As companies continue to convert traditional appliances into smart devices, consumers are still trying to understand what makes a device truly “smart” and which ones to purchase first.
There are many definitions of “smart devices”, but we consider “smart” to be mean devices connected to a network via WiFi, Bluetooth, 4G, ZWave, or any of the other wireless protocols and are equipped with software that can optimize their functions automatically.
Thermostats help lead the latest generation of smart home devices. For generations, people controlled their HVAC system by turning a dial on their wall. If you wanted a different temperature when you were home than when you were at work, you had to manually change it before you left, and most people forgot to do it. Programmable thermostats allowed people to have different temperature settings and even set the thermostat to start cooling their home before they arrived so that the temperature was perfect when they arrived. Though the functionality was there, most people didn’t program their programmable thermostat, so it didn’t have a lot of impact on lowering a homeowner’s electricity bill.
When Nest, ecobee, Honeywell, and others introduced their smart thermostat, the world was introduced to a thermostat that made decisions on its own. These thermostats did what humans often forgot to do with programmable thermostats – determine the optimal temperature both when they were home and when the house was empty. The new smart thermostats determine when the home is vacant by using sensors, which removes the chance that people will forget to change the dial or program their thermostat. Smart thermostats also know a person’s temperature preference based on past settings and will begin pre-heating or cooling the home based on weather, time of day, and the occupancy of the home. Because they are connected to the internet, these devices can be controlled remotely, so if you forgot to change your temperature setting before you left, you can change it from thousands of miles away.
Because heating and cooling make up nearly 50 percent of your home’s energy consumption, smart thermostats have the potential to be the biggest energy-saving smart devices. Smart thermostats can reduce a home’s electricity bill by as much as 20 percent.
According to the Energy Information Association, 30 percent of a home’s energy usage is dedicated to lighting and appliances. Smart light bulbs have the potential to save you money, especially if you’re switching from the old incandescent bulbs to new LEDs. Though they cost more initially, LEDs are about 75 percent less expensive over their lifetime than comparable incandescent bulbs. Plus, with smart lights, your system will automatically shut your lights off when you are away and even dim the lights when there is sufficient natural light coming through windows. Though smart light bulbs are more expensive than normal LEDs, if used correctly, they have the potential to save you some money. If you have already bought a smart thermostat, your next purchase should be smart light bulbs if you are prioritizing your “smart” purchases based on much energy you can save.
Not all smart devices save you money – and for some people, that’s totally fine. Many consumers value the convenience and wow-factor that these devices offer so much that they are willing to dish out some extra cash to enjoy it. Smart appliances such as televisions, speakers, and security cameras aren’t going to lower your electricity bill, but they do have plenty of features that will impress your friends and make your life a little more convenient.