which smart home ecosystem should I choose?

There are three big brands here, Google, Amazon and Apple. You don’t need to use Apple just because you have an iPhone. Likewise, you don’t need to use Google just because you have an Android phone.

The only real restriction is that using Apple’s HomeKit is hard to near impossible without a decent penetration of Apple devices in your home like iPhones or iPads.

Google and Amazon are head to head with the most open systems, and while Google has a market share dominance in Australia, Amazon’s Alexa – available on Echo smart speakers is a great open and easy-to-use system for all.

Our pick of the best smart home gadgets for the Aussie home:

NOTE: Prices are accurate at time of publishing.

Amazon Echo Show 5

Price: $119

You need to have a smart speaker. Not because it’s a requirement of a smart home, but because I think they offer the best overall benefits and use of other smart home devices.

This Echo Show device is one of the smart speakers with a screen. That means some basic information can be displayed on-screen. Set a timer while you cook pasta, that timer will appear on the screen. Ask for a recipe it will show on the screen, same with news or other information.

Importantly also you can ask your smart speaker to show you a security camera if you have one as part of your smart home. That means at a glance you can see who’s out there without leaving the room.

The Echo Show is also a touch-screen so you can simply swipe to control other lights or switches in your smart home.

Consider a smart speaker as the starting block of your smart home – be it a cheap and simple speaker or a larger one with a screen, it doesn’t matter.

Meross Smart Plug

Price: $64.99 (pack of 4)

I think I have eight or nine of these in my office, controlling lights, TV power and more. The beauty of a smart plug like this is you can have it control any item that plugs into the wall.

If you have a power point you always use for the iron – set up a Smart Plug and call it ‘Iron’. Then if you get to work worried you left the iron on, you can open an app to turn it off, or just ask your smart assistant. You could also set a timer to ensure it’s always ‘off’ at 9 am every day.

Got a lamp in the corner of the room – use a Smart Plug in the wall, and that lamp becomes smart! It doesn’t matter if it’s a fan, a light, or any powered item in your home – get a Smart Plug – make it smart!

Philips Hue Starter Kit

Price: $241.30

Lights are one of the best areas to get benefits from a smart home. Using a system like Philips Hue means you’re getting cross-platform support and a solid future-proofed product too.

Philips lights can be dimmed and even change colour, this allows you to set the perfect theme or mood in any room in your home.

Ask Alexa to turn the lounge room light blue and the kids will think it’s party time, but more importantly, ask Alexa to turn off all the lights or set a schedule to suit your days.

You could also set your smart home to react to your movements, so when you leave home the lights are off or when you pull into the driveway the lights come on.

Possibilities are endless.

Sensibo Sky

Price: $149

The Sensibo Sky is probably one of my favourite gadgets, let alone smart home gadgets.

If you’ve got an air conditioner with a remote control, this little tiny box becomes part of that system allowing you to control your air conditioning any time and from anywhere.

In its simplest form, open your smartphone and change the temperature.

If you’ve got a smart speaker, simply use it to turn on, off, or change the temperature of your system.

This kicks in for me most when I use a schedule to turn off the air conditioner. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten to turn it off, only to find the room freezing cold the next morning. I now have a schedule in Sensibo Sky that turns it off at 10 pm each night.

For those who really get into smart home curation, you could get temperature-based usage, so when the temperature reaches a certain point it can begin cooling or heating.

Very cool – literally.

Eve Door & Window Sensor

Price: $69

Ever driven to a holiday destination, or just to work, and wondered “Did I shut the front door?”

Wonder no more! Using a window and door sensor, you can simply check to see the status of your door or window.

Importantly, you can get alerts when they are left open for extended periods and also use these sensors to trigger other things in your smart home.

Turn lights on at the front door when it opens or closes – these offer a great insight into what’s happening in your home.

Arlo Camera & Video Doorbell Bundle

Price: $683.51

For the best understanding of what’s happening at home, an Arlo security camera allows you to look into your home or out the front of your home with ease.

Using the Arlo Secure app you can see what’s happening live, talk to anyone standing in front of your camera, and see recorded clips of any motion detected by the cameras.

The video doorbell included in this bundle replaces the old simple chime, and allows you to answer the door wherever you are. Still in bed? Answer the door and ask them to leave the parcel there for you. Overseas? No problem – the person at the door doesn’t need to know that.

And if you’ve got a smart speaker with a screen, you can view those cameras on that screen just by asking.

Time to consider smart light switches

Legrand Arteor

Price: $119

LIFX Smart Switch

Price: $109.99

Forget pressing a light switch to turn on and off lights, use your voice, an app or press the button.

For any room, or any type of light, you can replace your existing switch with a smart switch.

These need to be installed by an electrician but are a game changer.

Lay in bed to read a book or watch TV, and instead of having to get up from your comfy bed to turn off the light, just ask Google or Alexa – or open your app.

Again, using smart schedules, all the lights can be turned off remotely based on the time of day!

So simple, so easy, and super smart.

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