Saving money with smart homes

Is it possible to save time and energy? Smart devices in your home offers answers but raises some more questions.

Smart home automation has been promised for years and it’s finally on the way. This means that everyday Australians have the power to make their lives more convenient while reducing their energy use. Sounds like it’s better for your day-to-day life and better for the planet.

Previous visions of the smart home imagined systems that only the super-rich would be able to enjoy. But today the cutting-edge technology is being driven by smaller, modular devices. They’re a cheap solution which can often be bought online or in-store, and installed within minutes, before being controlled by your smartphone or internet speaker.

With all these great innovations, comes plenty of hype. If your goal is to manage your energy, it can be hard to know what systems to invest in. We’ve broken down three key areas where you might be able to see the most benefit.

Automating the big loads in your house

Home automation can help you to tackle the bigger offenders on your electricity bill. These include your hot water system (often 30-40% of your usage), your pool pump (another 40% if you have one), and (in the future) your electric car.

Focusing on controlling these loads can have a significant impact. Making sure your hot water and pool pump are only running during off-peak times, or during times when your rooftop solar are generating is a simple way to create savings.

If you have a pool, turn all that water into a smart solution! Most pool pumps in Australia are plugged into the wall, and so you can turn it into an automated solution with a simple and cheap ‘smart plug’. This is a simple device that you plug between a device and the wall which then enables whatever is connected to be controlled remotely. Find out more about locally available smart plugs.

The Internet of Things (or IoT) also has the answers for the other major loads, like your hot water system. Unfortunately, the cost of adding a control to these devices tends to be higher, as installation requires an electrician. But, it is worth crunching the numbers because the big savings from these devices means it can still be a great idea to install them. Several Australian companies are becoming world-leaders in just this area. Check out My Homie or Carbon Track.

Once you’re set up, you can take part in demand response. This is where you respond to times of high electricity demand in your area by turning off devices. This can earn money for you while helping to reduce the need to use ‘dirty’ sources to provide the power. All ready to go? With amber you can participate today.

Heating and cooling

Smart home solutions are all about heating and cooling, and this is a great area to save money and increase comfort. This trend really took off in the USA with smart thermostats (originally popularised by Nest and Australia's own Zen Ecosystems). Now Australian homes that don't have a standard thermostat system can also benefit with simple devices that can connect your reverse cycle air-conditioner to the internet for under $100.

One often overlooked feature that’s surprisingly effective for both climate and comfort is installing smart curtains or window blinds. Imagine being helped to wake up in the morning by natural light instead of your alarm clock. Or the benefits to ensuring your winter curtains are open during the daylight hours but closed at night to keep the heat in, regardless of whether you’re at home or not. It’s simple but very handy.

Ensuring appliances are turned off when you leave the house

Leaving appliances on is a great way to create stress and contribute to bill shock. But, never fear, the IoT is here. Smart plugs can be a great solution for many appliances like this. You can combine this with proximity sensors to automatically ensure your heaters and lights are switched off if you’re not around. Want to come home to a warm welcome? Just turn them on remotely when you’re on the way back.

Where should you start?

A great starting point for automating your home is picking the biggest areas you want to control and focusing on them. Often buying a Google Home or Amazon Alexa is a cheap way to get started, and pair that with some smart plugs and you are on your way to your IoT future for less than $100. We're also working here at amber to help identify ways to make this process even easier - so please reach out if you have any questions!

Seeing energy savings from a smarter home isn’t just for super savvy early-adopters. The trick is to figure out where you’re likely to see the biggest savings can come from. And obviously you will want to pair your new smart home to a smart electricity plan so you can save even more (hint: we might be able to help with that!)