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Do’s and Don’ts of the Smart Home World for the Energy Conscious

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In recent years, the Internet of Things has truly transformed from being something only commercial businesses or the most tech-savvy of residents could take advantage of to ubiquitous home accessory that everyone from children to their grandparents utilizes every day. Home voice assistants are common holiday gifts, smart lights are frequently encouraged and incentivized by your local power provider, and new homes will even come built with smart thermostats or cameras as an option. The market has blown up, and it shows no sign of slowing down with reports stating that the market size will grow by more than a factor of five between now and 2023.

The world of smart products appeals to customers and businesses for a myriad of reasons. Customers like the peace of mind that being able to turn off their products remotely gives, businesses like the ability to save money through automation, people love the convenience of a thermostat that learns your habits, and, frankly, these products are just cool!

But a main and growing advantage frequently cited by existing and new smart home product customers (with 90% of people in the United States owning at least one such product!) are the ability of them to be used in a way that is eco-friendly and improves the energy profile of your smart home. Automation, remote control, and increased agency over your electronics no matter where you are go hand in hand with smart ways to save energy, but because these smart home products will draw energy even when they are not being actively used there are also risks that they can be used in a non-sustainable way.

Whether you’re a novice or you’ve had smart home products for years, here are a few key ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ to keep in mind as you look to integrate your IoT products in an energy-conscious manner.

Do: Create Automated Scenes

One of the most useful ways you can integrate your smart home products into your daily life is by creating automated scenes. These are ways where you create pre-set arrangements that you can call upon in given situations. For example, you might create a ‘Goodnight’ automated scene that you can engage to turn off lights, adjust your thermostat to your comfort level, and turn off all the smart plugs in your house that are no longer needed. Then by pressing the ‘goodnight’ scene in your smart home app of choice, or activating it via your smart home voice assistant, you can make sure you don’t miss a thing.

Other examples you may want to initiate are ‘away from home’ settings to similarly turn on any lights you want for security purposes but turn off your HVAC system; a ‘sunrise’ setting that will look up when the sunrises that day and gradually turn lights off as the level of light rises, or anything else you can think of. The advantage of these scenes is that the convenience will ensure you more easily remember to turn off the devices that aren’t needed at a given time, and thus reduce power loss.

Don’t: Fall Victim to Jevon’s Paradox

The first and most overarching ‘Don’t’ is to avoid falling into Jevon’s paradox. Jevon’s paradox is a phenomenon across the world of energy efficiency where the installation and availability of more efficient technology will actually increase the overall power used by a building because people feel less guilty about using the product knowing it’s more efficient and they end up ramping up their use by more than the energy that would have otherwise been saved. A common example is that when people purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles, their overall gasoline usage can often increase because they feel better about the efficiency and decreased pollution they believe they are contributing to, undoing the benefits they should have realized with the efficiency upgrade.

Smart home products are definitely a notable example where Jevon’s Paradox can come into play. Because smart home products will need to be plugged in and at least left in standby mode when not in use so they are able to pick up automated or remote signals about when to turn on again, they are constantly drawing a small amount of power. As such, if the user does not offset that energy use by carefully taking advantage of the energy-saving abilities elsewhere, it’s too easy for Jevon’s Paradox to rear its head and increase power bills. Avoiding this means being present and energy conscious.

Do: Utilize Wi-Fi Smart Products

Back to ‘Do’s’, an important place to start is when choosing which smart home products you end up purchasing. For example, Wi-Fi enabled lights are very different than Bluetooth enabled lights, in terms of what’s possible. Wi-Fi products mean they are connected to your Internet router and thus anywhere where you can access the Internet (even if you’re across the globe) you can send a signal to turn that light on or off. Bluetooth lights, however, require that you be within Bluetooth range (just 100 meters or so) to tap into them and adjust them. That means you can’t be away on vacation and check to see if you accidentally left the lights on, limiting the potential opportunities for you to save energy.

Don’t: Keep Them Separated

People tend to buy their smart home products in pieces rather than installing a complete system all at once, both because the products are expensive and because they tend to want to test out their systems and gradually integrate them into their daily routines. Doing it this way is definitely fine, but as you build your smart home product collection it’s important to keep compatibility in mind so you can avoid having them be too separated. If you purchase products in completely different ecosystems that don’t have the ability to be controlled all at once via a central app or hub, it’s going to take significantly more effort to utilize the IoT in a way that will save you energy smoothly and easily. So don’t keep these smart home products separated, but be sure to integrate them and make sure you’re keeping this integration in mind when choosing the next addition to your collection.

Do: Ask Your Trusted Energy Advisors

Lastly, realize that you don’t have to go on this smart home and energy saving journey alone. Instead, ask your trusted energy advisors. You can find professionals who do home energy audits that may be able to identify ways in which you can integrate smart home products in an efficient and green way. Similarly, your power provider is a key stakeholder in how and when you use energy and so they’ll often seek out ways to help you reduce your demand on the grid. Be sure to reach out to your utility or energy service company to ask if they have smart home programs-- some will offer rebates or incentives for you to purchase smart home products. Even better, some providers will even provide you with smart home products completely free. Atlantic Energy’s smart home bundle is an example, that will provide you with smart lights, plugs, and cameras at absolutely no cost to you, just for being a customer! So, see what options are available to you.

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