Home Automation Buying Guide

Jalesa Campbell
Updated Jan 27, 2021
4 min read
Look around and you’ll see some aspects from the Jetsons television show coming to life through today’s smart home technology. Smart devices, as a step above our average products, allow families to save a little extra time, energy and even a few extra dollars. Imagine waking up to the smell of coffee in the mornings without even touching your coffee maker.

Also recognized as home automation systems, these devices are created to make the processes of life more efficient by placing some routines on “autopilot”. As reported by Alarms.org, 57% of smart home device owners have stated that they have been able to save more time by simply using these devices. Yet, with so many options available on the market, what are some important factors to consider before purchasing a smart product?

Factors to consider before buying a smart home device

Learn more about these 4 key factors to take into consideration before making your first smart home device purchase.

Can you put some items in your home on autopilot?

It’s a good idea to first consider what process you can place on “autopilot” in your home. Do you normally brew coffee in the mornings? Do you usually adjust the temperature before leaving home? Take a little time to think about the things that you do on a normal basis, and from there,  see how automating that process could save you a little extra time. If you’re guilty of leaving the lights on before leaving home, a home automation solution like ADT’s Smart Lights and Smart Bulbs can definitely help by not only saving you a little extra time before heading out the door but also by cutting down on your energy costs.

What price are you willing to pay?

After figuring out what process you’re ready to automate, it’s time to start considering price of the actual devices. Smart home products are a step above your average devices, so the prices can definitely range depending upon its purpose and features.

For instance, larger and more robust kitchen appliances, like the CrockPot WeMo-Enabled Smart Slow Cooker, will likely carry a higher price tag than smaller appliances like the Behmor Connected Coffee Maker. The options are totally up to you and depends on your lifestyle and what you can afford.

What features does the device support?

Does the device support the functions that you’re planning to automate? For instance, if you’re for smart devices that will allow keyless entry for your doors, ADT’s Smart Locks would give you the ability to lock or unlock your doors by app.

When shopping for devices, consider which features will be the most helpful to you.

How easy is it to install and maintain the device?

While it may be tempting to purchase a home automation system that comes with many bells and whistles, it’s better instead to look for simple solutions. When you want to automate a simple process, it’s better to start small. Also, find out if the device will need to be updated in order to have the latest technology.

What are some great smart home products for starters?

It’s best to start small, and to help, we’ve put together a short list of affordable smart devices that are great to consider when automating simple processes.
  • Best Energy-Saving Thermostat

    Nest Learning Thermostat

    Our rating

    Our take

    Designed with Farsight so you can easily view the temperature, the Nest Learning Thermostat is a smart device that will learn your schedule and automatically adjust the temperature for you. You can also save on your monthly energy bills with this ENERGY-STAR certified device.

    Stand-out features include

    • Simple installation in as little as half an hour
    • Customizable ring colors to fit the style of your home
    • Generates monthly energy reports for you
  • Best of the Best Smart Outlets

    ADT Smart Plug

    Our rating

    Our take

    The ADT Smart Switch is a smart outlet designed to remotely control any home appliance with ease. Use Amazon Alexa’s voice commands to turn lights on or off. Or control appliances in the smart home outlet using the ADT Pulse® mobile app when you’re on the go.

    Stand-out features include

    • Works with all light bulbs and all standard small home appliances
    • Compact design to use both outlets while using the smart outlet
    • Use the smart outlet to schedule light timers using the ADT Pulse® mobile app
  • Best Wide-Angle View

    ADT Video Doorbell

    Our rating

    Our take

    ADT’s Video Doorbell Camera is a great doorbell camera that is simple but still has some of the more popular features. The camera has 720p video resolution, which isn’t as sharp as other doorbell cameras. But it comes with a 180-degree field of view, like the Vivint Doorbell Camera Pro, to give you a wide view of activity. There aren’t many standout features that separate ADT’s doorbell camera from the rest, but you can rest assured that these popular features are included: 

    • Two-way audio to see and speak to guests using the ADT mobile app. 
    • Wirelessly works other security equipment using 2.4GHz wifi. 
    • Receive motion-triggered alerts to see live footage from anywhere using your smartphone. 

    But, like Vivint, you’ll need the ADT security system and service. Professional installation is also required. Keep in mind that you must upgrade to the Complete package for ADT’s Video Doorbell Camera and features. Mobile app control and cloud storage are included in the package cost.


    Stand-out features include

    • Multiple mounting bracket options for your doorbell camera for secure installation with the perfect fit.
    • Control your doorbell camera, smart home devices and security equipment using the ADT mobile app. Amazon Alexa voice commands are also available.
    • 180-degree field of view for a wide-angle view of people and packages on your porch.
  • Philips Hue Smart Light Bulbs

    Our rating

    Our take

    This two-pack smart light bulb can be controlled hands-free for convenience. Easily dim the lights, set a timer, or manage your morning lighting settings using your smartphone or smart assistant.

    Stand-out features include

    • Connects with the Philips Hue Bridge to control white light shades
    • Uses voice commands to control the light settings and timers
    • Interconnects with other smart home automation devices to create a remote-controlled home lighting system
  • Frontpoint Smart Light Bulb

    Our rating

    Our take

    Frontpoint’s smart light bulb is easy to customize using your smartphone. Use the Frontpoint mobile app to turn lights on or off. You’ll even have the ability to dim lights remotely when you’re away. Connect these smart light bulbs to your Frontpoint monitored home security system for an interconnected safe, smart home.

    Stand-out features include

    • Customize your lamp and light fixture setting to turn on and off using the Frontpoint mobile app
    • Energy efficient design to shine 60 watts while only using 9 watts
    • Connects to other Frontpoint home security gadgets for a safe, smart home

Create your smart home one step at a time

When shopping for smart devices to put some of your tasks on autopilot, it’s important to keep purpose, cost, features and ease of use in mind. Just imagine how much easier getting up the mornings or coming home in the evenings will be with your new gadget. We recommend starting with one of the items in our guide and learning how to use it well before purchasing your next addition. In time, hopefully you’ll be able to have the smart home of your dreams.

Safety and Security Reporter

Jalesa Campbell

Jalesa is one of Safety.com's staff experts on home security, natural disasters, public safety, and family safety. She's been featured on Today.com and elsewhere.

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