How do I make my apartment smart? While America is still a nation of homeowners, more US citizens are renting than at any point for the past 50 years.
Despite being outgunned by homeowners 2 to 1, there are still 100 million renters in the US.
Just because you don’t own your own home, that doesn’t need to stop you from smartening up your rental. All you need to do is be a little more judicious about the way you go about home automation.
What To Avoid When Smartening Up a Rental
Since it’s not your property, there are a few obvious no-nos when it comes to smartening the place up.
It’s highly unlikely your landlord will want you to start making physical changes. This means rewiring for smart lighting, installing a new thermostat, or changing the locks are all out of the question. You can get creative and overcome these obstacles, though.
Hardwired security cameras are not a wise bet. You won’t necessarily want to be locked into a lengthy contract that might last beyond your rental agreement. You won’t want expensive installation either if you’re not staying for the long haul. Don’t worry, though… You’ve got plenty of other options.
With home hubs, it makes little sense to go all-in if the accommodation is only temporary but we’ve got a neat workaround for you there, too.
So, assuming you accept the fact physical changes are not the order of the day and building out an ambitious system in someone else’s home is impractical, what can you do?
Luckily, more than you might first imagine.
12 Ways To Make Your Apartment A Smart Home
We’ll jump straight into automating your rental the easy way with the obvious choice of smart outlets before moving on throughout the whole house…
1) Smart Outlets: Plug and Play Simplicity
A smart plug or smart outlet is one of the best methods of basic automation without needing to make any permanent changes whatsoever.
Cheap and super-simple to set up, you’ll be able to take a smart outlet with you when you move house.
For the purposes of a rental, the iDevices WiFi Smart Plug is a superb choice but what makes it so good?
Well, you won’t need a third-party hub which is great news and a money-saver.
The design is sleek and the side-facing outlet makes slipping in your preferred devices a cinch. Like all smart plugs, simply connect any device that needs switching on or off. From lamps and fans through to your coffee machine, take charge of your electronics remotely. You can slot a couple of devices into each outlet.
This smart plug allows voice control with either Alexa or Siri. You can also use the intuitive iDevices Connected app to take charge remotely from your smartphone.
An added bonus with this outlet is the free energy monitoring reports. If your power bills are getting out of hand, this is a nice touch that can help you make sensible cuts.
A handy LED night-light completes a renter-friendly introduction to automating your home.
Other smart outlets allow you to get even more creative. By building out IFTTT (If This, Then That) recipes, you can trigger a fan to kick in when an air quality monitor shows increased dust levels. You could also ensure a smart outlet connected to your home theater turns off when you leave home. Some devices will remain on standby, but at least they’ll be powered down.
2) Smart Lighting For Renters
While you won’t want to start ripping into switches and wiring, don’t let that put you off smartening up the lighting in your rental.
Philips Hue is the go-to choice if you want simple LED smart bulbs perfect for temporary accommodation. Control these white or colored LEDs with voice commands, in-app on your smartphone or using a wireless remote. The way you control them depends on your set-up and whether you want to invest in a hub.
For a detailed look at these bulbs, check out our look at Philips Hue Starter Kits.
The Nanoleaf Light Panels Starter Kit is another more leftfield option. You’ll get mounting pads so you can fix these attractive LED light panels with no drilling and no hassle.
Using the app, you can also take advantage of all major voice assistants (Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant) or IFTTT for wide-reaching automation.
Installation is as easy as using the double-sided tape provided then you’ll have over 16 million colors at your fingertips with no structural damage to the walls.
3) Smart Locks The Easy Way
You might think smart locks are out of reach with rentals. You’d be partially right.
While it’s unlikely your landlord will be too keen on you changing the locks, August’s Smart Lock Pro solves this problem neatly…
You simply slip this smart lock inside your door with no tweaks to the hardware required. Removing it when you leave is just as straightforward. You won’t need tools and you won’t need to cut new keys.
While you will need a hub, the Connect bridge is thrown in with this line-topping model.
