A typical smart home includes various features such as a programmable thermostat, energy-reducing smart power strips, low-cost smart lighting, and easy energy tracking devices as well as sophisticated security systems. Smart grid technologies are responsible for connecting the smart home to an energy provider that automatically minimizes energy use.
So, do smart homes use more or less electricity? Smart homes use less electricity and can save up to 30-40% energy usage compared to non-smart homes. This translates to saving as much as $996 a year (outside of installation costs). Smart home technology intelligently keeps track of your habits and lifestyle while trying to search for ways to cut energy costs.
Smart grid technologies consist of computerized controls that make appliances respond to an energy provider’s signals. These signals minimize energy usage especially when the electrical grid produces energy at a high cost. Also, home energy management (HEM) systems provide real-time energy usage data and billing information to the occupants of a home.
Before knowing the various energy-saving devices integrated into the smart home system, it is normal to inquire about the exact process by which smart technologies save power.
This article will also explain how to monitor energy usage and how to streamline the automation process of the smart home system along with featuring several of the top energy saving devices you can find.
How and Why Do Smart Homes Save Money?
According to Time.com, there are currently 130 million homes in the United States and an estimated 63 million homes that will qualify as “smart” by 2022.
A smart home involves computer technology, communications technology, and image display technology in a single system that is connected to a multi-facility network that provides convenience in terms of control and management of systems and appliances.
An application of the Internet of Things, smart home technology makes it possible for humans in a household to monitor and control their electrical devices at home in order to save energy, money, and time.
Smart homes save money in a variety of ways. Smart home technology makes the home a localized extension of a specialized smart grid.
Through this technology, the appliances in the home may be able to respond to signals coming from an energy provider that can then minimize the consumption of energy. This process is useful when shifting some of the usages of energy to times when power is cheaper throughout the day.
Through home energy management systems and smart technologies like interfaces, web portals, and smart appliances, home occupants can access real-time energy consumption data for the entire household or for individual loads. Smart home devices also come with emission reductions and many other energy-saving features.
Smart dashboards in these devices provide the occupants the liberty to integrate a range of systems into one existing unit. This also provides customers with a broader understanding of how energy use in individual devices in their household directly translates into consumption.
It teaches occupants how their behavior can alter energy use and consumption, thereby instilling an energy-saving habit and mindset in them.
Furthermore, these systems also enable occupants to manipulate these smart devices in order to intentionally reduce consumption. These smart devices have smart meters that are similar to a car’s gas indicator.
In fact, smart meters basically act as the Smart Grid interface between your smart home and your energy provider. Smart meters are the core of smart home technology. In short, a smart home is called “smart” because it has a smart meter to which all smart devices in the home are connected.
As a replacement for your old, traditional mechanical meter, your smart meter is a digital device that features automated and complex information transfers between your smart home and the energy provider.
In some cases, smart meters deliver signals coming from the energy provider that serve as a reason for you to cut energy costs. It is then through the home energy management system that one can be allowed to view smart meter data through a smartphone, a computer, or anything connected with the system.
Typically, through your smartphone or a similar device connected to the smart home system, you can see how much your various appliances and gadgets can affect the amount of energy consumed.
The settings of the EMS provide you with numerous setting options for you to manipulate in order to reduce your energy consumption. For example, you can freely choose the most economical of settings for your various appliances. You can also program certain appliances to turn off automatically.
This is useful to ensure safety as well as to prevent peak demand rates where there is a threat that might lead to an outage.
However, certain smart home devices and appliances have sensors in them that automatically reduce energy according to environmental conditions.
An example is to use advanced power strips to eliminate any case of “phantom load” or unnecessary energy consumption as one turns on devices.
Top Energy Saving Devices for Smart Homes
Energy saving devices is a term that refers to appliances or add-ons that are attached to your smart home technology system. Different energy-saving devices have different capacities to save. There are several devices that you should consider to ensure decreased electricity usage within your smart home.
