Can a Smart Home Help You Save Energy?

Smart home technology has exploded in popularity since the first-generation Nest Learning Thermostat was released back in 2011. In fact, smart speakers featuring digital assistants like Alexa and Siri are one of the fastest-growing consumer technologies in recent times.

And for good reason, too. These connected devices can provide numerous benefits around comfort, convenience, peace of mind and financial savings. Depending on the device and how it’s used in your home, you may also be able to become more energy-efficient by using smart home technology.

Let’s look at three actions you can take to save energy with smart home devices:

1. Control your home’s lighting and appliances remotely or with voice commands.

Did you know that many appliances in your home (including TVs, coffee makers and microwaves) can’t be turned off completely without being unplugged? This is called “standby power” or “vampire energy” and can account for 10 percent of your home's total energy use. Fortunately, smart power strips and outlets can automatically detect when a device is not in use and effectively “unplug” the device. You can also shut off devices from your smartphone while on the go.

There are a few other ways you can cut down on wasted energy. For example, with smart light bulbs and a smart speaker, you can say “It’s bedtime” and all the lights in your home will turn off. And if you have a smart thermostat, you can set adjust your home’s temperature when you’re away – or some will even detect that you’re not home and adjust the temperature accordingly. Since heating and cooling account for about half of a home’s energy use, this can save you quite a bit of money.

2. Find out what’s using the most energy with a smart outlet or energy monitor.

Smart HomeSome smart home devices can give you more data about your home’s energy use, which can be invaluable in the quest to make your home more energy-efficient. Many (but not all) smart power strips and outlets have this capability. Using the accompanying app, you can see the real-time energy usage of anything plugged into the smart outlet or power strip.

One journalist used a smart outlet to identify that an old refrigerator in the basement was using over $40 in electricity per month and that a small space heater in his office was averaging $98 per month to run. He also noted that his main refrigerator was using about $30 in electricity per month and replaced it with a more energy-efficient model that uses about $3 per month.

While using one or two smart outlets and moving them around your home is probably the most affordable option to get more energy data, there are also connected devices that detect the energy use of all of your home’s electric devices. For example, the Sense home energy monitor connects to your home’s electrical panel and gives you detailed insights and notifications through their smartphone app. If you want really detailed insights on your home’s energy use, this may be the best bet for you – however, it will set you back about $300.

3. Enroll in a new electric rate and shift your energy use to a different time of the day.

Finally, you may be able to reduce how much you pay each month on your power bill by enrolling in a new electric rate or other program through your power company. For example, your power company may have a program where you can earn bill credits for not using power during times of high electricity usage in your area (typically around 4 - 7 p.m.). They may also offer an electric rate that varies throughout the day and where electricity is cheaper if you avoid that high usage time of day.

If you participate in one of these rates or programs (often called a time-of-use rate or a peak-time rebate program), smart devices can shift your energy use to when prices are lowest. Examples would be scheduling your electric car to charge, running a pool pump or even washing your clothes outside of the costliest hours. A smart thermostat may also be able to automatically shift energy use to less expensive times. In general, your power company can be a good resource for ways on how you can save money by shifting your energy use to different times.

Yes, smart home devices can save energy around your home!

While it may seem counterintuitive on the surface to say that adding more electric devices to your home can reduce your energy usage, there’s ample data out there suggesting that smart home devices can help you cut down your energy bills.

In addition, many power companies now help customers access smart home devices. One example is the online utility marketplace, an Amazon-like website that allows you to purchase smart home and energy-efficient products, often with a significant rebate. For example, on ComEd Marketplace, a website for Illinois’ largest power company, customers can purchase a Google Nest Thermostat E for $69 after instant rebate.

Some power companies may even give you a free smart thermostat or a significant rebate if you enroll in a time-of-use rate or peak-time rebate program mentioned above. If you’re looking to save on your energy bills with smart home devices, you may want to check with your power company first to see if they have any programs or rebates suitable for you.

If you’re looking for ways that you can engage in energy and start saving money around your home, check out our three Ways to Save on Energy fact sheets here.

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