Sure, the smart home of the future might make you toast before you wake up, order your groceries automatically, and walk the dog without you having to put on your shoes… but did you know it might even be able to save you money too?
Though advancements like those found in Energy Star appliances get us half the way there, your monthly power bill will still continue to climb if you run an Energy Star-compliant air conditioner 18-hours a day.
No matter how much engineering went into making your A/C more efficient, only Internet-connected smart devices like the Nest Thermostat, GE Link Lightbulb, and assorted other WiFi-ready appliances will help keep more cash in your pocket when the bill collectors show up at the end of each month.
Of all the products we have listed here, smart thermostats like the Nest are probably the most easily recognizable to the public.
Nest first gained notoriety when Google snatched the company up for a cool $3.2 billion back in January of last year and quickly became the go-to reference point for the tech industry that the Internet of Things was primed to invade our homes sooner than anybody could have thought.
The (reasonable) concern, of course, is what does a company that makes the lion’s share of its profit off of advertising want with a piece of technology that keeps your home warm or cool?
Well, the “how” of how Nest works might help to clue you in.
The Nest lives up to the ‘smart’ portion of its moniker by selectively heating, or cooling, individual rooms in your house depending on where it senses the most activity. Instead of simply blasting out heat or A/C to every room in a home and hoping that the vents are closed in any rooms that are vacant, the Nest uses an array of sensors to detect not just which rooms have people in them at any given time but also the actual number of people that are present to decide how much power it needs to put into climate control every hour.
This means your house is never using any more energy than it absolutely has to. The Nest can also sense whether or not anyone is home at all, and will automatically shut off your heating or cooling as soon as it knows that the front door is shut behind you and your family.
The end result of this customized approach is a huge savings both in electricity and gas costs, as no more hot air is pumped out of your line than is required on any given day.
“Turn off the lights when you leave the room!”
Anyone who’s had energy-conscious parents (or are one themselves) have probably heard this rant at one point or another in their lives. As nighttime lighting – and our overuse of it – continues to be one of the greatest power drains in homes both old and modern, the solution to this age old problem comes in the form of smart lightbulbs.
Though they certainly aren’t anything new (some of the first versions were on the market as early as 2006), they still rank as one of the best ways to keep you can keep the energy costs of your home at a reasonable level throughout the night.
Smartbulbs are WiFi-enabled lightbulbs that screw into any standard socket in your home, and communicate with smartphone or desktop apps to tell you when they’re on, when they’re off, and which spot in the house is using them the most often.
Two of our favorite entries into this category of smart appliance include the GE Link bulbs, and the Phillips Hue Lux. Both come with individual apps that allow you to customize a wide array of settings, including variable brightnesses that accommodate to the specific time of day, scheduling that turns the bulbs on a few minutes before you wake up, and even the option to track your smartphone’s location so the lights will automatically shut off if they detect you’ve left the house altogether.
The lights can be had for an average of around $25 a bulb, (the Hue will run you about $40 per unit, while the GE Link comes in a bit cheaper at $15 a piece), and because they use LED technology to brighten up a room, can last for tens of thousands of hours before finally burning out.
This isn’t just a bonus for our environment, it also means you’ll end up spending less money over time replacing old-school iridescents that pop and fizz out in less than a hundred hours at most. Sure, the upfront cost might be a bit scary, but when you do the math, it’s hard to make any other choice.
Smart Washer/Dryer Combos
But what good is a smart home if all your devices aren’t secretly talking to each other behind your back?
Enter the new line of energy-efficient smart washer/dryer combos from Whirlpool. The Whirlpool Duet machines are washers and dryers that have been folded into the family of “Works with Nest” appliances, utilizing the Nest’s sensors to find out when you’re at home, at work, or on vacation, and adjusting their cycles accordingly.
Some nifty features in this realm include the ability to talk to the Nest to find out if anyone is in the house after a wash load is finished. If not, the washer will turn on a slow, air-dry tumble that keeps your clothes from getting mildewy while you’re away, thus preventing the need for another wash afterward.
Similarly, the dryer can use something called an “Airflow Alert”, which will text or email you if it detects a blockage in the air vents that could prevent the dryer from pulling out moisture as efficiently as possible in each load.
Both appliances also come with the “Smart Delay” feature, which means they won’t turn on between peak energy usage hours (usually 3pm – 6pm in most regions), without asking for a specific override first. This addition not only saves you money, but also helps to lessen the strain on the grid while the majority of people are at home and running energy-intensive products like hair dryers, TVs, and microwaves.
Speaking of microwaves, what home of the future would be complete without a few Internet-connected kitchen gadgets?
By tuning in with the Nest, appliances hooked up to the LG HomeChat network can synergise with the thermostat and pull data down about when you’re home or away to tune their power settings accordingly.
Fridges, ovens, dishwashers, and microwaves under flying the LG flag can all enter what’s called “energy saving mode”, which will alter how much power they pull down depending on whether or not the occupants of a particular residence are present or not.
HomeChat even allows your appliances to text you with friendly reminders to turn them off when they’ve been inactive for too long, and allow you to control them depending on the commands sent back and forth between you and your automated devices.
And to close out, we have the windows; the last culprit you’d expect. Though you probably wouldn’t believe it without reading it here first, the windows in your home can let in over 40 percent of unwanted heat during the summertime months, a figure that homeowners will try and compensate for simply by cranking the A/C up an extra few notches instead of shutting their curtains or blinds.
Well now, you don’t have to compromise between enjoying a little natural light in your living room and keeping things comfortable with SmartTint window film. SmartTint acts like a pair of transition sunglasses for your whole home, which can be activated or de-activated with the push of a button. When applied to any windows that directly face the sun, the film will gently tint the glass so all the UVB and UVA rays that carry the most heat with them are blocked out, while the light itself is still able to pour in.
This means that your house stays cooler for longer during the most punishingly hot portions of the day. Less heat equals less cooling, and less cooling means less money you’ll have to shell out when the electric company comes knocking at the end of each 30-day cycle.
While we may not live in a futurists world reminiscent of something you’d see on the Jetsons just yet, the smart home of the future isn’t nearly as far off as you might think.
Devices like the Nest Thermostat, the GE Link smartbulb, and Smart Film are introducing subtle, but substantial technologies into our caves that make things a bit more comfortable, all while saving you precious cash on your monthly bills along the way.