Smart Power Strips
One of the most important energy-saving devices you can invest in is smart power strips. Based on a report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, these strips are capable of giving you as much as $200 a year in savings.
Power strips eliminate “energy vampire” appliances that use up energy when you plug them in even if these devices are not in use or are only in standby modes. “Energy vampire” appliances include TVs, cell phone chargers, and other familiar devices.
There is a huge variety of smart power strips on the market, so you have to rely on independent reviews for more efficient recommendations.
Smart Plugs and Outlets
Smart plugs and outlets are another type of smart energy-saving device. They can be in the form of charging ports that do not draw any wasted power.
Based on a report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, or the ACEEE, traditional plug loads indicate that the total non-essential energy wasted by certain miscellaneous appliances make up as much as 20 percent of the total energy consumption in an average American home.
Thus, one can only imagine how much he can save by replacing traditional plugs and outlets with smart types. In fact, in some cases, plug load can be reduced by nearly 50 percent.
There are also smart sprinklers, which are the best choice when it comes to conserving water. Especially in climates where water takes a lot of time to maintain, smart sprinklers are the solution. Moreover, every time you run your sprinklers, you are doing the planet and your water bill a huge favor.
A smart sprinkler has a programmable and customizable control system that allows you to conserve water by adjusting settings for soil moisture, weather conditions, and the individual needs of the various plants in your yard.
An ideal add-on is a smart faucet extension to give you greater convenience and control whenever you attach the sprinkler to a garden hose. There are certain smart faucets that take the weather into account while letting you control the garden hose using commands from Alexa.
Smart Water Systems
Smart water systems also complement your smart sprinklers. These smart water systems include smart showerheads as well as touchless faucets that conserve a lot of water.
Based on studies by the Environmental Protection Agency, the traditional water systems typically waste a lot of water, resulting in around 50 percent of the water literally going down the drain. By using a smart water system, or a smart irrigation system, you will be able to stop this wasteful habit.
Smart dishwashers are another type of smart-saving device, although a typical smart dishwasher can save only as much as $35 a year. However, smart dishwashers are really efficient because this device has a notification feature on the level of detergent used.
Also, it has a smart monitor for energy consumption and even the date and time of washing So, a smart dishwasher can basically detect leaks in the device itself.
Smart Washing Machine
The smart washing machine may be able to save only $45 a year. But, it has other features such as detergent amounts, built-in voice controls, and detectors for maintenance needs.
This means that the smart washing machine has an automated way of reminding you that something is wrong or broken with the system. This may also come with other better features soon as there are other technical aspects which are still being developed.
The smart dryer is, in fact, one of the smallest smart appliances that can be found in the smart home market today. The smart dryer can help save energy with a mere $20 a year electricity bill. This dryer has a detection or sensing system for various levels of moisture, for tracking usage, and for detecting energy rises and drops.
The only problem with a small appliance like this one is its capacity. If you aim to dry (or regularly dry) large loads of clothes, this may not be as efficient as you will spend more time and have to complete several more loads. Family/housemate size is important to consider with this purchase.
Another example of smart-saving devices in your smart home is your smart thermostat. According to the US Department of Energy, smart thermostats can help reduce the costs of cooling, heating, and air conditioning by as much as 10 percent a year. This translates to as much as $160-$220 saved every year.
Smart thermostats allow you to precisely control the temperature of your home’s interior while it intelligently adjusts itself. This device learns your lifestyle and habits and automatically stops you from spending time and electricity on unnecessary cooling and heating.
The smart thermostat maintains a sensitivity to climate temperature, to which the energy used for cooling and heating automatically adjusts.
Moreover, the smart thermostat also reacts to certain types of HVAC systems. In fact, one way people can make the most of this intelligent device is that they integrate climate-controlling features into their smart thermostat. Such features include intelligently detecting warm and cool clothing, insulation, and window and door seals.
