10 Easy Things to Make Your Home Smarter

If you’ve ever driven halfway to work before wondering whether you left the lights on in the basement or gotten up in the middle of the night to ensure you turned the thermostat down, you already understand why the ability to remotely monitor and adjust your home’s conditions is advantageous.

Smart homes link your heating, cooling, lighting and other residential systems with a wi-fi network, allowing you to check their status through apps or a central hub. If you want to gain greater control over your appliances and energy use, start with some of these simple upgrades.

Cut down on water waste with smart water technologies

New showerheads and faucets can help you get the most out of your water use. Smart showerheads shape the individual droplets of water to ensure that you get squeaky clean while using as little water as possible (though the best way to save water in the shower is still to just keep your showers short). Smart faucets do the same thing, and many allow you to adjust the water to your ideal temperature before turning it on. Together, these technologies could reduce your water usage by up to 75 percent.

A related technology, the smart sprinkler system, uses weather data to determine whether your garden or lawn needs to be watered, and turns itself on or off automatically based on your preferences.

Slash your lighting costs with smart light bulbs

While they’re a bit on the expensive side—about $15 per bulb—smart bulbs are also some of the longest-lived light bulbs on the market. Plus, they use about 80 percent less power than traditional light bulbs, so you stand to save big by spending a bit extra on them. With the smart bulbs installed, you can use an app to control the amount of light each produces and schedule certain bulbs to turn off or on at certain times. Check the bulbs before you buy them, since some require a “bridge” to connect to your wi-fi router.

Manage your home’s temperature with smart thermostats

smart thermostat can be programmed in advance to ensure your home’s temperature is ideal at all times. If it isn’t, you can adjust it from a distance via an app. Since heating and cooling account for 25 percent of all home energy consumption, you could see significant energy savings by installing a smart thermostat.

Improve your privacy using smart shades

In addition to linking your central heating and cooling systems to a smart hub, replacing your regular shades or curtains with smart shades can help you better manage your home’s temperature and energy use. You could, for instance, program your smart shades to open on east-facing windows in the morning, allowing you to wake up to the sun’s warming rays. Some smart shades can also be programmed to close or open when you’re in a particular room, or shutter when you go to bed.

Reduce energy leaks with smart power strips

Smart power strips allow you to control whatever is plugged into the strip. If you’re worried you left the coffee maker on, for instance, just bring up the strip’s data in the bundled app and find out whether it’s in use, then switch the strip on or off according to your preference. Smart power strips can also reduce your phantom energy leaks—the energy your appliances consume even when they aren’t in use. For added energy efficiency, some strips are programmable, allowing you to turn them off automatically at certain times or after they’ve transmitted a certain amount of energy each day.

Set the mood with dimmer modules

Dimmer modules basically do the same thing smart light bulbs do, but they work with lamps rather than socket-linked bulbs. Some dimmer modules can be adjusted with voice-activated apps to give you even more control over the lighting in your home. When choosing a dimmer module, ensure the lamp you wish to connect has the right kind of bulb in it, since some dimmer modules only work with certain types of bulbs.

Screen home visitors with a video doorbell

Already widely used in modern apartment complexes, smart video doorbells allow you to see who’s at your door and, in some cases, even communicate with your visitors before you open it. Many video doorbells also snap a picture of whoever rang, so even if you’re unable to check the doorbell app’s video feed when your visitor comes calling, you’ll know who visited and when.

Save energy with smart kitchen appliances

There are a wide variety of smart kitchen appliances that enable you to save energy and take greater control of your home. Smart stovetops can be programmed to heat your pans until they boil, then reduce the heat to an ideal temperature that won’t lead to any wasted energy. Other smart kitchen appliances like coffee makers, crock pots and other devices can be scheduled to turn on or off when you want, allowing you to wake up to fresh cup of joe or come home to a ready-to-eat meal.

Go solar with smart solar panels

Not to be confused with earlier “smart modules” that merely incorporate DC optimizers and tracking technology into their design, the modern smart solar panels are equipped with wi-fi and can, in some cases, even double as a home automation system. Smart panels might include inverters that can automatically detect when to charge the batteries from the panel or from the grid based on weather conditions. And if you’re under a time-of-use arrangement, smart solar panels can switch from grid power to battery power during the most expensive times of day.

Take total control with a home automation system

Home automation systems are kits that can help you incorporate a number of smart home devices into a single hub. These systems vary in their scope and abilities, but most allow you to implement energy efficiency improvements in heating and cooling, lighting and your appliances. In addition to app access, many come with remote controls to enhance their ease of use, and some are even voice activated.

Compared to standard homes, smart homes offer significant advantages in terms of energy efficiency, safety and accessibility. The costs and savings associated with upgrading to a smarter home, like the costs associated with upgrading to solar power, ultimately depend on your energy consumption patterns and the extent of your improvements.

Kyle Pennell is the Content Manager at PowerScoutwe help homeowners figure out if installing solar is right for them and get competitive bids from multiple installers. Our long-term mission is to accelerate the adoption of solar (and other smart home improvements), which will help mitigate climate change.

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