It’s not saving the planet or getting your toast to pop up the minute you walk into the kitchen that’s causing the smart home to take off. It’s money. The most compelling connected kit is that which justifies its existence by paying for itself and then cutting your costs in half.
Sure, it’s not particularly sexy stuff to wow your friends with but it will mean that you won’t wince when you check your bank balance at the end of each month.
So, looking for the best smart home kit to save you money? Of course you are. Well, take a sniff at this lot.
The heating bill is a killer, so putting a little intelligence into your gas and electricity needs is one of the best ways to save yourself some money smart home style. A smart thermostat – particularly one that learns your habits like Nest – is great way to get between 20-25% off your annual spend. Set-up costs are relatively low and their motion-sensing tech ensures that your system’s not burning away while there’s nobody home.
Better still, for pure money-saving, though, is getting some zonal control on your central heating. Honeywell’s Evohome allows just that with individual wireless radiator valves for every room which can then be controlled from the main tablet interface. So, you can stay nice and toasty watching telly in the evening without wasting money keeping the rest of your pad at tropical temperatures.
Money saving: Most smart thermostat providers quote a saving of 20-25% but expect that to rise if you’re using a zonal system. Be warned, though, a zonal system can cost as much as $1,500 to install.
Yup. They’re more than just a pretty filament. Smart bulbs like the Philips Hue also happen to be massive energy savers. That’s because they’re low-power LEDs. According to Philips, they have 80% less energy consumption and they’ll last for 15,000 hours, which is 2 years if you left them on constantly – but you won’t to that because you can control them from your phone wherever you are.
Sure, they’re really quite expensive to buy – particularly if you decided to kit out your whole house with them – at $199 for a pack of three, but with lighting the second biggest utility money bleed after excess heating, it might be wise to invest in at least one or two.
Money saving: Approximately $35 per year, per bulb, cheaper to run compared to filament bulbs. LED bulbs cost more to buy but also last for many years longer.
Smart solar panels
It’s a tricky story with solar panels. Yes, they can save you money but it’s hard to say how much. For a long while, the UK government has had a very generous ‘feed-in tariff’. It’s a flat-rate payment back from your energy supplier for every unit of renewable electricity that you use. That’s meant that the cost of installing solar panels on your roof was very easy to make back. Sadly, at the time of writing, UK Gov has decided to slash that feed-in tariff quite dramatically to the point where it’s debatable as to whether the whole home solar venture is worthwhile. But the plot thickens.
The feed-in tariff is a flat rate because there’s currently no system for that smart home dream of selling your home-harnessed energy back to the grid. There’s also no real way of storing that excess energy either. If you happen to heat your water with electricity instead of gas, however, you can divert the solar energy to that need with intelligent solar meters such as 4eco’s immerSun. For some, it can shave off in the region of $400 per year. Of course, that’s not going to work for everyone. So, it might be a question of waiting until the smart grid really takes off.
Money Saving: You can save up to $400 if you have an intelligent solar meter. Otherwise, for the time being, savings are limited. One for the future.
Smart power outlets
Smart adapters for your power outlets are a great way to turn your dumb appliances into smart ones. With app control and scheduling from wherever you are in the world – be that on holiday or just on the sofa – you can manage your lights, get your coffee machine on the brew or whatever you need.
The better smart switches, like the Belkin WeMo system, also give you a power monitoring overview which tells you about the gadgets and goods that are draining more energy than they should be, particularly when they’re sitting around sucking up electricity in standby mode. That way, you can find a schedule for them that helps cut the cost or just shut them down altogether.
Money saving: Standby use accounts for up to 16% of the household electricity bills. There are some products which you’ll want to leave on standby but there’s a good chance you’ll save at least half of that 16% per year.
Smart security systems
Insurance companies love a secure home. The more steps you’ve taken to prevent anyone getting into your house, the higher the chances that they’ll offer you a reduction on your home contents insurance premium. As it goes, having your lights on remote switches – as mentioned above – is one asset that they’re starting to look for, but the big new one are smart home security systems usually in the shape of some kind of IP-connected wireless camera.
The Nest Cam, Canary and Netatmo are two of the big players in this field offering HD and infra-red recordings triggered by motion sensors. You get alerts and live streams of what’s going on direct to your phone and they’ll store the footage off-site for use as evidence. Take a look at our top home smart home security systems here.
While these are good, a visual deterrent is often the key to getting a reduction in your insurance cost, so you might want to try an external wall-mounted connected cam such as those from Y-cam. The Nest Cam Outdoor also launches later this year.
Money-saving: An exact figure is rather hard to pin down. The more that you’re looking to insure your home contents for, the more insurance companies will start to care about the level of security looking after the property. For contents of $30,000 or less, there aren’t many insurers who are that interested in any kind of CCTV at the moment. Head up to the $150,000 bracket and it starts to become a requirement.
You home insurance company would also rather your house didn’t burn down, as it goes. While smoke detectors are a must in some cases, adding in a carbon monoxide detector is an optional extra that might well see you shave another few quid off your premium.
Nest is pretty much the only go-to company at the moment with the Nest Protect which is currently on its second generation. It checks for smoke, for CO and it even keeps itself in check with regular self-tests that you’ll never even need to think about. Naturally, all the info and alerts come to your mobile where you can also shut it off if it’s blaring out a false alarm.
Money-saving: As above, an exact saving depends on the rest of the property in question. If you’re a landlord, however, you may find that the best quotes are not available to you until you install a carbon monoxide detector.
These aren’t smart in the sense that you can control them from your phone. (Would you even want to do that?) Smart dryers are smart in that they don’t just blindly spin around blowing hot air all over the place. You need to look out for the higher end models with features names along the lines of ‘Perfect Dry’. They have sensors that detect the moisture in your clothes and the hardness of the water, and and they can figure out when your laundry is dry among other clever tricks.
Such machines will then shut themselves off and save you from crispy clothes and unneeded and expensive energy waste. After all, these things are like running massive fan heaters. Again, the top models will also recycle the air they use so that they’re not heating up from cold each time. Such intelligence from such a humble white cube.
Money saving: Most tumble dryers cost around $150 per year to run but a A+++ rated smart dryer comes in more like $50 per year. It’s going to take quite a while for that cost to pay off, though. The price difference on purchase can be as much as $1,000. So, you’d better be in this one for the long haul.
Leak detectors aren’t a must for all households but they’re a very decent option for anyone with a second home, particularly if it’s a property that stays empty much of the time. WallyHome is one of the best in the field at the moment and it offers moisture, humidity and temperature detection through a series of individual sensors that report back to a single home hub. That hub will is the one that’s in charge of firing off the alerts to your mobile should your pipes burst.
Like carbon monoxide detectors, theses are one of a group of smart home products that insurance companies are becoming more interested in but the main savings here are the big, one-off ones when disaster really does strike.
Money saving: Hundreds in no-claims benefits plus more if there’s an excess on your policy.