Despite an ever-growing selection of smart home products that make life easier, you might feel a little left out if you don’t own your own home. That’s because some of the most popular and effective products often require construction projects and repairs that, if you’re only renting, aren’t things you’re allowed to do within your lease agreement. Luckily, there are plenty of smart devices that don’t require permanently modifying your building.
Smart home vs. smart apartment
The biggest issue with building a smart home as a renter is that most leases and rental agreements don’t allow permanent changes to the building. Even if yours did, you might not be keen on investing money, time and effort in electronics that you won’t be able to take with you when you move out. While this does rule out some of the most in-depth smart home technology, there are still plenty of useful devices to choose from. There are also alternate no-drill mounting tools available for some devices that allow you to install something without drilling holes into your apartment. Before deciding which devices to install, make sure you contact your landlord to clarify what you can and cannot do in terms of building modifications to avoid trouble.
Don’t forget to program routines
Most of the novelty, convenience and fun in a smart home comes from automation. Whether that includes your front door unlocking itself as you walk up to it or your coffee maker firing up as soon as your alarm goes off in the morning is up to you; your imagination is the limit. Automating the more tedious parts of your home helps to take the frustration out of fun activities and lower stress overall.
Best smart home devices for apartments
The biggest step in automating a rented space is selecting versatile smart devices that are readily compatible and don’t cost a fortune. Luckily, there are plenty of those to choose from.
If you want to automate the on/off switches of electronics you already have, smart plugs are an excellent alternative to smart switches and outlets that require permanent installation. If you're setting up lights, fountains or other electrical devices outside, get an explicitly weather-resistant smart plug.
Most stand-alone smart plugs do have a drawback. While they allow for in-depth programming, the majority are only able to turn an electronic device on or off. If, for example, you want to automatically dim a set of outdoor lights, you'll have to select a plug that specifically allows dimming, such as the Kasa Outdoor KP405.
Available here in a four-pack, this popular option is easy to use and engineered to plug comfortably into the wall without blocking any adjacent outlets.
If you want an automated on-and-off switch for outdoor lighting or other decorative fixtures, this two-outlet adapter can help.
While there’s only a single outlet on this weather-resistant outdoor-focused adapter, it’s one of the few stand-alone plugs that can dim compatible bulbs.
Light bulbs with built-in smart technology and wireless connectivity work with nearly any lamp that shares their physical connector. Most renters will be satisfied with a low-cost smart bulb like this one from Kasa, which delivers a wide range of colors, up to 850 lumens and a huge range of programming and hub choices.
If you want something that looks nicer and is even more reliable, consider a Philips Hue smart bulb. Although they are expensive, they're engineered to last decades and work with a large number of dedicated smart home hubs in addition to the Philips-specific model.
Not only is it simple, straightforward and reasonably priced, it also comes from a highly reliable manufacturer.
The Philips Hue smart lighting lineup is widely regarded as the best premium choice on the market, and these bulbs back that reputation up well. There are even high-output versions that produce the equivalent of 75-watt and 100-watt incandescent bulbs.
The smart speaker and its microphone are integral to streamlining the smart home experience. You’ll find it especially convenient to turn on lights, fire up the oven, play music and do quick web searches throughout the day.
There are some Bluetooth speakers that are reasonably compatible with the most popular voice assistants, but the best-performing options are usually the ones from the source. The Echo Dot, for example, is both relatively affordable and nearly as good as they get in terms of registering your commands consistently. On the other hand, more premium options like the Echo Studio and Google Nest Audio are considerably better at playing music.
It’s one of Amazon’s best-sounding smart speakers yet. It sports powerful long-range microphones and sounds excellent when paired in stereo with another Echo Studio plus an Echo Sub.
Don’t let its small size fool you; this is one of the most reliable and least intrusive smart speakers on the market.
If you’re a fan of Google’s ecosystem or just want to easily control your network of devices from an Android tablet or smartphone, the high-end Google speaker is worth a look.
Smart security devices
A wireless video doorbell is a great first step to keeping any home safe. The Ring Video Doorbell is a highly refined model. The Blink Video Doorbell system is another effective choice that helps you save even more money.
For general-use security monitoring, the Wyze Cam v3 is one of the most compact and affordable. With a 32-gigabyte microSD card, it can even record video 24/7. Alternatively, the Blink Outdoor is a weather-resistant option with a long wireless range, a straightforward setup process and a somewhat higher price.
Finally, the vast majority of smart locks require heavy modifications to the door, but the August Smart Lock often does not. It’s still recommended that you confirm with your landlord that it’s OK to install, but it’s definitely one of the best semipermanent options for anyone on a lease.
There are also many no-drill mounting options available on the market for some smart doorbells and cameras. The Ring No-Drill Mount is made specifically for Ring cameras, but there are also off-brand versions available that work for a variety of different smart doorbells and cameras.
This is one of the most advanced wireless-ready doorbells on the market. If you want to save some cash, you can opt instead for the more affordable Blink Doorbell system.
While it’s marketed as a pet cam, its 1080p resolution and ease of use make it perfect for a variety of indoor uses.
It’s waterproof, easy to install and should have no problem communicating with a wireless network on the other side of your apartment.
This is one of the rare smart locks that fit on most preexisting deadbolts, so it requires just about the least amount of installation hassle possible.
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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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