From anywhere in the country, we can change our home's temperature, see who is at our front door and control how much water our lawn is receiving.
Modern living definitely comes with serious connectivity and convenience. With that, it also requires more energy to power all of the gadgets that earn a place in the average American home.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average U.S. home used 10,972 kWh of electricity for the year of 2018 — or 914 kWh a month. When it comes to dollars, that translated to an average monthly electric bill of $117.65.
As new technologies emerge, we can combine the items we use to manage our homes with more energy efficient versions. Smart home devices are also becoming more affordable. By cutting down on energy consumption, you can reduce your utility bills and contribute to a better environment.
Plus, many smart home technologies make life easier with features like automation, tracking and monitoring. Here are our picks for best eco-friendly home technology that not only lowers your impact on the environment, but can also save you money.
Heating our living spaces makes up 42% of our energy usage, so a smart thermostat offers the biggest bang for your buck in lowering your energy consumption. The Google Nest Learning Thermostat only takes half an hour to install and works with the majority of U.S. residential heating and cooling systems. You can use the app to adjust the temperature, whether you’re home or not. The thermostat also changes the temperature automatically based on your habits, so that you’re not keeping your home hotter or colder than it needs to be when you’re not there. Users estimate a savings between 10% and 15% when using a Google Nest thermostat.
The EPA estimates that the average American household utilizes 300 gallons of water each day. Using less water can help preserve reservoirs, lakes, rivers and other important bodies of water (and their ecosystems). To help cut back on your sprinkler use, a Wifi controller can optimize your lawn's health.
Rachio is a top-rated option that is compatible with Alexa. It has built-in features to help you cut back on your lawn watering, like skipping it when it rains or if it’s too windy for the water to saturate your grass evenly. You can also manually control your sprinklers straight from the smartphone app. It also takes into account things like your soil type and sun exposure. Rachio is user-friendly and only takes 30 minutes to install.
Your water heater accounts for around 17% of your home’s overall energy use, so this is a great appliance to tackle and realize major savings on your utility bill. Installing a solar water heater lets the sun do the hard work of heating your water, rather than your gas or electric company. It can also save you money over time, not to mention potentially qualify you for some tax credits or deductions.
There are several different types of solar water heaters. One of the most reputable and well-reviewed is the Duda 200-liter water heater split system dual coil tank. The panel of tube collectors sits on your roof or other sunny spot, while the water is stored in a water tank.
Homes are equipped with more electronics and appliances than ever before. Incorporating smart plugs at your outlets can help you better manage your energy use. The Wemo Insight Smart Plug, for example, is voice activated and lets you monitor your energy costs on the app. You can also set it to an “Away Mode” when you’re traveling to simulate your light usage, so it looks as though you are home.
Another option is Aoycocr Smart Plugs. They come in a miniature version to save space. You can also share your account with multiple family members so everyone has access. The brand incorporates Alexa and Google Home Assistant.
Power your home office, entertainment center and other areas with lots of electronics using a smart power strip. One major benefit is that they can protect your electronics from power surges. Plus, many come with built-in USB outlets for an easy charging station that doesn’t take up too much room (or require you to search for a wall charger).
The Gosund Smart Power Strip is voice activated and also comes with an app. You don’t need to use any type of central hub to operate multiple power strips. There’s also a scheduling feature so unused power strips power off automatically at night or when you’re out of town. It’s also compact and easy to carry no matter where you go.
WiFi light bulbs are another simple way to incorporate cost-saving smart tech in your home. You can find versions that function both indoors and outdoors. Because you can control your lights from your phone, you can turn lights off and on remotely from any location. For instance, after leaving your house in the morning, you may remember you forgot to turn off the bathroom light. Simply dim the light from your app so the bulb doesn’t stay on all day. When you’re on your way home at night, you can turn the lights on before you arrive so you pull up to a warmly lit house.
Kasa Smart Light Bulbs have thousands of positive ratings. They are dimmable so you can pick your own level of ambience. It also responds to voice control with Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana.
The shower is another area where you can incorporate smart home features to limit your water use while also creating a relaxing experience. Hydrao is a leader in the space with three showerhead styles available to choose from. The company estimates an annual savings of $130 when you switch to their product. There’s even an online calculator to input your household’s specific details to get a more accurate savings estimate.
Hydrao’s showerhead helps to conserve water by emitting a colored light that lets you know how much water you’ve used. It starts with green and progresses to blue, purple, red and finally blinking red to indicate you’ve used as much as 40 liters. It’s ideal for households with multiple people taking showers so the last person doesn’t get stuck with cold water.
WiFi Speed Considerations
It’s important to think about the WiFi bandwidth needed to run multiple smart home gadgets at one time (especially if you’re also streaming media or using a video conferencing app). Any smart technology that involves a video feed is the most likely to slow down your WiFi speed. Make sure your internet plan has a download speed of at least 10 mbps for anything requiring video. If the app doesn’t require video, you should be ok with a minimum of 5 mbps.
As you begin to explore all of the smart home accessories available today, start off with the ones that will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Saving money and lowering your utility bills have a positive impact both on your finances and the broader world. By incorporating these features in your home, you’ll conserve more electricity, gas and water. Plus, you’ll have a better understanding of how your daily habits can make a positive change on the environment.