By Christiane Cordero

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The number of smart speakers is growing every year, with studies estimating more than a quarter of the population has one. The speakers start at $30 and can connect to your lights, your thermostat… and make your whole home “smart.”

WCCO spoke with an installer, Rob Kreatz from Avid Installation, in an Edina home decked out with connected technology. He suggests people interested in integrating “smart” into their homes first ask what their goals are. If it’s purely entertainment, features that enhance a space can cost well into the thousands. People on a tighter budget might focus more on efficiency.

“Start very simple,” said Kreatz. “For a home that has one thermostat in it, you could buy a Nest thermostat and have it run in eco mode. And you will, first winter, see return on investment in that.”

Homeowner Heather Hansen agreed.

“You have to sit for a while and wait for the paycheck,” said Hansen. “But you do break even eventually, and in the long run, you actually will save quite a bit of money. And you’re helping the environment.”

Hansen, whose family owns a home building company based in Edina, has integrated connected technology in her home for more than a decade. She’s seen quality increase, price decrease and options multiply.

For price-conscious people who cannot or do not want to reconfigure their home completely, smart plugs are an easy option to make lights Bluetooth-enabled. They are available online for roughly $25 and connect with smart speakers.

Hansen’s home is fully connected, and each light responds to voice or touch commands.

“If I’m in a hurry to get out of the house because I’m late for a showing or an appointment, I can just hit one button and all of the lights go off,” said Hansen. “I don’t have to spend five minutes running through my home and turning off all the lights, or making sure all the kids’ rooms are turned off.”

Smart thermostats are another upgrade that could pay off in the long run, because users can monitor and control them remotely.

“Say in the cabin—it’s a two-hour drive. What if the temperature inside the house is 35 degrees?” said Kreatz. “Something’s probably wrong with the furnace. That means we probably need to get up there to make sure the pipes don’t freeze and burst.”

It’s a similar concept for surveillance cameras like Ring or Nest.

“Our teenage kids are now driving, so they’re coming and going—their friends are coming and going,” said Hansen. “I have the peace of mind of knowing what’s going on at home when I’m not there.”

The basic doorbell surveillance starts at $100. Smart home technology can range between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars, depending on what’s installed and how the house is configured.

Christiane Cordero

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