Once you’re up and running you can offer keyless access to friends, family, service staff and contractors.
DoorSense and auto-locking combine to add a wonderful layer of security to your home. The Smart Lock Pro is robustly compatible offering Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity. Z-Wave and HomeKit are also supported. Voice control extends to Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant so you’ve got all bases covered.
4) Smart Speakers as a Hub
If you have a rental home and more limited scope for home automation, you might not want or need a bona fide gateway. While Samsung’s SmartThings hub and the Wink Hub 2 are fine pieces of kit, you can get away with a smart speaker for most reasonable purposes.
If you can’t get enough of Alexa, you’re spoiled for choice with devices. Our overall recommendation for renters goes to the second-generation Echo Plus.
You’ll get far better sounds quality than many smart speakers provide which gets things off to a strong start. The Dolby soundscape is immersive and both bass and higher frequencies come out clearly and with no distortion. This holds true even at higher volumes.
The added kicker, though, is an integrated Zigbee hub so you can use your digital assistant to control and schedule other smart devices throughout your rental.
From organizing your day and streaming your favorite tunes to barking commands at your locks, lights or sensors, Echo Plus is a hard-hitting beast in the compact form.
For Google Assistant lovers, Home Max is the jewel in an impressive range. A brace of 4 ½-inch woofers and Smart Sound to optimize sound to the room means you’ll be blown away with the output from this dinky but potent package.
If you’d prefer a smart display, Google Home Hub serves up all that Assistant has to offer combined with a crisp 7-inch display. Check out our in-depth look at this mighty but affordable beast right here.
5) Home Theater: Kick Back in Style
It goes unsaid we’re not advising going all-in with a full-blown wired system. If you forget about wiring and cabling, though, you’ve still got plenty of scope for smart entertainment in a rental property.
The first choice should be Google Chromecast. Whether you choose the base model or Chromecast Ultra, start streaming with style using the HDMI port on your existing TV. If you’re questioning what you can do with this agile streaming device, have a glimpse at 20 Ways To Get The Most From Google Chromecast.
A soundbar is a wise investment and one you can easily shift to your next rental. While they’re not particularly cheap, any of these Sonos soundbars make a wonderful long-term investment. With deep, rich audio, you can really ramp up your viewing experience.
While the Samsung Smart TV range is broad, deep and up to 75 inches, we’d urge you to consider the pocket-friendly 40-inch Smart LED for your rental. It won’t dominate the space and it’s portable enough to move to your next property with relative ease.
6) Wireless Security Cameras
There’s a wealth of choice when it comes to wireless security cameras.
If you’re living with flatmates, indoor security cameras can be a thorny issue. Make sure you take privacy into account before committing to anything that might invade that. You should also be careful about installing cameras that record activity in communal spaces.
You won’t need a hub or any kind of wiring, and you can easily take the cameras with you when you leave.
Phone alerts come through in-app on your smartphone so you can stay connected even when you’re away. Video footage is stored and you can customize alerts to tune out animals and minimize false positives. The integrated speaker and mic is a nice extra allowing you to intervene and spook any unwanted intruders.
7) Wireless Video Doorbells
Since the bulk of doorbells need hardwiring, they don’t make the most renter-friendly approach to smartening up your entry system.
Security specialist Ring offers the Video Doorbell 2 powered by a quick-release rechargeable battery to sidestep this issue. There is a hardwired version available but the wireless model is perfect when you’re renting.
Stay abreast of the comings and goings in your home through alerts pinged to your smartphone and communicate using the two-way audio and 1080p video.
The intelligent motion sensors are easily adjustable and superb night vision lets you stay connected 24/7. Field of view is an impressive 160 degrees so you can eliminate blind spots almost completely.
Expect up to 6 months of life from the battery before it needs recharging.
Coming in a slimline form with interchangeable faceplates thrown in, there’s a final added bonus…
Despite its outstanding functionality, this is also the cheapest video doorbell in the Ring range so what’s not to love?
