High electric bills are like in-laws who stop in from out of town without warning — you can’t always plan for them. Increasing energy charges can be overwhelming (to say the least), but implementing changes to combat the extra costs can be just as overwhelming.
Surprise in-law visits would be easier if you had a smart oven that prepared and cooked their favorite meal and a robot vacuum cleaner that tidied the house as soon as your in-laws were on their way. We can't do that for in-laws — yet — but you can use smart tech to make those surprise energy bills less stressful.
Switching to a smart-home setup can give you more control over your electricity usage without sacrificing the comforts that make your house a home.
1. Opt for a Smart Thermostat
A smart thermostat is a device that connects to your Wi-Fi so you can change its temperature settings wirelessly, even while you’re out of the house. A smart thermostat is a great addition to your smart home because it allows you to easily control the amount of energy you’re using on heating and cooling each month by allowing you to change the temperature of your home with just a few taps on your smartphone.
Using a smart thermostat, you can cut down on energy costs by 10% just by turning down the temperature by 10%–15% for eight hours a day. According to Amit Gami, the managing director of Heat Pump Chooser, “Having a smart thermostat is the best energy-saving practice since heating and cooling consume more energy than home appliances.” (Since your thermostat could be the biggest culprit for your debt to the electric company, it’s worth looking into!)
Use an app to turn your thermostat back a few degrees as you sit down at your work desk for the day, and you could easily save on your electric bill with just a few clicks. If you think a smart thermostat is right for your home, take a look at Mysa’s Smart Thermostat for AC and Mini-Split Heat Pumps.
2. Pair LED Light Bulbs with Smart Lighting Software
LED light bulbs are solid-state lighting devices (SSL) that fit standard light bulb connections and produce light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to light a space. LED bulbs are more energy-friendly than regular incandescent bulbs because they emit less heat, tend to last longer, and are a less costly option than other alternatives like compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). Regular incandescent bulbs, on the other hand, lose around 90% of their energy as heat and don’t last as long as LEDs.
Smart lighting management software allows you to control your lighting through an app either by turning lights on or off, dimming lights, or automatically turning lights off at certain times of the day. With smart lighting, you can always make sure your lights are only on when you need them. For instance, if you leave the house and can’t remember whether you turned the bedroom light off on your way out, you can tap into an app and opt to turn the bedroom lights off even though you’re not at home.
To stack energy savings, pair LED light bulbs with smart lighting software to control or automate your light usage each month.
“Smart lighting can do several things to help you save money on your electric bill. For example, some systems will allow you to turn off the lights in rooms that aren't being used or dim the lights during specific times when you don't need as much light (like in the middle of the day),” says Alan Duncan, CEO of Solar Panels Network USA.
Additionally, founder and CEO of Eco Energy Geek, Adam Smith, advises, “Install occupancy sensors in all of your windows and doors. These sensors will automatically turn off lights when nobody is inside, saving energy in the process.”
3. Use Smart Outlets or Plugins
Smart outlets are replacements for your electrical outlets that allow you to control the power going to the appliances or devices you have plugged in. Smart plugins offer the same feature but are a bit bulkier (connecting to the outside of the outlet instead of directly to the electrical wires) and may save slightly less energy than a smart outlet.
Even if you only install smart outlets (or smart plugins) to make your home “smarter,” it’s still the most comprehensive approach to creating a smart home because the tech allows you to control any item or appliance plugged into the outlet from your phone. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory and CLEAResult found that smart plugs can save many households between 1% and 4.58% of energy usage each year.
Duncan notes that smart outlets are a great way to prevent wasting those watts. “These devices allow you to control the power that goes to each outlet with a smartphone or tablet, so you can turn off or on electronics in your home as needed,” he says. “This is an easy way to reduce energy usage since many devices and appliances that use electricity are not in use but remain plugged in.”
Some smart outlets can recognize when a plugged-in device is in standby mode and will automatically cut off the power to the device that has been drawing on standby power to save energy (this feature is called “standby killer” or “standby eliminator”). You may have to configure your outlet settings to do this, but you should have some flexibility in how you use the standby eliminator. For instance, some outlets can be set to shut off power when the device reaches 10 watts of usage but turn back on when the motion detector picks up on activity in the room. Consider setting a few minutes’ worth of delay if you use motion detection settings so that you have enough time to leave a room before the power outlet cuts off and so you’re not watching your devices or lights turn off and on each time you move around the room. These settings may not be enabled automatically, so check your smart outlet capabilities when you install them.
