Smart Home Ideas to Help You Save Money

Tech guru Carley Knobloch shares how smart home technology can save you money long-term

Written by Carley Knobloch

As we fine-tune our homes to meet our every need, creating a “smart home” is a great way to not only make things more convenient (and fun!), but to save money as well. Yes, this does require an initial investment, but smart technology is much less expensive than it used to be. Plus, once installed, it can help improve lighting and energy costs, HVAC, water use and more— there’s not a utility bill that can’t be reduced using a little technology. A bonus benefit: smart tech also helps reduce overwhelming utility responsibilities (you’ll be able to control everything from one or two apps on your phone) and boosts peace of mind (you’ll be able to keep an eye on your home from anywhere). So, where do you start? The following smart home ideas are not only easy to implement, but they’ll give you the most bang for your buck as well.

Carley Knobloch

Smart Plugs

Smart plugs are a simple jumping-off point for anyone dabbling in the idea of a smart home. For example, you can plug a WiFi-enabled smart plug into your standard outlet, then plug whatever device you’d like to control into it. Now you can turn it on (a slow cooker, a fan) or off (a hair dryer, a printer), from your smartphone or tablet. Gone are the days of arriving to work and worrying all day that you accidentally left your hair straightener on! Bonus: get into bed at the end of the day and turn off your lights and television with a simple tap, and set your coffee maker to wake you up with a freshly brewed pot. Some plugs also monitor what’s called “vampire energy”— the trickle of energy that electronics draw if they’re plugged in, even if they’re turned off. Thanks to this feature, you can see exactly how much your TV, cable box or game console uses while you sleep, or how much that spare refrigerator in your garage costs. A smart plug turned “off” will prevent anything plugged into it from sucking vampire energy out of your electricity bill…and wallet. 

Smart Thermostat

A smart thermostat makes it easy to bump up the temperature in your home before it starts to feel chilly, or in the summer months, cool the place before you start to sweat. But, most importantly, it can save you more than a hundred dollars a year on average. Here’s how: most smart thermostats include motion sensors that pick up on your daily routines (or allow you to preset them in an app) so you can be comfortable when you’re at home, and maximize energy savings when you’re not. While you’re at work, your thermostat can let things get a bit chillier, and when you’re on your way home, you can warm things up with a tap— no more heating an empty house all day. Smart thermostats can also prevent costly disasters, like frozen pipes, by letting you know the temperature of your home from wherever you are, so you can ensure things aren’t getting too frigid if you’re away for the weekend- and they’re great for rental properties or second homes as well. Most importantly, most smart thermostats will educate you on when you use the most energy, and when that energy is most costly, so you can fine-tune your energy efficiency over time, saving you money each month (and saving the planet too). 

Smart Water Monitor

The cost of an undetected water leak in your home can be steep. If you don’t catch it in time, it can lead to thousands of dollars of damage to your home, not to mention the loss of valuables or keepsakes that are irreplaceable. A smart water monitor is an investment up front, but the sum of its impact in a crisis is huge. For example, if a pipe should spring a leak, the smart water monitor will detect it immediately and send you an alert on your phone (making it another must-have for rental property or second homeowners). Like smart thermostats, most smart water monitors also keep tabs on water usage and send you weekly or monthly reports, so you know the most efficient time to run your dishwasher or washing machine. Some smart water monitors require a plumber to install, but many you can install yourself under your kitchen sink. It’s disaster-prevention and cost-cutting all-in-one. 

Smart Light Bulbs

The benefits of a smart lightbulb are plentiful: dim your lights with precision control (and without a dimmer switch!), change the color of your lights to match your task (bright, blue whites are great for getting work done; warm, red whites help you wind down at the end of the day), and some can even be programmed to pulse with your music (dance party, check!). Smart light bulbs can significantly reduce energy use as well— each bulb uses less energy to light your room than traditional bulbs, and because it’s so easy to turn them off with your phone, you’ll save by not running them when you don’t need to. They do cost more than regular bulbs, and some systems require an additional smart hub. Once you’re set up, the savings on your electric bill are immediate, and most last for 25,000 hours, so you’ll be saving for a long time. 

Smart Appliances

Walk into any home appliance store nowadays, and the range of smart appliances will surprise and delight. Many refrigerators, washing machines, and dishwashers now have smart sensors built in that connect to your WiFi to offer you remote control. Ease of use isn’t the only benefit, however— smart appliances can save money by continually monitoring for problems with efficiency, alerting you when the power is out or if the temperature control is off, which will reduce the cost of your energy bill. Many are self-updating, fixing problems and even adding features over time which prolongs their life and keeps current. These appliances can self-diagnose if problems arise, and often fix themselves with the help of a technician over an internet connection, saving you money in repairs and replacements.   

Smart Window Treatments

Having a smart thermostat will save you money when it comes to heating and cooling your home, but smart (and motorized) shades and blinds will take that savings to the next level. Smart window treatments can be controlled with an app or voice assistant, and allow you to create customizable scenes coordinated with the season and time of day, so that you can block or let in the light to maximize energy use and comfort levels. If the sun hits your biggest window at 4pm each day and roasts the house, a smart shade can be programmed to close until dusk, blocking the sun's rays and keeping your home temperate. They can be more expensive to install (some cost double the price of traditional shades) but over time, this is another situation where the savings do add up, especially since it gives you the ability to toggle your smart thermostat a few degrees lower as you take advantage of the natural world to help you heat and cool your home.