News outlets and industry experts have predicted the "Year of the Smart Home" for the past several years, but this year has been the most promising by far. Research shows that half of all Alexa devices sold were purchased between November 2016 and March 2017, surpassing over 10 million units and still flying off the delivery trucks. But to consumers with shallow pockets, a full-bodied smart home revolution may still be quite a ways off.
Consider this: The Alexa-fueled Amazon Echo in its full-sized glory sets users back about $180 - and that doesn't include any compatible gadgets. Add in some lighting, security cameras, and a wireless thermostat and you're looking at more than a week's paycheck for the average American worker.
Not to worry - these five smart home gadgets are perfect for those looking to get their smart tech feet wet without dipping into their savings accounts:
If you want a truly smart home, you need a brain to control it. The Amazon Echo Dot is the little sister to the Echo. Powered by Alexa, it provides enough juice to power your smart devices and respond to your every query. Ask it for movie times or restaurant suggestions, or use it to connect other smart devices.
Thought Philips Hue is the most popular choice in smart lighting, their system can easily set you back a few hundred dollars to convert every light in your house. If you want to test out smart lighting before you make a huge investment, TPLink offers a wi-fi-enabled bulb you can control from your smartphone. Just like with the Hue, you can set lighting schedules or make lighting adjustments on the fly.
When it comes to smart appliances, you have two options: sink your life savings into brand new smart appliances, or give your existing appliances an IQ boost. The TPLink Smart Plug was designed to do the latter. Priced at just $29, you can insert the smart plug into any outlet, then plug in your "uneducated" appliance such as a coffee maker or slow cooker. You can download the app or connect the plug to your Echo Dot and control your appliances from there.
This one is mostly a luxury, but it can easily pay for itself if you're notorious for ruining your dinner on the grill. Just plug the thermometer into your steak or other meat, then get a notification on your cell phone or iPad when it's cooked to perfection. This is especially helpful when you'd rather be spending time with your family or guests than watching food cook.
And speaking of cooking, grillmasters know no larger frustration than running out of propane before their meal is ready. Most propane tanks don't come with a capacity indicator, so you're left guessing how much longer your supply will last. Quirky + GE Refuel is solving these grilling woes with their revolutionary development that lets you monitor propane levels from your smartphone. If your tank runs low, you'll be notified ahead of time when to contact residential propane tank refill services.
Of course, the alternative to saving money on smart home technology is not investing in any of it, but what's the fun in that? If you're still not sure where to start, consider which items will either pay for themselves or simply make your life a little easier. Once you start enjoying the benefits of smart home technology, you may wonder what took you so long.