Smart lighting is another bright idea that can be included in your smart home to save on electricity usage. Smart lighting does good to your electric bill in two ways: one, by setting up a system that automatically turns on and off depending on whether there is a person inside or not.
Two, smart lighting, particularly LED smart bulbs, can save energy more efficiently compared to their traditional counterparts. In fact, even smart lighting add-ons like outlets and switches can offer effective energy monitoring as a part of their standard.
Moreover, you can now view, monitor, and control (all in real-time) your smart light bulbs, switches, and outlets through an app on your smartphone.
In fact, there is no more need for guessing how much energy you are consuming with your lights because your app will provide an exact measurement for you.
Further, according to Safety.com, a person can upgrade his or her smart lights to act as a burglar deterrent but without letting this feature eat up too much power. If it can prevent even just one attempted theft, then you got yourself a truly cost-effective security measure.
Smart Window Coverings
Smart window coverings include blinds, curtains, and other light blockers that act with just the touch of a single button or the use of a simple voice command. Also, you can program your smart home system to automatically perform these energy-reducing tasks.
You have the option to tailor your smart home system to give an automatic response to the environment in order to save energy based on temperature and lighting.
In addition, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, smart window coverings can result in savings ranging from 11 to 20 percent annually. This is through the detection of space cooling and heating changes.
Smart refrigerators are another fine addition to your smart home technology devices if you are looking to reduce the electricity used within your home. With a smart refrigerator, you can expect to save as much as $134 per year. This estimate is based on the efficiency of a 19-21-cubic-foot French Door Refrigerator.
There is a range of exciting features that come with a smart refrigerator that includes music and TV streaming, uploading of a virtual grocery list, and an automatic detection of expiration dates.
The only problem is that a smart refrigerator would usually begin paying for itself after 30 years of use due to its overhead cost. Chances are, you would have replaced it by then already.
However, considering the cost of the electricity saved, the investment is worth it. Today’s smart refrigerators would roughly consume an estimated 1,000 kilowatt-hours of power compared to those built in the 1980s. That is an overwhelming 60% improvement in terms of energy savings.
In addition, the smart refrigerator uses refrigerant gas as its primary source of lubricant. This saves a lot because it completely eliminates oil as a requirement.
Aside from the energy-saving device, the smart refrigerator is a source of entertainment because of its touchscreen monitor that is Wi-Fi ready and can play your choice of music, TV shows, and movies.
How To Monitor Energy Usage Help Save Electricity?
Use and All-In-One Security System
One way to monitor all of your smart devices in your smart home is to use an all-in-one security system that combines all of your smart appliances.
Modernizing your home using smart technology could seem to be very overwhelming, especially because you have to deal with so many smart appliances at the same time.
It could totally drive you crazy- especially if you are considering safety, convenience, and energy conservation all at the same time. What you need, then, is an all-in-one package of smart home controls to easily monitor everything.
Monitoring your usage is not a simple thing. You need to find the right automation devices that you can easily understand and those where you can access real-time information on your power usage.
Choose a device that allows you to view consumption using some charts and graphs. These visual tools can help pinpoint which among your smart appliances is consuming the most power and, thus, which ones you should cut back on.
The graphs and charts can help you make the necessary adjustments when planning your monthly or annual energy consumption or when simply monitoring your habits or routine.
Maintain Awareness of Energy Usage Through Smart Energy Monitors
Another (better) way to monitor your energy consumption in a smart home is to maintain consistent awareness of the energy you use in order to predict future usage patterns.
Specifically, you can do this by applying detection features and alerts on your smart energy monitors at home. Through these, you can get alerts on some anomalies in case they happen.
Also, you can become more aware of what is going on with your smart appliances. Appliances with erratic energy consumption patterns may indicate an internal problem.
Those whose consumption rates never go down may also have problems. At the same time, you can get used to the regular patterns of energy consumption of your smart appliances.
Smart energy monitors can also help you track current status or mode for every smart appliance that you have in your home. This means that your smart energy monitor can actually detect which smart appliances are turned on and which ones are turned off as well as those in standby mode.
