LOS ANGELES – Nov. 15, 2017 – So you're thinking about setting up a smart home. You'd like to say, "Alexa, turn off the lights," or "Alexa, lock the door," and have it all happen without having to get up out of your lounge chair. Great idea, right? No question, but it will cost you.
Based on the costs of purchasing items, trying to install them and then giving up and paying someone else for installation, USA TODAY estimates a figure of nearly $2,100 to get started with smart lighting, doorbell, lock, thermostat and security.
Compared to the options a few years ago, that's a bargain. Then, if you wanted a smart home, you'd have to go to companies such as Control 4, Crestron or Vivint for home security, lighting and the like. These companies work on a subscription model, charging you to buy the products and pay a monthly fee for installation and service. Vivint, for instance, says service starts at $39.99 monthly, or nearly $500 a year.
The beauty of the age we're living in is that you can now order just the pieces you want, off the shelf, and install them yourself. Maybe – if you're really good with screwdrivers and potentially wiring. If not, you can hire a lower-cost service company such as Hello Tech, Best Buy's Geek Squad or even Amazon.
Let's go down the list of what you might want, choosing some of the most common smart-home products:
- The Ring video doorbell shows you who's at the door and lets you answer from anywhere. Price: $200.
- A smart lock, from firms such as August Home and Schlage, for opening the door with your phone or via Alexa. Price: They start at about $200.
- Smart lights: Plug in a base to speak to the bulbs, then plug in the bulbs to regular sockets. Price: A starter kit from Phillips starts at about $150.
- The Nest Thermostat, which can be controlled from anywhere. You can lower or raise the temperature of your home from work. Price: The latest, third-generation Nest sells for $249.
- Smart garage door opener to monitor who's coming in and out, via an app. Price: Starts at $179 from Chamberlain.
- Canary security offers webcam footage, sirens and alerts. Price: $170.
- Amazon Echo: Finally, you'll want an Echo, Amazon's connected speaker that controls all these devices, plus plays music on demand and tells you the latest weather and news.
Amazon has several Echo units available. The one geared to home automation is called the Echo Plus. Additionally, you can also use the Google Home speaker ($49.99 and $129.99) or the Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant apps on your smartphone to control the home. Price: Amazon Echo Plus sells for $149.
So you're at $1,300 now, and you might want to add some outdoor lighting that will warn off prowlers, such as the Ring Floodlight Camera, which is motion-activated and comes with two-way talk and alarms. Add another $250 for that, and the total is $1,550.
Now the hard part. The products fall under the DIY category. You are expected to install them. Manufacturers make it sound easy, but the truth is, it isn't.
Amazon now offers many of these units with installation offers. Add about $100 to the smart lock purchase to have a pro install a deadbolt lock, drill holes and cut mortises into the door, install a cylinder, thumb level and faceplate, and install the strike plate in the doorjamb.
Figure installation charge of $100 or so for five of the units discussed here (you won't need help for Canary or Echo), and that's how I get to $2,050.
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