cheap home automation ideas
How-To

5 Home Automation Ideas for Beginners – A Guide (AFFORDABLE!)

When you’re first getting into smart home automation it can be challenging, and expensive! I’m here to help you get started with some cheap home automation ideas that you can implement today.

Here are the five cheapest home automation ideas for 2020: 

  1. Motion activated light to illuminate a stairway or room
  2. Door sensor for room temperature monitoring during winter months 
  3. Using voice commands to turn your TV on and off 
  4. Smart plugs to schedule an activity like brewing coffee in the morning
  5. Smart bulb that changes color in the morning, alerting you it’s going to rain

Read on to learn how I’ve implemented each of these in my home.

A quick note

Three of the five cheap home automation ideas below require a smart hub (I indicate if this is the case where applicable below): specifically the Samsung SmartThings Hub.

If you don’t know what a smart hub is or which one to buy, let me save you the trouble – just get the Samsung SmartThings Hub. 

In short it allows your devices to communicate with each other and the ability to centralize all your products and automations within a single location – the SmartThings phone app.

Samsung integrates with a TON of products and is extremely user friendly. It’s the smart hub I bought and I have no regrets – even after over a year of adding more and more smart products to my home, the SmartThings hub just works. 

The reality is you’ll slowly continue to add more and more smart products to your home, and if that’s the case, having a hub is really the only way to do it.

If you’re still not convinced and want to go into more depth on smart hubs check out this article.

OK let’s jump into it.

Cheap home automation ideas

1) Motion activated lights are making a come back, and for good reason 

This is an obvious one – tigger your lights to turn on when motion is detected, and off when a certain amount of “motionless-time” has passed

Motion activated lights are not a new concept and have been around for a long time.

But they are still extremely practical and useful.

The cheapest and easiest way to set up motion activated lights is to buy a smart motion sensor and a smart WiFi enabled light bulb. 

In our home we’ve installed a smart motion sensor at the top of our stairs and added a smart bulb to light the stairway.

The automation is setup so that at any point during the day or night, when someone enters the stairwell the stairway light automatically turns on.

After ten minutes of no motion, the smart stair light automatically turns off. 

It’s especially nice not having to fumble around for the light switch at night when I need to run downstairs and change the laundry.

It even saves my wife and I money since we don’t need to remember to shut the light off! 


Products

1. Samsung SmartThings Motion Sensor

2. Kasa Smart WiFi Light Bulb (TP-Link)

Steps/Assumptions:

  1. You own and have set up the Samsung SmartThings Hub.
  2. In order to setup the SmartThings Hub you’ll likely have already downloaded the SmartThings app on your phone. If not do so now.
  3. Add your smart motion sensor and light bulb to the SmartThings app (both products below are compatible with the SmartThings Hub).
  4. Set up an automation that looks something like this:cheap home automation ideas
  5. Done!

If you don’t have a smart hub I honestly wouldn’t bother with this automation idea. Strictly WiFi enabled motion sensors (that don’t require a smart hub) get terrible reviews. They just don’t work.

Total Cost: 

~$35


2) Using door sensors for room temperature readouts can save you $300,000+ dollars!

Door sensors can be used in a number of ways and are quite versatile.

Most door sensors have a contact sensor (door open, or closed), temperature sensor and vibration sensor built in.

When used in combination with other smart products the possibilities are literally endless.  

However for this cheap home automation idea I installed a smart door sensor in my basement for the sole purpose of measuring temperature.

Why, you ask? FROZEN PIPES.

I live in New England and temperatures can get rugged.

Below freezing is very common.

I’ve heard horror stories of people losing their entire house from pipes that burst in the winter.

By adding the basement door sensor I was able to set up an SMS message to automatically text my wife and I whenever the basement temperature drops below 53 degrees Fahrenheit. 

If we are nearby, great, we can get home quickly and figure out what’s happening.

If we’re away we can call my wife’s parents who live in the next town over and ask them to drop by and try to help resolve the issue. 

This simple, cost effective home automation idea gives us peace of mind and it is one of the easiest home automations out there.

For under 20 bucks you can help protect a several hundred thousand dollar investment – your home! 

Plus, there is the added benefit of setting up alerts whenever the basement door opens past a certain time at night (contact sensor) and a message when someone knocks on the door (vibration sensor).

But I digress…


Product

1. SmartThings Multipurpose Sensor Door & Window Sensor

Steps/Assumptions:

  1. You own and have set up the Samsung SmartThings Hub.
  2. In order to setup the SmartThings Hub you’ll likely have already downloaded the SmartThings app on your phone. If not do so now.
  3. Add your smart door sensor to the SmartThings app
  4. Set up an automation that looks something like this:door sensor cheap home automation ideas
  5. Done!

