If you're living off two-minute noodles, setting up your own smart home can seem like an expensive endeavour. However, smart home technology does not always have to be accompanied by a hefty price tag. Here’s how to incorporate the latest tech into your household as a student, without breaking the bank.
Pick your hub
The first step when building your own smart home is deciding between a dedicated smart home hub or a smart speaker. A dedicated smart home hub will generally offer you more control and customisation over your smart devices via a single app, while a smart speaker uses voice-activated controls for smart devices connected via Wi-Fi. Despite dedicated smart home hubs offering a wider range of compatible devices and more functionality, smart speakers are perfectly suitable for the demands of a student smart home and tend to be more realistic for those on a student budget.
Amazon’s Echo Dot (3rd Gen) is a great choice for a smart speaker and uses the virtual assistant Alexa. With a simple voice command, you can ask Alexa to do things like control your compatible smart devices, play music and podcasts, set timers, create lists and check the latest news. The setup is a no brainer – plug in Echo Dot, connect to the internet through the Alexa app on your chosen device and you can begin asking Alexa for help.
In much the same way, the Google Home Mini relies on Google Assistant and is capable of managing your compatible home automation devices, answering questions and commands and organising your day, amongst other things. All you need to do is connect the power cable into your Google Home Mini, plug the adaptor into the wall socket, download the Google Home app on either your phone or tablet and you’re good to go. Those who want premium sound quality with their smart speaker should also consider the Google Home Max, equipped with dual 4.5” woofers designed to deliver the bass.
If you’re really strapped for cash, however, you do always have the option of completely forgoing a hub. Hubs provide a centralised control unit for all your smart devices, but there’s nothing stopping you from using a handful of different apps for your devices or using third-party programs like Yonomi which allow control of compatible devices via a single app.
Bring some light in
Are you tired of reminding your housemate to switch off the lights in the house before they head off to bed every night? Or are you the forgetful flatmate? Either way, installing smart lighting can be a great way of managing your home usage and minimising your electricity bill.
You have three choices when it comes to incorporating smart lighting into your home: smart bulbs, smart plugs and smart switches.
Smart bulbs are a great option if you’re a tenant, as you’ll only need to change the bulbs in your lighting fixtures to get started. If you’re using a hub, make sure to choose lighting compatible with your device. The LIFX Mini White bulbs are a great option for students. These bulbs, compatible with a number of leading virtual assistants, can be switched on and off as well as remotely dimmed through the LIFX App.
Smart plugs are also ideal for those with strict landlords as they enable you to transform existing light fixtures into smart devices. With a smart plug, an ordinary lamp can be turned off and on via voice command or through an app. Some advanced smart plugs will even allow you to monitor energy usage or create a lighting schedule, i.e. turning the lights off at bedtime. The best thing about smart plugs is their ability to be repurposed – you can use them for a wide range of devices outside of your lighting fixtures. The TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi Plug HS100 is an award-winning smart plug that offers remote access and scheduling functionality.
Smart switches require physically replacing current light switches and are therefore best suited for those fortunate enough to own their own place. If you have a room with a number of lights controlled by the same switch, a smart switch is likely to be the most cost-effective solution for you. Check out the Belkin Wemo Smart Light Switch for a smart switch that’s super easy to use.
To cut costs, you should be installing smart lighting where it would benefit you most. For example, it wouldn’t make much sense to install a smart bulb in a bathroom, as you’re just as likely to use the lighting switch itself than ask your virtual assistant or an app.
Secure your space
If you’re moving into a student share house, it’s fairly likely you’ll be living with people you don’t know particularly well at some point in time. Installing smart security devices can give you some peace of mind when living with unfamiliar people.
Keeping an eye on your things while you’re out for the day is simple with the installation of a smart camera in your room. Smart cameras offer a lot more functionality than your traditional surveillance camera, with some models allowing you to conduct two-way conversations remotely and receive alerts to your phone whenever movement is detected. The Yi Home Camera can be placed anywhere within your home and lets you monitor activity from your app remotely. With two-way audio, you can easily check in with your housemates or even your pets. If you don’t want to waste your time going through hours of security footage, you can even get instant activity alerts sent to your phone whenever the camera detects motion.
While these can get a bit pricey, smart locks are another great way to monitor activity in your house while you’re away. Smart locks like the August Smart Lock can be placed over an existing deadlock and let you lock and unlock your door, enable keyless access and monitor who’s entering your home all from an app on your phone. The lock’s Auto-Unlock feature is particularly great for those needing to cart a lot of books back and forth from uni. Before purchasing, just make sure that your current deadlock is compatible with the smart lock.