The Best Smart Home Devices for Saving Energy
Smart home gadgets and technology can help make homes more energy efficient than ever before. From thermostats and lightbulbs to plugs and sprinklers, there is almost no aspect of the home that can't be integrated with a smart home system. But which devices can help you save the most energy?
What is a smart home system?
A smart home system is built around home automation. Smart devices have the capability of connecting to a smart home hub like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant through your Wi-Fi network, Bluetooth, or Z-wave technology. You can then control and monitor these devices through a smartphone app, usually on iOS or Android devices, or through voice commands with a smart speaker.
One of the biggest uses of smart home functionality is in the smart home security system. Smart locks, video doorbells, wireless security cameras, and even garage doors can be managed through voice control or a mobile app.
Energy efficiency is another important factor in the choice of smart home devices. Through the use of a smart sprinkler, smart plug, smart lighting, or smart thermostat like the Google Nest or ecobee SmartThermostat, homeowners can see major improvements in their energy and water consumption.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg. More and more devices are being integrated into smart home setups. Even appliances like stoves, dishwashers, and refrigerators are now connected to the internet.
What are the best smart home devices for saving energy?
As mentioned, one of the biggest advantages of smart home devices is in saving energy. One thing to consider before adding new devices or appliances is getting a home energy audit for an accurate picture of where your home is less energy-efficient. Once you know that, here are some of the best smart home devices to help you become more energy efficient.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Smart thermostats help regulate and automate your heating and cooling, cutting down on the total energy consumption and reducing those costs. Smart thermostats work by connecting to your current HVAC system. The vast majority of them feature a smart device app, meaning users can control all of the settings and features remotely.
On average, they can save you around 8% on heating and cooling costs, or $50 annually. The age of your current HVAC system, however, can affect this. If you have an old and outdated system, there are limits on the effectiveness of a smart thermostat.
Why buy: The Emerson Sensi smart thermostat was our pick for best overall smart thermostat. It can save you up to 23% on your energy usage, and you can find it at a very affordable price of $140 on Amazon. The Emerson thermostat is also compatible with Alexa, Google Home, Apple HomeKit, and Samsung SmartThings.
Why buy: Despite its relatively high price tag of $249, the ecobee SmartThermostat offers a ton of energy-saving features. The best part is that with it's new eco+ software, the SmartThermostat can help you save up to 23% on your annual energy costs. Plus it has built-in Amazon Alexa functionality so there's no need to purchase an Amazon Echo.
Why buy: The Nest Learning Thermostat is both Google Assistant- and Alexa-enabled. It can potentially save you as much as 10% to 12% on your heating bill and up to 15% on your cooling bill. This thermostat also has voice command for even greater convenience, and it automatically learns your heating and cooling preferences to optimize your energy usage.
Smart lightbulbs and smart lighting systems can connect to your home's smart system, so you can set schedules for when they are on and off. Combined with the greater efficiency of LED bulbs, it isn't out of the question to save between 25% and 80% on the energy used by your lights when you make the switch to smart lights.
Why buy: The Philips Hue lighting system offers everything from starter kits and light strips to table lamps and bulbs. Though they can be a bit pricey, there's a lot that comes with it. They can be paired easily through a rather intuitive app, offer integrations with third-party devices, and even display a wide array of colors.
Why buy: If you're looking for a far more cost effective option, look no further than the Wyze Bulb. These smart Wi-Fi light bulbs will last up to 25,000 hours, and you can get 4 for under $40. Though it doesn't have the color option that the Hue does, it can pair with voice assistants like Google Assistant and Alexa to make for a convenient smart bulb setup.
Why buy: These Sengled Smart LED bulbs are also an affordable smart light option to help automate your home's lighting. Compatible with SmartThings, IFTTT, Google Assistant, and Alexa, it integrates smoothly with just about any smart home setup. The outdoor bulbs are weatherproof and come with the motion sensor for optimal usage.
Like smart bulbs, smart plugs and smart power strips can help mitigate wasted energy use. They work with compatible devices to control when they are running – think lamps, fans, appliances, air purifiers, etc. Even better, they come with the capability of handling 4 to 8 devices at once, making it a comprehensive hub for your electronics.
