A smart home is a setup where appliances and devices are linked to a network and controlled remotely using voice commands or smartphone apps, but can be daunting to set up if you’re a beginner.

smart home

Whether you want to switch on the kettle from the comfort of your bedroom, turn off the lights, or turn on your geyser remotely, a smart home may be the answer. And it need not break the bank.

Here’s how to set-up a smart home on a budget, using entry-level equipment.

Smart home centre piece – the smart speaker

The smart speaker is your most essential gadget and is central for home automation and voice controls. It should ideally be set-up in a central area of your house, like the lounge or living room.

The Google Nest Mini Smart Speaker, which pairs with iPhone and Android via the Google Home app, is the best starter option. I’ve always recommended that you create a new email address from scratch for your smart home, so it’s not tied to your personal information and email, etc. Once your smart speaker is sorted, you can start connecting your smart products.

Smart TV – get a streaming stick

To get your TV set up, the most cost effective option is a streaming stick or dongle. Using a device like the Mi TV Stick allows you to turn your TV on or off using voice commands once its linked to Google Home. If you have an Android, you can cast from your phone to the TV Stick. It also gives you access to the Play Store so you can download your favourite streaming apps.

Companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, and Xiaomi who have smart speakers typically have support for many smart home appliances, which lets you pair it directly on their app.

Top Tip: When you travel, carry the dongle with you to avoid logging into your accounts at hotels.

Smart Plugs

Smart plugs are a must to power devices remotely if they are not directly linked to a network. The Meross Smart WiFi Plug, for example, would require an initial set-up on the Meross app after you create a user account.

As with most smart products, it can be linked to Google Home, so you access to it from a single interface. This is useful for heat-drawing appliances like an iron, microwave etc. to power it directly from the app or create a schedule around your load-shedding timetables. It is also useful if you leave home and forget to switch it off or can’t remember if you did.

Smart Lights

When it comes to lights, you can choose between using smart light bulbs, like the Meross smart LED 2 pack; or getting an electrician to change your switches to something like the TUYA smart light switch.

Smart light bulbs are a quick way to control it but you have to keep buying light bulbs, so it’s better in the long term to change to WiFi light switches because you can use any light bulb or light fitting.

This is the only thing that requires an electrician, please don’t attempt to DIY unless you are an electrician.

Smart Security

Security is a key factor for most homes in South Africa. A cost-effective option is the Xiaomi Smart Camera C200, which also pairs with Google Home and is suited for indoors – it could also simply be placed at a window.

It has a motion detector, infrared night vision, 360-degree all round vision, and supports 1080p video. It also has a talkback feature with two-way audio, but you’d need to access it on the Xiaomi Home app.

Another excellent option for a standalone unit is the Amazon-owned Ring Doorbell Wired, which at R999 is one of the cheapest video doorbells you can get in SA. It fits onto existing doorbells, has 1080p video, night vision, two-way talk, motion alerts, noise cancellation and custom privacy settings.

While it can be paired to Google Home, you can use the Ring app to see who is at your door, etc.

Robot Vacuums

I am big fan of robot vacuums and have covered them under my Smart Home category. Automating your chores is the best thing you can do, more so if you have pets, kids or allergies.

There are plenty of robot vacuums brands in South Africa, from loads of obscure ones that I cannot vouch for on Takealot to some more established brands like Xiaomi, Hobot, Eufy, Ecovacs, etc (iRobot pulled out of the South African market).

I suggest the Xiaomi Robot Vacuum Mop Lite 2 because it’s a brand and interface I am familiar with. It is a vacuum cleaner and mop, has smartphone app controls, has a 450ml dustbin, cleans in a zigzag pattern, various water settings, can go under furniture (81.3mm), and supports scheduled cleans up.

Suggested Product List

Here’s what a list of essentials can cost, correct as of 9 January 2024:

  • Google Nest Mini Smart Speaker – R895 at Leroy Merlin
  • Mi TV Stick with Chromecast – R899 at Game
  • Meross Smart WiFi Plug (energy monitoring) – R195 at Geewiz
  • Tuya Smart Light Switch (1 gang) – R292 at Geewiz
  • Tuya Smart Light Bulb – R152 at Geewiz
  • Xiaomi Smart Camera C200 – R799 on Yuppiechef
  • Ring Doorbell Wired – R1 199 at Builders
  • Xiaomi Robot Vacuum Mop 2 Lite – R4300 at MrP Home


Building a smart home is a constant work in progress. You don’t have to buy everything at once, just add one item every (other) month or whatever works for your budget. The prices listed above are standard, however, you may find them discounted if there is a sale somewhere, but I’d rather not link sale prices because it could be expired when you come across the article.

Please do as much research as you can, read as many reviews as possible, take your time before purchasing, and make sure you are shopping at a reputable retailer to avoid being scammed.