Spending money to save money. That was how we justified our first smart home purchases. Lay out a little money up front now, save money for the lifetime of the device. Smart devices make our lives easier and save us time, but more importantly, they can save us a lot of money. Here is a list of the best ways I have found to save money with home automation.
Save on Heating and Cooling
We closed on our house during an exceptionally cold October, and due to really bad scheduling, we had a vacation planned for three days later. Since our house had analog thermostats, our choices were to either turn them off and hope a pipe didn’t burst, leave them on to heat an empty house for a week, or replace them with smart thermostats. I chose option three, and while my wife unpacked boxes I replaced thermostats.
Installing smart thermostats like the Nest or Ecobee3 can easily pay for the cost of the thermostat in the first year you own them. Whether you create your own schedule, use smart scheduling or enable geofencing, the thermostats will make sure that you are not heating or cooling an empty house. You may also be eligible for additional savings from your power company if you sign up to let them control your AC during peak hours. The power company will give you a discounted electric rate in exchange for being able to raise or lower the temperature a couple of degrees when demand on the grid is heavy.
You can also automate ceiling fans to turn on when the temperature reaches a certain threshold, and automate your blinds to open and close depending on the position of the sun.
Save on your Water Bill
This is actually double duty, because who among us actually knows the optimal amount of water their lawn needs to stay lush and green all summer? With smart sprinkler controllers like RainMachine, Rachio and Blossom you won’t just save money on your water bill, you may also save your lawn from burning out. By utilizing your home’s location, these sprinkler controllers don’t just know the current weather, keeping you from watering during a thunderstorm, they also know the forecast. This gives them the ability to adjust the watering schedule based on the upcoming weather conditions.
When I replaced my old sprinkler controller with a RainMachine Mini-8 I saw a dramatic decrease in my water bill. I also started seeing the brown patches of my lawn that I had been struggling to get rid of slowly disappear. Apparently my strategy of “water each zone for one hour every other day regardless of weather” wasn’t the optimal solution for my lawn. As an added bonus, I never have to scream “GET OFF MY LAWN!” at neighborhood kids anymore, as I can just blast them with the sprinklers right from my phone!
Save on Electricity
If you’re tired of the kids leaving every light in the house on all the time, or realizing that your halogen driveway lights have been running for three days, you stand to save a lot of money by automating your lighting. Smart switches, like those from Wemo or Insteon, and smart bulbs, like Philips Hue or Lifx, allow you to set timers or rules for your lights and appliances making sure you never forget to turn something off again. They also offer remote access, so you don’t have to follow the kiddo’s from room to room anymore. Motion sensors make sure that lights only turn on when someone is in the area, and daylight sensors make sure that you don’t needlessly run any lights during the day.
Save on Pool Maintenance
Many people don’t think of the pool when they think of home automation, but they should. Pools are awesome on hot days and make a great focal point for your yard, but maintaining them sucks and costs a small fortune. Sure, you can pay a pool company to clean it and keep your chemicals at optimum levels, but that could cost hundreds or thousands each year. With a little upfront layout, you can save yourself a ton of time and money.
First, switching from an old single speed pool pump to a modern two speed or variable speed pump can cut up to 85% off of your pool’s electric usage. In my case, our old pool pump used 1/3 of our TOTAL electricity FOR THE YEAR! And we only have the pool open from May to September. I wasn’t even mad when the motor erupted in a fireball in my face early last season, and I had to spend almost $1000 on a Pentair Variable Speed Pump. Our power company offers a $350 rebate on variable speed pumps and we will recoup the cost of the pump in just two seasons from saved electricity costs. Plus, since the pump now runs 24 hrs a day (and still saves roughly 80% of our previous electricity), I rarely have to clean the pool! Most debris is swept into the skimmers by the always-on jets. The pump has a built in digital controller that lets me easily set a program to run the pump at different speeds during the day, or manually adjust the speed for cleaning.
Second, chemicals suck and cost a ton of money. A properly sized and installed salt chlorine generator such as the Autopilot Pool Pilot Digital will put an end to buying and storing chlorine forever. Since installing this system, I have to buy between three and eight $4 bags of salt each season…and that’s all. I use bleach to shock the pool at the beginning of the season. Then I use baking soda, washing soda and borax to manage the rest of the levels. With the Autopilot actively managing chlorine generation, I wind up having to adjust my levels at most twice per season after the initial setup. The Autopilot can tell you in English, rather than codes, exactly how much salt is in the pool, how much salt needs to be added (to the pound), and many other cool things about your pool. It also automatically adjusts chlorine output based on the pool temperature, and can be set up with a relay to control your pool pump.
In many cases, replacing the existing “dumb” devices in your home with their smarter counterparts can pay for the devices many times over. The added convenience and time savings more than make up for the extra cost of some of the devices. The smart home revolution has never been more accessible than it is now and you can start automating your home, and saving money, today!