Though the savings here are not quite as dramatic, it adds up when paired with other smart energy-efficient devices. Some of the best will come with mobile apps, providing remote functionality.
Why buy: Though this Kasa Smart Plug Mini is meant to handle one or two devices at a time, it is perhaps the best on the market. It's highly affordable and can work with voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant by connecting to your Wi-Fi network. It also features schedule customization, timers, and even away modes to maximize your energy savings.
Why buy: This WeMo Wi-Fi smart plug remains affordable while still offering Alexa, Google Assistant, and even Apple HomeKit compatibility. The WeMo app allows you to control and schedule the plug from anywhere, and the plug itself comes in a compact, space-saving design that also allows for voice control.
Why buy: In addition to a single plug, you can also install a smart outlet to connect multiple devices. The iDevices Wall Outlet is great for automating lights, lamps, switches, fans, and any other electronics. It is compatible with most smart home systems, and can give you independent voice control of both the top and bottom outlets.
With smart sprinkler systems, water waste is kept to a minimum thanks to scheduling functions and improved fixtures that use water more efficiently.
Generally speaking, most EPA WaterSense-certified smart-controlled sprinklers can save up to 15% of the water applied versus a standard sprinkler system. In some areas, this can be huge, as 70% of outdoor water use can come from outdoor sprinklers.
Why buy: One of the best smart sprinklers available on the market, the Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller gives you wireless connectivity and 8-zone functionality, which makes it easier than ever to properly manage outdoor water usage. It is on the expensive side, but includes a feature that predicts weather changes to adjust your water use accordingly.
Why buy: A slightly more cost-effective option, the Orbit B-Hyve XR comes with great features, like an LED screen that shows live, real-time status updates. It uses WeatherSense technology to automatically adjust to the weather so you don't waste water. It also meets EPA WaterSense standards, and the B-Hyve app is available for free on iOS and Android devices.
Smart home energy monitors
There are now smart home energy monitors that attach directly to your home's electrical box. They work by monitoring your energy consumption in real-time and can show patterns of electrical usage over a day, week, or month.
Continuous monitoring, right down to the appliance level, can help you save on energy costs and acts as the baseline for energy conservation. These monitors can also show which appliances are falling behind in energy efficiency.
Why buy: This is a top-of-the-line energy monitor, and comes in both standard and solar variations. They plug into just about any existing electrical panel and then connect to a smart phone application that provides real-time data whenever you want it. Sense is a bit pricey, but comes with far more features and functionality than any of the others.
Why buy: This Efergy system provides a cost-effective means of monitoring your home's electrical usage. The device connects easily to any home electrical box for fast and easy installation that does not require an electrician. The downside to this particular system is that there is no smart phone application for live tracking, instead using a compact, portable display.
Why buy: Emporia's Vue monitoring system offers device detection that can show you the performance of individual appliances in your home. You can even set schedules for select appliances where applicable, providing a greater level of detail about your electric bill. With this system you can lower your energy costs and your emissions at the same time.
Other smart home products to consider
As comprehensive as this list is, it doesn't cover all of the smart devices out there. Home security systems, garage doors, and other appliances are now able to connect to your smart home system.
Refrigerators are becoming smarter, too. Not only can they cut down on energy usage, they can even create shopping lists based on the contents inside. Smart fridges have evolved to feature LED touch-screens and even web browsing.
Smart locks, doorbells, and security systems have made it easy to find peace-of-mind. Users can view cameras in real-time remotely and even use video doorbells to see who is at the door.
Smart TVs allow users to access their favorite apps, surf the web, and so much more, all through their remote. They also use much less energy than older models, and most are ENERGY STAR certified for efficiency.
Upgrade to a smart home to save energy
Upgrading your home to a smart setup has never been more beneficial. Whether you are looking to gain improved convenience and connectivity, cut down on energy costs, or both, smart home setups are the way to go. Combine any number of smart home devices to create the right setup for a more energy-efficient home.
Ryan Womeldorf is a freelance writer who covers technology and consumer goods, including smart home tech. He is a husband and father of two (five if you count his pups).
