5 ways smart tech can keep an eye on your home

Walk around your local neighbourhood and it’s likely you’ll see homes with smart gadgets. This might be a smart doorbell on a front door, a security camera looking over a driveway, or a smart alarm warning off intruders.

There may be more smart gadgets inside, such as a smart plug putting a light on a timer while someone is away, or a smart thermostat controlling the heating.

Smart gadgets can help you more easily manage your home – and many are cheap enough to make a great gift, but only if you buy good quality products that you can rely on.

Find out which devices you should consider for your home, or which could make a great stocking filler for friends and family.

Smart device reviews – browse all our categories of smart devices to find something to add to the home.

Smart plugs: make it look like you’re at home

Smart plugs are the ultimate versatile accessory, essentially allowing you to control anything that’s plugged into a socket from your phone or smart hub. They could help you switch the lights on when you are away to fool a burglar, set it up on schedules to turn on and off devices at certain times of the day, or could even help you manage your energy use.

With prices starting from around £10 – or even less if you find one on sale, they’re a cheap and effective way to get started and make a great gift for gadget lovers.

Three smart plugs to consider

TP Link Tapo P100, £15

This smart plug from TP-Link includes an easy to use built-in timer, as well as the ability to set schedules, meaning the plug comes on at set times. ‘Away mode’ makes it easier to appear at home by randomly turning the device on and off between certain hours.

Read our TP-Link Tapo P100 review to see if it is worth buying.

TP-Link Kasa Smart KP115, £18

The Kasa Smart has similar features to the P100, but comes with energy monitoring so you can check how much power the connected appliance is using. This plug is regularly on offer – so it’s worth snapping up if you see it at a bargain price.

But before buying, see how this smart plug fared under testing in our TP-Link Kasa Smart KP115 review.

Amazon Smart Plug, £25

Amazon’s smart plug is the most expensive of the models featured here, and it doesn’t come with energy monitor capabilities. Unsurprisingly, it also only works with Amazon Alexa smart home systems – so it’s not ideal for Google Assistant users.

Has Amazon done enough overall to make this smart plug a Best Buy? Find out in our Amazon Smart Plug review.

For more help and buying advice, read our guide on how to buy the best smart plug.

Security cameras: keep an eye on things while you’re away

Rather than expensive and cumbersome CCTV systems, wireless security cameras (so named as they use the internet to live stream pictures wirelessly) can provide an affordable way to keep an eye on your home.

Some models can be installed on the outside of your home to monitor an area, such as a driveway or rear entrance. Indoor cameras can be placed anywhere in the home to do similar.

Most models offer HD video, night vision, and can send you alerts if they detect any motion, such as an intruder. Just bear in mind that sometimes you have to pay extra to store any video clips that you record.

Indoor and outdoor wireless security cameras to consider

Arlo Pro 4 camera kit, £220

If you’ve got a decent budget to work with, Arlo’s Pro range of outdoor cameras are well worth considering. The Pro 4 differs from the Arlo Pro 3 in that it doesn’t require you to buy an additional hub to connect to the internet. However, that does mean you can’t store video clips locally, and instead need to sign up to Arlo’s cloud video storage service.

5 ways smart tech can keep an eye on your home

See if this outdoor camera is worth the outlay in our Arlo Pro 4 review.

Ezviz LC3, £150

Another outdoor camera, the LC3’s innovative design means that it combines a security cameras with a a 700-lumen light, doubling up as a motion activated light to illuminate areas outside your home. An added bonus is that you can store video clips to an SD card (up to 256GB), meaning it works a bit like a traditional CCTV system.

See if this hybrid product excelled in our testing by reading our Ezviz LC3 review.

Nest Cam Indoor, £80

Nest, part of Google, is well known for its range of smart products, including smart thermostats, smoke alarms and security cameras such as this indoor model. The sleek and discreet camera unit can be placed where you want it, and then you monitor the video via an app on your phone,

Get everything you need to know about this camera in our Nest Cam Indoor review.

Ring Indoor Cam, £50

The Nest indoor camera isn’t too expensive, but this Amazon Ring model is a bargain by comparison. Also for use inside your home, it has as 1080p HD video, you can talk through it using the app, and there’s a siren to warn off intruders. You can integrate it with the Amazon Alexa voice assistant, so you can say ‘Alexa, show me my camera’ and then see the live feed on an Echo Show device, for example.

Find out how it rated overall in our Ring Indoor Cam review.

Read our guide on how to buy the best wireless security camera for more expert advice.

Smart alarms: get peace of mind on your travels

Although instances of domestic burglary fell by a third in the year to March 2021 (according to data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales), when your home is burgled it’s traumatic, unsettling and expensive.

A burglar alarm can give peace of mind, and to make life even easier you can now get a range of alarms that can be controlled via an app on your phone.

Three smart alarms to consider

Netatmo Smart Alarm System with Camera, £318

Netatmo’s smart alarm system differs to the others in that it comes with a security camera included in the package. Alongside the indoor security camera, it has an alarm sounder and motion sensors that can be placed around your home. However, it lacks an external sounder, so it won’t have loud alarm outside and a visual deterrent as with the Hive.

See if this alarm made the Best Buy grade in our Netatmo Smart Alarm System with Camera review.

