The idea that a home could be ‘smart’ and occupants could interact with it in new, automated, and intelligent ways dates back many years, even just starting with the Jetsons and futuristic depictions of what the homes of tomorrow would look like. The consumer gadget industry tried to get us excited about what was possible in this regard, giving us smart lights and smart thermostats as ways to adjust our home automatically, through schedules, or through phone or web portals. However, those products and others like them remained mostly an afterthought and a niche product for the gadget nuts.
That all changed, however, when the voice assistant market exploded. Whether the assistant is Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple Siri, the market was sparked with the introduction of Amazon Alexa in 2015 and has ramped up with immense speed
The trend only looks to grow as soon enough it’ll be hard to remember a time before we could ask Alexa or Google to lock the doors, fetch us a recipe, or call Mom. With that growth, though, is an immense growth potential for revolution in home energy use. Those smart lights and smart thermostats were now accessible and convenient for more people who simply wanted to announce their desired temperature or light levels.
Let’s look at some of the best practices for saving energy (and money!) using your voice assistant of choice:
The most obvious ways that energy-conscious users can embrace the energy saving potential of their voice assistants is by connecting energy consuming devices to them so they can be controlled by the user’s voice. The most obvious devices to attach are smart lighting systems and smart thermostats, but other products that can be connected to your voice assistant include smart appliances and smart plugs or outlets. Each individual device will have instructions included or in the online support about how to connect them to Amazon Alexa, Google Home Assistant, or other device.
While the energy savings are available immediately by using your voice commands to turn lights off when you leave a room or adjust the thermostat so it’s not blasting cold air when you’re too lazy to get off and change it manually, the real savings come from setting commands or ‘scenes’ with your smart voice assistants. When you have a host of lights and multiple floors of thermostats connected to one voice assistant, for example, you can then create a single command for the voice assistant that will adjust them all at once. Perhaps you set an ‘away from home’ setting that you trigger by saying “Alexa, Goodbye” and then all the lights get turned off, the thermostats are turned off, and appliances connected to smart plugs turn off. That way you’re not wasting energy by powering these devices for an empty home. Similarly, you might set a nighttime setting that you run by saying “OK Google, Goodnight” and then your front porch lights turn off, the thermostats for floors without bedrooms are turned off, and the light outside the kids’ rooms are dimmed so they can safely see when going to the bathroom.
By looking at your smart products as one cohesive smart home, using your voice assistant as what ties them together, you can create more opportunities to reduce energy waste and inefficiencies in your home.
Utility companies are increasingly getting in on the game with smart voice assistants, recognizing the possibility of helping their customers engage with the utility while also saving money. The first and most direct way utilities are able to do this is to create a ‘skill’ on their home voice assistant (which is like an ‘app’ for a phone) related to the utility. Through this app, customers can ask basics like when their next bill is due and how much it is. They can also check up on how their energy use is this month, allowing them compare if they’re using more or less than a previous month and be mindful of energy use for the rest of the month if they think it’s to much. Some utilities have even enabled customers to ask their voice assistant for energy saving tips, which will have Alexa or whichever assistant you use recite some tips for saving energy around the house.
Taking it a step further, though, are emerging pilots and programs from utilities that enable the use of demand response through your voice assistants. Demand response is the strategy of asking or incentivizing customers to reduce their energy consumption during moments where the total aggregate from customers is approaching the limit of what the utility can handle. In these emerging programs, a utility might be able to send a notification to your voice assistant to ask if you would consider turning off some appliances or lighting and offer that you’ll be paid out a bonus from your utility for the help. Alexa and Google Assistant, as we’ve noted, might even let you turn off those devices via voice command.
Once you’ve got your smart voice assistant set up and you want to tap into energy savings, be sure to note that Atlantic Energy offers smart light bulbs, plugs, cameras, and speakers as a part of its Smart Home Bundle.