A Renter's Guide to Buying Smart Home Devices: Tech You Can Take with You When You Move

Best smart home kit for renters - Renting an apartment or a house, this is the best tech to buy, that you can take with you. From best smart locks to lighting, security, plugs, door bells & more
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Updated: 14th Nov 2019
Published: 3rd Nov 2019
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By Rohan Tandon

Rohan is a passionate tech journalist with a degree in English literature. He's worked as a commissi Read More..

I’m a huge techno freak and I always hop aboard the latest technological innovations, completely prepared to embrace the future. So it won’t come as a surprise that I’ve wanted to live in a fully automated smart home for the better part of a decade.

But alas, I don’t own a home of my own… yet.

Thanks to my work, I find myself changing homes quite often, moving from one rental apartment to another.

Until recently, I didn’t really think I could immerse myself completely in smart home technology because of my nomadic lifestyle. But, boy, was I wrong!

Sure, there’s nothing quite like building a smart home from scratch. But if you’re like me — a renter — you can still build a smart home for yourself. I know because I have. The market is saturated with smart home devices that are ideal for renters because they are highly portable.

You don’t have to build a smart home from the ground up. You don’t have to wire up a smart doorbell or seek permission from grumpy landlords about installing smart thermostats. Instead, you can carry highly portable, often wireless, smart apartment technology wherever you go and turn all your rental apartments into smart homes!

Unlike setting up permanent smart homes, you’ll have to be a little more careful while choosing smart home devices for renters. There are certain types of smart home technology you’ll have to avoid and there are certain tips you’ll have to keep in mind, but I’m here to guide you through it all!

This is my guide to buying smart home devices for renters. In this article, I’ll share some valuable tips on how to turn an apartment into a smart home and give you an overview of the best smart home tech for renters.

How to Set Up Smart Home Devices for Renters – Valuable Tips to Keep in Mind

Tip #1 Minimalism

Do you change apartments often? If so, you know how much of a pain it is to move all your things and set them up again. That’s why you need to embrace the philosophy of minimalism.

You should look for smart home technology that’s both functional and something you’ll actually use regularly. Look out for multipurpose smart home devices, i.e. single devices that can serve multiple purposes. Think about automating your home with the least number of devices possible.

Tip #2 Compatibility

Make sure that all the devices you purchase are compatible with each other. One of the primary functions of a smart home is that all of your devices should be connected in a single network, i.e. they should speak to and interact with each other.

When you’re buying devices, study their compatibility. At this stage, it’s advisable to stay away from an exclusive ecosystem, like Apple HomeKit, as these favour exclusivity, i.e. they lock you in their own ecosystem and are incompatible with a lot of devices that fall outside their network. Not only will this be more expensive, but it will also limit your options.

Cast a wide net and look for all compatible smart home devices. You can also use platforms like IFTTT to sync them up.

Tip #3 Portability

Find smart home devices that are compact and wireless.

Smart home devices for renters shouldn’t be bulky because you may have to carry them around often when you move.

It’s even more important for smart home devices to be wireless. If your devices include a complex network of wires, it will be a nightmare having to sort through them and keep them organised.

Furthermore, if the device needs complex installation or needs to be wired into the home’s electrical components, you probably won’t get the landlord’s permission. Even if you do manage to install the device, taking it apart when you have to leave will be a massive headache.

That’s why you should keep things portable — buy smart home devices for renters that are compact and wireless.

Best Smart Home Tech for Renters

When I first started setting up my smart home, I made so many expensive mistakes. Hopefully, if you pay attention to the above tips and strategies, you’ll be able to avoid them.

Once you understand the do’s and don’ts of setting up smart home devices for renters, it’s time to purchase the best appropriate smart home tech. The following is an overview of the best smart home technology for apartments that you don’t own.

Hubs

When you’re setting up smart home devices for renters, the first thing you need to do is set up a smart hub that can control everything. You can think of a hub as the central control station or the brains of your smart home — it interacts with all of your other smart home devices. The following is a brief overview of the best smart hubs for renters.