Features like a standby eliminator allow you to truly set your “smart” home on autopilot. You don’t have to think about managing electricity usage but still reap the economic benefits of being energy conscious.
4. Take Advantage of Your Smart Device Settings
Having smart devices is great for saving energy bills, but you can take your savings a step further by automating the settings on these devices so you don’t have to remember to manage them yourself.
One of the key advantages of smart-home tech is that you don't have to use an app — you can set your devices to switch on (or off) when you enter or leave the Wi-Fi radius of your home. That way, it doesn't matter what time you set off for work — your heating will switch off, the lights will switch off, etc., as soon as your smart home recognizes that you've gone.
Adam Roper, an expert in renewable energy, green tech, and off-grid living, explains, “Many smart-home devices have energy-saving settings that can help you reduce your electricity usage. For example, you can set your thermostat to automatically adjust the temperature when you're not home, or your lights to turn off after a certain amount of time.” To take advantage of these extra settings, simply take a look at your smart device’s app dashboard to see what automation is available.
If you automate your smart thermostat or other devices to adjust at certain times of day (like when you know you’ll be away at work, for example) or to automatically turn off when you’re out of Wi-Fi range, you don’t have to stress over remembering to change settings on your way out of the house. And you still gain the savings benefits of lowering your energy usage.
5. Switch To a Geothermal Heating and Cooling System
Switching to a geothermal heating and cooling system is a big financial commitment, but it could save you up to 70% on your energy costs every year.
Geothermal is essentially an HVAC system that harnesses the temperature underground to heat and cool your home as well as power your water heater. Because the majority of the energy used in the average home goes toward heating costs, air conditioning, and hot water, geothermal can help you cut your energy consumption significantly.
According to ClimateMaster, “On average, a homeowner can expect total expenses to reach between $18,000 to $30,000 on geothermal heating and cooling costs. This cost would cover a complete geothermal installation. The price can range from $30,000 to $45,000 with high-end ground-source heat pump systems for large homes.” So there’s no doubt that geothermal heating and cooling is a financial commitment.
However, experts suggest a geothermal system could save you 30% to 70% of your costs on heating bills and 20% to 50% on your air conditioning costs compared to an average HVAC system which could save you up to $1,500 a year on energy bills.
Switching to geothermal heating and cooling is probably something you only want to do if you’re concerned about long-term energy costs and the stress that energy consumption puts on the environment. But it can be a big cost saver for those willing to implement it as a long-term solution.
6. Use a Whole Home Battery System To Store and Distribute Energy
Alex Bazhinov, founder and president of Lumin, a Charlottesville, Va.-based company that provides homeowners with smart electrical panel hardware and software to monitor and manage their home energy usage, suggests installing a whole home battery as a way to store and distribute energy in your home throughout the month.
An energy storage and distribution system can help make your electricity bill more predictable because it stabilizes the amount of energy you use throughout the month despite environmental changes like a drop or rise in temperature.
New York Engineers explain how savings from a battery system works by keeping the total power usage in a building below a certain value. “For example, if a building is charged $40 per kW of demand, a peak demand of 500 kW leads to a $20,000 monthly charge. In this case, an energy storage system that reduces peak demand by 150 kW saves $6,000 per month. This concept is called peak shaving.”
You can use an energy storage and distribution system like a home battery in your smart home to make your energy costs more predictable without sacrificing your normal comforts and without planning for the unexpected ups and downs of energy usage due to weather changes.
Save on Your Electric Bill and Centralize Your Smart-Home Controls
Once you decide which smart devices or energy efficiency techniques you’ll be using to lower your electric bill this winter, connect all your devices to a hub that lets them communicate with each other and allows you to control the settings via your smartphone. Bringing all of your energy-saving efforts together in one hub allows you to know exactly how much energy you’re using and what your utility bill will look like the following month.
Karen Lee of Smart Robotic Home, suggests, “When you use a smart device for your home, it can be helpful to invest in those that can inform you via your smartphone about how much energy you are saving. This will also allow you to better calculate monthly expenses and cut down on living expenses.”
If a smart-home setup sounds like the right option for your household, take a look at Mysa’s smart home heating and cooling options to learn how we can help get you started on your energy-saving journey.