By Dana M Bergstrom, Euan Ritchie, Lesley Hughes and Michael Depledge
In 1992, 1,700 scientists warned that human beings and the natural world were "on a collision course." Seventeen years later, scientists described planetary boundaries within which humans and other life could have a "safe space to operate." These are environmental thresholds, such as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in land use.
The Good and Bad News<p><span>Ecosystems consist of living and non-living components, and their interactions. They work like a super-complex engine: when some components are removed or stop working, knock-on consequences can lead to system failure.</span></p><p>Our study is based on measured data and observations, not modeling or predictions for the future. Encouragingly, not all ecosystems we examined have collapsed across their entire range. We still have, for instance, some intact reefs on the Great Barrier Reef, especially in deeper waters. And northern Australia has some of the most intact and least-modified stretches of savanna woodlands on Earth.</p><p><span>Still, collapses are happening, including in regions critical for growing food. This includes the </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/importance-murray-darling-basin/where-basin" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Murray-Darling Basin</a><span>, which covers around 14% of Australia's landmass. Its rivers and other freshwater systems support more than </span><a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/latestproducts/94F2007584736094CA2574A50014B1B6?opendocument" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30% of Australia's food</a><span> production.</span></p><p><span></span><span>The effects of floods, fires, heatwaves and storms do not stop at farm gates; they're felt equally in agricultural areas and natural ecosystems. We shouldn't forget how towns ran out of </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/issues-murray-darling-basin/drought#effects" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">drinking water</a><span> during the recent drought.</span></p><p><span></span><span>Drinking water is also at risk when ecosystems collapse in our water catchments. In Victoria, for example, the degradation of giant </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/logging-must-stop-in-melbournes-biggest-water-supply-catchment-106922" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mountain Ash forests</a><span> greatly reduces the amount of water flowing through the Thompson catchment, threatening nearly five million people's drinking water in Melbourne.</span></p><p>This is a dire <em data-redactor-tag="em">wake-up</em> call — not just a <em data-redactor-tag="em">warning</em>. Put bluntly, current changes across the continent, and their potential outcomes, pose an existential threat to our survival, and other life we share environments with.</p><p><span>In investigating patterns of collapse, we found most ecosystems experience multiple, concurrent pressures from both global climate change and regional human impacts (such as land clearing). Pressures are often </span><a href="https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1365-2664.13427" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">additive and extreme</a><span>.</span></p><p>Take the last 11 years in Western Australia as an example.</p><p>In the summer of 2010 and 2011, a <a href="https://theconversation.com/marine-heatwaves-are-getting-hotter-lasting-longer-and-doing-more-damage-95637" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">heatwave</a> spanning more than 300,000 square kilometers ravaged both marine and land ecosystems. The extreme heat devastated forests and woodlands, kelp forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs. This catastrophe was followed by two cyclones.</p><p>A record-breaking, marine heatwave in late 2019 dealt a further blow. And another marine heatwave is predicted for <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/24/wa-coastline-facing-marine-heatwave-in-early-2021-csiro-predicts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">this April</a>.</p>
What to Do About It?<p><span>Our brains trust comprises 38 experts from 21 universities, CSIRO and the federal Department of Agriculture Water and Environment. Beyond quantifying and reporting more doom and gloom, we asked the question: what can be done?</span></p><p>We devised a simple but tractable scheme called the 3As:</p><ul><li>Awareness of what is important</li><li>Anticipation of what is coming down the line</li><li>Action to stop the pressures or deal with impacts.</li></ul><p>In our paper, we identify positive actions to help protect or restore ecosystems. Many are already happening. In some cases, ecosystems might be better left to recover by themselves, such as coral after a cyclone.</p><p>In other cases, active human intervention will be required – for example, placing artificial nesting boxes for Carnaby's black cockatoos in areas where old trees have been <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/factsheet-carnabys-black-cockatoo-calyptorhynchus-latirostris" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">removed</a>.</p><p><span>"Future-ready" actions are also vital. This includes reinstating </span><a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/a-burning-question-fire/12395700" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultural burning practices</a><span>, which have </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/australia-you-have-unfinished-business-its-time-to-let-our-fire-people-care-for-this-land-135196" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">multiple values and benefits for Aboriginal communities</a><span> and can help minimize the risk and strength of bushfires.