Monitoring your home's energy usage, controlling solar shades and doors remotely, and setting routines for your thermostat and lighting are all part of today's smart home tech designed to make life easier. Invest in an automated system for your entire house, or dip a toe in the water with smart light bulbs or a smart thermostat. Whichever level of home automation is right for you at this stage in your life, you'll find that you're able to conserve energy and costs without feeling like you're cutting back at all.
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. Luckily, technology can come to the rescue, with single-use or whole-house automation options to help you consume less energy.
Whether or not you realize it, your home might already have one energy-focused home automation option: the thermostat. Many newer programmable thermostats 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 geofencing (how close you are to home), voice control, and app options, too.
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.
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-focused 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).