Amazon Echo Dot

Are you on a budget and averse to spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a smart hub? If so, Amazon Echo Dot is the best budget option for you. This is primarily a smart speaker, but it also functions as a smart hub to control all of your other compatible smart devices.

Echo Dot comes with Alexa voice assistant and you can use it to stream music from Amazon Prime Music, Spotify, and many other sources. You can also pair it with another Echo Dot if you want stereo sound. In addition to playing music, this smart speaker can also read news headlines, tell you the weather, help with online shopping, and perform numerous other functions.

As a smart hub, Echo Dot allows you to control and communicate with all your other smart devices, including your smart thermostat, smart speakers, cameras, lights, plugs and sockets, and fans. For example, you can simply give the command “Alexa, Lights Off” and it will control your smart lights to turn them off.

Echo Dot is also one of the best smart home devices for renters because it’s highly portable. This device is completely wireless, and it only measures 3.9” x 3.9” x 1.7”.

Why This is a Good Product for Renters:

  • Extremely compact and portable
  • Multifunctional because it also works as a smart speaker
  • Wireless
  • No need for complex installation

Amazon Echo Show

Amazon Echo Show is a lot like the Echo Dot, but can also show you things. As amazing as Echo Dot is, it can only tell you things. If you ask for a weather update, for example, it will answer vocally. Echo Show, however, comes with a screen and can show you the weather update.

Because of the presence of a screen, Echo Show also has a few additional features. For example, Echo Show can connect with your smart cameras to give you live updates. This is particularly useful because you can connect it to a smart doorbell to see visual footage of your front door. You can also connect it to a baby camera to see what the little ones are up to.

In addition to visual security features, Echo Show is also a brilliant source of entertainment. You can connect it to Amazon Music to have it display the lyrics to your favourite music, so you can have an impromptu karaoke session. You can also access videos from FireTV or set the temperature on your thermostat.

Why This is a Good Product for Renters:

  • Extremely portable — looks just like a tablet
  • Multifunctional because it also works as a smart speaker and screen
  • Wireless
  • No need for complex installation

Google Nest Hub

Like the Amazon Echo hubs, Google Nest Hub is also primarily a smart speaker with an attached touchscreen. In terms of design, this is an extremely compact 7” screen that looks quite like an Android tablet. As such, you can place it anywhere at all and it’s very portable.

This smart hub also comes with an integrated speaker and you can use it to access music, control other devices, and watch videos. The screen is pretty useful because you can use it to check footage from your smart cameras or access GPS navigation while driving.

However, unlike the Echo Show, this smart hub doesn’t come with an integrated camera, so you can’t use it for video calling. This has been done to remove security and privacy concerns that come with the presence of a web-connected camera.

It also comes with its very own voice-activated Google Assistant that can do pretty much everything Alexa can do. It can read news headlines, answer questions, play music, or control other devices like smart lights, smart locks, and thermostats. Google Nest Hub is also compatible with YouTube, so you can voice command it to play specific videos on YouTube, an aspect in which it clearly trumps over Alexa.

Why This is a Good Product for Renters:

  • Extremely portable
  • Multifunctional
  • Wireless
  • No need for complex installation

Functionality

One of the first things that come to mind when thinking about smart homes is the ability to control all your lights and appliances with your voice. The following is a brief overview of some of the most functional smart home devices for renters.

Philips Hue A19 — Best Smart LED Light Bulbs

Smart lights are one of the most fundamental aspects of smart homes. The ability to control the lights in any room around your home with just your voice is incredibly satisfying and convenient. When it comes to buying smart LED lights for renters, you should look out for smart bulbs that you can attach in your existing fixture. The set you choose should also be expandable, i.e. you should be able to later add to your existing setup.

