How smart home devices could save you money - even if you're renting

Starting to build a smart home is cheap and it might even save you money.
Photo credit: Getty Images

In recent years smart devices have become increasingly popular in New Zealand homes, but for some there is still a perception that a smart home is only for the very wealthy.

Gates and doors that automatically open as you approach them, but won't open for anyone else? Lights that fade up or down when you ask them to with your voice? That still might sound like something more for James Bond of MI6 than Joe Bloggs of Mosgiel.

However, it can be surprisingly cheap to start turning your house into a smart home - and smart devices can even help you save money.

"Smart speakers just plug into the wall, so they're really easy to move around, as are smart bulbs and smart plugs that can just be taken with you," Kate Gooden, Amazon Alexa ANZ's Head of Product, told Newshub.

"If you decided to get a video doorbell, those are also easily removed without damaging the wall. Smart cameras and things like that are also really easy to remove, so I would say a smart home is highly suitable for a rental, especially if you want to personalise it."

The ability to personalise rooms with smart devices can be quite appealing. Some set up the ability to say something like "Alexa, I'm being robbed" and have all the doors lock, all the lights start flashing red and all the speakers start emitting a siren sound and repeatedly saying: "Intruder alert!"

"That's a really simple thing to set up, with smart lights and some music. You could set something like that up in less than a minute via the app," said Gooden.

"It's a really cool, impactful thing and also a bit of fun. You get visitors coming around and want to prank them as they come in the door."

A smart LED lightbulb can cost around $25 and will last four to six years, versus six months with a normal bulb, with much more functionality.

If you're away from home you can set it to turn on every day from 6pm to 10pm, making it look like someone is still living there.

As they can be turned off from anywhere - including when you're lying in bed - it can be an easy way to ensure you haven't accidentally left any lights on and are wasting electricity.

A smart bulb could be a great way to start making your home smart for a small cost. The other ideal first purchase is a smart plug. Most will be compatible with Apple, Alexa and Google apps, but make sure it's compatible with what you're using before you buy.

These can be used to turn electrical devices on or off from anywhere whenever you like, or set them to go on or off at different times - which could add up to big savings on your power bill.

"I had a look at JB Hi-Fi and Mitre 10 and they're around $25 - $30. Smart plugs are really great, especially heading into summer because you can use them to control fans with a timer, same with heaters in winter. You could also use it as part of a Chirtsmas tree setup," said Gooden.

"You don't have to replace a smart plug and once you've got one of those and a single smart bulb, you might be happy, or you could build from there. A smart home can be as simple or as complicated as you like.

"The use cases you have with smart plugs and smart lights are endless and if you're renting, when you go to move, they don't leave any damage and you can just take them with you."

There are plenty of other tricks too. Some people use smart assistants to remind them about bills so they're always paid on time, helping to avoid late fees.

One thing's for sure - a smart home is not something only for wealthy homeowners. If you can invest at least around $25, you can make a start and see if it's for you.