Steam – Energy Smart Water Heating – First Impressions

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Unit on tankWhen I first started automating my home, my primary goals were to make life easier and to save money over time.  That’s why I was very interested when I discovered Steam.

Your hot water heater is one of the biggest energy hogs in your house.  Even new hot water heaters can consume 15-20% of your home energy bills just to keep a tank full of water hot in case you need it.  This is incredibly inefficient.  While some people have switched to tankless systems to try to avoid this problem, many people, myself included, have newer hot water heaters that could benefit from the smart capabilities offered by the Steam retrofit kit.

Steam is a little box that sits near your hot water tank and gives you the ability to schedule and control your hot water.  It enables users to heat water to suit their usage, rather than keeping water hot all the time.  After a few weeks of usage Steam learns the patterns of hot water usage in your home and adjusts your heating schedule accordingly.  The Steam team estimates that a $200 investment in the unit will pay for itself in the first year of use.

Another cool feature is that steam comes with a leak detection sensor, which can be placed on the floor beneath your hot water heater and will alert you via the app if it detects a leak.  The website claims that they have other external detectors for radon gas, carbon monoxide and humidity in the works, and if you pre-order for $99, you may receive free sensor upgrades when the come available.

Steam is compatible with a majority of hot water tanks and can be installed in about ten minutes.  It wires to the control board of your hot water heater, which is where it also draws its power, so you will not need a separate power supply for Steam.  It can also control multiple hot water tanks.

Steam exists in an interesting category of smart home devices.  After you set it up, you’ll likely forget about it.  It wont be sitting on your kitchen counter like a Sonos, or hung on the wall like a Nest.  Guests won’t see it and ask about it, and you probably wont interact with it often if it is set up properly.  But unlike many of your connected devices, Steam will be constantly saving you money, and that’s a win in my book.

For more information or to submit a pre-order, check out the Steam website at