Home automation tech is fun because it makes your life easier. But it can also save you some money too. Many times, your investment can pay for itself in just a few years. Stick around, and I’ll cover the best smart home gadgets for saving money and give you an idea of how much you can save.
First, it should be said that I’ve only picked the stuff that’ll have a shot at paying for itself over its lifetime.
That being said, I’ll cover honorable mentions at the end, because this all depends on how you use them in your home. A savings of $10 in a year for one person can easily be $30 for another.
We’ll cover everything from HVAC efficiency to saving money on your lighting by adding motion sensors to existing outdoor lights so they’re only on when they’re needed.
Let’s get started!
USING SMART THERMOSTATS TO SAVE MONEY
First on the list is likely the biggest utility bill you have for your home, climate control!
Your biggest savings will likely be from buying and installing a smart thermostat. The Nest is the leader for name recognition. But, I am seeing Ecobee being recommended over Nest consistently in the last year and believe they are the best of the breed. I think the ability to monitor multiple rooms with add-on sensors and adjust the setpoint to keep individual rooms at an optimum temperature is key to the Ecobee’s success.
I actually just chose a good Z-Wave thermostat myself, so there are plenty of options.
It doesn’t seem like turning the heat up when you’re in a cold room would help save costs, but if it keeps you from permanently adjusting the thermostat up in frustration, it can save you a lot of money in the long run.
Another advantage of a smart thermostat, it is smart enough to change the temperature when you leave and adjust it again when you come home. That’s where your savings really start to add up. That’s especially true for a family with irregular schedules that aren’t well-served by a simple programmable thermostat, something like a Nest or Ecobee can really save you money.
1. COST SAVINGS WITH SMART VENTS
One new entry into the smart heating and cooling market is smart vents. They open and close as needed based on occupancy, directing the heat (or chilled air) to the rooms where people can actually feel it! Novel concept, right?
Of course, there is one caveat here. Many HVAC systems are designed for a specific size home and flow rate based on the number of registers, and drastically changing that can put stress on your system and reduce its expected life. Many folks that know more than I do about air conditioners have warned about that problem. Thankfully, Keen has addressed that in a post explaining how their embedded pressure sensors ensure that no stress is placed on your system. But, you may want to check to see how each vent handles the problem before you purchase one.
The savings could really add up since most of us only use 1/4 of our homes at any given time (yes, I completely made that statistic up based on my own experience).
Here are your current options:
2. REDUCING ELECTRICITY USE WITH OCCUPANCY SENSORS
Occupancy sensors most often take the form of motion sensors, though beacon technology using smartphones is coming into the mainstream as well. The general idea is that lights and even heating and air conditioning controls can use the knowledge of where you are in your home to save you money. In a room with several incandescent bulbs that you use a lot, buying a new LED smart bulb can pay for itself in a little over a year.
Just check out the calculations I did for motion detection on floodlights to get an idea. Of course, you have to cut that number to around $10 since a 60 W bulb uses less electricity than a floodlight.
You could argue that motion-activated lights don’t really qualify as a “smart home” gadget. But, I think anything that doesn’t require physical input is “smart” on the basis that it’s more intelligent than 98% of what is in homes today.
These have been around for decades now, and you can pick them up at your local big-box home improvement retailer.
Simple occupancy switches can really help in rooms or areas that don’t get used a lot where lights may be inadvertently left on for long periods (anyone has children and teenagers?). Think basements, closets, and garages.
At $15, the payoff for an occupancy switch will be more in convenience, but at around $.005 per hour for a 40-watt bulb, the savings can add up over time.
3. PREVENTING FIRE DAMAGE WITH SMART SMOKE DETECTORS
The NFPA estimates that you’re nearly as likely to lose your home in a fire as you are to be burglarized. And, fires cause much more cost of property loss per year in the US than burglaries do.
Fires cause over twice the property damage per year than burglaries, approximately $11.6 billion
So, while you won’t save every day by having a connected smoke detector, you may save big if a fire happens in your home.
Rather than your home being a total loss if you’re at work or on vacation when a fire starts, a timely notification on your phone can let you call 911 and get the fire put out quickly, greatly reducing your losses.
Here are your options:
- Roost WiFi smoke alarm battery
- iSmartAlarm Spot security camera with CO and smoke alarm detection
- Nest Protect
- First Alert Z-Wave Smoke and CO Alarm
4. PREVENTING BURGLARIES WITH SMART SECURITY SYSTEMS
Didn’t think I’d leave without talking about home security, did you?
As we covered above, burglaries cost us about $5B per year in the US and the average loss per home is about $1200.
I know that’s a bill I want to avoid! And, there’s a strong psychological cost of someone violating your home as well.
With all of that being said, a security system with home automation devices that alerts you are great ways to limit your losses if you are burglarized. In the best scenario, a burglar would immediately flee when hearing an alarm. If not, they’ll certainly have to rush to snag your valuables, more than likely missing jewelry and guns in the process.
Those are wins in my book!
There are too many great options to list for the security systems, so I’ll just link you to our security system comparisons.
You can also save money using dimming smart bulbs or dimmer switches. The idea is that based on the existing lighting, you can use just enough light for the activity you need, rather than the full light from a standard bulb. Since LED bulbs don’t use a lot of electricity to start with, you aren’t going to save a lot of money. We’re talking a cup of coffee a year or less. But, it’s worth a mention.
And, you have to be careful to get LED bulbs that are compatible with your dimmer switch. Many cannot handle the reduced voltage on the supply line that is used to dim conventional incandescent bulbs and can emit a humming sound when used together and even fail prematurely.