Home automation used to be a thing only seen in futuristic, sci-fi films. Now, smart home tech is commonplace. Experts predict that by 2020, there will be over 20 billion devices connected to the Internet of Things.

Smart home products allow people to remotely control everything from their thermostat and locks to their sprinklers and small appliances, by using their cell phone, tablet or computer. Home automation can streamline household tasks, secure the home and even save money on utilities. While it can be initially expensive to outfit your space with home automation products, it can also be worth it financially in the long run.

If you’re considering smart home automation, here are four products that can help save you time and money each month.

  1. SMART HOME HUB

    Smart home hubs, like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, provide a centralized base that allow you to connect and control all other smart home products.

    "I think a smart home hub that combines voice control, home automation and personal assistant features is a no-brainer when it comes to shelling out cash for a smart gadget,” says Rebecca Edwards, a home automation expert at SafeWise.

    Home automation hubs vary in price, but the initial investment pays for itself between saved time and energy. “You can find products that range from $50 to $120, which is a reasonable investment to get you started. Depending on your circumstances, the benefits can really be profound,” says Edwards.

  2. SMART THERMOSTAT

    After purchasing a smart home hub, the next smart home product to consider is a smart thermostat. Heating and cooling accounts for almost 50 percent of the energy use in the average U.S. home.

    Smart thermostats learn your daily habits, and automatically turn on and off at set points in the day to make sure you're not heating or cooling an empty house.

    Home automation can streamline household tasks, secure the home and even save money on utilities.

    Smart thermostats cost an average of $200, and save homeowners around $140 per year on their energy bill, meaning it could pay for itself within just two years. Another perk to keep in mind: Most energy companies offer a rebate on smart thermostats, so you can recoup some of the cost by rebate, too.

  3. SMART OUTLETS & LIGHT BULBS

    If you’re looking to transform your home into a smart home, but are wary of the cost, smart outlets are a great place to start. They convert any appliance into a smart device — meaning you can control them remotely — and can cost less than $75.

    If you forget to unplug your hair straightener or want to start the Crock-Pot before you get home, you can simply turn the appliances on or off using your phone or smart home hub.

    Similarly, smart lightbulbs can be remotely controlled to turn your lights on and off when you're not home. Depending on which bulb you choose, you can have the ability to control your lights remotely, dim or change the color of the bulb, and some can even play music.

    "We've all forgotten to turn off a light as we head out the door. Smart light bulbs are a must-have if you're looking to cash in on the perks of home automation. Not only do they make life easier … but the environment will thank you, too,” says Edwards.

  4. SMART ENTRY SYSTEMS

    Smart entry systems, like smart locks and doorbells, are a great option to help protect your home.

    Ranging from $100 to $250, smart locks are pricey upfront, but can help increase your home's security by allowing you to lock and unlock your doors remotely. Instead of having to hand out keys to your dog walker or cleaning person, you can let them in yourself with a smart lock, and close up after they leave.

    You can even control garage doors with a smart garage hub, which alerts you when your garage is in use or open, and allows you to open or close it remotely.

    And if you want to monitor who's stopping by your home or when packages are delivered, a smart doorbell can live stream video and offer two-way communication when you're away from home. Usually in the $100 to $200 range, these systems can help prevent theft and offer another level of home security.

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