Smart Home Strategies to Maximize Your Energy Efficiency

Cut your energy use and trim costs: What's not to like about automated ways to improve your home's energy efficiency?

Twenty-one percent: That's how much of your total household budget utilities will gobble up, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Expenditure Survey. Luckily, technology can come to the rescue, with single-use or whole-house automation options to help you consume less energy. Read on for inspiring ideas to smarten up your energy use.

Make It Simple

The most basic energy-efficient home automation ideas focus on a single switch or appliance -- for example, a motion-sensing light that knows when you've entered a room. DIY-friendly wireless switches and controls are widely available for single switches, which means boosting energy-efficient home automation doesn't involve messy or intrusive construction. One of the easiest home upgrades is connecting smart lightbulbs to a home automation hub that allows you to dim and turn them on and off remotely.

Cutting energy use also includes plug-and-play smart energy strips, which cut power to a plugged-in appliance that's not in active use. These eliminate what's called "phantom load" -- when an appliance still draws electricity even when in standby.

Whether or not you realize it, your home might already have one energy-focused home automation option: the thermostat. Many newer control panels allow you to set times of day that your HVAC system cools or warms. Newer smart thermostats "learn" from your behavior to fine-tune control of your home's heating and cooling, and some of them have unique geo-proximity (how close you are to home), voice control, and app options, too.

Take Advantage of Tech

A couple home automation options allow you to figure out where your energy usage is coming from as well as control appliances so they use more energy during off-peak, less-expensive hours. Off-the-shelf tech tools help to measure and monitor energy usage by appliance or type of day. From there, you can adjust your usage to take advantage of better rates from your utility, or cut power to rarely used appliances.

Many newer appliances are also equipped with smart options, which means you can access controls or take advantage of energy-saving options -- for example, a dryer that reuses hot air. Some smart appliances allow you to start and stop use remotely, like a slow cooker that you can turn on at a precise time versus in the morning when you leave for work. Smart appliance apps can also provide energy-hogging alerts -- say, a dirty filter in the fridge water source.

Establish a Connection

Once you've selected your energy-efficient products, the next step is to connect your systems for easier control. Many systems allow you build on the original system for new fixtures or additional rooms. For example, you can easily control lights throughout your home via an app.

Other types of energy-focus automation systems build on that idea to integrate multiple types of elements -- window treatments (open or close based on time of year and day) plus smart thermostat plus lighting. Many of these systems enable homeowners to set up scenes (such as "coming home") and all are controllable via an app, online, or with remotes or a control panel at home. Bonus: These systems can save you from your own forgetfulness (like when you leave for vacation and forget to change the settings on your thermostat).

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