8 Ways to Save Energy with Home Automation

Telling Alexa to do stuff around the house from your warm and cozy couch is very cool, is it useful though? that depends on the point of view…what is indisputable is that everyone likes to save a few bucks in the electricity bill, especially around the cold season. At the Smart Home Blog, we have compiled 8 simple tips that will help you save energy this winter and increase the FAR (Family Approval Rate) of your Home Automation Project.

 

1# Monitor the Energy Consumption

“If you can not measure it, you can not improve it” – Sir William Thomson

How are you going to save energy if you don’t know where it is going?  You need to know who are the suckers that get the headlines every month in the utility bill. There are some devices that appear to have a very small footprint and turn out to be very energy-hungry. You can save energy just by replacing them with more energy-efficient ones.

So…how do I do that? There are a few ways, some fancier than others. The simplest one is with an Energy Monitor like this one.  Plug it into the outlet, connect your appliance to it and monitor in the LCD how your money goes down the drain. You can even configure a price per kwh to make to make it more real. It is a very enlighting experience…

If you want to go fancier, I am a big fan of Sonoff Pow, why?

  • It is inexpensive
  • Creates charts to show the consumption over time (weekly, daily, hourly…).
  • You can follow up on the results with a SmartPhone App, eWeLink Smart Home.
  • It is a Smart Plug on its own. You can turn things on/off from the eWeLink or use Amazon Echo.

There is a caveat though, it doesn’t integrate out of the box with MQTT based platforms like OpenHab.  There is a hack out there that you can do and it seems to work fine but I haven’t tried myself yet. Check it out here.

** Whichever device you pick, make sure you use one with the right amperage for the appliance you are measuring. You don’t want to burn down your brand new energy monitor, or your house for that matter.

 

2# Control the Humidity at Home

What??? Yes, as crazy as it sounds humidity levels impact a great deal the temperature sensation and comfort at home. So…How do I exactly save energy by turning my apartment into a tropical jungle?  Well, humidity levels do not have a direct impact on the bill on its own, but here is what you can do to save on AC and Heat.

  • During the cold season, the environment tends to be very dry in most places. if you increase the humidity level at home, you can set your thermostat a few degrees (2-3 Fahrenheit) below your usual your comfort value. This doesn’t mean that you need to turn your living room into the Amazon Rainforest but 45-55% is healthy and comfortable for most people. Play around until you hit the sweet spot, after all, the temperature feels different for every person.
  • The summer tends to be the opposite, as you can imagine. I live in New York and during the hot season, the air feels pretty sticky. The levels reach over 80% many days. Keeping the humidity under 50% makes the environment a lot more comfortable.

How do I do that?

Some AC and Heating systems do a pretty good job keeping the values in check. If this is not your case, there are two solutions you can implement:

  • Buying humidifiers and dehumidifiers that sense the humidity and keep it within the range that you have specified. This solution is nice if you don’t have any automation in place.
  • If you already have some level of Automation implemented, chances are, that temperature and humidity are among the values you currently monitor.  If that is the case, you can just buy the dumbest humidifiers and dehumidifiers that you can find in the market and turn them into using a smart Plug like the Sonoff Pow.

 

3# Save Energy Using Smart lights

If you are still using incandescent bulbs please, stop reading this post right now and go throw them all away,  Why? Only 10% of the energy that they use results in actual light, 90% is released in the form of heat. It doesn’t only consume a lot more energy but it also generates heat…great for the summers in New York huh?.  I am guessing though, that most of you already use LED of CFL bulbs so why should you start using Smart Bulbs? Well, here is why.

  • With the right automation in place, you can dim the intensity of the bulbs based on the ambient light or on what you are in the mood for, watching a movie for example. Most of the time we just need a small amount of light to chill out.
  • No more realizing from the bed that you forgot to turn off the lights or leaving the house with the lights on.  All of this things can be automated or controlled from your smartphone.

Smart bulbs are one of the devices that are quickly expanding to the consumer side, that translates into an overwhelming amount of options in the market. The most popular ones are, of course, the Phillips Hue and if you don’t mind expending extra money, they work really well. Having said that, if you have to replace a lot of bulbs, I find them rather expensive, especially if you want the fancy colorful ones. If you only want white bulbs, the Phillips HUE White still have a very decent price and includes the hub.

