We’ve all heard of smart meters, but does adding smart home technology into your home help you save money or bump up the electricity bill?
At Love Energy Savings, we are dedicated to helping every household in the UK to save money on their energy bills and we have put together this guide to help answer one of the questions we are always asked: “is it worth investing in smart technology?”
What Smart Home Technology Is Available?
Smart home devices have flooded the market in recent years, with lots of well-known brands getting a slice of the market, including Google and Amazon. Both have introduced excellent smart energy management systems and has boasted about their energy efficiency capabilities. For example; Google’s Nest claims its products will reduce your energy use by between 10 and 15%.
But it’s not just large technology companies taking over the market, energy providers in the UK now offer smart meters to commercial and domestic customers for free. However, the UK government looks certain to have missed its target to have installed a smart meter to all energy customers by the end of 2020.
Is smart always green?
The short answer is no. Merely purchasing a smart energy management system or downloading an application is not going to reduce your home’s carbon footprint. Smart technology is a tool, and like all tools, its effectiveness is dependent on how well you use it.
Let’s take smart thermostats as an example. Undeniably this technology has some unique features that allow you to gain autonomy over your heating system and control it, even while you are not at home. However, if you are already behaving in an energy-efficient way without smart technology, you might not notice much difference in your energy bills once you invest. For example, if you are careful to turn off radiators in rooms that are not in use, position your existing thermostat carefully and resist “cranking up” the temperature – the additional control may not benefit you very much.
Energy-efficiency has to be considered holistically. Applications and technology can be beneficial to change our behaviour and usage of electricity and heating. Still, they can’t improve the insulation in our walls or roof space or address the draughts that are causing the heating system to need to work harder to heat the rooms in your home. Finally, it’s important to remember that smart technology itself is - of course - a consumer of electricity, and that needs to be factored into its green credentials.
With that being said, when used properly, smart technology can help you become significantly greener and save you money.
How much power does your smart home tech really use?
One of the downsides of smart technology is that while professing to make your home more energy-efficient, most devices are simultaneously using energy that needs to be factored into any savings, they may help you to generate. The good news is that most smart technology that markets itself as energy savings uses relatively little power.
Smart speakers – like Google Home - are relatively energy efficient. When in standby mode they are using about the same power as a LED lightbulb. That means over the course of a year they are probably only going to cost you a few pounds to have on all of the time.
A smart thermostat works basically like a regular thermostat, but you can usually control it via an app on a mobile device. The thermostats themselves use very little power when they are not actively engaged, about the same as an ordinary thermostat – but they require wifi and mobile devices to access, which also use electricity.
Pros and cons of smart technology
Perhaps one of the main advantages to a smart home is that by relying on automation, such as a smart speaker like Amazon Echo, you can guarantee that certain functions in your house happen economically. For example, you might set your dishwasher to start at a particular time (great if you are on an Economy 7 or Economy 10 tariff), and the technology will ensure it is turned off after use rather than sitting in ‘standby’ mode.
One of the issues with a lot of modern technology is that new versions are constantly being released. For consumers eager to have the latest iteration of a device, the temptation to regularly update the technology you use – and in the case of smart thermostats they are considerably more expensive than a standard thermostat – may start to outweigh the cost. However, if you’re happy to invest in technology that will save you money and you are not that bothered about having the latest device, it is worth the investment.
Ultimately, while we at Love Energy Savings are big advocates for smart technology in our quest to help our customers save money on their energy bills, the truth is they will have the most significant impact on consumers making a conscious effort to become more energy-efficient.
Customers using traditional means, such as switching off and unplugging appliances when they are not in use or using timers to set central heating may not see much impact. That being said, the information that smart technology provides you on your energy usage can be motivating to make further changes and reduce your bills – as well as your carbon footprint.
Should I invest in smart home devices?
This is ultimately down to the user. However, there isn’t actually that much effort required to set up devices and the Google Nest Learning Thermostat will adapt to your behaviour and routines so that you don’t have to spend hour programming.
As time goes on, the thermostat will become smarter and switch to energy-saving mode when it senses that you have left the house, based on the location of your mobile phone.
For maximum savings, it’s worth making sure you are on the correct energy tariff. It’s good practice to compare your home energy every six months. This may seem excessive, but energy prices are constantly changing and even though some suppliers charge exit fees, it may still be worth switching if you’re seeing significant savings in your monthly energy bill.