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When designing smart cities, one of the main goals of experts is to improve energy efficiency.
Data gleaned from sensors is used to improve energy management by predicting demand and responding accordingly via smart grids.
Smart homes are a miniature version of smart cities with a similar goal to improve energy efficiency.
That’s actually one of the biggest benefits of investing in smart gadget and devices for your home. Your energy bills go down.
But how exactly do smart devices help save energy?
For one, they are naturally energy-efficient like most other modern gadgets and appliances.
A modern fridge, smart or not, is going to use much less energy than a similar-sized fridge that’s a decade old. Same goes for other devices like televisions, sound systems and lights.
But the biggest way that smart devices reduce energy expenditure is by improving energy management.
Smart Energy Management
A lot of advice out there on saving energy at home relies on human actions: switching off lights in unoccupied rooms, switching to energy-efficient devices, taking shorter showers and so on.
But to be honest, most of us suck at it.
But what if we let smart machines and artificial intelligence do it for us?
That’s exactly what happens in a smart home.
Take smart WiFi thermostats, some of the best smart devices when it comes to improving home energy efficiency.
With traditional thermostats, you are the one who manually increases or lowers temperature. But a smart thermostat can automatically configure temperature for better energy management.
Using temperature and motion sensors, it can lower temperature when no one’s around, ensure even heating or cooling and focus energy usage only in occupied rooms.
Some thermostats such as the Nest Learning Thermostat can even learn from your preferences and automatically set the ideal temperature. This ensures you stay comfortable while still saving on your heating bill.
Many other smart home devices use a range of techniques to improve energy management. They all work based on the principle of using less energy when not in use.
For instance, lights that switch off automatically when you leave a room. Smart outdoor solar lights that automatically run at night and charge during the day. Smart showers that help you use less water and electricity and so on.
Showing people how much energy they use has been shown to make people more conscious about how they use gadgets and appliances.
A case study carried out in Shanghai, China showed a correlation between energy usage awareness and increased energy savings.
It involved two groups of households.
In the first group of houses, smart display meters were installed. These meters displayed real time and historical power usage readings.
In the second group of houses, non-display meters were used.
At the end of the study researchers found that homes without smart display meters used 9.1% more power than homes with display meters.
Furthermore, homes equipped with the smart meters reduced standby power usage by 12.9%.
Standby power (or vampire power) is energy used by appliances and devices when in standby mode.
Individuals in households with smart meters became more disciplined about completely switching off appliances when they were not in use. They enjoyed larger energy savings.
Today there are many smart devices that can help you monitor your power consumption at home. Most will show you which appliances are drawing the most power and which times of the day have the largest power spikes.
This information can help you save energy.
The Best Smart Devices to Improve Home Energy Efficiency
A smart WiFi thermostat should be the first smart devices you get if you don’t have one already.
The AC is the biggest consumer of power at home. It’s only logical that you start with it when looking for areas where you can improve energy efficiency.
Read our in-depth smart thermostat buying guide to find the right one for your home. We compare popular brands including Ecobee, Nest and Honeywell.
From there, try to replace most of your old appliances and gadgets with new smart alternatives that are more energy efficient. These include the TV (modern LED and OLED TVs use less power), lights and appliances like the fridge and washer.
If it’s too expensive to replace an appliance, at least get a smart plug for it.
With a smart plug, you can turn the appliance on/off remotely or program it to turn on/off at certain times. Some smart plugs also allow you to monitor power usage.
When people talk about smart homes, they mostly rave about their conveniences. But what most leave out is their energy-saving benefits.
This is not just good for your pocket, it’s also great for the environment.