</span></p><p>It might also include replanting banks along the Murray River with species better suited to <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/my-garden-path---matt-hansen/12322978" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">warmer conditions</a>.</p><p>Some actions may be small and localized, but have substantial positive benefits.</p><p>For example, billions of migrating Bogong moths, the main summer food for critically endangered mountain pygmy possums, have not arrived in their typical numbers in Australian alpine regions in recent years. This was further exacerbated by the <a href="https://theconversation.com/six-million-hectares-of-threatened-species-habitat-up-in-smoke-129438" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019-20</a> fires. Brilliantly, <a href="https://www.zoo.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Zoos Victoria</a> anticipated this pressure and developed supplementary food — <a href="https://theconversation.com/looks-like-an-anzac-biscuit-tastes-like-a-protein-bar-bogong-bikkies-help-mountain-pygmy-possums-after-fire-131045" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bogong bikkies</a>.</p><p><span>Other more challenging, global or large-scale actions must address the </span><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iICpI9H0GkU&t=34s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">root cause of environmental threats</a><span>, such as </span><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-018-0504-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">human population growth and per-capita consumption</a><span> of environmental resources.</span><br></p><p>We must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero, remove or suppress invasive species such as <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mam.12080" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">feral cats</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-buffel-kerfuffle-how-one-species-quietly-destroys-native-wildlife-and-cultural-sites-in-arid-australia-149456" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">buffel grass</a>, and stop widespread <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-reduce-fire-risk-and-meet-climate-targets-over-300-scientists-call-for-stronger-land-clearing-laws-113172" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">land clearing</a> and other forms of habitat destruction.</p>
Our Lives Depend On It<p>The multiple ecosystem collapses we have documented in Australia are a harbinger for <a href="https://www.iucn.org/news/protected-areas/202102/natures-future-our-future-world-speaks" target="_blank">environments globally</a>.</p><p>The simplicity of the 3As is to show people <em>can</em> do something positive, either at the local level of a landcare group, or at the level of government departments and conservation agencies.</p><p>Our lives and those of our <a href="https://theconversation.com/children-are-our-future-and-the-planets-heres-how-you-can-teach-them-to-take-care-of-it-113759" target="_blank">children</a>, as well as our <a href="https://theconversation.com/taking-care-of-business-the-private-sector-is-waking-up-to-natures-value-153786" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">economies</a>, societies and <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-address-the-ecological-crisis-aboriginal-peoples-must-be-restored-as-custodians-of-country-108594" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultures</a>, depend on it.</p><p>We simply cannot afford any further delay.</p><p><em><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dana-m-bergstrom-1008495" target="_blank" style="">Dana M Bergstrom</a> is a principal research scientist at the University of Wollongong. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/euan-ritchie-735" target="_blank" style="">Euan Ritchie</a> is a professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences at Deakin University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lesley-hughes-5823" target="_blank">Lesley Hughes</a> is a professor at the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-depledge-114659" target="_blank">Michael Depledge</a> is a professor and chair, Environment and Human Health, at the University of Exeter. </em></p><p><em>Disclosure statements: Dana Bergstrom works for the Australian Antarctic Division and is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Wollongong. Her research including fieldwork on Macquarie Island and in Antarctica was supported by the Australian Antarctic Division.</em></p><p><em>Euan Ritchie receives funding from the Australian Research Council, The Australia and Pacific Science Foundation, Australian Geographic, Parks Victoria, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC. Euan Ritchie is a Director (Media Working Group) of the Ecological Society of Australia, and a member of the Australian Mammal Society.</em></p><p><em>Lesley Hughes receives funding from the Australian Research Council. She is a Councillor with the Climate Council of Australia, a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and a Director of WWF-Australia.</em></p><p><em>Michael Depledge does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/existential-threat-to-our-survival-see-the-19-australian-ecosystems-already-collapsing-154077" target="_blank" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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