One way to build out a smart home is to buy lots of components--sensors, smart bulbs, security cameras, speakers, and whatnot--and connect them all to a hub that helps them communicate with each other and with you, via your smartphone. But let's be real: That can involve spending a lot of money and investing a lot of time. If your wants and needs are simpler, just a few relatively inexpensive products will deliver most of the conveniences a high-end smart home can deliver, and on a much more modest budget. And if you make sure those smart home products are compatible with each other, you'll build a solid foundation that you can expand over time. The key is knowing which smart home products don't depend on a smart home hub to operate.
If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. However, our picks and opinions are independent from USA TODAY's newsroom and any business incentives. For many people, purchasing an Amazon Echo is the first step in turning your house into a smart home. Once you've set up your Echo and gotten acquainted with Alexa, you might be wondering what's next, and our answer to you would be: expand your arsenal of smart home products! Some of Alexa's coolest capabilities spawn from integrations with other smart gadgets.
If you want to remotely control the temperature and HVAC system in your home, save money with more efficient heating/cooling, or just want to engage in the longstanding thermostat war with your significant other from anywhere in the world, smart thermostats are for you. But with the recent explosion of smart home devices, which smart thermostat should you choose? After extensive testing, we recommend the Emerson Sensi Touch Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat (available at Amazon for $161.86). Before you purchase a smart thermostat, do your research. But if you want to hear what we had to say about 10 smart thermostats, read on. The bottom line: While Nest and Honeywell may be better known smart thermostat brands, with the least stressful installation process, a helpful app, and functionality across multiple "smart" assistants, we would recommend the Emerson Sensi Touch thermostat to anyone with a C-wire. Amazon Alexa: Yes, with the "Sensi" Skill enabled Setup/Installation: The installation directions in the Sensi app were fantastic and foolproof: the Sensi app actually checks which wires are connected (which tells you if a wire isn't touching its contact properly), and then checks the viability of that wiring configuration. If you're new at playing around with thermostat wires, this will be hugely reassuring, as will the easy-to-access contact push tabs. A little light around the edge of the thermostat also makes the wires more visible during the installation process.
Smart thermostat maker Ecobee announced that it's raised 35 million in funding from Amazon's Alexa Fund, Thomvest, and Relay Ventures. This is largest single Alexa Fund investment to date, Amazon said in a statement. Ecobee said it plans to use the latest cash injection to develop more connected home technologies "that make people's lives simpler and better". Like other smart thermostats, Ecobee's Wi-Fi connected device is designed to help users conserve energy and save money on their utility bills. The device was the first Wi-Fi thermostat to be directly compatible with Amazon Echo through the Alexa Smart Home Skill API, which allows Echo users to control room temperature with their voice.