Can smart homes save our planet?
The summer of 2019 has been one of the hottest summers on record. Europe has seen record-breaking heatwaves, while the arctic circle is burning. Gas and electric bills are skyrocketing. Energy is more expensive than ever. As the effects of global warming become more prominent, people are increasingly turning to smart homes to both reduce energy costs and their carbon footprint.
The use of smart home technology and automation has been on the rise since 2014 when Google acquired Nest for a shocking $3.2 billion. At the time Nest was a small startup making electronic thermostats and smoke detectors that users could control with their smartphones. As a tech trendsetter, Google paved the way for the relationship between smart homes and green technology.
How It Works
Smart home technology is the act of connecting home appliances to sensors that can be monitored remotely. The idea of connecting physical items, like an air-conditioner to the internet is commonly referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT).
Smart home devices were created in the early 2000s. First generations were unreliable, cumbersome, and expensive. This early technology didn’t even rely on smartphones. Instead, the user would have to log into a clunky online interface.
Smart products were exclusively for wealthy early adopters.
Nowadays, over half the homes in America have a smart device, and 70% of Americans state they are comfortable with the idea of smart technology.
People use their Amazon Echo and Google Home devices to control light switches, doorbells, and more significant energy-consuming products such as air-conditioners.
Smart Home Goes Mainstream
The industry has come a long way since Nest had the revolutionary idea of launching a smart thermostat. And with more demand, comes more supply. The increased supply has lowered the price of smart home devices to the point of affordability for the majority of Americans.
Amazon’s Echo Dot, the smaller sibling of the Echo, can often be purchased on the site for under $30. Smart plugs that allow consumers to turn off their lamps or fans remotely can be bought for under $15.
Power companies often will provide Nest thermostat controls for free to new homeowners.
Many new appliances have smart technology already built-in. Televisions, refrigerators, and dishwashers are some of the most common examples.
According to ZDNet, “The most common smart product owned by consumers in the smart TV which is typically the first smart product bought for the home. Other products consumers are likely to buy within the next six months are thermostats and home security cameras.”
With increased access to this technology, more and more users have been able to adapt it to help lower their carbon footprint and energy bills.
Protecting the Planet
According to Google, their Nest thermostat saves “US customers about 10-12% on their heating bills and about 15% on their cooling bills.” The company provides a savings calculator on their site to help determine overall energy savings.
Studies have shown that when there is an added financial benefit to helping the environment, there is a higher rate of adoption. Having a smart home may have started as a convenient way to turn off the lights while in bed, but it’s quickly turned into a way for the average person to become more environmentally aware.
Mike Harris, CEO of smart home software company Zonoff, frames it this way: “In some ways, energy-saving is a justification. It’s like recycling – it makes me feel good that I’m doing the right thing and at the same time, I’m getting some cool technology,” he says.”
Knowledge is power. With smart home technology, people have more access to their consumption data than ever before. They no longer have to wait for an electric bill or check a meter; the information is sent directly to their smartphone.
Tom Kerber, Director of Research for Home Controls and Energy at Park Associates, spoke with The Guardian on how having the ability to access data on a smartphone increases awareness. ”The obvious message to consumers is that you can stop wasting energy. Automation gives you an opportunity to optimize the settings.”
Popular Smart Home Devices
The array of different smart home devices on the market is vast. Whether it’s electric, gas, or water, there’s a device and corresponding smartphone app that can help you regulate your use. Some of the most common and affordable items are:
LED light bulbs already use 80% less electricity than a traditional bulb, but the addition of the smart features saves even more. Today’s Smart bulbs, like GE’s Hue, can adjust the brightness based on the time of day or movement within a room. Users can control all aspects remote using their smartphone. Smart bulbs can be purchased for under $10 apiece, and last for 10+ years.
Air Condition & Heating
According to the HuffPost, AC accounts for 6% of household energy use, and heating accounts for almost 40%. “The Environmental Defense Fund called Nest “promising” and said the technology is good at reducing peak energy demand and saving money without being disruptive.” There are even thermostat options for non-central air units.
Environmentalist have long been encouraging people to unplug their home electronic devices when they’re not in use. Computers, TVs, and gaming devices are just a few examples, yet these items are always plugged in. Smart power strips resolve this issue, allowing for things to be disconnected on a schedule or remotely.
Additional items include:
Smart Locks & Doorbells (like Ring)
And almost every kitchen appliance
As global warming increases, more people are turning to their smart home devices to minimize their carbon footprint. We can also expect the technology industry to continue to create new IoT devices to meet this increased demand.
The American household of the future will be one that is not only smart but eco-friendly.
What devices is your home or business currently using to regulate energy usage?