Can Smart Technology Save You Money?
Ten years ago, I had only vaguely heard of exterior lights that turned on via a timer. Now you can turn on almost everything in your home with your smartphone – even that flat iron that you forgot to unplug. But while it may seem trendy to invest in smart technology that fills the gaps in your memory, it’s not altogether clear whether they actually save you money.
Air conditioning, for example, isn’t something that you’d expect to be thrilled about. But it’s fascinating to see how you use energy to cool your home with smart thermostats like Ecobee. It even has a function that shows you how your home’s efficiency compares to others in your community and how your estimated savings compares to your state’s average. Smart thermostats even notice when you’re in a room and when you’re gone, and then adjust accordingly.
I can tell my Ecobee to only use two of the sensors to set the temperature in the home, ignoring one room that we don’t use so as to be more efficient. I can also adjust it remotely using my phone, and I will receive alerts if the temperature goes too high or too low.
My Ecobee shows that we saved about $10 in February alone and about $65 total since we installed it.
With a $100 credit from Georgia Power for purchasing the technology, we’ll make back what we spent in about two years.
Appliances are a close second as the biggest energy sucker in U.S. homes (behind heating and cooling), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (USEIA). Even though the number of televisions in homes is declining, we have all sorts of other appliances that use energy.
Refrigerators and washing machines are now subject to federal efficiency standards. However, the USEIA found that homes built between 2000 and 2009 use 19 percent more energy than homes built in the 1980s, indicating that recharging computers, phones, and other devices take up much more energy than we might think.
Many televisions and gaming systems now have an “always on” mode, which not only uses energy, but also costs you more. You’ll need to make sure to turn them off or use a smart plug to do it manually or on a timer. You can use a smart plug for almost every appliance. This allows you use your phone to monitor which devices are on or off at any given time. Smart power strips will also turn off devices when you leave a room, which can save you $200 a year by avoiding the vampire load.
Other Household Basics
I’d also like a Roomba, which will clean my floors for me, though this is another appliance that needs to be plugged in when not in use. But despite that fact, using a Roomba is more energy efficient than a standard upright vacuum, according to a recent article in TreeHugger. Plus, it costs less in the long run.
Lighting, meanwhile, doesn’t use that much energy. But if you don’t like thought of going room to room to turn off the lights, you can set timers or use smart technology like Hue to monitor them, saving you time and money.
And if you ask me, security is the best place for smart technology in the home.
You can install digital locks and cameras that connect to apps on your smart phone, allowing you to monitor your home at all times. The camera uses power 24/7, but the smart lock can use solar power or a battery that lasts three to five years.
Finally, we should all be concerned about water usage. How many times have you driven by someone watering their lawn after it just rained? Now, smart sensors can help turn off your sprinklers when it detects rain, saving both the Earth and your wallet.
The Bottom Line
When deciding what kinds of smart technology to buy, look at the cost and the benefits. Some may pay for themselves in a year, but others may take longer. Even with a possible credit from your insurance company, is it worth spending $200 on a water sensor to prevent a flood that may never happen? Ecobee has been a great first step into automating our home, and I hope the savings will just keep coming.