Not that long ago, the term “smart home” was used to describe lavish abodes with top-of-the-line devices and expensive embellishments reserved only for moguls. But with wireless technology on the rise, these products are becoming more accessible to the rest of us and, thus, quickly growing in popularity among homeowners. Smart technology not only affords tremendous convenience, but it could also help you save on energy bills.
Most U.S. homes are fairly inefficient when it comes to energy usage, as Americans spend a whopping $241 billion on energy a year, according to The U.S. Department of Energy. That comes out to about $2,100 per household. But one way to optimize energy consumption—and thereby shave down utility bills and mitigate our carbon footprint—is to implement a few home automation features.
If you want to quickly alleviate strain on the environment and keep money in your pocket, focus on lighting. The International Energy Agency reports that lighting accounts for 19 percent of global electricity use. And according to Gartner Inc., a technology research and advisory firm, smart lighting has been able to reduce energy bills by 50 percent.
Remembering to turn off the lights is an obvious fix, but easy to forget. With the use of occupancy sensors equipped with infrared and photocell technology, smart lighting systems on the market not only detect movement, but can also discern whether there’s sufficient natural light in a given room or portion of the house. Wireless features also allow you to control your lighting from a central automation hub (i.e. your smart phone, tablet or internet-enabled device).
Furthermore, dimmers and lighting control solutions lower energy usage at a 1:1 ratio—meaning if you dim your lights by 30 percent, you’re using 30 percent less energy. And the more you dim, the less energy you waste. While most energy saving methods mean sacrificing quality, smart lighting scenes and dimmer controls can actually enrich environments, whether it’s improving ambience or setting the mood for a specific social gathering.
The U.S. Department of Energy reports that heating and cooling make up roughly half of your utility bill. Whether it’s an unoccupied room or an entire empty home being needlessly heated or cooled, a tremendous amount of energy is often squandered. Smart technology can help remedy the problem in a couple of ways.
As with most smart home features, a programmable thermostat can be operated remotely with your phone, tablet or internet-enabled device. With a smart thermostat, you can manage your home’s temperature so that the AC isn’t idly running while you’re at the office or running errands.
Additionally, zone-based thermostats divide the home into different segments (or zones) so that unoccupied areas aren’t being needlessly heated or cooled. With the use of motion sensors in a room or specific area of the house, the heating and cooling system can start up or shut down as needed, thus decreasing the amount of wasted energy.
Some studies have shown savings of around $131 to $140 per year on utility bills — and others as high as $180 annually. In other words, a smart thermostat that costs $250 could pay for itself in two years or less.
Smart Power Strips
At night when you turn off the lights in a given room, you may see incandescent LEDs and lurid eyes lurking in the darkness. These are called idle currents (or more ominously “electronic vampires”), and they continue to slowly siphon energy when left plugged in to their outlets. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reports that idle power makes up 10 percent of a household’s electrical use. While that may seem inconsequential, it adds up—especially when you remember that the average home consumes $2,100 of energy per year.
Examples of products with standby modes include everything from DVD players and Plasma TVs to computers and printers. Not only do these electric vampires suck money out of your bank account, but they also boost your carbon output. And sure, unplugging every device could be an effective measure, but investing in an energy-saving power surge, like a smart power strip, might be more efficient. A smart power strip can detect when certain electronics go into standby mode and automatically shut them down when they do.
In addition to electronic devices, there are also smart irrigation systems and automatic faucets on the market that help reduce water consumption. These devices aren’t all that expensive, and the long-term savings typically outweigh the upfront costs.
When it comes to smart home technology, sustainability and convenience are becoming one and the same. From occupancy sensors in every room to smart controls that learn the habits of your family, you get a personalized experience that could help save on energy bills and reduce unnecessary strain on the environment.
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