In partnership with AESP: The increasing roles of DERs, connected technology and Big Data are driving rapid change in energy efficiency. As we shape the Utility of the future, this community will help you keep up with the latest developments. 


Are Smart Homes Actually Energy-Efficient?

image credit:
Emily Newton's picture
Editor-In-Chief, Revolutionized Magazine

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief at Revolutionized Magazine. She enjoys writing articles in the energy industry as well as other industrial sectors.

  • Member since 2020
  • 47 items added with 44,189 views
  • Jan 18, 2022

Statistics project that the global smart home market will reach $53.45 billion this year, up from $46.8 billion in 2021. These technologies catch people’s interest for numerous reasons. Some consumers love the associated conveniences, while others appreciate impressing their friends and family with the latest gadgets. However, smart energy saving is a major purchasing driver, too. 

Smart home product manufacturers often mention how the items are good for the planet and save money. However, does smart home energy saving always happen? Not necessarily. Here are the factors that can increase or decrease how much energy smart home tech uses. 

Product Types and Usage Matter

One thing to keep in mind is that smart home technology encompasses a gigantic category. Not all the products in it have energy-saving features. Connected baby monitors, home security cameras, mattresses and door locks are some of the many items that help make residences smarter. Some of those products might have power-saving modes, but they usually don’t do much to boost the energy efficiency of a whole home. 

Then there are smart products such as lightbulbs, plugs and thermostats. They’re specifically designed for better energy efficiency and should make an impact. However, the overall results still depend on how people use the products. 

Smart thermostats can help people shave up to 10% annually off their climate control costs. The Nest Smart Thermostat shows a leaf icon on the display to indicate an energy-saving temperature. However, someone could still set it outside the optimal range. Alternatively, some people may not take the time to learn the leaf’s meaning. 

People can also save energy by setting smart plugs and lights to activate or deactivate at certain times. That way, there’s no chance of going out of town for a week and coming back home to discover lights were left on. However, if people in the household don’t utilize those timed features, they have much fewer chances to save energy. 

Individuals might sacrifice energy-saving features by making certain decisions, too. Some smart devices may continually adjust themselves in response to environmental triggers. That could make them more active, causing energy usage to rise. Similarly, some households fail to plan their smart homes or decide to have tech that’s more flashy than functional. In such cases, they might forget how an increased number of power-dependent devices in a home could curb energy savings. 

Energy Drain Is a Thing

Awareness of problems can encourage people to explore what’s possible through smart home power saving. They might get a professional energy audit, then receive a customized plan to cut usage. People could then save 5%-30% on their monthly energy expenses by following the energy auditor’s suggestions. 

Many connected home products measure how energy usage changes over time, showing users whether they’re getting closer to certain goals. Thus, some smart products could help people curb known issues. 

However, most items that use electricity to work have a problem of their own called energy drain. This usually happens with all products that have standby modes. Many connected things remain idle until detecting user commands, and they use small amounts of energy even when people don’t actively use them. 

One test conducted in 2015 with Philips smart lightbulbs found they drew about 0.4 watts when turned off, compared to approximately 5.4 watts when on at maximum brightness. Manufacturers continually make product upgrades, so they might consume less energy now. Even so, people should be aware that smart home products always use small amounts of power. 

Technology provides excellent options for helping people track energy use. Many grid operators use artificial intelligence to alter electricity distribution at the industrial level during known issues. Doing that prevents blackouts from becoming more widespread. 

An in-Home Test Shows the Impact of Settings on Savings

After one smart home blogger bought an ecobee smart thermostat, he decided to run tests to see how certain settings impacted the device’s smart energy savings. It shows the experiences of just one person but is still valuable for illustrating that power savings don’t occur universally for every smart home resident. Each experiment ran for three weeks. He started with a control phase where he kept his home at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. 

From there, he ran the thermostat after tweaking settings to turn down the temperature on a schedule. The next step was to see whether a remote sensor in a bedroom affected energy savings. Finally, he measured the effects of using a preheat feature on the thermostat. When comparing the differences between two settings, he measured the average indoor temperatures in his house. 

The blogger revealed in-depth information about his findings, complete with graphs created for each phase. He discovered some surprising things. Although he anticipated the scheduled settings would save substantial money and energy, that wasn’t the case. 

However, he clarified that it was probably because he didn’t leave the house very much. He based the schedule on being at home or away and said that people who go out a lot would probably save more. 

The main takeaway was that he could save about $20 per month with particular settings. However, doing that sometimes required him and his wife to sacrifice their comfort. They decided they’d rather spend a bit more to keep their house at the desired temperature if that meant staying comfortable. At the same time, he noted that the smart thermostat allowed him to strike a good balance of staying cozy while minimizing wasted energy. 

Smart Home Energy Saving Requires Effort

This overview shows why smart energy saving is not a given, even when people use the most advanced products on the market. However, households are more likely to see energy-efficiency gains when they take the time to find products designed to reduce power consumption and learn how to use them effectively. 

Getting great results is not as straightforward as installing smart home tech and expecting the built-in technology to do all the work. Even items with some autonomous features still require people to evaluate the associated usage data and other metrics, then make changes when necessary.

Kevin  Myers's picture
Kevin Myers on Jan 19, 2022

Great article!

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Jan 19, 2022

Emily, Good subject. I also see that even Green Building homes are not more energy efficient. You would think that all new homes would be much more efficient but that doesn't seem to be the case. Builders never seem to consider the orientation of the home. They only build to the minimum standards. Since they just want to sell it quick for the most profit and not live in it, They don't even think about adding more insulation or radiant barriers.  Builders are glad to add granite counter tops or high end wood but not a better more efficient heat pump with a high SEER value. 

    It is a real shame on the home building industry and consumers to not value a super efficient home that saves money and the environment for years to come. Smart homes just seem to have more gadgets and things to make us not have to move or think. We only have one builder in my area of Arizona that builds very energy efficient homes. The buyers love them but all the other builders don't seem to even notice.  I hope that changes as energy prices rise. 

Emily Newton's picture
Thank Emily for the Post!
Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.
More posts from this member

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network® is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »