The problem with generic smart home gear, such as bargain-bin color smart bulbs or generic smart plugs, is that they're probably not going to have the accuracy, reliability or longevity of brands like Lifx, GE, Sylvania or Belkin WeMo, not to mention far fewer features. It's like the difference between a luxury sedan and an economy car.
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The key to rolling out a smart home on a budget, then, is figuring out how to get luxury-level amenities at economy-level prices. Here's how I've been able to deck out my smart home with name-brand products on the cheap, and how you can do it, too.
Amazon Warehouse: Discounts year-round
One of my favorite shopping hacks I use to get up to 70% off on just about anything is to find the item I'm looking for listed on Amazon Warehouse, and that goes for smart home gear as well. Last year on Amazon Warehouse, I bought a Ring Video Doorbell 2 for $65, which retails for $199 -- that's $134 (or 67%) off -- and an August Connect Wi-Fi Bridge for $51, which saved me $17 (or 25%) off the regular $68 price.
Keep in mind, Amazon Warehouse stock is constantly in flux and a deal you see today might not be there in five minutes -- let alone tomorrow. If you find a great price on something you want, you should act fast. Here are some of the bargains on smart home gear I found at Amazon Warehouse (if these deals are no longer available, the links will direct you to the best available Amazon Warehouse price on each item).
All you've got to do to get deals like these is go to the Amazon Warehouse landing page, which you can get to by searching for "Warehouse Deals" from the Amazon.com search bar. From there, either search for what you're looking for by name or browse items by category. You can check out this in-depth explainer on Amazon Warehouse Deals for more advanced techniques, as well as details about where, exactly, this deeply discounted merchandise comes from.
Check eBay for discounts on new, refurbished and used gear
Yes, eBay still exists. On top of that, it's a fantastic resource for great deals not just on used but often new and refurbished smart home gadgets as well. However, whereas navigating Amazon Warehouse for deals requires some varsity-level chops, eBay needs you to step up into the pro leagues. There's a lot to look out for and consider when shopping on eBay, but I'm going to break it down and make it simple for you.
Here's how to search for, choose and ultimately buy anything, including smart home gear, on eBay:
1. Open the eBay app on your phone or tablet and enter the name of the product you're looking for using the search bar at the top -- the more detailed and specific, the better (for example, not just "Ring 2" but "Ring Video Doorbell 2").
2. On the results page, tap Filter in the upper right corner, then tap Sort and select Lowest Price + Shipping.
2. Tap Filter again and choose a Category for the product you're looking for (I chose Smart Doorbells & Locks for the Ring 2, then drilled down further to Smart Doorbells). This eliminates most irrelevant listings, including replacement parts.
3. Scroll down in Filters until you get to Buying Format and select Buy it Now. This will remove auction-style listings whose prices are deceptively low.
4. Scroll down to Item Location and select your country or region (I choose US Only). This eliminates potential knockoffs from overseas.
5. Tap Done. You should now be looking at a list containing exactly the item you're looking for, with the least expensive options at the top. (The best deal on a Ring 2 as of this writing, by the way, is $70 – just a few bucks more than Amazon Warehouse's lowest price).
Now it's just a matter of perusing the listings and deciding if you want a new or refurbished item or if you're willing to take the risk on used (I will, if the discount is deep enough). Once you decide on an item you want to buy, tap either Buy It Now or Add to Cart and proceed with checkout.