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Who Are Smart Home Device Owners?

image credit: Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC)
Nathan Shannon's picture
President & CEO Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative

Nathan Shannon is the President and CEO of the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative, whose mission is to advance consumer-friendly, consumer-safe smart energy through research, education and...

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  • Jul 8, 2021 8:53 pm GMT
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Promising convenience, entertainment, comfort, energy savings and other benefits, smart home devices have taken off with consumers in recent years. While the economic uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic seemed to have impacted this growth, smart speaker adoption continues to exceed “nearly every consumer electronic device”, including, at one point, the iPhone.

Given the potential significant application of these devices for the energy industry, including direct load control, behavioral demand response and energy efficiency programs, the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC) recently conducted a survey of 1,500 Americans and 500 Canadians to uncover key attributes of smart home device owners and learn why non-owners have not yet adopted.

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The sample for the online survey included 796 consumers who owned at least one device in these five categories: smart speakers, thermostats, appliances, plugs/outlets/power strips and lighting. These groups of smart home devices were selected for their particular relevance to electricity providers’ existing or potential energy efficiency efforts.

The data from this survey has helped SECC develop a profile of current owners of smart home technologies, including these notable findings:

1. Tech-Savvy Proteges are overrepresented while the Movable Middle lags.

It’s not surprising that comfort with technology plays a major role in ownership of smart home devices. Thirty-four percent of currently owners fall into SECC’s Tech-Savvy Protege segment, which represents one-quarter of the general population. This group values energy efficiency and the environment and prefers using technology to achieve energy savings and environmental benefits.

Like the Tech-Savvy Proteges, Green Innovators, the environmental champions of SECC’s customer segmentation, are overrepresented in current device owners – but only by five percentage points. The Movable Middle – SECC’s middle-of-the-road segment that covers 29 percent of the U.S. general population – is significantly underrepresented, which poses a formidable challenge for industry stakeholders.

2. Multi-device ownership is common, especially for smart appliance owners.

Among current owners of smart home devices, we found that ownership of more than one device was very common, yet this varied notably by each device. Consumers that have already invested in smart appliances, for example, are the most likely to have other devices: 70 percent of them have a smart speaker, 63 percent have a smart thermostat and 58 percent have smart lighting.

On the other hand, smart speakers appear to be an entry-level device for many consumers. Only 35 percent of smart speaker owners have smart appliances, and about 45 percent have smart thermostats, smart lighting and smart plugs/outlets – suggesting that there’s considerable opportunity still for these devices to serve as a central smart home hub.

3. Device owners are satisfied, but potential remains for energy-saving capabilities.

The good news is that current smart home devices owners are overwhelming satisfied and at similar levels across all five categories tested in this research. Sixty percent of smart speaker owners say that they are “very satisfied”, with another 37 percent saying that they’re “somewhat satisfied”. For smart thermostats, it’s 64 percent “very satisfied” and 33 percent “somewhat satisfied” – again a total of 97 percent of owners stating some level of satisfaction.

However, when asked to cite the top benefits for owning each smart home device, current owners have varying responses, but, in general, the entertainment and factors seemed to rise to the top over energy-saving and carbon-reduction capabilities. For example, 56 percent of smart speaker owners cited its entertainment value as a benefit – whereas just 13 percent said that “it helps me reduce my electricity usage”.

With smart thermostats, consumers do see more of a direct connection to energy efficiency; 42 percent of owners stated that it helped reduce their electricity usage, the most commonly cited benefit. Consumers also highly valued the ability to control the thermostat remotely, the fact that it made their homes more comfortable and that it was easy to use (40, 40 and 37 percent, respectively). The other three device categories – smart appliances, plugs/outlets and lighting – fall somewhere between speakers and thermostats.

Smart home devices have the potential to help consumers achieve energy savings while maintaining a comfortable home; however, many smart home device owners are not yet making the connection between the devices in their home and their personal energy goals. With current adopters being overwhelmingly satisfied with their devices, industry stakeholders have an opportunity to help educate consumers on easy ways that they can use these devices to amplify their energy savings – without a reduction in the comfort or convenience that they value.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 8, 2021

Among current owners of smart home devices, we found that ownership of more than one device was very common, yet this varied notably by each device. Consumers that have already invested in smart appliances, for example, are the most likely to have other devices: 70 percent of them have a smart speaker, 63 percent have a smart thermostat and 58 percent have smart lighting.

I've found this to be something many smart devices don't currently do well-- if my wife and I both want control of the same Alexa-enabled devices, we need to either share a login or just assume that one or the other will be the only one with access. And because pretty much everyone already has their own personal Amazon accounts, that creates some headaches. Looking forward to these getting more smoothed out!

Stuart McCafferty's picture
Stuart McCafferty on Jul 9, 2021

To your point, Matt, I recently upgraded my dishwasher and spent the extra $200 to have the ThinkQ version.  I have to say it is the stupidest smart appliance you can imagine.  The only thing it does that is smart is notify my iPhone when it completes.  Maybe if there are errors or maintenance needs, it will do that, too, but the device is new, so we shall see.  Anyway, I liked my old dishwasher better - it was a better design and a lot easier to use.

 

Anyway, I enjoyed the article and there were no surprises.  I suspect many of our readers have smart home devices in their homes.  I know I certainly have numerous devices now.  And, because there are so many IoT platforms out there, getting everything to work together does take some technical savvy.  But, it's fun and for many energy efficiency focused people, it is worth the effort.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 9, 2021

I'm with you, Stu-- I have the smart washer and dryer. It's neat to get the notification that that loads are done, but I haven't had much other use for now. I suspect once my utility allows me to embrace TOU or DR of some kind I'll be able to coordinate to load it up and not run it until it's cheapest to do so, but until then..I wait

Peter Key's picture
Peter Key on Jul 19, 2021

I think the way to get the "Movable Middle" to start using smart devices that help them save energy is to show them that the devices also save them money. You also have to make sure they fully understand any energy-saving program they sign up for. Some people in Texas who unwittingly signed up for demand response programs were quite surprised when, during a June heat wave, their thermostats were remotely turned up.

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