Caseta

If you're looking to create a truly smart home, this guide is for you! To help you set up a Smart Home that actually works, we've sorted through a huge range of gear to make sure that you're not just getting something that's been over-hyped on KickStarter or Indiegogo, or only been reviewed in an office cubicle in New York City, but something that will actually make your real home smarter! We know these products not only work, but work well and work consistently. And that's a challenge in the Smart Home space, as a lot of start-ups have arrived with great new ideas, but their first-gen products don't always pass with flying colors in real-world testing.

The big news for Spring 2019 is that we've determined that the future of Smart Home is going to be based on Amazon's Echo and the Zigbee communications protocol that Amazon has adopted. With that said, our favorite lighting system remains Lutron's Caseta, so to get the best of both worlds, all you need to do is pick up an Amazon Echo and a Lutron lighting kit, and away you go! We also recommend Sylvania bulbs for locations where a switch isn't a good fit, the Ecobee4 thermostat, the Schlage Smart Lock, and the awesome Ring suite of security products. Ring, which was purchased by Amazon in 2018, offers the best security cameras and alarm systems on the market, based on price, performance, and features. Bringing it all together into one cohesive system is Amazon's beautiful Echo Show 10", which allows you to control all your devices while viewing live feeds of your Ring security cameras. By the way, you'll need a good, long-range router to run your Smart Home, and we strongly recommend a mesh system in this guide, specifically a reasonably-priced 3-node system from TP-Link.

Prices shown in this guide use real-time pricing engines, so they are always up-to-date. If you decide to purchase one of the cards we profile, please use the links we provide, which helps support continued development of this guide.

Smart Home Lighting, Control, and Security - Spring 2019

    The Ultimate Voice Assistant:

    Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) Charcoal

    We think every Smart Home should have an Echo Show, but the entry price can seem intimidating. Don't let it stop you - this device is a true game changer. In addition to the typical voice commands and audio functions, you can use it for video calls with friends and family, as a picture frame for thousands of digital photos, and most importantly for a Smart Home, as a voice-controlled monitor for your Smart security cameras!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Unlike the first-gen Echo Show, the latest version has a built-in Zigbee hub, which means it can directly control most of the products in this guide, but you'll also want to add the Lutron kit with included Caseta hub listed below. The good news is that you'll still get a free Philips bulb to try out directly with the Show just to see how Zigbee control works!

    The Bargain Voice Controller:

    Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)

    If you'd like to add voice control from rooms beyond where your Amazon Echo Show is (which you do, of course!), we recommend you pick up the latest Dot. It's the perfect low-cost voice controller for a Smart Home system.

    The Guru's Tip:

    As with the Echo Show, the Echo Dot cannot control Zigbee devices directly. It can, however, control WiFi devices like cameras, thermostats, and smoke alarms.

    Hub and Switch Bundle:

    Lutron Caseta Wireless Smart Starter Kit

    Step into next-generation Smart Home control by going with the Lutron Caseta line of lighting products. The Caseta in-wall switch is the benchmark by which all others are judged. It's sleek, incredibly-functional, and easy to install. And it even comes with its own hub! Yes, you can get Caseta switches without a hub (and we recommend that below!), but most lighting tasks, plus integration with a wide range of products, you will need at least one hub, and the Caseta hub is the least expensive option for use with Caseta products switches. Amazon Alexa can talk directly to the Caseta Hub, which then allows integration into your broader system.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This kit even includes a bracket to use the included Pico remote in a three-way switch application!

    The Deluxe In-Wall Dimmer:

    Lutron Caseta Dimmer with Pico Remote

    Assuming you want to control more than one bank of lights, you'll want to get at least a handful of these Caseta dimmers. They really are the best out there, and just about anyone can install them.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This kit includes a Pico remote, which you can place on your nightstand or table to control lights without using your voice. Add a Pico bracket to mount it in the wall - even where there is existing light switch!!!

    The World's Best Dimmer:

    Lutron Caseta Wireless ELV Dimmer

    If you have locations that use speciality bulbs, like custom LED lighting or candelabra lighting, we recommend you get the ELV dimmer. It's more advanced controller (designed for electronic low voltage bulbs) is much better at providing reliable startup at low dimming levels, as well as eliminating buzzing sounds inherent to many LED bulbs used with standard dimmers, even those that are intended for use with LEDs.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This kit doesn't include a Pico remote, but it does have one feature that the standard Caseta dimmer doesn't include: a center-mounted "favorites" button, which returns the light to your favorite pre-set dimming level with a single press.

