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At first, the primary pull of smart home apps and their corresponding smart technology is convenience. Unlocking voice commands for most of the electronics in our home, answering our questions, setting up our schedules...smart networks simply make our lives easier.
But is the convenience factor really all these apps have to offer?
For many people across the globe, smart home apps are so much more than luxuries capable of taking the sting out of a tough week and ironing the kinks out of a weekend. They’re essential tools that can help us save money on our energy bills and keep our homes secure.
Tips for Saving Energy with Your Smart Home App
Did you know that Americans spend roughly $130 billion on wasted energy every year? That’s not just silly, it’s downright criminal, but you don’t have to contribute to that insanely bloated figure.
By using your smart home apps in the following ways, you can fully realize their potential, save yourself some money, and give the planet a much-needed break.
1. Energy Monitoring
The first step on the path to a more efficient home is realization — before we make any changes, we need to know how we’re currently using our energy.
We know how much we’re spending in total, but that’s literally all the receipt from our energy bill tells us. If we’re going to make some changes, we need to know specifics!
For example, there may be a couple of particularly prolific energy-hogging appliances in our home, but without a detailed breakdown of how energy usage is spread out across our household, we have no way of identifying them.
Sure, we could have a wild, possibly even educated, guess, but there's really no way of knowing if we’ve ousted the correct appliance until we get the monthly bill, and if we’re wrong, then the guessing game continues.
Now, I know what you’re thinking...That’s all well and good, but what does this have to do with my smart home app? Well, it actually has everything to do with your smart home app.
You may not realize it, but the big three, Alexa, Google Home, and Apple Home all feature something called an “Energy Dashboard”. In essence, this underrated and underused segment of smart home apps is an energy monitor.
Tracking how much energy each connected device is using, it gives us the information we need to make a few alterations and run a tighter ship, so to speak.
For example, it might tell you that the halogen light bulb in your bathroom is a total power drain compared to the LED bulbs you have in the living room — Now you know, and knowing is half the battle. Simply switch out that halogen bulb for an efficient LED, and begin saving.
Our smart home apps aren’t going to actively do anything to reduce your energy consumption, but they give us the opportunity to do it ourselves...that is, of course, unless you're willing to invest in some smart plugs and switches.
2. Pairing Smart Home Apps with Smart Plugs and Switches
If you want your smart home apps to pull their weight when it comes to the active side of reducing energy consumption, smart plugs and smart light switches are a fantastic place to start.
What Are Smart Plugs?
Smart plugs are socket adaptors that you plug into your wall outlets. They feature integrated wireless protocols, connecting them to your router or a smart hub. The general idea is that you’ll plug your appliances into the wall outlet using smart plugs as middlemen.
They allow you to turn said appliances on or off with voice commands, which is pretty cool, but more importantly, they allow you to control your appliances remotely using their companion app, or, of course, your smart home app.
How Can Smart Plugs Save Energy?
- Energy Monitoring and Smart Plugs — The Ultimate Team
Once you link up a few smart plugs to your smart home app, not only can you read real-time information about your energy usage, you can take action through your smart home app by switching power-hungry appliances off or automating them so that they’re never on during peak hours.
- Left-On Electronics
We’ve all been there...we leave the house in the morning thinking everything is turned off, then we return to see we left the lamp on our bedside table on all day.
Using your smart home app and smart switches together, you’ll never leave an appliance running when you’re out ever again. Simply assess your home’s power usage to check if you’ve forgotten anything, and if you have, switch it off remotely.
- Killing Vampire Power
Vampire power is the draw all of your activated electronics have on your energy when they’re not in use — we’re talking microwaves, DVD/Blu-ray players, washers, dryers … basically, anything that has a standby mode.
You may not think it’s such a big deal leaving a few of these blinking lights on when you go about your day, but vampire power across the USA accounts for roughly 80 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year, which is the equivalent of the annual emissions of around 15 million cars.
You can use your smart home app to completely shut down these vampiric appliances when not in use, saving you money over time, and reducing your carbon footprint significantly.
- Battery Saving
How often do you put your phone on charge before bed, or leave your home laptop charging before heading out to work?
Well, not only does this waste energy, but it slowly damages the batteries themselves, reducing their charge cycle.
Before you know it, you have to charge your phone twice a day, and your laptop three times a day, using more and more energy, but if you use a smart plug to charge them, you can set a timer in your smart home app, and cut the power at precisely the right time.
What Smart Plugs Should I Use?
Best for Alexa Households — Amazon Smart Plug
This smart plug was tailor-made by Amazon for integration with their smart home system and app, making it the perfect addition to an Alexa household.
Best for Google Home — TP-Link Kasa Smart Plugs
Boasting full compatibility with Google Home, these Kasa smart plugs unlock advanced scheduling protocols, so you never waste a single watt. They’re reasonably priced, too!
Best for Apple Home — Meross Smart Plug Mini
The Apple ecosystem can be a little restrictive when it comes to 3rd-party devices, but these Meross smart plugs are just the ticket, granting you remote access to all your appliances.
What Are Smart Light Switches?
Smart light switches are essentially the same thing as smart plugs, but they replace your wall-mounted light switches rather than your outlets.