Smart energy monitors may also know when or what time these appliances were in use. In that way, you can deliberately stop the energy consumption even before you reach your limits, therefore staying ahead of the game.
Also, if your smart energy monitor comes as an app on your smartphone, then you could easily detect whether you left the iron on or not, as an example. That function alone could save you so much trouble, concern, and anxiety.
What are the Challenges of Smart Homes?
While there are loads of benefits to using smart home devices, there are a few challenges that may make one hesitant prior to purchase.
Be aware, though, that there are plenty of ways to overcome these challenges and setbacks, and most smart home device users would argue that the pros significantly outweigh the cons.
One of the challenges in converting your home to a smart home is the upfront cost. Streamlining automation would work if you could have a single system that could combine all the automation tools for every appliance.
If you streamline automation, you will also avoid the burden of having to spend as much as $500 for additional smart monitors. This amount may or may not include the cost of installation. Keep in mind, this is also only the cost for the smart thermostat.
Thus, if you factor in smart lighting controls, that would mean another several hundred dollars as initial expenses. The challenge is, therefore, to combine control and monitoring.
Moreover, there is a need to combine a number of monitoring features into one device, machine, or app. This allows homeowners to save so much when it comes to energy consumption while not spending too much on a hefty down payment.
Also, most energy-saving devices will not start “paying for themselves” until after a number of years. For example, when smart thermostats would save only an estimated $180 every year, it means that the device would not start paying for itself until the third year of use.
If that only refers to the thermostat, then one can only imagine how much one has to spend for all of the smart appliances of his or her choice and how long he or she has to wait before these devices start paying for themselves.
The solution is to choose the most efficient yet the most affordable smart devices. Also, if it is within your financial means, it would be convenient to buy them all at once in order to have your smart controls easily streamlined for combined monitoring of all your smart appliances.
When considering value, it is important to remember that not all of the value will come in numeric form. Sure, it is critical to pay attention to the financial aspect of purchases. However, the value that smart devices add to your home is immeasurable.
They contribute, as we have discussed, to electricity saving and lower energy bills. However, smart home devices are also advantageous for their contribution to your overall lifestyle and comfort- adding convenience and efficiency to your life like never before.
Privacy issues may also be another challenge for smart homes. Despite the energy-efficiency advantage of smart homes, there is an increasing problem when it comes to recording private conversations or private acts of occupants.
This happens through the use of smart assistants and recording devices. Once there is an access point into your home security network (a webcam, a listening device, etc.), there is an increased potential for privacy-related issues.
Someone may then send a recorded file somewhere else without your consent. Even if companies are recording and using the data for marketing purposes, the act still constitutes dishonesty and may then foster distrust.
Since the initial purchase likely did not come with these possibilities in mind, it could be discomforting to the user. Thus, there is a chance that those who are overly concerned about their privacy would be compelled not to buy smart home devices anymore.
Security issues with smart appliances and smart home technology are also another challenge you may run into. Smart home technology makes it easy to monitor every single appliance. However, the efficiency level of the same technology is the reason why it is easy for any hacker to get into the system.
In fact, 70% of the Internet of Things devices are vulnerable to hacking. That leaves home users and occupants as victims of theft, extortion, arson, and a partial loss of control over some parts of the smart home system.
The big problem is that hacking could make the perpetrator turn on or off the victim’s appliances. The hacker may even have the possibility of locking or unlocking certain doors in the home by infiltrating the smart home system.
The worst part is that if the hacker would make certain appliances work harder or less efficiently than usual, then the hacker himself would intentionally increase the consumption of power for the poor occupants.
Consider, though, the skill set that would be needed to hack into smart home devices along with the possible gains. It is unlikely that a common thief or burglar would choose to or be able to hack into your home’s security system when your neighbor may be an easier target.
Therefore, you may take control of your own devices by ensuring that you have secure privacy settings and following other recommendations for safety with smart home devices.