8) Smart and Portable Air Conditioners
A sad reality is that many rental units don’t come with AC installed.
How can you get around this without needing to make structural changes or leave the air conditioning unit behind when you leave?
Fortunately, there’s a handy solution in the shape of the Frigidaire Smart Air Conditioner.
You simply pop this 16 x 18-½ x 13-½ inch unit in the window and you’ll be rewarded with an energy-efficient AC rated at 8000 BTU. In plain English, that’s enough to cool and dehumidify a 350 square foot room.
You can control the Frigidaire in-app over WiFi or using Alexa assuming you have an Echo device in place. The app works on both Android and iOS.
If you’re looking to cool down your rental without losing your security deposit or your AC when you leave, the Frigidaire is the obvious answer.
9) Smart Kitchen Scale and App
If you can’t see your way to adding one of Samsung’s mighty touchscreen smart refrigerators in your rental, why not opt for some smart scales instead?
Eminently portable, great fun, and simplifying your jobs in the kitchen, the Wireless Perfect Bake Pro will help you inject some fun into more mundane tasks.
The automatic scales put an end to fiddly measuring. You’ll see a virtual bowl fill on-screen in-app and you’ll be told when to stop pouring. Pouring directly into your bowls cuts down on clean-up, too.
You can also get plenty of intelligent recipe suggestions. Input the ingredients you have to hand and you’ll be rewarded with some instant advice on what to do with them. There are over 300 recipes included and you can also add your own for a personal touch.
The Bluetooth scale is also remarkably precise and weighs in 0.1g increments.
This nimble little smart scale is the renter’s perfect ally in the kitchen. It combines the best of smart home innovation and complete convenience in a cost-effective bundle.
10) Wireless Water Leak Detectors
Do you want to keep your rental home protected against the potential carnage of an unchecked water leak? If so, the Honeywell Lyric Water Leak and Freeze Detector could be the smartest investment you make in 2019.
Water leaks can cause costly and ruinous damage to the property and also your prized possessions and precious smart home tech.
This pair of battery-operated sensors simply attach to a cable you pop in leak-prone areas. Whether it’s by the washing machine or sink, the bathtub or the dishwasher, there’s no installation required.
If the sensors detect any moisture, an alarm is sounded on your smartphone enabling you to spring into action. Temperature, humidity, and leak measurement are all catered for.
Connecting directly to your home WiFi network, you won’t need to spend extra on a hub.
11) Robotic Vacuums
A robotic vacuum is a smart standalone addition to your rented home.
iRobot’s Roomba line-up contains a number of strong performers.
If you want the next best thing to a maid and you’ve got a more fluid budget, our overall pick is the Neato Robotics Botvac D7.
Unlike many robot vacs, the D7 acquits itself admirably on carpet not just hard flooring. An oversized brush and sleek D-shaped design combine to deliver a deep clean.
LaserSmart navigation and intelligent mapping take all the sting out a tedious task and allow you to keep your house spotless hands-free.
In the spirit of the best smart devices, you’ll also be able to issue voice commands with either Alexa or Google Assistant.
12) Smart Showerhead
If you want to liven things up in the bathroom without making any physical changes, why not consider the PowerSpa LED Showerhead?
Simply hook up this showerhead to any regular overhead shower arm in minutes flat and tool-free.
Liven up shower time with 7 LED colored lights that are powered by running water with no batteries required. The colors rotate automatically every few seconds.
Added smarts come in the form of oxygen blasted into the water flow to optimize water pressure. You’ll get multiple jets so choose from rain, massage, a rain/massage mix or a water-conservation mode. There’s even a handheld add-on thrown in, amazing at this price-point.
As with all the gear we’ve highlighted today, when it’s time to move, just detach your showerhead and you’re good to go.
We very much hope you’ve found some inspiration today for kitting out your rented property with some smart devices.
Come back next week as we’ve got plenty of the latest smart home news lined up. We’ll also, as always, bring you plenty of how-to guides, informational articles, and product snapshots. 2019 is shaping up to be a great year already!