They connect to your phone via a wireless protocol, giving you remote access to your lighting when you’re out of the house.
How Can Smart Light Switches Save Energy?
- Left-On Lights
The biggest benefit of smart light switches is that you can turn off any lights you accidentally left on when you left the house, so you’re not wasting energy throughout the day.
Some smart light switches even feature motion sensors, meaning they switch your lights on automatically when you enter a room and switch them off when you leave, making it impossible to leave any on.
What Smart Light Switches Should I Use?
Best Motion Sensor Light Switch — GE C Smart Light Switch
With this smart light switch, you’ll never have to engage with your lighting, remotely or otherwise.
Best for Geofencing — Lutron Caseta Smart Home Dimmer Switch
These amazing switches use your distance from the house as a cue to turn on or turn off your lights, and they’re compatible with all three smart home systems.
For more options, check out Nstaronline’s article on the Best Smart Home Light Switches.
3. Smart Power Strips
Power strips take the energy-saving potential of individual smart plugs a step further by applying the same principles to multi-outlet extension cords.
How Can Smart Power Strips Save Energy?
- Killing Vampire Power
Smart power strips automatically switch off any plugged-in device on standby, putting a stop to that endless seeping of energy.
For example, say you turned your TV off, a smart power strip would then turn off any peripheral devices connected to your TV, such as your DVD/Blu-ray player, games consoles, home theater accessories, and so on.
What Smart Energy Strips Should I Use?
Best for Alexa and Google Home — Kasa Smart Plug Power Strip HS300
This power strip works fluently with Alexa and Google Home. It offers 6 outlets, providing you with enough space to power even the most intricate home entertainment systems.
Best for Apple Home — Meross Smart Power Strip
This Meross power strip only has 4 outlets, but it also has that all-important Apple Home compatibility.
Tips for Securing Your Home with Your Smart Home App
In this section, we’ll be discussing baked-in features of your smart home app that can help to secure your home. I’ll also run through some of the best security device pairings for turning your home into a veritable Fort Knox.
1. Guard Mode
Amazon was the first off the mark with Guard Mode, with Google Home developing a proprietary version soon after.
Guard Mode is essentially a sensitive listening function. You can turn it on via voice command as you leave your house, and the microphones in your smart speaker will instantly begin surveying ambient noise for abnormalities.
If, for example, it detects breaking glass or an alarm, it shoots you an alert via the companion smart home app, letting you know there’s been an unusual disturbance. Your smart speaker will also record the sound, so you can figure out exactly what the disturbance was.
Should the disturbance be suspicious, and you feel you need more info, you can use your smart speaker as a listening device, and stream a live audio feed through the smart home app.
While Apple Home doesn’t have a dedicated security function that’s as fleshed out as Alexa and Google Home’s Guard modes, if your devices run on anything upward of iOS 14, you should have access to basic sound detection as an accessibility feature.
2. Smart Plugs and Smart Light Switches
I know we’ve already discussed how much of an impact smart plugs and switches can have on your energy outgoings, but they’re also fantastic tools for securing your home.
How Can Smart Plugs and Switches Secure My Home?
- Home/Vacation Mode
Most smart plugs and switches have a feature known as “Home” or “Vacation” mode that you can trigger via your smart home app. It randomly turns your light(s) on and off while you’re out of the house, tricking onlookers into thinking you’re home.
3. Smart Outdoor Security Lights
Smart security lights will send you alerts whenever a motion sensor is triggered.
How Can Smart Security Lights Secure My Home?
Traditional motion sensor security lights are great, but they’re easily avoided by criminals. With smart lights, you can link them together, so if one sensor is triggered, a whole array of lights saturate the area, sending trespassers on their way with their tails between their legs.
If you receive multiple alerts, you’ll know it’s time to head home to check on the situation.
Which Smart Security Lights Should I Use?
Best for Alexa — Ring Smart Lighting
Ring is the best of the best when it comes to smart security lights!
Best for Google Home — UME Smart Wi-Fi LED Security Light
UME is great too, and they offer Google Home compatibility.
Apple Home — Unfortunately, Apple Home isn’t compatible with many security devices just yet, but options are bound to open up in the future.
4. Smart Doorbells and Cameras
Smart cameras and security lights make an amazing team — nothing can happen on your property without you knowing about it.
How Can Smart Doorbells and Cameras Secure My Home?
- Visual Deterrent
The mere presence of security cameras will make those with bad intentions think twice about targeting your home.
- Recordings and Real-Time Footage
An alert will be sent to your smart home app whenever the camera catches footage of someone or something on your property. You can then access that footage to assess the risk, or even hand it over to the police if necessary.
Which Smart Doorbells and Cameras Should I Use?
Best for Alexa — Ring Video Doorbell
Ring was one of the first companies to give the humble doorbell the smart makeover, and their products slide seamlessly into the Alexa ecosystem.
Best for Google Home — Google Nest Cam
Made by Google, for Google!
Best for Apple Home — Ecobee Smart Camera
It can be hard to find outdoor cameras compatible with Apple Home, but these Ecobee indoor security cameras can be a great help.