November 28, 2015

Smart Home Tech: Shop by Budget


Smart Home Tech: Shop by Budget

Here’s a lineup of smart-home solutions, broken down by price.

Shop for home technology solutions by price:

Budget Solutions

To shape that space where smart meets green, there’s a growing variety of easily added inexpensive products that introduce new efficiency or upgrade the home’s technology infrastructure.

Mushroom GreenZero

This “eco-friendly” charger for mobile equipment helps conserve energy by automatically shutting itself off when connected devices are fully charged. It’s offered in versions for charging mobile hardware by a USB or micro USB connection or Apple’s 30-pin connector.

Glimpse 4-inch
Lighting Sciences Corp.

At first glance, the price of an LED replacement bulb like this may startle you, until you calculate the life and potential energy savings. One example of the company’s many energy-efficient bulbs, the Glimpse fits four-inch recessed fixtures, consumes just 9.75 watts (though it puts out light comparable to a 40-watt bulb), and has an estimated life of 50,000 hours.

Vizia RF+ Serial Interface
Leviton Manufacturing

With this plug-in module and related products, home owners can automate the control of household lighting and fans without the need to install wiring. It uses radio signals to communicate with devices on a home-automation system. Controllers are available for lights, electrical switches, and fans.

PLSK Powerline Network Adapter Kit


Adapters like this use standard household wiring to extend the reach of a computer network wherever a wall plug is available. Connect the adapter to the network router with an Ethernet cable, plug it in the wall, and plug in the second adapter in any outlet. Additional adapters can be added to expand the network throughout the house.

Nest Learning Thermostat
Nest Labs

This “smart” thermostat learns the home owner’s preferences, then programs itself to control the home’s heating and cooling system to maximize comfort while conserving energy. An auto-away feature detects when no one is home to adjust settings accordingly. It also connects to the home Wi-Fi network, so its owner can set the temperature or monitor energy usage on the Internet.

Mid Range

Between $250-750, buyers have several options for building a home automation system, as well as some highly specialized products with unique capabilities.

Vivint Home Automation Starter Kit
Vivint Inc.
$199 activation fee, then $69 per month

This kit combines the company’s home security and energy management modules (also available separately) with a video camera and automatic door lock as the foundation for a fully integrated and customizable home automation system. The security module includes the Go!Control panel, a motion detector, and door and window sensors, while the energy module adds a smart thermostat and lamp and appliance controller. Subscribers can remotely monitor or control the system, or receive notifications about activity in the home, on their smartphone or tablet with a free app.

NAS-SV20i WiFi iPod/iPhone Speaker Dock
Sony Electronics

This module in Sony’s line of wireless HomeShare AV components serves as a dock for playing music stored on an iPod or iPhone or over the Internet. Content can be streamed to HomeShare speakers in other parts of the home. HomeShare components can be combined to build a home entertainment network of speakers, DVD players, and home theater audio and video components. All aspects of the system can be controlled via smartphone with the HomeShare app.

GE Digital Surveillance LED Lighting System
Jasco Products

This wireless security system includes a pair of LED lights, motion detectors, a security camera, and a DVR (digital video recorder). Motion sensors detect any movement within 40 feet, turn on both lamps, and transmit a video signal to the wireless receiver for recording on microSD cards thanks to a built-in DVR. Users can also manually control the system’s video function.

NEXIA Home Security Kit
Ingersoll Rand Residential Solutions

$490, and $9 per month for remote-monitoring option

This home security kit can be the starting point for a fully integrated home-automation system. The kit includes the Nexia Bridge control system for managing security and home-energy modules, a Schlage light-dimmer module, Schlage keypad door lever, and an indoor camera for monitoring activity inside the home over the Internet. Many other options and modules are available.

Roomba 780 

This latest model of the original home-cleaning robot features an advanced vacuum head and larger debris chamber. It guides itself from room to room as it adjusts its cleaning head to the floor surface in order to clean everything in its path. And it returns to its base for recharging when finished. Other cleaning robots available include the Scooba for washing floors and the Verro for pools.


A new approach to creating a home audio network, this wireless system pumps music to LED lightbulbs that have built-in speakers. The remote base is a 20-watt digital amplifier-transmitter with inputs for two audio sources. It streams audio to speakers within 50 feet. The system comes with a pair of 10-watt long-life LED bulbs with speakers, equivalent to a 65-watt incandescent bulb, compatible with standard lightbulb sockets.

High End

Once you cross the $750 threshold, you enter the realm of expansive automation systems and leading-edge smart products for the home.

HC-250 Control4 Controller
Control 4
$600, plus a $499 site license and additional components to create customized home-automation system

This single room controller can serve as the starting point for building a completely integrated home-automation system. As a controller, it features its own 1 GHz processor, built-in Wi-Fi N, and ZigBee wireless support. It runs the company’s proprietary operating system for controlling optional control modules available for household lighting, audio-video components, security systems and climate control. The MyHome app lets home owners control devices connected to the system with a smartphone or tablet.

E50 Smart Viera LED HDTV 

This 47-inch LED HDTV represents the emerging class of full-featured smart TVs as the centerpiece of the home entertainment system. Wi-Fi ready, it can wirelessly access the Internet and Panasonic’s Viera Connect video-on-demand services. With Viera apps, compatible smartphones and tablets can be used as the remote controls or as gamepads. The unit has a built-in SD card and USB flash drive reader for displaying content and several “eco” modes for conserving power.

1800m2 Mower

Mowing the lawn can be just a memory with this robotic lawn mower designed for yards up to half an acre. It features a three-blade cutting system, a programmable panel for scheduling and setting lawn preferences, and the ability to automatically redirect itself around obstacles. Battery powered, it produces no emissions, and will return to its base when it needs recharging.

RSG309 Refrigerator

With an 8-inch, Wi-Fi–enabled LCD panel loaded with apps, this smart fridge speaks of things to come in home appliances. Its side-by-side design provides 18.1 cubic feet of cooling space and an 11.5 cubic foot freezer with LED lighting, tempered glass shelves, and door-mounted ice maker. The screen can display photos, recipes, a calendar, or Web pages. Its grocery app tracks the expiration date of perishables stored in the unit.

Sky Factory Virtual Windows and eScape
The Sky Factory
Price varies with project, number of images, screen size, etc.

Home owners can look out on a virtual world with images displayed as a high-resolution print or playing as video on high resolution LCD screens and installed to look like a window or skylight. The selection of choice of trim styles and finishes suits most interiors. Available scenes include various landscapes, tropical ocean views with surf, sunrise and sunset, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, wildlife, and underwater marine life.