Philips Hue A19 is one of the best smart LED light bulbs for renters because it fits into traditional lamps and fixtures without any electrical modifications. While the starter kit comes with four A19 bulbs and one central hub to control them, you can also purchase additional bulbs as and when you please. You also have infinite possibilities in terms of colour because you can choose from 16 million colours and shades — basically, you can turn your LED light bulbs into any colour in the colour wheel.

You can control these light bulbs with your voice as they’re compatible with Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant. You can also set up schedules for wake, sleep, and away functions — or, alternatively, you can set up controls based on motion detection. This setup is also a lot more reliable than most other smart lights because they work with their own mesh network via the Hue Bridge (which comes with the starter kit) or with the Amazon Echo device.

Why This is a Good Product for Renters:

  • Works with regular lamps and fixtures — no need for electrical changes
  • You can add more bulbs at any time
  • No need to get permission from landlords

Wemo Mini — Best Smart Plug

If you’re a renter, you can’t really afford to buy smart versions of every single device you own. But that’s where smart plugs come in. Instead of buying smart electrical devices (curling irons, toasters, ovens, etc), you can simply buy smart plugs and connect those devices to the plugs. Smart plugs are the most cost-effective means of automating all your devices. Sure, you can’t use smart plugs to control the specific features of all your devices, but you can at least turn them on and off or set timers.

Wemo Mini is one of the best smart plugs on the market because it’s extremely durable, compact, and intelligently designed. You don’t even need to connect the plug into your home’s electrical network, so you don’t need permission from your landlord. You can simply attach the plug over an existing socket. It’s designed in such a manner that it won’t even block the other outlets on the plate. All you have to do is connect the plug to the outlet, install the app on your phone, make the wireless connection, and then control all your other devices. You can also set up voice commands.

Why This is a Good Product for Renters:

  • Can simply be plugged over your existing outlet
  • Can turn regular outlets into smart outlets
  • No need to get permission from landlords
  • Extremely compact and portable

Security and Safety

Are you concerned about your home’s security and safety? Are you worried about people breaking in or smoke alarms going off without warning? One of the best aspects of smart homes is that they take security and safety to a whole new level. The following are some of the most crucial smart home security devices for renters.

Google Nest Protect — Best Smart Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarm

Traditional smoke and carbon monoxide alarms set off a beeping sound that alerts you to a potential emergency so you can take action. However, in order to hear the beeping and act, you need to be within the device’s vicinity. Smart smoke and carbon monoxide alarms send push notifications even when you’re not at home and they take automatic measures to protect your home.

Google Nest Protect is undoubtedly the best smart smoke and carbon monoxide alarm because it has a self-testing feature. As such, it runs automatic tests to determine if it’s working and lets you know when something is wrong. It also offers push notifications for low battery warnings instead of setting off an annoying beeping sound. Most importantly, it comes in a battery-powered version so you don’t have to hard-wire it into your home, which makes it perfect for renters.

Why This is a Good Product for Renters:

  • No need for hard-wiring
  • Can be attached anywhere using mounting tape so no need to drill it into a wall
  • No need to get permission from landlords
  • Wireless

Wally Sensor — Best Smart Leak Sensor

Wally Sensor is a useful smart leak sensor that can detect water leaks from appliances or plumbing issues. It can also detect freezing or the presence of mould, thereby alerting you so you can take action before there’s considerable water damage. It also comes with a temperature sensor so it can warn you when the temperature dips to dangerous standards, thereby minimising the risk of frozen pipes.

Wally Sensor is a completely wireless and portable device that connects to your Alexa devices or your smartphone app. You can set it up to offer alerts through email, phone calls, or push notifications. You can also purchase this along with a Wally Shutoff Valve to automatically shut the water off whenever there’s a leak.