    The Bargain Smart A19 Bulb:

    Sylvania Lightify+ A19 Zigbee

    For locations where investing in a wall switch doesn't make sense (e.g., desk or floor lamps, as well as switches that only control one bulb and don't require manual control), you'll want to go with this low-priced but ultra-high-quality Zigbee bulb from Sylvania. We've tested a lot of bulbs, and these are by far our favorite.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Need a BR30 for track lighting locations? See the option below!

    The Tunable Zigbee BR30 Smart Bulb:

    Sylvania Smart+ BR30

    Just like its A19 cousin above, this BR30 bulb is your best choice for locations where you don't want to invest in a Lutron switch. It uses the Zigbee standard, so it can be voice controlled and scheduled via Amazon Alexa.

    The Guru's Tip:

    These are perfect bulbs to use in outdoor locations that you just want to set on a schedule for nighttime safety, rather than manually turn on and off via a switch.

    Smart Thermostat:

    ecobee SmartThermostat

    There are a lot of contenders for "best" smart thermostat, but we think the ecobee4 takes the prize for being a truly smart thermostat, going beyond just giving you a digital display and remote monitoring and control. By using its stand-alone sensors, the ecobee4 can monitor temperature all around your home, not just in the room where you mount it on the wall! The ecobee4 comes with one remote sensor in the box, but you can buy extra sensor 2-packs for around $80. Read our full review of this amazing product right here!

    The Guru's Tip:

    The huge new feature that the ecobee4 added over the ecobee3 is that it has Amazon's Alexa voice service built in, which means you can speak commands directly to it, and can actually use it for may of the same things you'd use a stand-alone Echo Dot for. Despite this huge improvement, it costs the same as the previous version!

    Home Alarm:

    Ring 5-Piece Alarm

    The perfect low-cost home alarm system, Ring offers not only a great price, but also a very low cost of ownership, thanks to a fabulous $100/yr pro plan that includes all recordings for all cameras and professional monitoring of your alarm. Plus there are no contracts, making it a risk-free solution. This kit includes the alarm base station, one motion sensor, one door sensor, one keypad, and one range extender (which is helpful if the door sensor is far from the base station).

    The Guru's Tip:

    While this starter kit is perfect for apartments, if you live in a house, you'll want to use the 8-piece kit, which includes additional door sensors, plus a second motion sensor.

    Outdoor Security Camera:

    Ring Spotlight Cam Solar

    There are lots of options for home security out there, and just about all of them are half-baked. There's just one system that we think is truly worth considering for a serious Smart Home system: Ring. It integrates with everything in the guide and what really sets it apart is the included solar panel, allowing you to skip the bulky power wires and while never worying about changing batteries. To save recordings, you can pay $3/mo per camera, or $10/mo for unlimited cameras. Even better, you can pay $100/yr for unlimited cameras plus Ring Alarm monitoring!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Of course, you can view your Spotlight Cam's video feed on the Amazon Show using a simple voice command.

    Home Alarm:

    Ring Stick Up Cam Wired

    Want a Ring camera for indoor use? The stylish Stick Up Cam is the one to use.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Like the Spotlight Cam, this one can be accessed via the Ring App and viewed via the Amazon Show.

    Smart Lock:

    Schlage Connect Smart Zigbee Deadbolt

    No Smart Home is complete without a smart lock, and we've tested every lock out there. The Schlage Connect Smart Deadbolt is by far the best. Offered in two different styles and a multitude of colors, this model has the best keypad, the longest battery life, and the best reliability, bar none. Remotely lock and unlock your door, lock via voice command, schedule it via the Alexa app to lock every night... so many options, all giving you more control and confidence in your home security!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This updated model features a Zigbee radio, meaning it can be directly controlled by the Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) or Amazon Echo Plus. Earlier models were Z-Wave only.

    The Mid-Range Whole-Home System:

    TP-Link Deco M5

    What may get lost in the shuffle is that a Smart Home system is only as good as the WiFi backbone you have in your home, and most likely, that backbone needs an upgrade. The issue is that with security cameras, Echo devices, and thermostats all using WiFi from the furthest reaches of your homes, a standard WiFi router just won't work. We recommend this fast, affordable Mesh system from TP-Link, which will cure all your WiFi blues forever!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Read our full review right here!