Smart Homes and Energy Savings: How to Boost Your Score

This is a writing sample from Scripted writer Patrick Hearn

According to the Energy Information Administration, the average homeowner spent about $114 per month in energy costs in 2015. That's just electricity costs. That number doesn't figure in average monthly costs for water, gas and other necessities. With energy being such a big portion of your monthly budget, it's important to minimize waste. Thankfully, smart homes can not only monitor your energy usage but also use energy more efficiently overall. Here's how you can start using smart home tools to save.

Invest in an energy monitor.

Smart energy monitors can attach to your home's power grid and supply you with detailed reports on your usage patterns. Many of these monitors also provide suggestions on how to further improve efficiency; for example, if your lights make up a disproportionate amount of your energy bill, the monitor might suggest switching to LEDs.

Cook smart—with a smart oven.

Ovens use anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 watts to cook even a simple meal. If you live in a hot area like I do, you know that using the oven in the summer can also make your home hotter. Every time you open the door, the air temperature increases, which in turn causes the air conditioning to work harder. Smart ovens help by not only reducing the amount of time it takes to cook a meal (sometimes by up to 25%), but they can also eliminate the need for preheating due to carbon fiber heating elements. You'll get to eat dinner faster without turning your kitchen into a sauna.

Use a smart thermostat.

Smart thermostats monitor your energy usage and patterns. For example, if you come home from work and reduce the temperature from 75 to 72 degrees, within a few weeks the thermostat will begin to do this for you. Smart thermostats also can be paired with motion sensors to automatically turn off the air when no one is home. Many smart thermostats can pull data from the internet and begin subtly adjusting the internal temperature of a home, so the heating and cooling system does not have to work as hard to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature—especially when no one is home.

Smart thermostats can reduce cooling costs by as much as 15% and heating by as much as 12%.

With savings like those, it doesn't take long for the device to pay for itself.

Don't forget to turn out the lights.

Estimates state that as much as 25% of your utility bill is spent on lighting alone, but there's a lot you can do to reduce that. Automatic timers are an inexpensive way to turn on lights only when they're needed (light sensors do the same, but they aren't programmable). Motion sensors placed throughout your home will automatically shut off the lights in a room if no motion is detected for a certain amount of time.

Even if you don't want the lights completely off, dimming them can help. A great example of how a smart home can do this is through your home theater system: When you want to set just the right mood for your movie night, link your lights to your television to dim automatically when your program starts. This reduces energy consumption without leaving you totally in the dark.

Use a proton pack—er, a smart outlet.

If you've never heard of "ghost load," it refers to standby power, or the amount of power appliances use on standby mode. If one of your appliances has an LED screen (like those on coffee pots and microwaves) then it likely pulls power even when not in use. The amount of power these appliances use isn't much individually, but the usage cost of all of them together can add up to more than $100 per year.

A smart outlet can eliminate power drain by shutting off energy access during certain hours of the day. For example, if you only use your coffee pot between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m., a smart outlet can enable power only during that timeframe. Reducing standby power drain may seem like more hassle than it's worth, but think of it this way: $100 per year is almost a full month's energy bill.

Save smart.

How does your home score when it comes to energy savings? The ability to turn lights on and off with your voice, automatically turn down the heat, and all of the other bells and whistles of a modern smart home are convenient, but they also offer the added bonus of reducing the amount of power you use. For added effectiveness and efficiency, consider a home automation service that can make it easy for you to monitor and control these devices on one platform. (Your internet service provider can help.) Both your wallet and the planet will thank you; a lower carbon footprint benefits everyone.

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Patrick Hearn
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