Hive Homeshield Starter Home Pack, £199

Hive’s starter pack should suit smaller homes, and includes two window/door sensors and one motion detector. You get an external sounder siren to place outside, and a keypad to arm and disarm the app, along with the Hive app on your phone or tablet. Additional sensors (around £20) can be added for other rooms, doors or windows. Plus, you can add siren (for around £70) if you like to cover both the front and rear of your property.

Our Hive Homeshield Starter Home Pack review gives you the full lowdown on this smart alarm system.

Ring Alarm 5 Piece Kit 2nd Generation, £219

Amazon’s Ring starter kit comes with a base station, keypad for your wall, a contact sensor, a motion detector and a range extender. Like the Netatmo it lacks an external alarm sounder box, which both projects the sound outside and acts as a visual deterrent to burglars. Ring now offers this for around £70 extra, but we haven’t tested how effective it is yet.

Read our Ring Alarm 5 Piece Kit 2nd Generation review to see if you should buy this smart alarm.

Read about the pros and cons of smart burglar alarms in our guide on how to buy the best smart security system.

Smart doorbell: see who’s stopped by to say hello

You might be expecting a delivery when you’re away from home, or simply want to know who’s at the door. Or if you’re at home, you might be in the bath or in the middle of cooking. Thankfully, the smart home has a convenient solution for these scenarios.

A smart doorbell is like a digital receptionist for your home. With built-in cameras, these internet-connected devices let you see who’s at the door and talk to them directly, from wherever you are. You can get alerts to your phone if someone arrives, or if motion is detected in the area, meaning they can even double up as a rudimentary security camera.

Three smart doorbells to consider

Nest Doorbell wired, £229

An HD smart video doorbell from Nest, it has infrared night vision, enables you to talk directly to visitors, and rings inside your home like a normal doorbell. Some downsides are that it will most likely need to be professionally installed, and you’ll need to pay for video clip storage.

Should you invest in this pricey doorbell? Find out in our Nest Doorbell Wired review.

Ring Video Doorbell 4, £170

The Ring Doorbell 4 is the most recent version of its standard doorbell model. It has a Full HD camera with night vision and two-way talk, and unlike the Nest is battery powered, so it’s possible to install yourself. Just like the Nest, you’ll need to sign up to a subscription if you want to store videos captured on the doorbell.

See if this mid-range doorbell is worth buying in our Ring Doorbell 4 review.

Ring Video Doorbell wired, £45

This Ring model is much more attractive on the wallet. It has many of the features of more expensive doorbells, but at a low price. It needs to be hardwired to the power to work, and you can’t use your existing doorbell chime. Instead, you must buy a Ring Chime. A bundle of the doorbell with the chime costs around £80, which is still pretty reasonable.

Our Ring Video Doorbell Wired review reveals whether cheap is also cheerful with this smart doorbell.

Find out more about smart doorbells and the benefits they offer in our guide on how to buy the best smart doorbell.

Smart heating controls: make sure the house is toasty when you get in

With gas prices going up, accidentally leaving your heating on while out can be a costly mistake. A smart thermostat lets you control your heating through your smartphone, and has useful features like GPS tracking to make sure the heating is off when the house is empty and warm on your return.

And if you want to only be warming up specific rooms you’re using most, smart radiator valves let you set the temperature room-by-room, unlocking the potential for greater savings and comfort.

Smart heating controls to consider:

Netatmo Thermostat, £144

You can install this smart thermostat yourself, and it’s compatible with Alexa, Google and Apple voice assistants. It’s a battery-powered and is compatible with gas, fuel wood boilers and heat pumps. It works with up to 20 smart radiator valves, including the Netatmo one featured below.

See whether you should use it to control your heating in our Netatmo Thermostat review.

Tado V3+ Smart Thermostat Starter Kit, £150

With the option of professional or self-installation, this thermostat has a range of smart features for added control, including GPS tracking and weather response (which automatically boosts your heating on colder days). It even detects when a window in the room has been opened, and then automatically turn the heating off to save you money. Just like the Netatmo, it can control your central heating but not your hot water – although Tado does offer an additional extension kit that allows this.

Our Tado V3+ Smart Thermostat Starter Kit review gives the full lowdown on this smart thermostat.

Tado Smart Radiator Thermostat, £70

You might want to pair the Tado smart thermostat above with this companion radiator valve. It comes with six adapters to easily install onto almost any radiator. Just like the Netatmo, it has open window detection and other features. The valve has a digital LED display to show the set temperature. You change the temperature by turning a simple control knob in the top of the valve.

Read our Tado Smart Radiator Thermostat review to see if it is worth buying.

Netatmo Smart Radiator Valve Starter Pack, £170

This snazzy gadget attaches to your radiator and controls the temperature. It can adjust the temperature according to the level of sunlight – so the heating, in theory, automatically turns down on warmer days. The package comes with two valves and a Netatmo hub. The app you use on your phone displays the current and set temperature together, making it intuitive to use.

Get all your need to know in our Netatmo Smart Radiator Valve Starter Pack review.

For more on what might seem like a rather unusual addition to the smart home, read our guide onhow smart radiator valves work. Or check out our advice onhow to buy the best smart thermostat.