Total Cost

~$20


3) Turning the TV on and off with your voice is a super power 

I know, I know. You’re thinking how lazy do you have to be. I get it, but I gotta admit, I absolutely love this one. 

When my wife and I are in bed at night and I don’t feel like digging through my bed stand for the remote control (or her nightstand once I realize the remote isn’t in mine), this capability is a game changer.  

“OK Google” turn on my TV”

Me, superman, telling my TV to turn on.

“OK Google, now play “Below Deck” on Youtube TV”

Our show starts playing from exactly where we left off last. 

You can also use your voice to pause the show, turn the volume up or down, fast forward or rewind and eventually turn the TV off when you’re ready for bed. 

This inexpensive smart home automation idea just might be my favorite. 


Products

1. Google Chromecast 

2. Google Home Mini

Steps/Assumptions:

  1. Check out my step-by-step, visual guide on how to control your TV with your voice.

Total Cost

~$60


4) Smart plugs can help automate the most monotonous of daily activities 

This automation helped me to stop wasting money on expensive coffee every morning.

There is really nothing like waking up each day to the smell of freshly brewed coffee, it just makes getting up in the morning that much easier. 

By using a smart plug with my coffee maker I am able to schedule my coffee to start brewing at 6:30 every morning. 

I have an older coffee maker that has a physical on/off switch.

By leaving the coffee maker switched to “on” I can plug it into by smart plug and when the smart plug comes on, voila, so does my coffee maker. 

The somewhat disappointing part of this cheap home automation idea is that you still need to fill the coffee maker with water and coffee grounds the night before.

Of course, you’ll also want to make sure your coffee maker will actually work with a smart plug before buying it.

Some coffee makers cannot be left in the “on” mode so when the smart plug comes on, the coffee maker still won’t turn on until it too is physically switched on. 

Another way I use smart plugs in my household is to schedule the humidifier in our bedroom. 

(Note: the humidifier pictured below (the Ultrasonic Cool Humidifier) is the best my wife and I have ever had, and we’ve gone through no less than 5 different humidifiers in the past two years. It is incredibly quiet and lasts 4-5 days on a single fill! It’s so powerful that the first night we left it on high it set our fire alarms off. That’s not a joke. I suggest setting it at no more than half power.)  

smart plug cheap home automation ideas

Our bedroom can get very dry and without a humidifier our skin, throats, eyes, basically everything gets super dried out.

TMI, I know, but it’s a real problem. 

By plugging our humidifier into a smart plug I’m able to schedule when it turns on and off.

We like it to come on an hour before we get into bed and turn off 30 minutes or so before we wake up.

Just like the coffee maker you’ll want to make sure that the humidifier can be switched “on” in such a way that once the smart plug is turned on so is the humidifier.  

(For a third smart plug idea check out my post on Smart Christmas Tree Lights)


Steps/Assumptions:

  1. No hub required!
  2. Download the Kasa Smart App to your phone
  3. Add your smart plug to your Kasa Smart App
  4. Set up an automation that looks something like this (this is what it looks like in the SmartThings app. You can set this up in Kasa as well):humidifier cheap home automation ideas
  5. Done!

Total Cost:

~$18.00

Product

1. TP Link Kasa Smart Plug Lite 


5) Some people feel the rain, others just get wet.

I definitely just get wet – rain sucks. 

And if you’re like me, you always forget to check the weather before heading to work in the morning.

But there’s hope and it’s this cheap home automation idea.

To start, change out a traditional light bulb from one of your bedroom lamps and replace it with a smart multicolor light bulb. 

Then, by using the smart bulb with the free IFTTT app (If This, Then That) you can set the bulb to turn blue in the morning whenever it is going to rain that day.

If this sounds complicated, I promise it’s not. IFTTT integrates with your smart bulb app and makes this automation as easy as clicking a button.

The added benefit here is knowing how to dress in the morning before work and whether or not you need an umbrella – all without ever having to lookup the weather. 

No more buying your 7th umbrella after accidentally leaving 6 others at home.


Steps/Assumptions:

  1. No hub required!
  2. Download the Magic Huge WiFi app to your phone
  3. Add your smart bulb to your Magic Huge WiFi app
  4. Download the IFTTT app to your phone
  5. Search for Magic Huge in IFTTT app and find the “Change the color of your lights when it starts raining” applet
    cheap home automation ideas magic hue
  6. Click “Connect”
  7. Done!

Total Cost

~$13.00

Product

1. MagicHue Multicolored Dimmable Smart LED Bulb  

Conclusion

That’s the list – Fast and cheap home automation ideas.

Once you get these cheap home automation ideas setup in your home you’ll be itching do to more.

Go ahead and scratch that itch. You’ll be obsessed in no time.