Smart Technologies for Home
Let's face it, not every homeowner can afford solar panels, or has a home that is suitable for solar. Moreover, there are a lot of renters out there who would also like to find ways to reduce their electricity bill, help the environment, and make their lives simpler. That's where smart technologies for your home come into play, but the wide variety of technologies on the market can make deciding where to start somewhat overwhelming.
When it comes to reducing your electricity consumption, probably the two most popular technologies are energy efficient LED light bulbs and smart thermostats. But there are other technologies available that can help you monitor which appliances and gadgets in your home are using the most electricity and others that can tackle your home's phantom or vampire load (electronic devices that are off but still drawing electricity).
You might also be considering other environmentally friendly home improvements that can reduce waste like light switches that turn off automatically, low flow shower heads or cooling fans instead of air conditioners in locations that aren't hot, hot, hot all the time.
Whatever your motivation, smart home technologies are designed to help you and the enviroment. To make reading this article easier, we've broken it down into categories with a helpful table of contents (found below the following table) so you can jump to what ever technology interests you!
Smart Energy Efficient Technologies
- 1. Energy Efficient LED Light Bulbs
- 2. Smart Thermostats
- 3. Smart Power Strips
- 4. Electricity Usage Monitors
- 5. Smart Light Switches
- 6. Low Flow Shower Heads
- 7. Cooling Fans
- 8. Other Smart Home Improvements
LED stands for light-emitting diode, and one of the main benefits of LED light bulbs is that you can produce a lot more light for a lot less energy. Moreover, LED bulbs do not produce the heat that incandescent bulbs produce which is an important feature in hot climates.
LED light bulbs come with different qualities of light measured with K ratings, where K stands for Kelvins. Bulbs up to 3,000k produce a warm, slightly yellow light where as bulbs from 3,200k to 4,500k produce a cool white light. If you plan on installing dimmable bulbs, you'll also have to change out your dimmer switch to be compatible with LED bulbs.
While LED bulbs are somewhat more expensive to purchase than incandescent bulbs, they last much longer, saving you on replacement costs in the long run, and saving you electricity all the while.
A smart thermostat is more than just a programmable thermostat. Smart thermostats give you more options for controlling your heating or cooling, with multiple sensors that measure temperature in more than just one location. Moreover smart thermostats allow you to fine-tune your heating/cooling system remotely with your smart phone.
Some smart thermostats go a step further with a feature called geo-fencing and can keep track of when your home is occupied and in need of heat/cooling, and when it's empty and unnecessary. Of course, this feature is only useful if everyone in your home carries a smart phone.
There are quite a few smart thermostats on the market, and they don't all come with the same features so it's important to consider whether you want your smart thermostat to control other devices in your home, in addition to your heating/cooling, such as humidifiers, fans, and lighting to name a few.
Smart power strips are designed to reduce/eliminate waste caused by phantom or vampire loads. Even when your appliances are off they can still be drawing electricity from the grid. Smart power strips shut down power to devices that are not in use, saving electricity and money.
Of course, you could go around unplugging all the devices that you are not using but that would be very cumbersome. With smart power strips you don't need to because they are designed to monitor the electricity consumption of each device separately, cutting power to the ones that have dropped into stand-by mode.
Smart power strips can come with one or two "always on" outlets for devices that you never want to shut down. Moreover, most smart power strips come with USB ports for the many devices that are connected to computer systems via USB.
You may be curious about which appliances/devices in your home consume the most electricity, while in use or even when they're not in use (see above where we discuss phantom power). An electricity usage monitor allows you to keep track of electricity consumption. You simply plug the monitor into the outlet first and then plug your device into the monitor.
Electricity Usage Monitors are useful for calculating the cost of running various devices in your home, so you can assess where you best can conserve electricity and save money. Who knows, you may discover that your old fridge needs replacing with an energy-efficient model or you may decide to invest in a smart power strip so that you don't draw power when your devices are in stand-by mode.
Do you leave the room and forget to turn off the lights, or do you have kids that constantly need reminding to not waste electricity? Smart light switches are designed to know when a room is empty by detecting fine motion and then shut off the lights when the room is unoccupied. Smart light switches can also assess whether there is sufficient daylight in the room to not necessitate additional light.
Smart light switches can also be useful in spaces where your hands may be full, making it difficult to turn off the light, like a laundry room. Some come with features that allow you to keep the room dark, for example if you go to bed before your partner, and you don't want to be woken by a light that comes on automatically when another person (or your pet!) enters the room.
It may not be immediately obvious how a low flow shower head helps reduce your electricity bill, but if you heat your water with electricity, reducing the amount you use the next time you shower will do more than conserve water (another environmentally friendly home improvement!).
A low flow shower head can reduce water consumption by 40%, and if you like your showers to be extra hot, this can translate into significant savings, which is good for the planet and your wallet. When considering a low flow shower head, look for one designed to deliver a strong full spray so that you don't compromise on quality the next time you step into the shower.
If you live in a location where it's not hot and humid all year round, you may opt for quality cooling fans instead of air conditioning, in order to reduce your electricity consumption. There are a lot of fans on the market, from small table-top models to larger tower fans, from simple on/off models to fully prigrammable fans, so it's a question of determining what meets your needs best.
While consuming less energy than an air conditioner, it's still important to look at the specs for cooling fans to see how much power they consumer. Some models, like Dyson's Air Multiplier desk fan uses air multiplying technology, rather than fan blades, to produce 15 times more airflow for 40% less energy than traditional desk fans. Of course, this fancy technology comes with a price, and you may prefer to look at less expensive cooling fans. Whatever you choose, you'll be saving electricity and helping the environment.
This is by no means an extensive list of energy saving measures you can consider for your home. This was simply a round-up of some of the smart home technologies that can help reduce your electricity consumption - technologies that are available to homeowners and renters alike in most cases.
In case you're wondering about other ways to reduce your electricity consumption, there are some bigger home improvements you can consider, such as getting better, more insulating windows, or improving your home insulation. Others may be interested in geo-thermal heating to replace their current electric heating. And some homeowners will want to take the additional step of generating their own electricity. If you've ever wondered about whether solar panels make sense for you, we have many tools and resources to help you better understand the cost and the available solar rebates in the United States and Canada.
Of course not everyone will be able to afford these bigger investments, but most homeowners/renters can take a few easy (and relatively inexpensive) steps to reduce their electricity consumption. If you have other suggestions, please share them with us and other readers in the Comments section below!
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