I personally use MiLight. They work almost as good as the Phillips Hue but for a fraction of the cost. You will need the Milight Bridge and then the MiLight Bulbs. The bridge is actually a cute light on its own that you can use for a nightstand or something like that.

Both Options work great with OpenHab by the way 🙂

 

4# Automated Blinds to Keep the Apartment Cool

This is very useful although a bit tricky. It will depend on the type of blinds you have at home. If you use the IKEA ones there are several options out there for you (DIY mostly). I found a great tutorial on Instructables, Motorize IKEA Blinds with Wifi. It is very DIY, but if you are up for the challenge it is a great weekend project.

How do I save energy byautomating my blinds?

  • Get the most out of the sunlight and heat during the winter automatically opening everything when you wake up.
  • Close all the blinds automatically during the summer to avoid your house to become a greenhouse…

I can do all this myself every morning! Really?? I don’t think so…

 

5#  Use a Smart Thermostat optimized for your habits

The advantages to save energy here are obvious…Heating and AC add up to 40% of the electricity bill. You need to think about this though. Some places don’t have very extreme temperatures, if that is your case, the investment is probably not worth it.

What if you live in Siberia? well, you need one…

And how this helps exactly?

  • Unless you are Indiana Jones or happen to work for the MI6, chances are that you have a decently predictable life. If you have very defined habits, just about every Smart Thermostat is going to do the job.  The Honeywell Lyric T5 is a very affordable option that packs lots of features. If you don’t want to analyze your habits and don’t mind spending those extra few bucks, Nest is a nice option that will learn and program itself.
  • A Smart Thermostat can keep the house cold or warm only when there are people home, based on presence detection.
  • You can switch it on when you are on your way home.
  • You can control it using Amazon Echo. Useful? I don’t know about that, but it is definitely handy when you don’t want to leave your bed and you are freezing your ass off…

 

6# If you are not using something turn it off…

Up to 10% of your bill comes from devices that are in Stand-By mode. Every device around the house consumes a small portion of electricity even when it is in this mode. You might be thinking that this is going too far…Maybe, but think about it. Before it used to be a pain, you would have to go to every single plugboard and switch it off. Now you just need a few smart plugs that turn everything off when you set your house in sleep mode.

Sonoff would do a pretty good job here, but if you are looking for a more user-friendly option try Orvibo S20. The price is more than decent and there is a binding for OpenHab that you can use. I use them myself and they have been working fine so far.

 

7# Use Sensors in Strategic Places

There are sensors for literally everything but when it comes to saving energy, there are two types that I particularly like:

  • Motion/Presence Detection:  Why would you want to have stuff functioning when nobody is home?? In a perfect world, we would turn everything off before leaving the house…this world is far from perfect though. Presence detection sensors can make our life easier by detecting when we leave a room and make decisions to save energy in that room.  You could turn off the lights and lower the thermostat for example.
  • Door/Windows sensors:  Send alerts to your cell phone when the AC or Heating is on in a room where the windows are opened.

 

8# Use the Electric Water Heaters only when needed

I have always had a bittersweet feeling about electric water heaters, they used to be more popular a few years ago. I used to have one in my parent’s house and more than a few times a week  I would end up yelling at my sister because she had wasted what was left of the hot water. Let’s put aside those memories of cold water and healthy disagreements between siblings and get down to business, I am going off topic here…

What a lot of people don’t realize is that those heaters waste an insane amount of energy to keep the water warm throughout the day. The reality is, though, that we are only going to use them for a few hours a day.

There is quite a simple way to save energy here. Use a Smart Plug and turn the heater ON only one hour before it is going to be used. After the rush hour turn it off again. This is probably the simplest tip to implement from the list, and arguably the most effective one.

I hope you guys can make some use of the tips that I am bringing you today. You don’t have a Smart Home yet?? Start today with Openhab.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. It got me when you said that home automation can be controlled from your smartphone that is why you don’t have to worry if you have forgotten to turn off something. With that in mind, I would probably have one installed in our house because I always wake up the next morning finding out that the fan in our dirty kitchen has not been turned off. This can cause a serious accident if it overheats.

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