Why This is a Good Product for Renters:

  • Wireless
  • Portable
  • No need to get permission from landlords

Logitech Circle 2 — Best Smart Wi-Fi Camera

An indoor or outdoor Wi-Fi camera is one of the most basic aspects of home security out there. Not only can the presence of a camera help you catch potential intruders, but it also serves as a brilliant tool to ward off intruders. Logitech Circle 2 is the best indoor/outdoor Wi-Fi camera because it has a brilliant range of features and is compatible with Alexa, HomeKit, and Google.

This smart security camera records Full HD 1080p videos with a 180-degree wide-angle lens. It also includes night vision with a 15-foot radius of visibility. You can set it up with motion detection so that you get push notifications on your phone every time motion is sensed.

Once the motion detector is triggered, you get access to live footage on your phone and it also takes snapshots and a short video. You also get 24 hours of free cloud video storage, which is more than enough for most renters.

Circle 2 also includes an intercom so that you can communicate with people on the other end of the camera. You can also use the geofencing feature to arm or disarm the camera based on your location so that the motion detector doesn’t get triggered every time you come and go. All things considered, Logitech Circle 2 is one of the most reliable and feature-heavy smart Wi-Fi cameras available.

Why This is a Good Product for Renters:

  • Can be attached to a window with a window-mount, attached to a regular wall outlet, or used with batteries — no need for hard-wiring
  • No need to get permission from landlords

August Smart Lock — Best Smart Lock for Renters

As a renter, you probably don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a lock. You probably also can’t get a smart lock that integrates into the home’s electrical network. That’s precisely why August Smart Lock is the best smart lock for renters.

Unlike other smart locks that need to be connected to your home’s electrical system, August Smart Lock merely modifies your existing deadbolt. All you have to do is swap out the thumb-turn mechanism from inside the door. You can then use the integrated DoorSense magnetic sensor to have it automatically unlock when you approach it and re-lock the door once you’re through.

While August Smart Lock isn’t compatible with HomeKit or Siri, it’s completely compatible with Google Assistant and Alexa. You can also control the lock remotely when you’re not at home. You can control the lock manually, through the app, or through voice activation if you have an Alexa or Google Assistant device.

Why This is a Good Product for Renters:

  • No need to hard-wire a new lock — it modifies your existing deadbolt
  • No need to get permission from landlords

Ring Alarm — Best Smart DIY Security System

Ring Alarm is one of the best smart security systems for your home to protect you in case of intrusions and burglaries. The entire setup comes with five devices — a base station, keypad, contact sensor, motion detector, and range extender.

The contact sensor can be installed in points of entries like windows and doors. Every time someone opens them, you’ll get a notification. The motion detector can sense motion within a given vicinity and send alerts to you. The range extender transmits signals between all the components of the system if you’re living in a large house. And the keypad allows you to arm or disarm the entire system from inside the house.

With these devices, you can rest assured that you’ll know if anyone tries to break in. You can also connect this entire system to your Logitech Circle 2 Wi-Fi camera for added protection and visual confirmation.

Once you purchase this alarm system, you can also avail of optional 24/7 professional monitoring for just $10 a month. There are no long-term contracts involved and subscribing to this service will ensure that professionals keep a watch over your home and alert authorities if there are any suspicious activities.

The biggest concern with a lot of DIY security systems is that they’ll have to be drilled into your wall. But that’s not the case here. The devices come with double-sided mounting tape so you can simply stick them over the correct fixtures or walls. As such, there’s no need for permission from a landlord.

Why This is a Good Product for Renters:

  • Devices can be attached to walls with double-sided tape
  • The main hub can be attached to any wall outlet
  • No need to get permission from landlords

Conclusion

As you can see, there are a lot of smart home devices just waiting for you. I have personally used (or continue to use) all of the smart home technology mentioned in this article. Not only are they all exceptional on their own, but they also communicate with each other brilliantly.

These are just some of the most basic and essential smart home devices for renters out there. Once you get a hang of them, you can expand your smart home integrations with additional cameras, additional sensors, and so much more!

Comments

user
MrTEEE
Great list, thanks!