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Some steps and devices to make your home a whole lot smarter

The Nest Learning Thermostat is on display following a news conference Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in San Francisco. Google's Nest Labs is releasing new versions of its surveillance video camera and talking smoke detector as part of its attempt to turn homes into yet another thing that can be controlled and tracked over the Internet. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

More smart home devices keep hitting the market and the number of jobs they can do for you is growing as well.

This trend originally started with remote-control thermostats and security systems, but the smart stuff has expanded so much that you can remotely control TVs, lighting, appliances, your garage door, other doors and more.

The choices of apps for all this can be overwhelming. Many can be downloaded for free to your Apple or Android phone or device, but you also need sensors and devices to install around your home so you can take full remote control.

You will probably want a smart-home hub — current devices on the market can range from about $50 to a couple hundred dollars or more. There are also monthly service fees for some smart home systems, mostly for those that involve security.

Check out these innovations in apps and equipment:

If you’re just starting out and want to try something relatively simple, install a Nest smart thermostat ($300 to $400, including installation). This popular device, on the market for some time now, will allow you to download an app so you can begin to take advantage of the cost savings tactic of super-cooling your way through the summer heat.

If you’re interested in controlling a lot more of the house, Apple has its HomeKit ($199.99) that controls a number of compatible devices from other companies. Of course, you have to have other basics: smart door locks, thermostats, light plugs, ceiling fans and more, but all those devices can then be operated via phone or tablet.

Instead of pressing buttons on a phone to connect with your house, you can use Amazon’s voice-command system to work with smart home devices in many areas around your house. You will also need Amazon’s Echo ($179.99), a Bluetooth speaker. If you have a speaker already, you can use the Echo Dot ($49.99) to connect.

Control4 MyHome is an app that enables you to remotely control your home’s lighting, security, heating and air conditioning systems and entertainment equipment via an Android or iPhone. The app is free but the service costs $100 annually.

Then there’s SmartThings — which has a free app and a $99 hub — that you can use to hook up with a variety of compatible devices, including appliances, doors and lights throughout the house. You can also buy a kit ($250-$300) that has a variety of sensors you can connect to existing equipment in your home.

For security issues, you can try It has a free app that can control doors and your garage and let you know what’s going on at home no matter where you are. The service itself has a monthly fee and an installation charge.

But what about stuff that can take over some of the effort of cleaning and maintaining your home?

There are robot devices from iRobot and Hoover that can vacuum your carpets and mop up the kitchen when you’re not even at home. Some of these little workers can even travel back to a charging dock when they run low on power.  Prices can range from $250 to $450 or more.

There are even robot lawn mowers, but the prices are steep — $1,500 or more.

For more DIY tips and information for all the projects around your house, home, castle or cabin, visit Arizona’s largest collection of homeowner DIY advice and information at

And if you are in need of a quality contractor you know you can trust, visit our list of Arizona’s very best contractors or service providers for your home improvement projects at –- Arizona’s most trusted referral network.

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