ZIGBEE (PHILIPS HUE AND SAMSUNG SMARTTHINGS COMPATIBLE EQUIPMENT)
The cheapest Zigbee enabled bulbs you can get are from Ikea, they do work directly with Philips Hue and Smartthings and of course their own hub, so they’re totally open and as cheap as you’ll probably find.
Aside from the terrible software the hardware itself is amazing for the price. They also do zigbee plug sockets which will work with Philips Hue and Smartthings hubs. They do various sensors and remotes too, but I think they only work with Ikea’s own hub and bulbs.
CHEAP SMART HOME OPTIONS (Broadlink RM Pro)
I recommend a Broadlink RM pro with “GLS Touch” RF switches. This video will walk you through how that works, though the switch in the review I’m using is a Zemismart switch. The only reason I am recommending GLS touch instead of Zemismart is they do double switches and Zemismart don’t to my knowledge. If you don’t need a double switch then the Zemismart is my current favourite.
The RM pro will also control cheap RF plug sockets too, but they’re a bit ugly as they stick out of the wall, you also have to be careful that you don’t get 2 packs of the same socket as a lot of them code the sockets up with the same frequencies meaning that you’ll get 2 sockets that both go on or off with each command, if that makes sense. Best to buy packs of 4 or 5 from different manufacturers.
Broadlink’s advantages other than price is that all RF devices come with a remote so if all else fails you’ve still got the ability to switch stuff on and off manually. RF devices are super cheap and you aren’t reliant on one provider. It will also control Infrared devices like your TV and set top box, this video explains that… so there is a fairly good reason to buy one of these things anyway!
SLIGHTLY MORE EXPENSIVE SMART HOME OPTIONS:Energenie Mi-Home.
They do light switches which you can buy here and plug sockets which you can buy here. You need their gateway to control them but that comes with the light switch I’ve linked you to. They’re quite plain looking, but they’re fully smart which means you can do things like dim the light by percentage with Alexa (which the RM pro can’t do). Their starter kit comes with a standard remote for controlling sockets and switches too.
Some people might prefer this option over the RM pro as they want the built in plug sockets and mains light switches that are made by a reputable firm. Most RF switches that are controllable via Broadlink are cheap Chinese stuff, which in my opinion is perfectly secure, but I know some people are heavily concerned about the media’s coverage of privacy and security when dealing with servers abroad. Energenie are a reasonably reliable option but do suffer the occasional outage. You can see my review here
VERY EXPENSIVE SMART HOME OPTIONS:Lightwave RF.
It’s sooooo expensive, but it’s utterly beautiful, you can buy it here, it’s only real advantage over Energenie is that their switches can be used as a trigger for IFTTT which for me is a big deal as it means I can switch my mains lights on and also have my TV power up via the Broadlink RM pro, or have the kettle boil, or get it to text my missus, or basically anything you can think of.
Check out my review and demo of all of that stuff happening here
Lightwave RF’s main advantage is its reliability, it’s look and it’s functionality. It does a little more than the Energenie, and it’s an everything under one roof solution.
Those guys will also come to your house and advise you before you purchase too! The only thing it doesn’t do is send Infrared which is where the RM pro or Harmony hub would come into play.
For built in plug sockets, light wave RF do that too, but it will get real expensive depending how many sockets you wanted to replace! You might be better off with some Wifi sockets like these which I’ve been really impressed with.
A WORD OF WARNING
Lightwave RF and Energenie both do Gen1 and Gen2 products, and both are still being sold! If you buy a Gen1 hub you can’t control Gen2 products and vice versa so you need to be REALLY careful that you’re buying compatible equipment.
ALL IN ONE SOLUTIONS
These things never quite manage it all, but profess to be able to control Philips Hue products without a Hue hub, among other things.
I have reviewed Homey recently and it is horribly expensive and due to a bunch of weird development decisions hasn’t successfully managed to replace any of my hubs. It has helped unite them under one interface, but that’s about it. It’s nice having just one piece of software to manage my smart home but there are other ways of achieving this for a lot less money. Check out my review here
I have also reviewed the hubitat. It’s claims are less lofty, and it only professes to control Zigbee and Zwave stuff natively (and it does a better job of it for the most part), but can also unite all the other hubs under one interface in just the same way as Homey does but for a lot less money. It’s far more customisable but a lot more nerdy and awkward for beginners. You can see that review here
If I was starting over tomorrow and on a budget I would probably buy a hubitat for controlling Zigbee and Zwave stuff, and an Android set top box (probably the Nvidia shield as I like to do a bit of gaming) to act as a bridge to the RM pro which I would use to control RF and Infrared devices.
I would buy RF plug sockets and light switches as they are the cheapest option and use the hubitat to tell the droid to tell the RM pro to switch those on and off, and buy some cheap zigbee sensors (door sensors, motion sensors, and buttons) from China to connect to the the hubitat to trigger scenes. Zigbee LED strips can be bought cheaply from China too and be controlled via the Hubitat.
I would be tempted to fit the Cheap Wifi plug sockets in places where they were on display
I would probably go for Alexa over Google Home as the Broadlink skill for changing TV channels works properly and doesn’t work so well on Google Home. I’m a big fan of music and the echo dot has a nice sound for a kitchen speaker, for a living room though I would buy an echo dot but output it to a proper sound system.
All links to these products are in the descriptions for each video and if you you purchase through my links then I will get a cut of the money through Amazon’s affiliate platform at no additional cost to you. 🙂